Recommended Books Featuring Kolkata

The Lives of Others (2015)
'The Lives of Others' (2015) | Penguin Random House
Sridevi Nambiar

It is no secret that Kolkata is a celebrated superstar within the Indian literary scene. The city was home to some of the most prolific of modern Indian writers, including the legendary Rabindranath Tagore, and to many of the most important of Indian cultural movements – particularly the Bengal Renaissance. But that’s not it; the city has also served as a vital, dynamic character in several celebrated pieces of literature. Here we round up a list of 4 English language novels featuring Kolkata that you can read straight away!

The Lives of Others

Set in 1967 Kolkata, this Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel tells the story of the Ghosh family, composed of an ageing patriarch and matriarch, their five children and grandchildren who all live under the same roof. The Lives of Others (2015) follows the various rivalries and crises that engulf the family, while simultaneously following the parallel story of extremist political activism and unrest that erupts in Indian society as well as the family itself. The second novel of Kolkata-born author Neel Mukherjee, this critically acclaimed saga is an engrossing and epic read.

Sea of Poppies

Another successful book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Sea of Poppies (2008) is set in Kolkata, on the banks of the river Ganges, a little before the First Opium War (1839–42). Written by Amitav Ghosh, one of India’s most celebrated contemporary writers, the historical saga at its heart tells the story of a ship named Ibis which is en route to China on the Indian Ocean. The highlight is a diverse set of characters including a bankrupt raja, a widowed tribeswoman, an American freedman and a free-spirited French orphan brought together by destiny. Lush, gritty and rich with satire, the novel is one of the most recommended reads in contemporary Indian fiction.


This engrossing read by Kunal Basu follows the story of Jamshed, who enters India as an undocumented migrant child along with his family from adjacent Bangladesh. The family is then given refuge by a relative from Bihar in Kolkata. Following Jamshed, or Jami’s journey from being expelled from school for involvement with a gang to him establishing himself as a gigolo – thereby getting access to parts of Kolkatan society, Kalkatta (2015) paints a vivid, disturbing and thought provoking story of contemporary Kolkata.

A Strange And Sublime Address

Amit Chaudhuri’s A Strange And Sublime Address (1991) tells the story of the very young Sandeep who trades his parents’ Mumbai apartment every summer to visit his extended family in Kolkata. Painting a picture of the Kolkata house in great detail, the book is a truly enjoyable, rich read.

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