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The Best Audio Books Indian Literature and Historical Fiction

Imagine yourself in India's fascinating remote places like the Sundarbans, still the land of the man eating tiger in Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Hungry Tide” or travel to a small village at the foothills of the Himalaya where Maya’s tries to overcome her grief, beautifully written by Anuradha Roy in ‘The Folded Earth’.

Listen to the stories of Indian people looking for a better future, as immigrants in England in Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘The Year of the Runaways’, or as a village boy getting rich in the big city in the book ‘The White Tiger’.

 In search of one’s identity is one of the mayor themes of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, herself daughter of Indian parents but raised in England and the U.S.. 

To learn more about India’s history travel to the 19th century by listening to Amitav Ghosh’ books about the ship The Ibis and the epic saga ‘The Glass Palace’. An all time bestseller is Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’.

Ghachar Ghochar - Vivek Shanbhag, 2017

The life of a young man and his family, suddenly changes when his uncle makes a fortune in the spice trade in India. From being poor and making ends meet they have to adjust to a world where old values are replaced by conflicting loyalties, intimidation and the status of being rich. More about Vivek Shanbbag.

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga and Kerry Shale, 2015

Balram Halwai tells the story of his life in a letter addressed to the Chinese Premier, who will soon be visiting India. Balram was born in the rural village of Laxmangarh, as the son of a rickshaw puller. He is a smart child but is forced to leave school in order to support for his family and he starts to work in a teashop with his brother in Dhanbad. While working there and talking with customers he learns about India's government and economy. Eventually Balram decides to become a driver and travells to Delhi, where he works as a chauffeur to a rich landlord. But then, he kills his boss and steals his money and Balram flees to Bangalore. Read an interview with Aravind Adiga here

The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeev Sahota and Sartaj Garewal, 2016

Set in 2003 in England’s Sheffield and with flashbacks to India, Tochi, Avtar and Randeep have fled India in search for a better future in England. Tochi is a low-caste man who travels to the U.K. illegally. Avtar arrives on a student visa but his intention is to work and not to study. Randeep, Avtar's friend and neighbor from India, has a visa because he married Narinder. Narinder is born in England and has her own reasons for marrying Randeep and as such provide him with a visa. 

The four characters in this impressive novel tell us about their traumatic past in India, the reasons to leave and show us their perseverance to make something of life, despite all the misfortunes they endure.

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth, 2007

This family saga is set in the 1950’s in a town on the Ganges and follows the lives of four families during one and a half year. Mrs. Rupa Mehra's tries to find a ‘suitable boy’ to marry her daughter, Lata. But Lata is an university student and does not want her mother to arrange her marriage. Instead she wants to make her own choices. But is she willing and capable to fight against the family traditions and choose for love and independence?

The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel - Karan Mahajan, 2016

The brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana both die when a bomb explodes in a Delhi marketplace. Their friend Mansoor survives and although traumatized by the events, leaves for the United States to study. But when Mansoor returns to India, he meets Ayub, a young activist and Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker. More about Karan Mahajan.

Selection Day - Aravind Adiga and Sartaj Garewal, 2016

Manjunath (Manju) Kumar is fourteen and he knows he is good at cricket. He fears and resents his domineering and cricket-obsessed father and admires his brilliantly talented brother Radha. But there are many things, about himself and about the world, that Manju doesn't know. Sometimes it seems as though everyone around him has a clear idea of who Manju should be, except Manju himself. When Manju begins to get to know Radha's great rival, a boy as privileged and confident as Manju is not, everything in Manju's world begins to change and he is faced with decisions that will challenge both his sense of self and of the world around him. 

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Audio Books Historical Fiction India Sea of Poppies Amitav Ghosh
Audio Books Historical Fiction India Sea of Poppies Amitav Ghosh
Audio Books Historical Fiction India Sea of Poppies Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh's Ibis trilogy consists of three historical fiction books Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011), and Flood of Fire (2015). The story is set in the first half of the 19th century and tells us about the shipping of people from India to work on the sugar plantations of Mauritius, and about the trade of opium between India and China. The Ibis is a ship that sails from Calcutta to Canton and Mauritius carrying different character including slaves, British officials, peasants and Cantonese boat people.

The Hungry Tide - Amitav Ghosh and Firdous Bam, 2005

Set in the Sundarbans, the home of the man eating Bengal tiger, huge crocodiles, sharks, snakes, impenetrable forests, and a few people trying to scratch out a living. The settlers of the Sundarbans believe that anyone who dares venture into the vast watery labyrinth without a pure heart, will never return. 

It is the arrival of Piya, an American woman but of Indian parentage  that disturbs the delicate balance of settlement life and sets in motion a fateful events. Piya has come to the Sundarbans in search of a rare species of river dolphin. Her journey begins with a disaster, when she is thrown from a boat into crocodile-infested waters, but she is rescued by the young, illiterate fisherman, Fokir. Although they share no language between them, Piya and Fokir are powerfully drawn to each other and from this moment the tide begins to turn.

The Glass Palace - Amitav Ghosh and Simon Vance, 2015

Primarily set in Burma and India at the beginning of the British invasion in Burma in 1885 through the Second World War up to the 1980’s, this story is about Rajkumar, an Indian street orphan who falls in love with Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen. After the British soldiers force the Royal Family out of their residence (the Glass Palace) in Mandalay they are forced to go into exile to a small town in India. 

