The best part about travelling the books you get to read in transit. Whether you are exploring all of India or simply one small corner, you will need a good book to get you through. India has long inspired travellers, but away from the obvious like The Life of Pi, there are many books that explore, comment and illuminate India that you may not have heard of.

Nothing opens up a country’s heart like an excellent travelogue or novel, so we have complied a list of contemporary and classic novels from writers from around the world to keep you occupied during those long train journeys:

  1. Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse
    this 1922 novel is almost a century old and has still lost none of its kick. In this classic, Hesse’s character explores spirituality in a journey of self-discovery during the time of the Gautama Buddha. It is a quest for enlightenment that has endured time, less like Dharma Bums and more like The Alchemist, this is a delightful and determined read for anyone looking for peace.
  2. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
    Considered to be the first detective novel in the English language, it is a fun, edge-of-your-seat thriller that kick-started a genre. After all, it is a classic and who doesn’t love a good whodunit on holiday?
  3. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
    This Man Booker prize-winner is a dizzying novel set in Kerala. It follows the childhood experiences of fraternal twins and comments on the human condition. The God of Small Things muses on Indian politics, religion and the caste system.
  4. Life after Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha
    This extensive and seminal text can be your complete guide to modern India. Spanning the years from Independence, to liberalisation in the 90s and the events that have shaped contemporary India. When travelling, it is important to understand and empathise with the people who live on the land are exploring. Get an insight into India’s psychology and your trip will become much more bountiful and rewarding.
  5. A Strange kind of Paradise – Sam Miller
    This is to the explorer in India what the beach is to backpackers in Thailand. India is a country of contradictions and if there is one thing travellers report, it is that it can be very overwhelming. After having worked as a journalist and lived in India for 20 years, he has an insight only possible through an outsider who has fallen in love with the land.
  6. Behind the Beautiful Forevers– Katherine Boo
    Winner of the National Book prize 2012, if you are travelling to Mumbai this is a must read. Centring on one of Mumbai’s slums (or ‘undercity’), as Travel and Leisure writes, Boo: “explores the ethos and spirit of one of the world’s great cities with diligence and compassion, exposing its wonders and horrors for what they really are: deeply, profoundly human.”

But if India is just too far, you could always read one of these in one of London’s best fine dining Indian restaurants.