What to Read Before Going to India

Traveling to India is a polarizing thing. Some say you can't consider yourself a true traveler without a stop in India, others question whether it's worth the hassle and stress. I can't weigh in on that debate seeing as I have yet to get my backpacker's badge for India, but I sure can dream and read about it! Let these authors and stories inspire, inform, and prepare you on your journey, whether it's through the pages of a book or through Jakarta in real life. 

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple. I love the structure of this book. It follows nine drastically different individuals, from a jailer to a buddhist monk, as they lead their unconventional religious lives in modern day India. 

Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh. I love this take on the Jules Verne's classic. Our author hopes that 80 trains, covering 40,000 km, will reveal India in all it's complex glory. 

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Okay, okay. I know this book is over-recommended and probably overrated, but I couldn't help but include it. After a divorce, our author decides to take a soul-searching journey to Italy, India, and Bali. If you're a fan of women's lit (no shame, I am!) this one is a great travel recommendation for you. 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This epic and gripping novel set in Bombay, following an escaped Australian convict into the streets of beggars, gangsters, holly men, and exiles. It paints a picture of India that won't leave you anytime soon. 

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I love this book's concept. Our protagonist is born at the stroke of midnight, the exact moment of India's independence, and is telepathically connected to the other Indian children born at the same This is a slow start at first, but keep reading! It's worth it. 

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. The opium trade is a dark, crucial cog in India's history. This book, first in a trilogy, is a historical fiction novel set in the early 1800's when it was at its deepest and darkest. 

The God of Small Things by Arundahti Roy. Set in Varkala in Southern India, this book about love and loss is beautifully written. Bring the tissues, it's a tear jerker. 

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