15+ Top Indian Women Authors Whose Books Should Be On Your Summer Reading List
By: KC on Mar 19th, 2015

With many achievements and awards such as the prestigious Booker and Pulitzer Prize under their belts, women writers in India have had a major role to play in shaping the literary landscape of India. Touching on various topics such as feminism, communism, family issues, everyday problems women face, etc., these writers have given a voice to to the 600 million women in this country through their books and stories. Polka Cafe takes a look at some of India's most influential female writers.

Jhumpa Lahiri
Image credit: Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri is one of the most recognised writers of Indian origin, and her stories essentially revolve around immigrants and the problems they face in a foreign land. What makes her a good writer is the simplicity with which she writes and yet is able to send a complex message across to the readers. She frequently draws on her experiences as an immigrant and therefore her stories have a genuine touch to them.


Her must-read book is The Lowland, which deals with the consequences of the choices each person makes. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2015.


Follow her here.

Arundhati Roy
Image credit: Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is one of the most celebrated writers produced by India, whose book The God of Small Things won the Man Booker prize and put Indian literature on the map. Her books mostly revolved around social justice and the anguish that various social groups suffered. While her works can be pretty depressing, they also reflect the ground realities that most people often lose sight of.


Her must-read book is The God of Small Things, which brought her fame and popularity. As can be guessed from the title, the theme of the book is about how even small things affect people’s lives.


Follow her here.

Indira Goswami
Image credit: Indira Goswami

Indira Goswami was a well-known author who won the Sahitya Akademi award as well as the Jnanpith award. She primarily wrote books in the Assamese language, which were translated to English. Her writings have primarily been an attempt to bring about social change and tried to bring about unity in the different Assamese communities through her works.


Her must-read book is Pages Stained with Blood, which deals with the Sikh pogrom, Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi.


Follow her here.

Kiran Desai
Image credit: Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai is another popular expat Indian writer who brought popularity to Indian writing and fiction. Her writing is also inspired by her experiences as an immigrant living in America and the travails that people moving there have to face, despite the stories of success that are told back home. She tugs at the reader’s heart, especially when it comes to describing the lives of her characters when they struggle to “make it in America.”


Her must-read book is The Inheritance of Loss, the theme of which revolves around migration and living between two worlds.


Follow her here.

Indu Sundaresan
Image credit: Indu Sundaresan

Indu Sundaresan is an Indian-American author who has written books in the historical fiction genre. The highlight of her writing is the vivid characters in her book and the rich historical background that she brings to her stories. She also has some wonderful insights on historical events that she beautifully portrays through her works.


Her must-read book is Twentieth Wife, which is book one of the Taj Mahal trilogy, and it also won the Washington State Book award.


Follow her here or here.

Anuja Chauhan
Image credit: Shweta Brijpuria

Anuja Chauhan mainly writes romance novels, but what separates her from the rest of the crowd is her unique settings in which the protagonists find themselves. While romance is the heartbeat of her books, she displays good humour and wit in her writing while not forgetting the underlying realities of the characters’ lives in her books.


Her must-read book is The Zoya Factor, which revolved around an advertising rep becoming a lucky charm for the Indian cricket team, and was well-received after publication.


Follow her here.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Image credit: Nawaid Anjum

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an Indian-American author who has written books such as The Palace of Illusions and Sister of my Heart. She has a gift for storytelling and makes the reader a willing participant in the lives of the characters as they fumble from one life event to another, at the same time exposing the darkness that is a part of human nature.


Her must-read book, The Mistress of Spices, which was also made into a movie starring Aishwarya Rai, is about an Indian immigrant who helps solve customers’ problems with the help of spices.


Follow her here.

Lavanya Sankaran
Image credit: Suprose

Lavanya Sankaran is a well-known author whose works are published in more than 15 countries. Her books have simple storylines but they go to the crux of the matter in a way that makes the readers to want to reach out and sympathise with the characters. In The Hope Factory, the characters are people whom you would meet in your everyday lives and yet the story is so compelling that the reader is riveted.


