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Ancient History Books Medieval History Modern History

Top 25 Best & Must-Read Books on Indian History

Indian history is a vast and diverse subject. Right from the Indus Valley Civilization to the Independence and Post-Independence period, the history of India is glorious and monumental. The large untold and forgotten history of India is yet to be discovered by large masses. Here are 25 must reads, if you want to delve in the rich culture and heritage of India.

We’ve divided the list in 3 parts –

1. Ancient India

  • Prehistoric Era
  • Indus Valley Era
  • Mauryan, Sangam, Gupta Era

2. Medieval India

  • Mughal Dynasty
  • Delhi Sultanate
  • Maratha Empire

3. Modern India

  • Independence Era
  • Post – Independence Era

Ancient India

1. Prehistory and Protohistory of India – An Appraisal

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Author: V.K. Jain

Year Published: 2006

Goodreads Review: 3.7

The book is an account of various periods in Ancient Indian history like the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic age. It also talks about the Aryans and the Aryan Invasion. In a comprehensive manner, it gives a view of the tools, technologies, settlements, patterns and ecological background of these ages. Maps, descriptive notes and line-drawings are also included in the book. 

2. Ancient India

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Author: R.C. Majumdar 

Year Published: 1952

Goodreads Review: 4

The book is an intelligent and captivating account of Ancient Indian History from a national historic point of view. It describes the political, economic, religious, literary and cultural aspects of the country. Detailed account of political and administrative conditions has also been discussed. 

3. Discovering the Vedas

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Author: Frits Staal

Year Published: 2008

Goodreads Review: 3.6

A remarkable book which untangles the complexities of the Vedas, the people and their language, what they did and where they went. The author sheds light upon the mantras and rituals which contributed to be known as Hinduism. 

4. The Lost River

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Author: Michel Danino

Year Published: 2010

Goodreads Review: 4.4

Exploring the history, mythology and geography, this book is about the very existence of the Sarasvati River. It discusses details from the Rig Veda, archeology, local practices and geology of the period. It explains the changes that the Indian Subcontinent has gone through because of which the river has disappeared. It also explains the culture around that time. 

5. Age of Nandas and Mauryas

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Author: Nilakantha Sastri 

Year Published: 1967

Goodreads Review: 3.5

The author provides a clear understanding of the political, economic and artistic changes that took place in India during that period. Topics such as Alexander’s conquests, Mauryan Rule, Overthrow of Nandas, Rule of Asoka and his successors have been discussed. 

6. A Concise History of South India

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Author: Noboru Karashima

Year Published: 2014

Goodreads Review: 4

The book is a complex narrative of the course of South Indian History discussing events and socio-cultural development in a comprehensive manner. It covers a broad range of topics such as origins and creation of ancient kingdoms, advancement of agriculture and new religious movements. It contains maps and images which present a new perspective for scholars and readers to enjoy. 

7. South India Under the Cholas

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Author: Y. Subbarayalu 

Year Published: 2011

Goodreads Review: 4.1

The book explores the state-society interactions during the Chola period which ruled the South Indian Political scene from the 9th to 3th centuries. The author discusses the revenue system, property rights and the structure of the chola state. The book uses inscriptional evidence to shed light upon the character of India during the Chola period. 

8. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan

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Author: James Tod

Year Published: 2010

Goodreads Review: 4.1

An insightful and exemplary account of the lifestyle of Rajputs. The book talks about their religious, social and cultural practices; festivals and political institutions. It narrates the loyalty, valor and heroism of the Rajputs. 

Medieval India

1. History of Medieval India: From 1000 A.D to 1707 A.D

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Author: R.S. Chaurasia

Year Published: 2002

Goodreads Review: 5

The book is divided into 3 parts. The first part deals with the Delhi Sultanate; the second part deals with the Mughal Dynasty; and the third part deals with the Maratha period. The book is an account of the art, architecture, economy, culture and society of that period. 

2. The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

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Author: William Dalrymple

Year Published: 2006

Goodreads Review: 4.1

The author shapes the book as an account of the retelling of the fall of the Mughal Dynasty after the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor. He supports the story with groundbreaking material like Urdu and Persian manuscripts and records of the Delhi court. It narrates one of the most gruesome and bloodiest upheavals of Indian History in a powerful way. 

3. The Age of Wrath: A History of the Delhi Sultanate

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Author: Abraham Eraly

Year Published: 2014

Goodreads Review: 3.7

The author brings the period of the Delhi Sultanate alive in his narrative about this chaotic and violent period. He writes about art, architecture, literature, music, food and religion during the period. The political, social and cultural administration has also been discussed in the book. He sings the story of an India unsung. 

4. The Empire of the Great Mughals

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Author: Annemarie Schimmel

Year Published: 2000

Goodreads Review: 3.9

The book is a comprehensive guide of the political, military and economic rise of the Mughals. It discusses their system of rule, the remarkable unfolding of their power, and finally their gradual collapse. It describes the religions, languages, literature, art and culture of the Mughal period. 

5. A History of the Sikhs

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Author: Khushwant Singh

Year Published: 1984

Goodreads Review: 4.1

The book is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive accounts on the life of Sikhs. Divided in 2 volumes, the book has a simplistic and minimalist, yet informative writing style. It has examples of hymns and poems from the Granth. The book has a description of various phases of evolution of the sikhs. 

