To make the most of your time in Rajasthan, we feel it pays to geek out a little and do some homework before you arrive. To get you started, here is our list of guides and books to read before visiting Rajasthan. This is a list of personal recommendations and by no means definitive:
by Aravind Adiga
The stunning Booker Prize-winning novel The White Tiger watches a raw and darkly funny driver from Bangalore navigate through the poverty and corruption of modern Indian society. If you choose just one of our favourite books to read before visiting Rajasthan, we recommend this.
by Anjali Mitter Duva
Shortlisted for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, Faint Promise of Rain is the debut novel of author Anjali Mitter Duva. The story takes us back to 16th-century Rajasthan, where a family of temple dancers live in the desert city of Jaisalmer, just as Mughal Emperor Akbar sets his sights on the region. We had the pleasure of assisting the author in early 2020 with a tailor-made family journey through Rajasthan. You can check out their journey and follow in their footsteps, here.
by Gregory David Roberts
This is a fast-paced and exciting read, all the more so as it was inspired by the author’s life. Shantaram narrates the story of an escaped Australian convict who finds himself fleeing to a Mumbai slum, mingling with locals ranging from artists to gangsters.
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This is a brilliant retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana, with a twist: this time, the tragic love story is told through the eyes of Sita rather than Ram. The book makes a powerful comment on duty, betrayal, infidelity and honour, and the female struggle to retain autonomy in a man’s world. This is one of our favourite books to read before visiting Rajasthan for those interested in religion, specifically Hinduism.
by Salman Rushdie
First published in 1980, Midnight’s Children is a groundbreaking story blending historical fiction with magical realism. It begins with a child born at the stroke of midnight on 15th August 1948, at a time when India is establishing Independence from years of British colonial rule. The story was adapted as a stage show by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2003.
by Rudyard Kipling
This classic story by Rudyard Kipling follows the coming-of-age of Kim, a bright Irish orphan born in Lahore. He joins an elderly Lama making a pilgrimage across India and, in doing so, encounters the whole colourful gamut of Indian life.
by E M Forster
This Penguin Classic tells a story of discrimination between Indians and the British in the early 20th century. The book is set in pre-Independence India, and questions whether a friendship between an Indian and a British person would have been possible in those prejudice times. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and TIME selected it in its list of the 100 Best English-language novels.
In our opinion, this is the best India guide book out there, with detailed descriptions, maps, tips and images.
A close second, we love Fodor’s for its insider tips and concise descriptions. We feel it’s written for the discerning traveller and that it’s on the right wavelength for the type of experiences our guests and we enjoy.
by Ramachandra Guha
This is one for history buffs looking to set the scene before they visit India. It’s a scholarly take on the battles, conflicts, and glories that have rocked the country, and it introduces you to major political figures as well as the people who call India home.
by Alex Von Tuzelmann
At midnight on 15th August 1947, 400 million Indians were liberated from the British Empire. This witty and insightful book describes the epic sweep of events that ripped apart one of the world’s most mighty empires.
by William Dalrymple
The author lived in Delhi in the 1990s while working as a journalist. This book tells his encounters with the local people and his exploration of the city, from its early beginnings to the modern-day. Dalrymple has written many excellent books on India including The White Mughals and The Last Mughal.
Gayatri Devi was one of India’s most celebrated maharanis (queens) and this is her highly personal and detailed memoir. It’s illustrated with photographs and describes everyday life before Independence, as well as the changes that came afterwards.
If you’d like to try your hand at the cuisine before you arrive, we feel the mother of all Indian cookbooks is Curry Easy Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (Maddie learnt everything she knows from this!). Prashad at Home: Everyday Indian Cooking from our Vegetarian Kitchen by Kaushy Patel is a close second, followed by Fresh India by Meera Sodha.
To get stuck into the planning of your tailor-made trip to Rajasthan together, please get in touch. As specialists in private luxury tours of this specific region, we are an expert choice to assist with your arrangements.0