Insight Guides Separate books on India, Indian wildlife,
Western Himalayas, Rajasthan, as well as several city guides. These
are beautifully written and illustrated books to help you decide
where to go and what to see.
Lonely Planet India Travel Survival Kit Don't leave
home without this book if you will be traveling on your own. The
absolute best to help you get where you're going, find a hotel or
restaurant, figure out the trains and busses, and live on the local
The Rough Guide, India For a general, all-India guidebook,
this seems to be one of the most complete and is crammed full of
information about all the sights. It has good city maps, listings
of restaurants and mid-range to upper-range hotels.
Knopf Guide to Rajasthan Surely Knopf publishes the
most beautiful guidebooks in existence! Full of photos, cutaway
maps to the palaces, historical and cultural insights. They are
a little slim on practical information, although there are some
pictures in the back of the Heritage Hotels. A "must have"
Lonely Planet - Kashmir, Ladakh, and Zanskar Ditto
of the above, but more in depth for these areas. There may be better
books for travellers who have their trip pre-planned, but this is
certainly one of the best books for people doing the planning themselves.
Indian Trains at a Glance Train timetable, available
at most train stations in India for 20 Rupees. It is more complete
than The Cook's Timetable, but available only in India.
Trekking and Climbing in the Himalayas Johnathan
Chester. Not intended to be a practical "how to" guide,
this beautiful little book is full of photos, anecdotes, some history,
and ideas on when and where to go.
Trekking in Nepal Stephen Bezruchka. Ah! If
only all guidebooks could be like this one! Loaded with all the
necessary practical information with an excellent medical section
to where to find food and fuel. There are great graphs with altitude
gains vs. distance. Stephen's love, concern for, and knowledge of
Nepal shine on every page.
Footprints Nepal A great all around, culturally sensitive,
guidebook to Nepal for all travellers.
The Great Moguls Bamber Gascoigne. A very
readable introduction to the history of the Mogul empire. A little
hard to locate in the USA, but readily available in India.
A Concise History of India Francis Watson.
A great book for visitors to India who want to know something about
Indian history but want to save precious brain cells for some other
pursuit. It's fun and easy to read and has lots of pictures.
A Traveller's History of India SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda.
A very readable introduction To Indian history. It hits the highlights
and most interesting aspects that the traveller is most likely to
encounter. There is an excellent chronology in the back.
A New History of India Stanley Wolpert. A
bit more serious than the above mentioned book by Watson. This book
has good insights regarding the impact of the various religions
and social movements that have swept across Indian history. What
it lacks (along with illustrations) is very much imformation on
South India and the Deccan. Skip the first chapter, however. Recent
archeological discoveries have blown away the "Aryan Invasion"
A History of India Burton Stein. One should
have a pretty good background in Indian history before launching
into this book, but with that in mind, it is an excellent and scholarly
review of Indian social history. He has the most up to date theories
on the Harappans and the Aryans and has a knack of making sense
of the fragmented mediaeval kingdoms of South and Central India.
The Peacock Throne Waldemar Hansen. A history
book that reads like a fascinating, page turner novel. The story
deals mostly with the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. (This
book may be out of print - try the library or buy it in India)
A History of India, Part 1 Romila Tharpar.
This is one of the few readily available books dealing in depth
with the history south India. It was written 40 years ago so some
of the information is outdated, but overall, it is very useful.
Romila Tharpar is one of India's most eminent historians and has
also written the definitive book on Ashoka, called "Ashoka
and the Decline of the Mauryan Empire".
Raj (The Making and Unmaking of the British Empire)
Lawrence James. Don't even think about crying foul over its
Euro-centric approach to Indian history! It is that, but that's
what makes this book so interesting. If you are interested in how
and why the Raj succeeded, this book will delight you with intriguing
new insights - some of them flattering, some of them not - on how
the British governed millions of Indians. The good, the bad, and
the ugly of 200 years.
Freedom at Midnight Larry Collins and Dominique
LaPierre. The story of the dissolution of the Raj and the partition
of India in 1947. This book is extremely well researched and deals
with the power struggles between Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent
J.C. Harle. A very comprehensive overview of Indian Art.
Not the most flashy art book on the market at the moment, but a
good place to start.
Hindu Art T. Richard Blurton. Chapters devoted
to the Hindu temple and to the major Hindu gods and goddesses. This
book approaches the art through religion so that you will come away
with a better understanding of Hinduism
Monuments of India George Michell. Two volumes
covering Hindu, Moslem, Buddhist, and Jain. These are probably the
most complete in terms of listings, but each monument is given only
a short description. There are many diagrams and some black and
Taschen's World Architecture This series has books
on Hindu, Buddhist, and Mogul architecture. They are books to "wow"
you with color photographs on almost every page.
Indian Architecture Percy Brown. Two volumes,
available in India. One of the best for detailed technical descriptions
of the major monuments. It's mostly text - there are few pictures,
and only black and white at that.
The History of Architecture in India Christopher
Tadgell (Phaidon Books) Another "wow" book. A bit
more scholarly than the Taschen books but not quite as colorful
and visual. He describes, in a very readable way, the development
of the architectural styles through the many cultures of India.
Ancient Hindu Geometry, the science of the Sulba
Bibhutibhusan Datta Indian sacred geometry, as it applies to
temple architecture, from its conception in the Vedas through some
of Hinduism's less ancient sutras.
Indian Art Vidya Dehejia. (Phaidon Books) This
book interprets the art which you are seeing and puts it into historical
and cultural context. It certainly is not the most complete listing
of Indian works of art, but it is full of wonderful cultural insights.