With the help of a Chinese merchant Rajkumar builds up a logging business in upper Burma and becomes a rich man. But he can not forget Dolly and he goes in search for her…

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audio books Indian Literature Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies
Jhumpa Lahiri and Matilda Novak 2007
audio books Indian Literature Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri
Unaccustomed Earth
Jhumpa Lahiri and Sarita Choudhury, 2008

With the short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999) Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This book is about the first and second generation Indian immigrants and the idea of otherness in the country they live in. 

Unaccustomed Earth is her second book with short stories and follows the lives of Indian American people and how they deal with their mixed cultural backgrounds. 

More on Lahiri's Facebook page.

The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri and Sunil Malhotra

Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers who grow up in Calcutta. But their characters are also opposites, Subash, the dutiful son and Udayan, rebellious and impulsive.

In the 1960’s Udayan is swept up in India’s Naxalite rebellion. Fighting against poverty and inequality Udayan will risk all for what he believes in. But Subhash, does not share his brother’s political passion, he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America. But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family’s home in India, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind.

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri and Sarita Choudhury, 2003

Shortly after their arranged marriage in Calcutta at the end of the 1960s, the newly weds Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli arrive in America. After they arrive in Cambridge, their first child is born, a boy. According to Indian custom, the child will be given two names: an official name, to be bestowed by the great grandmother, and a pet name to be used only by family. But the letter from India with the child's official name never arrives, and so the parents decide on a pet name to use for the time being: Gogol.

But growing up in an Indian family in suburban America, Gogol starts to hate the awkward name and the inherited values it represents. Determined to live a life far removed from that of his parents, Gogol sets off on his own path to India to discover that the search of identity depends on more than a name.

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The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy and Aysha Kala, 2016

Winner of the booker prize 1998

 

Set in Kerala between 1969 and 1993, Rahel and Estha are twins, who spend their childhood among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory. But the seven-year-old brother and sister see their world shaken by the arrival of their beautiful cousin, Sophie. Amidst political unrest they experience events that will bring distress to the ones they love and their once safe surroundings.

The Folded Earth - Anuradha Roy and Sneha Mathan, 2012

Maya’s husband dies in a mountaineering accident and to leave her sorrow behind, the 25 year old Maya seeks refuge in Ranikhet, a village at the foothills of the Himalaya. The village is so self-contained and its visitors so few that their connection lies in the natural world around them “Our town has a private ­history…revealed only to those who live here by others who have lived here longer”. Whilst Maya adapts to the peaceful village life she  befriends Charu and her landlord Diwan Sahib, who holds secrets from India’s past. More about Anuradha Roy.

The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai, 2007

Sai, an seventeen year old Indian girl, lives with her grandfather Jemubhai, a retired judge, in the mountains of Kalimpong. Sai has started a relationship with her Nepalese tutor, Gyan, who joined a group of ethnic Nepalese insurgents. When a gang of Nepalese boys ransack the house and threaten with violence, the lives of Sai, her grandfather and their cook descend into chaos. Interwoven with the story set in India is the story of the cook’s son Biju as he struggles to survive as an illegal immigrant in the United States.

Tiger Hills - Sarita Mandanna and Cassandra Campbell, 2011

Devi and Devanna are inseparable childhood friends. Devi, still a young girl, meets Muthi, a young man who has killed a tiger and is hailed as a hero. Devi falls in love with Muthi and wants to marry him when she is older. But her love for the tiger killing hero drives a wedge between in the bond between her and Devanna, who loves her. Devanna leaves the village to study medicine, in the hope that when he returns Devi will see his worth and return his love, but then a tragedy changes the fate of all three young people, with far-reaching consequences for the generations to come.

The Lives of Others: A Novel - Neel Mukherjee and Raj Ghatak, 2015

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

This book tells the story of the large household of the Ghoshes family, the grandparents, their five children and grandchildren, in Calcutta in the 1960’s. Each one of the children occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. Rivalries between sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, the implosion of the family business and social unrest in India threaten the status of the family.The oldest of the grandchildren idealistic Supratik has become involved in extremist political activism and his desire to change the world further decays the Ghoshes family.

The Golden Son - Shilpi Somaya Gowda, 2016

Anil Patel, ‘the golden son’, is the first of his family to go to college and he starts a medical residency in Dallas. But when his father dies, Anil becomes the head of the household and the successor of his fathers role as an arbiter for the village’s disputes. But Anil doubts if he can set forth this family tradition. And Leena, Anil’s childhood friend, tries to adapt into her new role as a wife. But her arranged marriage doesn’t make her happy and she makes a choice that will has drastic consequences for herself and her family.

Sleeping on Jupiter - Anuradha Roy, 2016

On a train bound for the seaside town of Jarmuli, three elderly women go on an holiday together. They meet a young woman, a documentary filmmaker named Nomi, whose braided hair and tattoos set her apart from Indian people. Nomi was born in India, but grew up as an adopted child in Norway. Now, she is returning to Jarmuli to face her traumatic past. At a brief stop of the train, the women witness a sudden assault on Nomi that leaves her stranded as the train pulls away.

Later in Jarmuli, among pilgrims, priests, and ashrams, the three women meet Nomi again. By the stories of the women’s lives and the people they meet, Nomi’s past of violence and abuse comes into focus and with it the true character of the serene surface of the worshippers town.

 

Sleeping on Jupiter, Roy's third novel, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

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Bhutan

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

Lisa Napoli and Random House Audio 2011

Lisa Napoli spends six weeks in Bhutan to help with the startup of a radio station. The author describes her adventures and experiences with the people, their customs and the history of this tiny Himalayan kingdom where the gross national product is calculated in happiness.

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