13 Best Award Winning Books By Indian Women Authors You Must Read

Here is a list of award-winning books by Indian female authors which celebrate common stories retold in their literary voices.

A girl with a book scares some people in India who want to see her only in the kitchen.

Books are a great leveller. That’s why they scare the daylights out of exploiters of women who mock at women, for whiling away their precious time on books that stealthily promote brain-washing propaganda and fancy idealistic notions. Women are often told not to probe, ask questions and to always ‘know and be in their limits’.

Thankfully, the canvas image of the Indian woman has drastically changed from that of a silent being to a bright and bold soul. She has proclaimed proudly that only the sky is now her true limit. And she belongs rightfully in that limitless space.

Books are HER voice. There are many Indian women rucking up a quite a stir in the literary circles. Their award-winning books by Indian women are lush in expression and poignant while exploring varied genres. Here is the list of the best books by Indian female authors which have won awards. 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Everything is there.” (in India)

An Indian American by birth, Jhumpa Lahiri is the most famous voice and spokesperson for NRI women. She tells their story like no other – their identity crisis, quirks, angst, melancholy, ambitions and flickering spirit of hope through charming characters and familiar common experiences.

Her debut book, Interpreter of Maladies, snagged the Pulitzer Prize, The New Yorker’s Award in 2000 and the PEN/Hemingway Award in 1999. An anthology of nine short stories, it touches upon a variety of issues including the importance of communication in marriage, Indo-Pak friendships across the borders, casteism, stigma of a disabled Indian woman, unhappy marriages, oblivious spouses, disengaged parents, unsuspecting victims in the children, immigrants who stubbornly refuse to assimilate in a foreign country while pining for India and those who happily blend into their new home country.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

“You are like slaves running after the West, embarrassing yourself. It’s because of people like you we never get anywhere.”

Awarded the Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Awards for fiction (2006), this no-nonsense novel stays far away from fluffing up the reality with fantastical hope. Desai portrays the struggles of the poor and middle-class Indian immigrants, who learn the hard truth that there is no perfect place in this world. Kiran is skeptical about the aggressively marketed globalisation and consumer-driven multiculturalism and is cautious about the lethal global sharks as opposed to the big fish in a small town.

You can get your copy of this award-winning book on Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

He had been her choice when she was eight, was still her choice when she was thirty-four, and would be equally important to her for the rest of her life.”

This quote sums up the love of Meherrunnisa and Prince Salim that defied all logic and tradition. Winner of the Washington State Book Award in 2003, this book is a must-read for its enchanting real-life story mixed with liberal doses of history, fairytale-like fantasy, traditional grandeur and unbridled passion. It is a ‘rags to riches’ story of a bewitchingly beautiful woman who rose in stature, to become the undisputed Queen of the Mughal Empire, Nur Jahan.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

Heat & Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

“I think perhaps God never meant that human beings should live in such a place.”

Winner of the Booker Prize (1975), Jhablava takes a nonchalant approach and employs metaphors to convey the feelings experienced by foreigners when they visit India. ‘Heat’ symbolises the tension that exists among relationships owing to its rigid traditional societal framework while ‘Dust’ evokes the irritable discomfort experienced by Indians due to the daily pressures of a hard life and felt by foreigners, more so, who are accustomed to a clean, systematic and free lifestyle.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

If It Is Sweet by Mridula Koshy

“It’s a long wait for Charu. When she comes, she is trailing a string of buoyant hearts.”

Winner of the 2009 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize, this stylish find of a book is a collection of 19 short stories. It leaves its readers bowled over by its spontaneity and freakishness, e.g. a talking monkey. Her protagonists hail from the society’s underbelly – garbage collectors, maids, labourers. Yet, Koshy stays clear from gimmicks of any sort – no charity promotions or grandeur social messages. She conveys their story through wondrous childlike eyes and pure humanity.

Buy your copy at Amazon India, and Amazon US.

Arranged Marriage by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

“Now his fingers were stroking my cheeks, my throat, moving downward. I closed my eyes and tried not to jerk away because after all it was my wifely duty.”

Winner of the American Book Award, the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and the PEN Josephine Miles Award for fiction, Arranged Marriage fuses poetry with prose in this stellar collection of short stories. Even though arranged marriage is the common theme, each story gives a unique, fresh perspective on this ancient institution and its clash with the modern ethos.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

Fire on the Mountain by Anita Desai

“Look, Nani, I have set the forest on fire. Look, Nani – look – the forest is on fire.”

