7 Best Indian Authors Of All Time

Indians are known for a deep commitment to tradition and a vibrant culture. Discover the best Indian authors to add to your reading list from this article.

Indian writers have created and continue to create enticing works of literature that envelop readers in exciting novels, short stories, and poems.

People from India have a long history of storytelling, dating back to 1500 BCE. The oldest Indian literature was developed in Sanskrit. Over time, Indian literature was passed down and recorded in many languages, including Kannada, Hindi, Telegu, Odia, Bengali, Maithili, Assamese, Urdu, and more.

As Indian literature evolved, stylistic changes occurred. The Old Era of Indian literature gave way to couplets and ushered in the country’s renaissance movement. The New Era welcomed the Romantic and Progressive movements, further changing fiction and prose in India. The country’s religious diversity—including many people of the Hindu, Islamic, and Christian faiths—provides an exciting landscape for literature.

India has 22 official languages, and literature was recorded in varied forms. Some Indian literature, however, was recorded in languages not deemed official Indian languages by the government. Some Indian literature was recorded in Persian, while other works were recorded in English (mainly works from North East India).

Popular Indian Authors

Best Indian Authors

Here, we’ll explore the best Indian authors—be sure to add the writers below to your must-read list.

1. Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is best known for her 1997 debut novel The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for fiction. Roy is also active in India’s environmental and human rights causes.

Roy was born in Shillong, Assam, and earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi. Before writing novels, Roy worked as a screenwriter for big and small screens. Her 1989 screenplay, In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, described her experiences as an architecture student. The film won the 1988 National Film Award for Best Screenplay.

The God of Small Things is semi-autobiographical and describes many of Roy’s childhood experiences. Listed by The New York Times as one of the notable books of the year in 1997, the novel was also an NYT bestseller. The book was met with acclaim from critics and readers alike and was called a “lush, magical novel” by the Toronto Star and “a novel of poignancy and considerable sweep” by the Los Angeles Times.

The God of Small Things
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Arundhati Roy (Author) - Sneha Mathan (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 06/06/2017 (Publication Date) - Blackstone Audio, Inc. (Publisher)

2. Khushwant Singh

Best Indian Authors: Khushwant Singh
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to being an author, Pakistan-born Khushwant Singh was a diplomat, lawyer, and politician. Singh was born in Punjab and studied at the British King’s College London. After many years working as a lawyer and in the radio industry, he felt inspired to pursue a literary career. Singh was also a respected member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

Singh was known for his sarcasm and humor and his comparisons of Indian and Western behavior. Singh is well-known for his 1956 novel, Train to Pakistan, made into a movie in 1998. Train to Pakistan was based on the writer’s personal experience with the Partition of India in 1947. While the novel and film are technically classified as fiction, Singh kept the book as realistic as possible. Described as an infallible believer in human goodness, Singh’s stories are known for taking a realistic yet optimistic view of human nature, helping readers to see the lighter and brighter sides to complex parts of the human experience.

Singh was known for his outspoken agnosticism, evidenced by his 2011 book entitled Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God. Singh heavily criticized organized religion. The author’s final book, The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous, published in 2013, continued his critique of clergy members and priesthood in India.

A History of the Sikhs: Volume 2: 1839-2004 (Oxford India Collection (Paperback))
  • Singh, Khushwant (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 547 Pages - 02/03/2005 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

3. Vikram Seth

Best Indian Authors: Vikram Seth
Amrhelweh, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Author and poet Vikram Seth is a celebrated novelist who won several awards for his work, including the Sahitya Academy Award, the WH Smith Literary Award, and the Padma Shri. Born in Calcutta, Seth went to The Doon School, an all-boys school where he served as editor of The Doon School Weekly. After completing his studies at Doon, he moved to Tonbridge School in England. Later, he began working on his Ph.D. at Stanford but never completed the degree.

Seth has published many books of poetry, as well as three novels. Seth’s first novel, A Suitable Boy, pushed him into the forefront of the Indian literary scene. The story was made into a BBC TV miniseries in 2020. Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992) and Mappings (1980) are two of Seth’s other well-known works of poetry.

Seth has won several awards, including the Thomas Cook Book Award for From Haven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), the Commonwealth Writers Prize for A Suitable Boy (1994), the Crossword Book Award for An Equal Music (1999), and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (2005).