Her must-read book is The Hope Factory, which was number one on Amazon India.


Follow her here or here.

Meena Kandasamy
Image credit: Meena Kandasamy

Meena Kandasamy is a poet, novelist and an activist all rolled into one. Meena published two collections of poems, Touch and Ms. Militancy before releasing her debut novel, and in both books the themes of the poems are very radical and not something you will find comfortable if you have a “mainstream political outlook”, as The Hindu reviewed. Her novel, The Gypsy Goddess, is hard-hitting and while her writing style is unique and takes some getting used to, the reader cannot but be horrified by the injustice meted out to the villagers, such is her talent with words.


Her must-read book is The Gypsy Goddess, which focuses on the Kilvenmani massacre that took place in 1968, in which her writing style is radical but is able to evoke the horrific images in the minds of the reader of that particular disastrous day.


Follow her here or here.

Sudha Murthy
Image credit: Penguin Books India

Sudha Murthy’s books generally draw from her own experiences throughout her very eventful life, and the reader finds a connection with all the characters and the stories that she tells. The power in her books lies not in the extraordinary, but in her simple approach that is not at all pretentious and is easy to relate to.


Her must read book is How I Taught my Grandmother to Read & Other Stories, which was based on her childhood experiences being raised by her grandparents.


Follow her page here.

Deepa Agarwal
Image credit: Deepa Agarwal

Deepa Agarwal is a prolific writer who writes mainly for children, but has also written a few books for adults. In her various works, she has tried to tell children about various historical events and figures in a way that the target audience can look up to. Even her books for adults are contemporary in nature, and bring out the complexities in relationships that people have with one another or with places and things.


Her must-read book is If The Earth Should Move, a collection of 14 short stories, and one of the stories in the book, Cradle Song, also won the first prize in The Asian Age short story competition in 1995.


Follow her here or here.

Judy Balan
Image credit: Judy Balan

Judy Balan is a popular blogger turned writer, known for her funny posts and books. While Wodehouse is the undoubted king of humour, Judy Balan is one of the funniest to come from India. Starting out as a blogger, she has made a name for herself for being humorous and witty.


Her must-read book is Two Fates, a parody of Chetan Bhagat’s Two States, and an extremely funny take on the popular novel.


Follow her here or here.

Krishna Udayshankar
Image credit: Ubud Writers Festival

Krishna Udayshankar is the debut author of The Aryavarta Chronicles, a trilogy that takes a look at the Mahabharata with the physical restrictions that we face in the modern world. Through her trilogy, she has tried to show how the epic tale of Mahabharata would have unfolded if the physical limitations of our present world were applied to it. That is a comprehensive task and one that Udayshankar achieves with distinction. Her portrayal of Krishna, or Govinda as she calls him, is particularly noteworthy.


Her must read book is Govinda, the first book of The Aryavarta Chronicles, and it’s a version of the Mahabharata that you will most certainly enjoy reading.


Follow her here or here.

Meghna Pant
Image credit: Meghna Pant

Meghna Pant is the author of a novel, One and a Half Wife, as well as the collection of short stories Happy Birthday. Pant’s strong suit is character development, and she does the job perfectly even in the limited space of a short story. Her stories are heart-touching and particularly in her short story collection, the surprise endings are certainly not something you expect in a story that is not a thriller.


Her must-read book is her short story collection Happy Birthday, which covers a range of topics, with each story having a wonderful ebb and flow.


Follow her here or here.

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
Image credit: Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is the author of such books as Faraway Music and You’ve Got the Wrong Girl. Her style of writing is bold, especially seen in the book Sita’s Curse, where she explores a woman’s sexual world with gay abandon. While there is the sense that sex sells and so must be written, it is not at all the case with Sreemoyee, who makes an honest effort to bring to light the pressure placed on a woman to curb her sexual desires in a society that is oppressive.


Her must-read book is Sita’s Curse, an erotic novel that explores the sexual exploits of a woman who gives into her desires.


Follow her here.

