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A list of 15 books from the best storyteller of our times!

Posted On : July 11 2020



Amitav Ghosh is one of the most widely known and loved Indians writers in English today. He was born in Kolkata on July 11, 1956.  

Being from the army and diplomatic background, his father, Lieutenant Colonel Shailendra Chandra Ghosh, travelled a lot during Ghosh’s childhood. It is no surprise then that his fictional work deals with the identity crisis in different cultures such as that of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Iran besides India. He was educated at The Doon School in Dehradun. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and historian Ramchandra Guha. He studied at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, and the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria. He worked for the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi and he earned his doctorate in Oxford before he wrote his first novel.

Before embarking on a journey as a writer, he started off his professional career with teaching. There are a number of universities he taught at including Columbia University in NYU, Queens College of the City University, American University in Cairo, Harvard University and many more.

On his birthday today we give you a comprehensive list of the books he has written so far. Check how many you have read? Mark the others as must-reads. Thank us later!

Here is a list of his books that prove that he is the best storyteller of our times:

The Circle of Reason (1986) 


His first novel The Circle of Reason won the Prix Medici Estranger, one of France's top literary awards. This debut novel centres on Alu, an orphan enlisted by his foster father as a soldier in his crusade against the forces of myth and unreason. Suspected of terrorism, they are about to be arrested when a tragic accident forces Alu to flee his village. Pursued by a misguided police officer, Alu finds his way through Calcutta to Goa and on to a trawler that runs illegal immigrants to Africa. The story traces Alu’s journey across two continents.

The Shadow Lines (1988)


This novel won the Sahitya Akademi Award, India's most prestigious literary prize. Ghosh builds an intensely vivid, funny and moving story of a young boy. The narrator travels across time through the tales of those around him, traversing the unreliable planes of memory, unmindful of physical, political and chronological borders. But as he grows older, he is haunted by a seemingly random act of violence. Bits and pieces of stories, both half-remembered and imagined, come together in his mind until he arrives at an intricate, interconnected picture of the world where borders and boundaries mean nothing, mere shadow lines that we draw dividing people and nations.

In an Antique Land (1992)


Packed with anecdote and exuberant detail, In an Antique Land provides magical and intimate insights into Egypt from the Crusades to Operation Desert Storm. It exposes the indistinguishable and intertwining ties that bind together India and Egypt, Hindus and Muslims and Jews. By combining fiction, history, travel writing and anthropology, to create a single seamless work of imagination, Ghosh characteristically makes us rethink the political boundaries that divide the world and the generic boundaries that divide narratives.

The Calcutta Chromosome (1996)


This book won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1997. In this extraordinary novel, Ghosh navigates through time and genres to present a unique tale. Beginning at an unspecified time in the future and ranging back to the late nineteenth century, the reader follows the adventures of the enigmatic L. Murugan. An authority on the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Ronald Ross, who solved the malaria puzzle in Calcutta in 1898, Murugan is in search of the elusive 'Calcutta Chromosome'. With its astonishing range of characters, advanced computer science, religious cults and wonderful portraits of Victorian and contemporary India, The Calcutta Chromosome expands the scope of the novel as we know it.

Dancing in Cambodia and Other Essays (1998)


Through extraordinary first-hand accounts Ghosh presents a compelling chronicle of the turmoil of our times. `Dancing in Cambodia' recreates the first-ever visit to Europe by a troupe of Cambodian dancers with King Sisowath, in 1906. Ghosh links this historic visit, celebrated by Rodin in a series of sketches, to the more recent history of the Khmer Rouge revolution. 'The Town by the Sea' records his experiences in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands just days after the tsunami; and in 'September 11' he takes us back to that fateful day when he retrieved his young daughter from school in New York, sick with the knowledge that she will be marked by the same kind of tumult that has defined his own life.

Countdown (1999)


On May 11, 1998 the Indian government tested five nuclear devices some forty kilometres from Pokaran. Seventeen days later Pakistan tested nuclear devices of its own. About three months after the tests, Ghosh went to the Pokaran area, after which he visited Kashmir as part of the defence minister’s entourage. He also went to the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram Mountains where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been exchanging fire since 1983. Ghosh then travelled through Pakistan and Nepal. Countdown is partly a result of these journeys and conversations with many hundreds of people of the subcontinent.