6. The Marathas: 1600-1818

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Author: Stewart Gordon

Year Published: 2008

Goodreads Review: 4.5

The book presents the comprehensive history of the Maratha polity; focusing on the elite families, problems of legitimacy and loyalty, military organization and development of administration, tax collection and religious practices. It draws a detailed picture of the history of the Maratha empire. 

7. Private Life of the Mughals of India

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Author: R. Nath

Year Published: 2004

Goodreads Review: 3.4

The book is an account of the more private details of the Mughals such as food and drinks, addictions and intoxicants, clothes and ornaments, perfumes and incense, amusements and pastimes, rituals of marriage and circumcision and detailed accounts of harem life. The book includes color illustrations and photographs too. 

8. History of Medieval India

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Author: Satish Chandra

Year Published: 2007

Goodreads Review: 3.9

The book is a comprehensive overview of the Indian subcontinent during the medieval era. It is an account of the time when the land underwent drastic changes and was deeply influenced by invasions, religious movements and the behavior of the changes in the economic, political and cultural scenes. 

Modern India

1. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India

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Author: Shashi Tharoor

Year Published: 2016

Goodreads Review: 4.1

The book is an account of one of the most contested periods in Indian history, the british empire. The author exposes the numerous ill-effects of colonial rule on the country. He throws light upon how the Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialization and destruction of the textile industry. 

2. India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

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Author: Ramachandra Guha

Year Published: 2007

Goodreads Review: 4.4

The book is a magistical account of the struggles and atrocities; the glories and triumphs of India, the world’s largest democracy. The book is a chronicle of the barbarous strifes that have shook the nation and the marvelous factors that have held it together. 

3. Discovery of India

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Author: Jawaharlal Nehru

Year Published: 1991

Goodreads Review: 4

The book is a detailed account of the period ranging from the coming of the Aryans to the establishment of the British Empire. It will take you on a journey in which you will get to explore India’s long-lost past, starting from the coming of Aryans to the settlement of Britishers. 

4. Freedom at Midnight

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Author: Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre

Year Published: 1975

Goodreads Review: 4.3

The book is the true story of events surrounding the journey of independence, right from appointment of Lord Mountbatten to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The book also includes Mountbatten’s archives and interviews. Written from a rather different perspective, it sheds light on the immense chaos and turmoil caused during that time. 

5. History of Modern India

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Author: Bipan Chandra

Year Published: 2009

Goodreads Review: 4

The book revolves around the nationalist movement and colonialism during the time of the British Empire. It deals with the economic, religious and social factors of India. The author explains the causes and methods of how British rule came into existence in the first place. 

6. The Great Partition

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Author: Yasmin Khan

Year Published: 2007

Goodreads Review: 3.8

The book deals with the causes that led to the partition and the aftermath of the partition which proved to be beneficial for very few, at the cost of very many. It is a detailed account on the violence and massacre that the partition caused. It is an intelligent analysis of the recklessness and haste of the partition.

7. The Argumentative Indian

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Author: Amartya Sen

Year Published: 2005

Goodreads Review: 3.8

The book is a collection of sixteen linked essays discussing the intellectual and political heritage of the country. It is a crisp sweep through the aspects of Indian culture and history. The book is closely related to the roots of democracy and universal values.

8. The Great Indian Novel

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Author: Shashi Tharoor

Year Published: 1989

Goodreads Review: 3.9

A satirical novel in the form of a recast of the epic tale of Mahabharata in accordance to the twentieth century events and characters. Figures from Indian history are transformed into characters from mythology, and the mythical story of India is retold as a history of Indian independence and subsequent history, up through the 1980s. 

9. India’s Wars: A Military History

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Author: Arjun Subramaniam

Year Published: 2016

Goodreads Review: 4.2

The book is a historical account of all the wars India fought since 1947. It is divided into 5 parts, each dealing with various aspects such as development of the army and key conflicts ranging from the year 1947 to 1971. It also offers a description in the strategic, operational and humanistic perspective of the wars fought by the Indian Army. 

Did we miss any books related to Indian history? Let us know in the comments below!

Ratings:

Ancient India BooksGoodReads Review
Prehistory and Protohistory of India – An Appraisal3.7
Ancient India4
Discovering the Vedas 3.6
The Lost River4.4
Age of Nandas and Mauryas 3.5
A Concise History of South India4
South India under the Cholas4.1
Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan4.1
Medieval India BooksGoodReads Review
History of Medieval India: From 1000 A.D to 1707 A.D5
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 18574.1
The Age of Wrath: A History of the Delhi Sultanate3.7
The Empire of the Great Mughals3.9
A History of the Sikhs4.1
The Marathas: 1600-18184.5
Private Life of the Mughals of India3.4
History of Medieval India3.9
Modern India BooksGoodReads Review
An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India4.1
India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy4.4
Discovery of India4
Freedom at Midnight4.3
History of Modern India4
The Great Partition3.8
The Argumentative Indian3.8
The Great Indian Novel3.9
India’s Wars: A Military History4.2

Frequently Asked Questions:

1.Is Discovery of India worth reading?

Yes,The book is a detailed account of the period ranging from the coming of the Aryans to the establishment of the British Empire. It will take you on a journey in which you will get to explore India’s long-lost past, starting from the coming of Aryans to the settlement of Britishers.

2. What should I start reading in Indian History?

Starting in chronological order would be the best; beginning from Ancient India, then Medieval India and finally Modern India.

3. How many parts are there in Indian History?

There are 3 parts in Indian History: Ancient, Medieval and Modern.

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