A Suitable Boy (Dramatised)
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Vikram Seth (Author) - Ayesha Dharker, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, full cast (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/15/2007 (Publication Date) - BBC Worldwide Ltd (Publisher)

4. Amitav Ghosh

Best Indian Authors: Amitav Ghosh
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Amitav Ghosh is a Kolkata-born writer known for writing English-language historical fiction that delves into people’s lives in Southeast Asia. In addition to his historical fiction works, Ghosh is also known for his writing on climate change, colonialism, and other social and environmental issues.

Like many other renowned Indian writers, Ghosh got his start studying at The Doon School and eventually went on to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford. He worked for periodical publications and different higher education institutions before focusing solely on writing. His debut novel was entitled The Circle of Reason (1986), followed by his fiction books, including the Ibis trilogy, The Shadow Lines, and The Glass Palace.

The Hungry Tide
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Amitav Ghosh (Author) - Firdous Bamji (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 07/01/2005 (Publication Date) - Recorded Books (Publisher)

5. Anita Desai

Anita Desai is a highly-awarded writer and professor. Her 1978 novel, Fire on the Mountain, received a Sahitya Akademi Award, and her 1983 children’s fiction book, The Village by the Sea, won the Guardian Prize.

In addition to her writing work, Desai is also a highly respected educator. She has taught at many higher learning institutions, including Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Baruch College. The author is also the Emerita John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at MIT.

Clear Light Of Day
  • Desai, Anita (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 09/12/2000 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

6. Jhumpa Lahiri

Best Indian Authors: Jhumpa Lahiri
librairie mollat, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and currently serves as a creative writing professor at Princeton University. The author has a tough start in the literature business, facing countless rejections from publishing companies. In 1999, the author released Interpreter of Maladies, a short story collection that discussed the many challenges faced by Indian citizens and Indian immigrants.

Interpreter of Maladies received rave reviews in the United States, but many citizens of India had different thoughts. Some Indian people felt that Lahiri portrayed the people of India in a less-than-positive light. Regardless, the book won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 2000.

Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, was published in 2003 and was based on the story of a family who emigrated to the United States. In 2008, Lahiri released another collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth. Lahiri has also published several works in The New Yorker, including Cooking Lessons and The Long Way Home.

Lahiri has won several awards for her work in addition to the Pulitzer, including the TransAtlantic Award from the Henfield Foundation (1993), the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2000), the Guggenheim Fellowship (2002), and the National Humanities Medal (2014).

The Namesake
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Jhumpa Lahiri (Author) - Sarita Choudhury (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/26/2003 (Publication Date) - Random House Audio (Publisher)

7. Aravind Adiga

Awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his novel The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga is a Columbia University and Oxford-educated author who grew up in India, Australia, and Britain. Adiga has powerful family ties as his grandfather was the former chairman of Karnataka Bank and his great-grandfather was a Madras politician.

Adiga started as a finance writer and eventually began working as a correspondent for Time magazine before he began freelance writing full time. Adiga has also published Between the Assassinations (released in India in 2008, released in the US and the UK in 2009), Last Man in Tower (2011), Selection Day (2016), and Amnesty (2020).

Amnesty: A Novel
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Aravind Adiga (Author) - Vikas Adam (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/18/2020 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster Audio (Publisher)

The Final Word On The Best Indian Authors

Indian authors are known for telling moving, descriptive stories that captivate readers and share the beauty and truth of life in India. Award-winning Indian authors have continued to produce some of the best books globally, offering readers a little bit of everything they crave, from love story novels to historical fiction.

You might also be interested in our round-up of the best Indonesian authors of all time.

FAQs About The 7 Best Indian Authors

What Are The Novels To Watch For From Indian Authors In 2022?

In 2022, update your Amazon wishlist with Everything the Light Touches by Janice Pariat, The Living Mountain: A Fable for Our Times by Amitav Ghosh, and Hymns for Blood by Nanak Singh (translated from Punjabi by Navdeep Suri).

What Are The Best Universities For Studying Literature In India?

India offers several options for people who want to study literature, including St. Xavier’s College (at the University of Calcutta), Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce (at the University of Pune), and St. Joseph’s College, Calicut (at the University of Calicut).

Further Reading

If you liked this guide on the best Indian authors, you might be interested in our round-up on the best Japanese authors.

You may also enjoy our explainer on the best American authors

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