The Glass Palace (2000)


This novel won the Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-Book Awards in 2001. Rajkumar is only another boy, helping on a market stall in the dusty square outside the royal palace, when the British force the Burmese King, Queen and all the Court into exile. He is rescued by a far-seeing Chinese merchant and with him builds up a logging business in upper Burma. But haunted by his vision of the Royal Family, Rajkumar journeys to the obscure town in India where they have been exiled.
The picture of the tension between the Burmese, the Indian and the British is excellent. Among the great range of characters are one of the court ladies, Miss Dolly, whom Rajkumar marries: and the redoubtable Jonakin, part of the British-educated Indian colony, who, with her husband, has been put in charge of the Burmese exiled court.
The story follows the fortunes – rubber estates in Malaya, businesses in Singapore, estates in Burma – which Rajkumar, with his Chinese, British and Burmese relations, friends and associates, builds up – from 1870 through the Second World War to the scattering of the extended family to New York and Thailand, London and Hong Kong in the post-war years.

The Imam and the Indian (2002)


The Imam and the Indian is an extensive compilation of Ghosh's non-fiction writings. Sporadically published between his novels, in magazines, journals, academic books and periodicals, these essays and articles trace the evolution of the ideas that shape his fiction. He explores the connections between past and present, events and memories, people, cultures and countries that have a shared history. Ghosh combines his historical and anthropological bent of mind with his skills of a novelist, to present a collection like no other.

The Hungry Tide (2004)


The Hungry Tide is a rich, exotic saga set in Calcutta and in the vast archipelago of islands in the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans provides the setting for Ghosh’s novel. Here the tides reach more than 100 miles inland and every day thousands of hectares of forest disappear only to re-emerge hours later. Dense as the mangrove forests are, from a human point of view it is only a little less barren than a desert. There is a terrible, vengeful beauty here, a place teeming with crocodiles, snakes, sharks and man-eating tigers. This is the only place on earth where man is more often prey than predator. And it is into this terrain that an eccentric, wealthy Scotsman named Daniel Hamilton tried to create a utopian society, of all races and religions, and conquer the might of the Sundarbans. In January 2001, a small ship arrives to conduct an ecological survey of this vast but little-known environment, and the scientists on board begin to trace the journeys of the descendants of this society.

Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times (2005)


This book is a compilation of Ghosh's writings on catastrophic events that happened during his journalistic career spanning over three decades. Some of these pieces have never been published in the States before. The work chronicles the turmoil of our times.

Sea of Poppies (2008)


A motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts is sailing down the Hooghly aboard the Ibis on its way to Mauritius. As they journey across the Indian Ocean old family ties are washed away, and they begin to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship brothers who will build new lives for themselves in the remote islands where they are being taken. A stunningly vibrant and intensely human work, Sea of Poppies, is the first book in the Ibis trilogy.

River of Smoke (2011)


September 1838. A storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and three ships——the Ibis, the Anahita and the Redruth——and those aboard are caught in the whirlwind. River of Smoke follows the fortunes of these men and women to the crowded harbours of China where they struggle to cope with their losses——and, for a few, unimaginable freedoms——in the alleys and teeming waterways of nineteenth-century Canton. Written on the grand scale of a historical epic, River of Smoke, book two in the Ibis trilogy, will be heralded as a masterpiece of twenty-first-century literature.

Flood of Fire (2015)


It is 1839. The British, whose opium exports to China have been blockaded by Beijing, are planning an invasion to force China’s hand. In Calcutta, Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor, dreams of his lost love and of a way to make his fortunes. Heading towards Calcutta is Havildar Kesri to lead a regiment of Indian volunteers in the upcoming war. In Mumbai, Shireen Modi prepares to sail alone to China to reclaim her opium trader husband’s wealth and reputation. In Canton, Neel becomes an aide and translator to a senior Chinese official as Beijing begins to prepare for war with Britain and the more he sees, the more worried he becomes—for the Chinese have neither the ships nor the artillery to match the British in modern warfare. The future seems clear but do the Chinese know it?

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016)


Are we deranged? One of India's greatest writers, Ghosh, argues that future generations may well think so. How else can we explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In this ground-breaking return to non-fiction, Ghosh examines our inability at the level of literature, history and politics to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.
The extreme nature of today's climate events makes them peculiarly resistant to the contemporary imagination. In fiction, hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel and are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications. Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. This book serves as a brilliant writer's summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.

Gun Island (2019)


Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one which turns Deen Datta's world upside down. A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way. There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen's eyes to the realities of growing up in today's world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey which will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood and about the world around him.
Gun Island is a beautifully realised novel which effortlessly spans space and time. It is the story of a world on the brink, of increasing displacement and unstoppable transition. But it is also a story of hope, of a man whose faith in the world and the future is restored by two remarkable women.


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