top of page
  • Writer's pictureTerrie

12 books to help you Armchair Travel to India

What do readers do when they are stressed, lonely, or have to stay home? We read. Then we read more. To me, now seems like the perfect time to take a trip - a virtual trip. Here's a list of 12 recommended books from the big and dramatic to the quiet and emotional that will carry you away to India.

Most must-read lists heavily favor new releases, but this list includes lots of excellent back list books that you may have overlooked. In fact, maybe they're already on your own bookshelves (or from the library digitally or on audio). Come explore India with me! (My sister Donna got me started reading books set in India and has added some of her favorites to the list.)


Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2004, 368 page

Set in the 1600s, a daughter tells the story of her parent's passionate love story as she lives her own forbidden love story with the architect of the Taj Mahal. Touching and evocative, this is sure to tug your heart strings.

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2002, 380 pages

Reviewed here. A love story of the legendary Mughal empress that spans decades as we learn about some of the early history of India and about life at court.


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2013, 340 pages

This emotional family saga is about two brothers who gradually drift apart when one moves to the US. The remaining brother returns to Calcutta and marries his brother's pregnant widow. Spare, excellent writing that will put you in the middle of this heart wrenching story.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2019, 312 pages

Reviewed here. Wonderfully written with characters that I cared about and felt I got to know, this engaged me from start to finish. Three sisters who are not close, Rajni, the dutiful daughter, Jesmeen, a struggling actress, and Shirina, whose marriage is having troubles, are asked by their dying mother to travel to India to spread her ashes and to visit specific places that hold special memories for her. On top of that, each of the sisters is harboring a secret! (Donna's recommendation)

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2013, 496 pages

Set in India and England, The Midnight Rose is the story of the life of a 100-year-old Indian woman which she has written down and given to her great-grandson who now retraces her steps. (Donna's recommendation)

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Genre: General Fiction

Published 1995, 603 pages

An award winning book and Booker nominee, a family saga encompassing cruelty & corruption, dignity & heroism. Although it has a grim beginning, the story is compelling and ultimately uplifting.

The Space Between Us #1 by Thrity Umrigar

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2007, 321 pages

Reviewed here. A story of an upper middle class Parsi woman who's hiding an abusive relationship and her relationship with her illiterate servant of 20 years; excellent portrayal of Indian culture and of rich to poor servant; a bit of a heartbreaking ending.


The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2015, 297 pages

Set in Mumbai, an inspector receives an unexpected inheritance – a baby elephant! Recently retired, he still can’t help but become involved in a case of the death of young boy. And what better helper to have than a cute elephant? I found this entertaining, by turns fun and then serious. The city of Mumbai figures heavily in the story. (Donna's recommendation)

The Widows of Malabar Hill #1 by Sujata Massey

Genre: Mystery

Published 2018, 385 pages

Reviewed here. Another award winning book, the first female lawyer in Bombay, India must help three widows and protect their interests when their husband is murdered. Perveen is a strong heroine, the book is very readable, AND a good mystery in a cultural setting.


(really, every book on this list is pretty evocative!)

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2011, 360 pages

Vivid descriptions of life in India highlight this book and drew me in. The narrative switches between two storylines – an American woman’s family in 1947 and two women whose love letters from 1858 she finds hidden in her home. There’s love, mystery, scandal, heartbreak - I enjoyed this very much. (Donna's recommendation)

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2003, 936 pages

A hefty read, but honestly, I couldn't put it down. A first novel and based on the author's life, it's the story of life in the slums of India, how he survives, makes friends, finds love and more.


To The Elephant Graveyard by Tarquin Hall

Genre: Nonfiction

Published 2000, 272 pages

A journalist goes to northeastern India for a story about a rogue, killer elephant on a rampage. A fascinating look at the life of the Khasi tribe who live with the elephants as well as his discovery at the devastation the climate and human incursion onto the elephant's home territory is causing. Well written and engrossing.

We've read and enjoyed all these books and hopefully have inspired you to pick one of them up and take a trip to India. Do you have a favorite book set in India? Let us know because we're always up for a new one!

Welcome to Bookshelf Journeys.

It's my goal to provide real reviews of the books I read without totally rehashing every plot. I'll never spoil a story by giving away a plot twist! Hopefully you'll find one or two of interest and will discover a new book or author to add to YOUR TBR list.  Take a moment to explore, read a couple reviews, and let me know what you think.


For your convenience, I use #hashtags in the reviews and when you click on one, you'll find more books with that theme. Hopefully you'll find it a helpful way to navigate the site and find books you'll enjoy. I've also recently added tags that will show up at the end of each review that serve the same purpose.

The review ratings are based on a 5 star  (1/2 stars sometimes) system with a 3 being an average read for me. I hope you find that helpful. Knowing, of course, that all opinions are just that - my opinion!  Let me know if you agree or disagree - I'd love to hear from you.

If you like what you see and want to keep up with me, subscribe below.  Happy Reading!

bottom of page