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 economy.

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" keepsake.

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" theory.

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.


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 white pictures.

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.


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

Shambhala Publications
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
(800) 654-8502

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...

The Bookworm
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