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Delhi Books: read through the city known for its s...

Delhi Books: read through the city known for its street food

featured image for a conclusive list of Delhi books

Delhi serves a cornucopia of history, culture, cuisine, commerce and street life, with countless sights and activities to keep visitors thoroughly engaged. It is a place that not only touches your pulse but even fastens it to a frenetic speed. Home to millions of dreams, the city takes on unprecedented responsibilities of realizing dreams bringing people closer and inspiring their thoughts. Delhi books capture these responsibilities and brimming culture to present captivating stories.

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Through this list of books by writers from Khushwant Singh to Anuja Chauhan, you can experience the vibrant and the dark side of this city with an illustrious past.

Title: Twilight In Delhi
Author: Ahmed Ali
Publisher: Rupa Publishers

Blurb: Set in nineteenth-century India between two revolutionary moments of change, Twilight in Delhi brings history alive, depicting most movingly the loss of an entire culture and way of life. As Bonamy Dobree said, “It releases us into a different and quite complete world. Mr Ahmed Ali makes us hear and smell Delhi…hear the flutter of pigeons’ wings, the cries of itinerant vendors, the calls to prayer, the howls of mourners, the chants of qawwals, smell jasmine and sewage, frying ghee and burning wood.” The detail, as E.M. Forster said, is “new and fascinating,” poetic and brutal, delightful and callous. First published by the Hogarth Press in 1940, Twilight in Delhi was widely acclaimed by critics and hailed in India as a major literary event.

Price: Rs. 215 || Pages: 304

Title: Delhi: A Soliloquy
Author: M. Mukundan
Translator: Fathima E.V., Nandakumar K.
Publisher: Eka

Blurb: It is the 1960s. Delhi is a city of refugees and dire poverty. The Malayali community is just beginning to lay down roots, and the government offices at Central Secretariat, as well as hospitals across the city, are infused with Malayali-ness. This is the Delhi young Sahadevan makes his home, with the help of Shreedharanunni, committed trade union leader and lover of all things Chinese.

Then, unexpectedly, China declares war on India. In a moment, all is split asunder, including Shreedharanunni’s family. Their battle to survive is mirrored in the lives of many others: firebrand journalist Kunhikrishnan and his wife Lalitha; maverick artist Vasu; call girl and inveterate romantic Rosily; JNU student and activist Janakikutty.

Hailed as a contemporary classic in Malayalam, this is a masterful novel about ordinary people whose lives and stories have leached into the very soil and memories of Delhi.

Price: Rs. 610 || Pages: 554

Title: City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
Author: William Dalrymple
Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Blurb: Delhi is a city like no other, one which, in spite of being as old as time, is culturally dominated by relatively new dwellers. Interspersed with accounts of meeting assorted Delhiwallahs including Sufis, eunuchs, Persian scholars and an Englishwoman who stays behind after Raj’s hasty exit, the City of Djinns seeks out the essence of this ancient town in a travelogue like no other. Moving, profoundly insightful and compulsively readable, City of Djinns is a loving exploration by one of the great historians of our time of the city, which he chooses to call home.

Price: Rs. 409 || Pages: 360

Title: Delhi: A Novel
Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Penguin India

Blurb: ‘I return to Delhi as I return to my mistress Bhagmati when I have had my fill of whoring in foreign lands…’ Thus begins Khushwant Singh’s vast, erotic, irrelevant magnum opus on the city of Delhi.

The principal narrator of the saga, which extends over six hundred years, is a bawdy, ageing reprobate who loves Delhi as much as he does the hijra whore Bhagmati—half man, half woman with sexual inventiveness and energy of both the sexes.

Travelling through time, space and history to ‘discover’ his beloved city, the narrator meets a myriad of people—poets and princes, saints and sultans, temptresses and traitors, emperors and eunuchs—who have shaped and endowed Delhi with its very special mystique. And as we accompany the narrator on his epic journey we find the city of emperors transformed and immortalized in our minds forever.

Price: Rs. 520 || Pages: 391

Title: Clear Light of the Day
Author: Anita Desai
Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Blurb: While their parents went to parties at Delhi’s Roshanara Club, the children of the Das family brought themselves up, reading Byron, listening to the gramophone and watching over sad, alcoholic Mira maasi. Many years later, the youngest, Tara now a mother of two has returned from America to the scene of her unusual, lonesome childhood. Here, as always, is her sister Bim, doggedly single college lecturer and caretaker of all. In her presence, Tara sinks into the blissful torpor of home, at once her dreamy old self but careful as ever around her older sister. At the heart of this reunion are numerous tensions: Tara feels the persistent guilt of having, like the others, abandoned Bim, their autistic brother Baba is increasingly unquiet and Bim has not spoken to their other brother, Raja, for years and refuses to go to his daughter’s wedding.

Clear Light of Day is vintage Anita Desai, a novel as wonderfully contemplative as a cup of afternoon tea.