Awarded the Sahitya Academy Award in 1978, the book’s female protagonist, Nanda Kaul, seemingly has it all in life. Except she never found any meaning in forced relationships and mechanical roles! In her old age, she escapes to the solitude mountains of Kasauli where she finally finds joy and companionship. The fire is symbolic of the inner turmoil that is set ablaze in the mountains, which destroys the bitter past and illuminates her inner feminine Shakti.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

Rich Like Us by Nayantara Sahgal

“I had grown to adulthood nourished on monumental lies.” 

Winner of the the Sinclair Prize for fiction (1985) and the Sahitya Akademi Award (1986), this multidimensional novel is about the different ways women use power to wield influence on those around them. Sahgal effortlessly blends in themes of politics, history, fiction and feminism and discusses various issues such as corruption, nepotism, religion, partition etc.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande

On the contrary, not to change is unnatural, against nature.”

In this Sahitya Akademi Award (1990) winning book, Jaya, the lead character, suffers at the hands of her controlling husband who doesn’t understand a woman’s need for her own identity and an equal place at home and in society. When Jaya’s powers of tolerance come to an end, she is forced to act.

In this award winning book, Deshpande highlights how the patriarchal society is not only responsible for silencing women in the society, but a woman’s refusal to break her long silence is also to be faulted.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

“And the air was full of thoughts and things to say. But at times like these, only the small things are ever said.”

The first Indian citizen to win the Booker Prize (1997), Roy dares to go where no one has ever gone before. She contrasts the ‘big things’ such as society, marriage with the ‘small things’ such as incest, pedophilia, unmet sexual desires, grotesque thoughts that are hidden and unspoken with acute sensitivity. In Roy’s novel, there are lies and shame in the ‘big things’ and truth and comfort in the ‘small things’. The story is beautifully told in a poetic language and flows in a random, non-linear fashion, which aligns in seamlessly to an exhilarating climax.

Buy your copy at Flipkart, Amazon India, and Amazon US.

The Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair

“Every night there is something to ruminate on. The vagrant mind knows no boundaries. It leaps.”

This work was voted one of the top five Indian books in 200 and was translated into more than 25 languages. The award winning book by an Indian author follows the protagonist Akhila on her journey to Kanyakumari.

She discovers the stories of five of her co-passengers who represent womanhood in all walks of life. The story is a heart-warming and thought-provoking journey that Akhila goes through told with bold tones and humour.

Moreover, it is a beautiful illustration of the lives of women in a patriarchal society and the evolution of independent thought and bonding in an oppressive environment.

Buy your copy on Amazon India and Amazon US.

The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India by Urvashi Butalia

“A half century later, there is still no memorial, no memory, no recall, except what is guarded, and now rapidly dying, in families and collective memory.”

Yet another award winning book by an Indian woman, this book won the Oral History Book Association Award in 2001. It is a collection of seventy interviews that Butalia conducted, of survivors from the Partition. Her narrative style took a different turn from the highly politicised version of the event. She portrayed the Partition as a collective, especially female experience of trauma which is an angle that is often ignored in the study of such events.

This book is one of those award winning books by Indian women that is an unforgettable contribution to South Asian non-fiction literature that focuses on the living history and memory of large-scale displacement experienced by people in India.

Find your copy on Amazon India and Amazon US .

Zohra by Zeenuth Futehally

“How fearfully dull life would be if daughters did exactly what their mothers had done before them, just like the recurring decimal forever and ever without change.”

Within this or any given list of female writers, Zeenuth Futehally would be the least known. Nevertheless, it is important to include her name in discussions of women’s writing in English because her work, Zohra (1951) holds credit for being the first novel in English written by a Muslim woman from India.

This is a major achievement considering the fact that in the space of Indian women’s literature in English, most spots are taken up by Hindu upper-class women.

It tells the story of Zohra, a woman born into an elite Nawabi family in Hyderabad who has an untapped passion for writing. The work weaves personal conflicts within Zohra’s mind as she falls in love with her brother-in-law and early twentieth century communal politics in Hyderabad, which was torn up by constant struggle between the aristocracy and the public. It is a great book to pick up to be transported to a forgotten time.

Find your copy on Amazon India and Amazon US.