Samhita Arni
Image credit: Amogh Bhatnagar

Samhita Arni is an accomplished writer and illustrator who started at the tender age of eight. Her first book The Mahabharata: A Child’s View was a runaway success and has been translated into various languages such as French, German, Italian, etc. Her books start with the mythological stories as their premise but go on a tangent of their own, in a way that the reader can relate to the present-day world that we live in.


Her must-read book, if you are not into illustrations, is The Missing Queen, a speculative thriller based on mythology.


Follow her here or here.

Ritu Lalit
Image credit: Phoenixritu

Ritu Lalit is the author of four books, with all four of them in varied genres, showcasing her talent as a writer. The characters in her books are strongly developed, which gives the reader a chance to get to know them and relate to them. The plots in her books are usually complex, but her writing style is such that the reader does not lose track of the storyline and there are generally no loose ends that leave the reader confused.


Her must read book is Chakra: Chronicles of the Witch Way, a complex fantasy adventure with delightful characters and a riveting plot.


Follow her here.

Deepika Ahlawat
Image credit: Just Peanut Butter

Deepika Ahlawat is a writer based in London where she is a museum curator and an art consultant as well. She has written only one novel, Maya’s Revenge, a book that is set in the fictional world of an India that is a combination of princely and republican states. The book has a strong plot line that keeps the reader riveted to the action, and being an imagined universe, she manages to ensure that the reader doesn’t feel lost.


Her must-read book is Maya’s Revenge, which, despite being a debut novel, is a riveting read.


Follow her here.


Which of these talented ladies is your favourite? Think we've missed out on any others? Share with us in the comments section.

Mahasweta Devi

Mahasweta Devi is a writer and a social activist who has dedicated her life to the struggles faced by tribal people in states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Her works in Bengali have been translated to English and include such works as “Breast Stories”, “Of Women, Outcasts, Peasants, and Rebels”, etc. Her stories are powerful and reverberate the struggles of the dispossessed, which along with her activism, makes for compelling reading.


Her must read book is “Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants and Rebels” which is a collection of short stories about oppression and has riveting characters and story lines.


Follow her page here

Nayantara Sahgal
Image credit: Wikipedia

Nayantara Sahgal is the daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, and as such was close to the seat of power right through independent India’s tryst with governance and the Indira years too. Despite that, she has been independent of influence from the Gandhi family and has been critical of Indira Gandhi’s political machinations. Her works are insightful and brutally honest and give a glimpse of the times to the reader.


Her must read book is “Rich Like Us” which won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986 and is the story of 2 women trying to make their way during a time of political turbulence.



Anita Nair

Anita Nair is the author of much renown and has also won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. Her works are thought provoking and absorbing, while some of them, like Ladies Coupe, are humorous too. She provides some great insight in her books that connect with the readers.


Her must read book is “Mistress”, in which there are a lot of twists in the plot and the structure of the plot is unique too.

Madhulika Liddle
Image credit: Wikipedia

Madhulika Liddle is a writer that is best known for her detective Muzaffar Jang series, but she has also written quite a few short stories that have won awards or been selected for anthologies. She also has a blog in which she discusses classical cinema, movies before the 1970s. She has also written numerous humorous articles that were aired on All India Radio.

Her must read book is “The Englishman’s Cameo”, which is the first in the Muzaffar Jang series and is a breezy mystery novel which evokes the picturesque Mughal life for the reader to enjoy.


Follow her here or here

Anita Desai
Image credit: Anita Desai

Anita Desai is one of the most accomplished writers in India, and she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize as many as 3 times. She has also won the Sahitya Akademi Award, as well as the 2014 Padma Bhushan Award for her contribution to literature.

Her must read book is “In Custody”, which is one of her books that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is very touching and at the same time funny, revolving around one lecturer in a small town and the calamities that befall him.


Follow her page here

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An Arsenal FC addict and compulsive theorist, KC has an opinion on almost everything. He is a co-founder of the book review website bookgeeks.in, and on most days you will find his nose in one of the 3 books that he reads every week.   Read more
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