Price: Rs. 250 || Pages: 296

Title: The Heart Has Its Reasons
Author: Krishna Sobti
Translator: Reema Anand, Meenakshi Swami
Publisher: Katha India

Blurb: She’s a quiet flame, a roaring sea. He’s a restless wave, an autumn tree. Set in the Dilli of 1920, Mehak and Kripanarayan’s love story threatens the seams of family and passion, as Kutumb the wife gropes for the sliver of a broken marriage. Three powerful characters, three distinct voices.

Price: Rs. 250* || Pages: 200
*On Katha India’s website

Title: Trees Of Delhi: A Field Guide
Author: Pradip Krishen
Publisher: Penguin India

Blurb: Pradeep Krishen is a nature-lover and in his book Trees of Delhi: A Field Guide, he has made a list of more than 250 species of trees found in Delhi. This book is not only for botanists but, because of its simplicity, can be understood by anyone who is a nature enthusiast.

The book gives specific details about each tree like its leaves, flowers and fruits and also tells you the places in Delhi where you can find those trees. There are picture illustrations in the book too, which help you in identifying each tree.

This guide covers historical details about the different species of trees, how they have evolved and how the vegetation of the different areas of Delhi has changed over the years. By reading Trees of Delhi: A Field Guide you will possess knowledge about each tree you see.

Price: Rs. 729 || Pages: 360

The cover of Alms in the name of a blind horse.

Title: Alms in the Name of a Blind Horse
Author: Gurdial Singh
Translator: Rana Nayar
Publisher: Rupa Publications India

Blurb: Alms in the Name of a Blind Horse (Anhe Ghore Da Daan) is a modern classic that derives its title from an ancient myth associated with the Churning of the Ocean, in which Lord Vishnu had been less than fair in his dispensation to the Asuras, supposedly the progenitors of latter-day Dalits. Through this novel, Gurdial Singh emphasizes that just as the Asuras had to depend upon the arbitrary dispensation of the Lord, in the same way, the modern Dalits have to rely on the mercy and compassion of the village overlords. On the day of the lunar and solar eclipse, they still ask for the alms in the name of the blind horse. The events of this novel are confined to one such day of a lunar eclipse in the lives of its characters. Often it is believed that poor, landless and marginalized characters such as Melu, his bapu, his Chacha Partapa, etc. lead banal and uneventful lives, which are not even worthy of a description, let alone artistic treatment. Exploding this myth, Gurdial Singh has created this ‘whirlpool of a novella’ around an unending spate of events that enmesh the hapless lives of its characters, all in the course of a single day.

Price: Rs. 175 || Pages: 186

Title: Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller
Author: Raza Rumi
Publisher: Penguin India

Blurb: Why, asks Raza Rumi, does the capital of another country feel like home? How is it that a man from Pakistan can cross the border into ‘hostile’ territory and yet not feel ‘foreign’? Is it the geography, the architecture, the food? Or is it the streets, the festivals and the colours of the subcontinent, so familiar and yes, beloved…

His wanderings through Delhi lead Raza back in time to recollections of a long-forgotten Hindu ancestry and to comparisons with his own city of Lahore – in many ways a mirror image of Delhi. They also lead to reflections on the nature of the modern city, the inherent conflict between the native and the immigrant and, inevitably, an inquiry into his own identity as a South Asian Muslim.

Rich with history and anecdotes, and conversations with Dilliwalas known and unknown, Delhi By Heart offers an unusual perspective and unexpected insights into the political and cultural capital of India.

Price: Rs. 475 || Pages: 336

Title: Those Pricey Thakur Girls
Author: Anuja Chauhan
Publisher: HarperCollins India

Blurb: In a sprawling bungalow on New Delhi’s posh Hailey Road, Justice Laxmi Narayan Thakur and his wife Mamta spend their days watching anxiously over their five beautiful (but troublesome) alphabetically named daughters. Anjini, married but an incorrigible flirt; Binodini, very worried about her children’s hissa in the family property; Chandrakanta, who eloped with a foreigner on the eve of her wedding; Eshwari, who is just a little too popular at Modern School, Barakhamba Road; and the Judge’s favourite (though fathers shouldn’t have favourites): the quietly fiery Debjani, champion of all the stray animals on Hailey Road, who reads the English news on DD and clashes constantly with crusading journalist Dylan Singh Shekhawat, he of shining professional credentials but tarnished personal reputation, crushingly dismissive of her state-sponsored propaganda, but always seeking her out with half-sarcastic, half-intrigued dark eyes.

Spot-on funny and toe-curlingly sexy, Those Pricey Thakur Girls is rom-com specialist Anuja Chauhan writing at her sparkling best.

Price: Rs. 345 || Pages: 398


Part-time writer, full-time chemistry student, Amritesh loves everything literature. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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