How many of the books from this list have you read? Have you read any other Indian books with strong female characters which you have particularly liked? Let me know in the comments below.

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa. 

*Orginally published on Women’s Web.

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Tina Sequeira
Articles: 230

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  1. Never knew that there were so many Indian women Authors

  2. Wow.. This is an amazing list of female author’s.. Would love to read them. Thanks a lot for sharing

  3. ‘A girl with a book scares some people in India’ very true and quite rightly pointed out.
    These are some wonderful recommendations from the woman power. I am glad to have atleast read 4 out of them. Getting onto the rest ASAP now. Bookmarking this post.

  4. Wow, what a collection of fantastic recommendations. I have only read Inheritance of Loss, Arranged Marriage & The God of small things from the list. I am going to save this post and read all the books.

  5. I’ve been woefully bad in reading Indian women authors, I fear, seeing this list. Need to up my own game. This year has been bad for reading.

  6. Great compilation Tina ji. Just makes me realise so much to read and so little time. These are definitely must reads. Keep the good work going.

    #MyFriendAlexa #ContemplationOfaJoker #Jokerophilia

  7. What a beautiful collection! I am a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved how you summarised the essense of the books without giving away anything about the plot.

  8. Such an illustrious list, I loved the header done so well

  9. Woww now that’s a treasure to read for a long long time. Zohra seems interesting to start with

  10. Wow, such an impressive list! I read few of them and many more to be added to my TBR.

  11. This is a wonderful list! I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s and Chitra Banerjee’s writing. I tried to read The Ladies Coupe but I found it too slow so couldn’t finish. If It Is Sweet and That Long Silence sound interesting. Adding it to my TBR. Thank you for sharing. Happy reading.

  12. I’ve read just two books from this list 🙁 My TBR list is increasing and I am buying books and not reading them! #myepicareads

  13. Nice compilation Tina. Thanks for sharing this list. I liked the way you kept it short with the important points for the book.

  14. Wow, what an extensive list. I have read a few books by this Indian authors but your list was awakening. I have to catch up on my reading.

  15. Great selection. I’ve read most of them though only one novel each except Roy whose both novels covet attention.

  16. WOW! Thats an amazing list you have curated! I have read many from the list however, there are many that I haven’t. I will surely check them out soon. Thank you for this brilliant post! Keep writing 🙂

  17. Wow! You have just increased my TBR Tina 🙂 I loved the way you have summarized the essence of each book, making them sound even more interesting. I have read a few from this list and I could relate well to what you have written about the books. Absolutely loved the collage, such a power-packed image.

  18. That’s a big list to go for.. have noted few for myself.. thank you for this post..

  19. I am so glad that I have read most of the books on this list Tina. And yes they are a great compilation and deserve a mention. Now will try to finish reading the remaining two

  20. Madhu Bindra
    Madhu Bindra

    You have curated an impressive list. I haven’t read a few. Thank you for introducing them.

  21. Each of these books you mentioned looks great and worth a read, definitely adding to my TBR list

  22. What an amazing list, I have read 5 out of this list…and have been meaning to read many of the books mentioned by you for a long time now. I really loved the way you collated the whole post..you made it interesting and inspiring!!

  23. Quite an amazing list that not just women but also book lovers must read. Also, it was surprising for me to find that I haven’t even heard any of these 10 books. Must check them out.

  24. This is an excellent list, Tina. There are so many women authors out there whose works are waiting to be explored. I have been meaning to read Ladies’ Coupe and hope to get to it soon.

  25. Perfect list Tina, saved your post

  26. Excellent list, Tina! Indy Suderasan’s Taj Trilogy, of which The Twentieth Wife is a part, is one of my absolute favourites! Lots of other interesting novels here – thanks for adding to my TBR! 😉

  27. Some of them I’ve read …others I have added to my list. Two names I would like to add Thrity Umrigar …the secrets between us and the space between us are mind blowing ..other is Amulya Malladi …her novel based on Bhopal gas tragedy just tugs at your heart

  28. I have read quite a few from this list and would definitely add the others to my TBR. It was only last month that I read The Twentieth Wife and I loved it very much. I also like Anita Nair’s books, especially Mistress and The Ladies Coupe. I could recommend K.R. Meera’s books too. If you haven’t already, do pick up The Poison of Love 🙂

  29. Fire in the Mountain was so awesome! This is a lovely list, Tina. adding the ones I haven’t read yet to my TBR. Thanks for sharing.

