What are some must-read books for a 22 year old Indian?

more books 😀

Answer by Shyam Kumar:

Books  have been my window to the world. They have helped me learn a language  well, taught me about places, customs, cultures and peoples. More  importantly, they shaped my ideals and convictions. Here are some books that have profoundly influenced me. In no particular  order.

The ones associated with India first:

Freedom  at Midnight.

For telling me more about my country, showing the Mahatma  in his glory.  For narrating the events of the  year that led to  our Independence and the parition of India. For making me love my country even more.

The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

Gives  a fantastic perspective into the idea of India. It traces the evolution  of India through the ages and presents a vision of India that inspired  millions of men to fight for Independence. Nehru was a fine writer and a  great nationalist and he is uniquely positioned to give a perspective  on the times surrounding the Independence movement and the ideals that  shaped it.

Becoming Indian by Pavan K Varma.

 We have had political idependence foe nearly sixty years now. But what does being an Indian truly mean? The blurb says it best:

"Drawing upon modern  Indian history, contemporary events and personal experience, he examines  how and why the legacies of colonialism persist in our everyday life,  affecting our language, politics, creative expression and self-image.  Over six decades after Independence, English remains the most powerful  language in India, and has become a means of social and economic  exclusion. Our classical arts and literature continue to be neglected,  and our popular culture is mindlessly imitative of western trends. Our  cities are dotted with incongruous buildings that owe nothing to  indigenous traditions of architecture. For all our bravado as an  emerging superpower, we remain unnaturally sensitive to both criticism  and praise from the Anglo-Saxon world and hunger for its approval. And  outside North Block, the headquarters of free India’s Ministry of Home  Affairs, a visitor can still read these lines inscribed by the colonial  rulers: ‘Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise  themselves to liberty. It is a blessing which must be earned before it  can be enjoyed"

The Man who Knew Infinity –by Robert Kanigel

 This is a brilliant biography of Srinivasa Ramanujam's life. it gives a perspective into the life of the man, what made him tick and about the world changing discoveries that he made. Very inspiring and very readable.

Beyond The Last Blue Mountain– by R M Lala

This is the biography of one of the greatest industrial tycoons of India-JRD Tata.  The House of Tatas have always put India first. Among other events , this talks about how JRD single handedly started the Indian Aviation Industry. Air India was forcibly acquired by the government for a pittance. But when he was requested by the government to become the chairman and lead Air India, he answered the call of duty and served as the chairman  for twenty five years without a salary. And during that tenure he made Air India one of the finest carriers in the world.


 He is considered to be one of the finest authors India has ever produced. I read Farewell my Friend ( Shesher Kabita). It was  one of the finest books Ive read. And it was one of the most Indian books that Ive read. It is so rooted in India.

Siddartha  by Herman Hesse.

" In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a  contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He  conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on  again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique  sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life — the  beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom."  We  get a glimpse of the quest for enlightenment that has shaped the lives of so many Indians since time immemorial.

Selections  from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

for the sheer inspiration  it has provided me every time I turn to it . Showing the greatness of  our land and the grand ideals which were conceived by our forefathers.  For showing me that being spiritual does not mean compromising on logic  or blindly adhering to tradition. Showing me to what lofty heights man's  mind can soar. For Showing me The Man Himself. Of everything I have  read so far, none can match this for sheer impact.
"Strength  is life, weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal,  immortal. Weakness is constant strain and misery; weakness is death."

Neti Neti by Anjum Hassan

For the ethereal writing style. For the title. For portraying emptiness .

"Neti, Neti paints an empathetic portrait of the unusually liberated—and unexpectedly lost—middle-class youth of the brave new India… the novel wins over the reader with its sincerity.”"


Shalmar  the Clown-Salman Rushdie

For the magic. For the beauty of Prose. For the beautiful  portrayal of Kashmir. Enchantress of Florence for the magic again.  Rushdie never ceases to amaze. Midnights Children , though Im yet to read it .

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

It taught me that the highest morality is to live by your  convictions and sacrificing that is compromising your integrity.
"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision."
"I could die for you but dont ask me to live for you"

Catcher in the Rye

For the portrayal of a frustrated individual. For showing me Salinger .

"The Catcher in the Rye offers something for every reader. You may  relate to Holden Caulfield's angst and alienation; you may be drawn to  his rye humor or cynicism; or you may be offended by his pursuit of  relationships, intimacy and sexuality."

To  kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Leee

The only book written by the author. For reminding me of the simple pleasures of life.  For telling me why we must stand by our convictions. As one of the main characters Atticus puts it "  I must live with myself before I live with others".

1984 by George Orwell

This book paints a stark picture of what governments could mutate into if  we are not vigilant enough.About how freedom is worth more than anything  else. For painting a harrowing dystopia.

" 984 was George Orwell’s  chilling prophecy about the future.1984 presents a  startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is  completely convincing from start to finish."

A  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

It portrays an utopia where there is no suffering, no  guilt and where you live a life which you were literally created to  do.It made me think if its worth compromising passion,emotions and  freedom for pleasure and security.

Dreams  from my Father by Barack Obama

For its honesty. For giving me an insight into the issue  of racism and for making me ponder on the issues of origin and  identity.

Lolita by Vladimir Nakabov

For the beauty of prose. For shwoing that a man cant help his sexual  preferences and for showing how manipulative the "victim", at times,  could be. it taught me to look at everything without prejudice.

Lord  of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

For the sheer wonder. If a man could conjure a whole world  including peoples,histories and languages, there is no end to human  creativity.

The  Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

For presenting a harrowing descent into madness and illustrating how simple it is to  being the descent. Madness is just another way of thinking.

The  Hannibal Series by Thomas Harris

For showing me that contradictions exist everywhere.  That what we call madness is just another way of thinking. For the  horror, intrigue and beauty(Yes Hannibal Rising is poetically beautiful).

The Godfather  by Mario Puzo

" A searing novel of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the  Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor that  was passed on from father to son. With its themes of the seduction of  power, the pitfalls of greed, and family allegiance, it resonated with  millions of readers across the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "

For being a classic. For Vito Corleone. For the Mob. For Mario Puzo. For " Ill make him an offer he cant refuse".

And more,many more, many many more.

I'm pretty sure I have missed out a lot of books. And I'm also sure that this is long enough not to miss them 😀

What are some must-read books for a 22 year old Indian?


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