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  • Colonial literature includes Rudyard Kipling's Kim and Plain Tales from the Hills, and EM Forster's A Passage to India.

  • The post-colonial Indian novel par excellence is Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, though Vikram Seth's suitcase-sized A Suitable Boy runs a close second. In the past decade, a swag of Indian authors writing in English have achieved international recognition. They include Rohinton Mistry, Shashi Tharoor and Arundhati Roy. The delightful novels of RK Narayan are evidence that Indian literary talent in English is nothing particularly new.

  • Worthy travelogues include Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar and Alexander Frater's delightful Chasing the Monsoon. William Dalrymple explored Delhi in City of Djinns and Geoffrey Moorhouse took the plunge in Kolkata in Calcutta - A City Revealed.

  • Commentaries on India almost form a publishing sub-genre of their own, and provide travellers with some of the best insights. They include VS Naipaul's acerbic An Area of Darkness and India - A Wounded Civilisation and the more mature A Million Mutinies Now; James Cameron's insightful An Indian Summer; Mark Tully's No Full Stops In India; and John Keay's Into India are also worthwhile reading.

  • The two-volume Pelican History of India is a dry but comprehensive historical treatment. More readable accounts of specific chapters of Indian history include Christopher Hibbert's The Great Mutiny - India 1857, Plain Tales from the Raj edited by Charles Allen, Tariq Ali's The Nehrus & the Gandhis and the sensationalist potboiler Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.

  • The Hindu holy books, the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, are available in English translations. Hinduism by KM Sen is a blissfully brief and to-the-point introduction to India's major religion. A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology &Religion will help unravel who's who in the Hindu cosmology. Anyone tempted to don a dhoti and go looking for spiritual salvation will save themselves a lot of heartache by reading Gita Mehta's witty Karma Kola.

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