Amit Chaudhury in The Telegraph:
It goes without saying that it’s not possible to find one book that has everything about India. The work that comes closest is the Mahabharata– but it’s hard to get an excellent contemporary translation in English. Besides, its plethora of characters might “bamboozle” (to invoke the word that the Lonely Planet uses to describe the country’s initial impact) you on a first reading. Better to begin with a slight but charming book calledIn Search of the Mahabharata by Jean-Claude Carrière, who wrote the script of Peter Brook’s version of the epic. The book is a skeletal but magical account of travels through India, of interviewing and watching performers for whom the epic is their bread and butter, these excursions necessitated by the knowledge that no new adaptation could be possible without lived experience: “We knew the poem, we wanted to see the country.”
For writing on modern India, it’s de rigueur to first check out fiction set in Bombay; there’s much to choose from, given it’s the one Indian city in which English has been the dominant middle-class language. And so it’s worth reading what at least some members of that class consider their defining epic, Rushdie’s vivacious masterpiece, Midnight’s Children, as well as Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, a non-fiction account of Bombay’s amoral transition towards free-market energy.