  30. What a lovely compilation Tina. I’ve read a few of these and would love to grab the others. Thanks for this.

  31. I often don’t choose a book by the awards it has received. However, some of these are famous titles that have created ripples. Curious to explore some new women authors in this list that I haven’t yet read. Good list!

  32. Wow, astonishing list of books I wish to read Jhumpa Lahari’s book after reading your inspiring list.

  33. Coming up with such an amazing list itself shows how much you might be reading. I am sure this is just a small fraction of your full list! I have got the fortune to read a few pages of 2 of the books listed here, and those are Arundhati Roy’s and Jhumpa Lahiri’s. Since I’m not a voracious reader, I couldn’t finish them. But maybe one day I will remember your list and read some. Thank you for sharing such an extensive list.

  34. This is a great list with some superb writers. I have read a few of them but not all. Thanks for sharing the list, I will check out the rest of them.

  35. Tina, you have curated the list with varied personalities and I am sure each book has lot to convey. Shall add in my TBR list.

  36. Women authors have been writing some good books in India. I have read quite a few books in your list and can’t wait to lay my hands on the others now.

  37. I’m always looking for recommendations about Indian women writers. Have read quite a few from this list, but will pick up the others. Thanks much!

  38. Wow this is a great collection of book by amazing woman authors.. i have read a few among these, will read others soon

  39. Absolutely love this list. Among all the Alexa posts that I read, the ones I really find useful, I send them to myself on whatsapp. This is one. I want to read what these women have to say through their stories.

  40. This is such a wonderful list… I wonder why i haven’t read even a single one yet.. Sad.. I have now so much to read…

  41. I love reading Indian authors. Some of my favorites are listed here.

  42. I have read only 3 from this list! Some serious catching up to do now

  43. I’d like to read Jhampa Lahri’s short stories and Zohra from these collection.. Although, all are really inspiring and worth a read. But these 2 caught my interest. i do have Arundhati Roy’s ‘ the god of small things’ and have read it like half long time back..somehow it didn’t kept me intrigued to it then. Will give it a try again. Thanks for sharing these amazing reads… Some of them I am adding to my wish lists… ❤️

  44. This is such a detailed review of each book. I could never finish reading The God of Small Things but I guess I was too young when I had picked it up. I should give it a try. I would like to read The Ladies Croupe from the review mentioned here.

  45. I am so thankful to you for sharing such a detailed list with all of us and that too with their buy links. I would like to go for That Long Silence by Shashi Despande. An intriguing cover indeed.

  46. An amazing list of women writers, glad to have read a few names that match my favorite too. For the rest, will make a mental note to check post covid.

  47. Wow, I so so loved this post.
    Many I have read, some I will surely read soon.
    Amazing list you had shared with so many lovely names.
    More power to the pen women hold.

  48. Great compilation of the books by Indian women authors. Arundhati Roy, Anita Nair, and many other Indian women write to bring a difference in society.

  49. I have read rave reviews of the twentieth wife. Your post has made me want yo pick up the good. Ditto for inheritance of a loss. Loved all the quick reviews at one place.

    • i meant “pick up the book”. My auto correct is determined to turn me into a blasphemer of a speller. 🌝🌝

  50. Thanks for the recommendations, Tina. These sound very interesting. I’ll try to keep up with the ever exceeding “to-read” list 🙂

  51. Amazing list. Thank you for sharing.

  52. This is an amazing list. They straight away went to my To Be Read list. I would really like to know among these which one is your favourite.

  53. Great compilation… I have read a few from the list… Yet I have a long way to go! Interpreter of Maladies and Ladies Coupe are my absolute favorites, among all types of writers and all genres of books…

  54. Such a lovely list. The quotes make me want to pick an armload of them! I have read only 4 from your list.

  55. Most of these books are on my TBR list. I’ve read very few of them. And thanks to your post, the rest are going on my TBR list 😁

  56. an amazing list! Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Divakaruni books are love

  57. Vartika Mehrotra Gakhar
    Vartika Mehrotra Gakhar

    As I am on reading spree these days and that too Indian writers specifically, this post came at a perfect time. And since you are recommending, I’m sure these are some really good picks. You saved my research time, Tina. Going to add these to my TBR!

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