Best South Asian books of the decade

Best South Asian books of the decade

The titles you want in your travel tote, recommended for their inspiration and insight into contemporary India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the region
South Asian books
This collection of ten South Asian titles gets you deep into the psyche of some of the world's most complex cultures and their contemporary chroniclers.

Culturally curious readers have devoured bestseller books like "Maximum City", "Shantaram" and "White Tiger" till the pages curled from prolonged exposure to beach sun. What's next? Hirsh Sawhney, editor of "Delhi Noir" an anthology of brand-new fiction, takes us deeper into the region picking ten riveting reads to come out of South Asia in the last ten years.

1. "Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje (2000)

Hirsh Sawhney says: Replete with the haunting prose and emotive characters that define Ondaajte's work, this book delves into the civil conflict that has afflicted Sri Lanka since the early 1980s.

2. "Moth Smoke" by Mohsin Hamid (2000)

Sawhney says: This debut novel, set in Lahore, is not only socially and politically provocative, it's also nicely gritty and has a very memorable rooftop sex scene.

3. "Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature" edited by Amit Chaudhuri (2001)

Sawhney says: A comprehensive, mind-expanding collection of writing that turned me on to some canonical Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam and Tamil works.

4. "River of Fire" by Quarratulain Hyder (2003)

Sawhney says: The ultimate Indian epic, this legendary, subversive novel spans thousands of years of subcontinental history. Hyder passed away in 2007.

5. "The Hungry Tide" by Amitav Ghosh (2004)

Sawhney says: In his sixth novel, Ghosh takes readers to the Sunderbans, the swampy island hinterland that sits on the border of Bangladesh and the India. The author not only artfully evokes the magic and complexity of this hidden corner of the world, he also forces readers to rethink their basic assumptions about history, identity , development and love.

6. "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll (2004)

Sawhney says: This mammoth book sheds a lot of light on Pakistan (and the country's murky relationship with the US) and is essential reading for anybody who's interested in war and peace in the contemporary world.

7. "Patna Roughtcut" by Siddharth Chowdhury (2005)

Sawhney says: Siddharth Chowdhury is simply one of the best young Indian writers today. These linked stories set in Bihar and Delhi remind me of good be-bop -- they are intelligent but gritty; voluble but controlled.

8. "Temptations of the West" by Pankaj Mishra (2006)

Sawhney says: This is a collection of Mishra's invaluable reportage from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and India. It contains his now-famous "Edmund Wilson in Benares" essay, which marked the beginning of a new era in Indian English-language letters.

9. "A Life Less Ordinary" by Baby Halder (2006)

Sawhney says: This poignant autobiography reveals the life of an Indian woman who spent most of her life working as a domestic servant and details her struggles in a society plagued by economic and gender inequity.

10. "In Other Rooms, Other Wonder" by Daniyal Mueenuddin (2009)

Sawhney says: This interlinked collection of short stories has made it to a lot of lists and has been nominated for a number of prizes, and and it deserves all this attention. Mueenuddin's deft tales evoke an enlightening portrait of Pakistan and depict the longing, cruelty and contradictions that define life in any society.

Hirsh Sawhney is the editor of "Delhi Noir", an anthology of brand new fiction, published by Harper India and Akashic Books. He also writes about books for publications like the Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian and Time Out New York and is an Associate Editor at London's Wasafiri Magazine dealing with contemporary international literature.