Non-Fiction Books To Help You Learn More About Indian History

Those who believe that we should look at the future and forget about the past live a false world. There are many lessons which can be learnt if one studies history carefully. History has a habit of repeating itself, for instance, the echoes of the rise of nationalism in Germany in 1930s can still be heard around the world today. History will continue to shape our thoughts and actions and World politics.

One section of the bookstore that I used to avoid in my younger days was non-fiction. I found non-fiction books, well, boring. As my reading taste matured, I realised I enjoyed reading history. I contemplated picking up non-fiction books to get my facts and figures straight, so to speak. However, I did not want to read books that would bury me in statistics. I had visions of dry, dusty tomes. I was, therefore, quite surprised to discover books that not only informed the reader but were also engrossing enough to hold the reader’s attention. The following is a list of a few of my favourite non-fiction books for Indian History. These books tell us a little more about the fascinating history of our country.If non-fiction is not your cup of tea, then you can check out my list of Indian Historical Fiction.

The Ivory Throne (Manu Pillai): “The Ivory Throne” was purchased on a whim at an automatic suggestion by Amazon. What I didn’t expect was that the book would hook me until I had read it cover to cover. The first book was written by the author Manu Pillai, this book is a chronicle about the royal family of the state of Travancore and the last queen of Travancore, Maharani Setu Lakshmi Bayi. Manu Pillai followed this book with two others, “Rebel Sultans” and “The Courtesan, The Mahatma and The Italian Brahmin“.

The Ocean Of Churn ( Sanjeev Sanyal): Economist cum author, Sanjeev Sanyal is one of the most engaging non-fiction authors I have read. “The Incredible History Of India’s Geography” was the first book of his which I had read. In “The Ocean Of Churn“, he looks at the influence of the Indian Ocean on World History. Spanning countries and continents, this book documents a region of the world usually overlooked by western-centric historians.( You can read my review of this book here).

The Last Mughal (William Dalrymple). Love him or hate him, you cannot negate the influence of William Dalrymple on Indian Historical literature. Though his books are usually from a colonists point of view, they are well-researched and are written engagingly. “The Last Mughal” chronicles the life of Bahadur Shah Zafar and is an excellent book to read about the events leading up to the first war of independence. “The City of Djinns” and “The White Mughal” are some of his other notable works.

The Forgotten Cities Of Delhi (Rana Safvi): Delhi, a city that has been destroyed many times and re-built over and over again. A city where every turn and crossroad has its own story to tell. “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi”, a trilogy, traces the journey of Delhi from Mehrauli to Shahjahanabad. With excellent photographs and engrossing narrative, the three books enthral the lovers of history. The book has been written in such a way, that it makes the reader feel as if the author is speaking to the reader. Though I am yet to read any of Rana Safvi’s other works, I have already added them to my TBR.

The Farthest Fields: An Indian Story Of The Second World War (Raghu Karnad). For most of us, when we think of the second world war, we think of persecution of jews, the war in Europe and the atom bombs. We are unaware of the fighting in Egypt, in middle-east and on our own borders with Myanmar. We are unaware of the important part played by the Indian officers in the British Indian Army. “The Farthest Fields” is a story of three friends who fought and lost their lives in the second world war. Raghu Karnad’s book gives a personal view of a piece of world history that lies largely forgotten. (You can read my full review here)

Remnants Of A Separation ( Aanchal Malhotra): Everyday objects become a treasure trove of memory, emotion and history. And nowhere has it been depicted so beautifully than in Aanchal Malhotra’s book. This book is about memories, sharp and poignant. Memories, that need to be preserved before they are lost forever. Memories that give a human angle to the greatest tragedy that befell our country. ( You can read my full review here)

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon for August,2021.

32 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Books To Help You Learn More About Indian History

  1. Great suggestions, Harshita. Yes, our past is precious and there is so much to learn from it if we are to build a better future. I just started reading ‘Remnants of a Separation’. Hoping to pick up The Forgotten Cities of Delhi next.

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  2. Ive only read two of these and come to think of it I consider myself quite a history buff. I am impressed Harshita and thank you for the suggestions. Forgotten Cities of Delhi is enticing.

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    1. Yes, Forgotten Cities of Delhi is very engrossing. I am planning to buy hardcover for it next when I am in India. Its great that you have read two out of five. Which ones have u read?


  3. I usually don’t read non-fiction but these sound interesting. I think there are too many misconceptions around non-fiction, like you said we assume them all to be boring.

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    1. Ha ha, was motivated by ur planning.. Will be quiet after a couple of days. To pick one book is difficult, but if I still have to do then it’s “Remnants Of A Separation”. It is so poignant


  4. What an amazing list! I have been loathe to read nonfiction mostly because I seem to stop at 50% ๐Ÿ˜ But I shall persevere. Added Farthest Field to list ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

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  5. I’ve developed a liking for non-fiction of late and like Sanjeev Sanyal’s books. In fact, I have The Ocean of Churn but haven’t read it yet. Great recommendations!

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  6. History is one of the most neglected subject of Indian society. We never study history. Either, we make it our religion and fantastic characters from history our Gods, or just discard it as a simple list of events occurred in the past. Thanks for bringing these books in one post. I will definitely check them out

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  7. I had been avoiding Ivory Throne just based on how enormous the volume looked and how very little i know of the subject to hook me but your post has inspired me to give it a try.
    I recently finished Walking with Nanak by Haroon Khalid. Have you tried that? If not, you should!

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