21st-Century Indian Novels You Should Read At Least Once

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With more novels being written and published in India today than in bygone decades, the 21st century in Indian literature is an overwhelming era for readers to navigate. We have rounded up a list of seven critically acclaimed and highly popular Indian novels that are absolute must-reads for anyone interested in 21st-century literature from the subcontinent.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

A gripping first-person narrative told by Balram Halwai, a young man from a poverty-stricken village who moves to Delhi to take a job as a chauffeur for the upper class, The White Tiger is unlike any other contemporary English-language Indian novel. Widely praised for its dark and twisted humor, and its unique take on class disparities and contradictions in modern-day India, Adiga’s debut novel rightfully earned him the Man Booker Prize.

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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions is a retelling the Hindu mythological epic Mahabharata from the perspective of its lead female character, Draupadi. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni breathes life into Draupadi’s character, giving her motives, thoughts, and points of view, unlike the original epic. Through war and exile, readers follow the journey of the Pandava brothers—all five of whom were famously married to Draupadi—but from a female point of view.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel is a fictional historical saga set a little before the First Opium War (1839–42). Through the story of a ship named Ibis, which is en route to China in the Indian Ocean, the novel follows a range of characters, including a raja who is bankrupt, a widowed tribeswoman, an American freedman, and an independent French orphan. Satirical, gritty and with rich prose, the Sea of Poppies is a riveting read.

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With thanks from Culture Trip!