RELIGION AND CULTURE
City of Djinns William Dalrymple. A little
history, some meetings with fascinating people, and a lot of cultural
insights make this book a joy to read. Mr. Dalrymple lived and worked
in Delhi and has seen this city in a way that few outsiders ever
have the privilege to do.
Traditional Indian Textiles John Gillow and Nicholas
Barnard. Everything you have wanted to know about textiles in
India, from tribal to the most elegant silks. It's full of pictures
and diagrams as well as a glossary of terms and a listing of museums.
Banaras, City of Light Diana Eck. A "must
read' for anyone wishing to begin understanding the complex way
of life called Hinduism. And, in the process, you will come away
with a love for Varanasi. Ms. Eck is professor of Comparative Religions
and Indian Studies at Harvard.
The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet John Blofeld.
A well-rounded explanation of Vajrayana Buddhism, but it may be
a bit much for the casual traveller. For someone with the basics,
however, this is one of the best "next steps".
The Art of Tantra An introductory look at tantracism
as it applies to Buddhism and Hinduism.
Kindness. Clarity, and Insight H.H. Dalai Lama.
A series of talks given by the Dalai Lama explaining the attitudes
and practices of Buddhism.
A Journey in Ladakh Andrew Harvey. A journey
in both the travel and the spiritual sense. When he wrote this in
1983, Andrew was just beginning his Buddhist quest, and has since
become one Buddhism's most eloquent spokesmen. It is a beautiful
account of Ladakhi life and culture.
Ladakh Neetu Singh and D.J. Singh. (Available
in India) Fabulous photos and well written text make this one of
the best guides to the history, culture and religion of Ladakh.
Very little practical travel information
The Spiritual Heritage of India Swami Prabhavananda.
An overview of the major religions of India from a Hindu's point
of view. This book has a section with very understandable discussions
of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita.
The Sufis Idries Shah. An introduction to
Sufism written by one of the leading
spokesmen for the Sufis.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Buddhist Wisdom
Tibetan Buddhism John Powers. When you've
decided that you want to understand the workings of Tibetan Buddhism
a little better, this is a good choice.
Indo-Tibetan Buddhism David Snellgrove. Two
volumes. Pure history, no religious dogma. The story of how Buddhism
developed in India and spread to Tibet.
A Guide to the Buddhist Path Sangharakshita.
Written by a western Buddhist, this book describes the precepts
and practice of Mahayana Buddhism. There are drawings and explanations
of the deities that you will find in the monasteries.
A Short Description of the Gods, Goddesses, and Ritual Objects
of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal. A great little iconographic
guide available for Rs. 80 in Nepal.
A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth. Acclaimed by some
as the "best novel of the 20th century", this rich and
intricately woven tale is the story of three families in newly independent
India of the 1950s. Vikram Seth manages to include almost all aspects
of Indian culture into its storyline, from dating to saddhus. By
the time you finish the 1400 pages of this book, you will be just
"one of the family".
A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry. Heartwrenching
and uplifting, devastating and hopeful. This is a special and beautiful
novel of four mismatched people thrown together through a twist
of circumstances. Mr. Mistry's one line zingers which capture the
hilarity or pathos of a particular aspect of Indian life will come
back to you and bring a smile as you too confront that situation
in your journeys.
Kim Rudyard Kipling. Kipling's most famous
book, and with good reason. A young English boy, "gone native"
sets off with a lama to search for a holy river. Northwest Frontier
intrigue and adventure at its best.
Far Pavilions M.M. Kaye. A soapy romantic
historical novel that does a beautiful job of capturing the spirit
of princely India. (Do NOT be tempted to watch the video!)
Heat and Dust Ruth Prawar Jhabvala. Although
written in Ms. Jabvala's style of hopelessness and despair, this
romantic story offers some real insights into the relationships
between the Indians and British during the later part of the Raj.
The Moor's Last Sigh Salman Rushdie. Set in
Bombay, this novel is a slice of Indian high society. Rushdie is
the master of creative English language. If you read for a sense
of place or for love of language rather than plot or action, this
book could be your ticket to Nirvana. His book, "Midnight's
Children", the story of a man whose life reflects India's growth
pains, won the 1993 Booker of Bookers award.
The God of Small Things Arundati Roy. A Christian
family in Kerala faces a host of social dilemmas when tragedy strikes.
Written in a similar ethereal, poetic style as "The English
Patient", this book also won the Booker Prize.
A Passage to India E. M. Forster. The west
misunderstands India with disastrous results.
The Jewel in the Crown (Raj Quartet) Paul Scott.
A richly woven and complicated tale of many lives, both English
and Indian, at the close of the Raj.
Book Stores and Mail Order Books
Distant Lands Travel Bookstore
62 South Raymond Ave.
Old Pasadena CA 91105 (626) 449-3220
FAX: (626) 792-9706
An enormous selection of travel books in a store with knowledgeable
and helpful staff, some of whom are real Indiaphiles. Stop in or
call for a catalogue.
Snow Lion Publications
P.O. Box 6483
Itica, NY 14851 (800) 950-0313
Devoted almost exclusively to books on Vajrayana Buddhism
P.O. Box 308
Boston, MA 02117 (617) 424-0030
Psychology, religion, philosophy, and art
Michael Chessler Books
P.O. Box 4359
29723 Troutdale Scenic Drive
Evergreen, CO 80437 (303) 670-0093
Books on mountain climbing world wide. They carry a wealth of general
information books on the Himalayan region and they are an excellent
source for hard to find and out of print books.
And in New Delhi...
B-29 Connaught Place
New Delhi 110-001 332-2260
Two floors of books, mostly on India, but they also carry paperback
best sellers from England and the USA . It takes 4 months, but they
will ship books home very inexpensively