Khushwant Singh, one of the best-known Indian writers of all times, was born in 1915 in Hadali (now in Pakistan). He was educated at the Government College, Lahore, and at King's College, Cambridge University, and the Inner Temple in London. He began his career as a journalist in All India Radio Station in 1951.
From 1954 to 1956, he worked in the Department of Mass Communications of UNESCO in Paris. Journalism and writing gave him a sense of fulfilment. He was the editor of several reputed newspapers and magazines such as The Illustrated Weekly of India, The National Herald, and Hindustan Times. Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1986. Singh was married to Kawal Malik who was a childhood friend of his.
Khushwant Singh is today best known for his literary works. He is the winner of Padma Vibhushan and Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, he wrote his most notable work, Train to Pakistan, recounting his experiences of the partition of India. In this article, we will be discussing the best Khushwant Singh books.
1. Train to Pakistan
This is the most talked-about Khushwant Singh book for which he was also awarded Padma Vibhushan. India-Pakistan partition was the most dreadful time in Indian history. While most of the media focussed on socio-political causes and effects, Train to Pakistan deals with human trauma and suffering in the face of such terror and crisis. It is a story about the small Indian frontier village Mano Majra, where Muslims and Sikhs have lived in peace, after partition.
2. I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale
I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale is the second novel by Khushwant Singh. This is the story of conflicts - between commitment and patriotism, compliance and independence, old and young, and above all between the British and Indians. As expected, it joined the list of widely appreciated Khushwant Singh books.
3. A History of Sikhs
This is a two-volume book written by Khushwant Singh, based on scholarly archival research. The book covers social, religious, and political background which led to the formation of the Sikh faith in the fifteenth century. Based on solid research, it is written in a way to be accessible to even the lay reader.
4. The Company of Women
The Company of Women is a work of fiction, which Khushwant Singh wrote this novel at the age of 84. A comment on hypocrisy in the Indian society, the book tells the story of Mohan Kumar who believes "lust is the true foundation of love". The book was talked about for its unbridled sexuality and bold views on man-woman relationships. It is one of the best Khushwant Singh books ever.
5. Truth, Love and Little Malice
This is an autobiography of Khushwant Singh by Khushwant Singh who is multi-talented who holds many degrees as a writer, journalist, barrister, columnist, and many more. It's a memoir of a man with complex, controversial and entertaining qualities.
6. Why I Supported the Emergency
This bold and thought-provoking collection of essays on India's Emergency explained the reasons why Khushwant Singh supported the proclamation on June 25. In the book, he goes to point out the mistakes which were made then and which, he says, must be avoided the next time conditions require suspension of democratic norms for the preservation of law and order. This Khushwant Singh book was edited by Sheela Reddy.
7. The Portrait of a Lady: Collected Stories
"The Portrait of a Lady” is the most famous short story by Singh in the collection. The stories are modest, restrained, and well-crafted. Perhaps, it's a tribute from his side to his beloved grandmother.
8. Delhi: A Novel
Delhi: A Novel is set in Delhi and is likely an autobiographic piece by Singh. This Khushwant Singh book recollects the historic events like the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi. The narrative voice is the author in the novel where he explores the unconventional relationship between him and a hijra (eunuch) named Bhagmati. The novel oscillates back and forth in time.
9. The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous (with Humra Quraishi)
The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous is a series of essays written by Khushwant Singh. It is his last published work before his retirement. The book covers Khushwant Singh's encounters with various eminent personalities from India and Pakistan.
10. The Sunset Club
This Khushwant Singh book throws light on the loneliness and problems faced by the elderly. The three main characters in this book are Pandit Preetam Sharma, Sardar Boota Singh, and Nawab Barkatullah Baig. The trio has been a part of Sunset Club and friends for more than four decades. They are now above 80 years of age and gather at the sunset hour in Lodhi Gardens, discussing several controversial topics.
11. Death at My Doorstep
"One can deny the existence of God, but one cannot deny the existence of death" Well, all of us are scared of death but we also long for someone to guide us on this very nerve-jerking subject. Khuswant Singh has written a number of articles about death. This book by Khushwant Singh is compilations of his various articles published in newspapers(obituaries). He has simply expressed what should be done before one dies.
12. Women and Men in My Life
This book by Khushwant Singh spans the author's life career reminisces about the people he met in his life. This list includes politicians, civil servants, writers, filmmakers, as well as other relatively unknown personalities. When you read this book, you get to know the perspective and thoughts of Khushwant Singh.
13. Burial at Sea
The scene of the novel is set in India in the 1930s and that is why it is among the very important Khushwant Singh books. The protagonist of the novel is Jai Bhagwan, whose English governess has changed his name to Victor so that he can join an English university without any difficulty. As the story progresses, the atrocities of British subjugation and the state of Indians are revealed by Singh.
14. The Lost Victory
It is the story of Buta Singh, a shrewd and clever official working with the British, and of Sher Singh, his vain and ambitious son driven to rebellion against the foreign master. This book by Khushwant Singh is an engaging story that enables the reader to gain some insight into the independence struggles in Amritsar.
15. Hymns of the Guru's
This Khushwant Singh book contains a translation of poems from the religion's most sacred texts: the Guru Granth Sahib, the principal sacred text of the Sikh religion, which consists of poems and hymns by Guru Nanak. It's a perfect book for Gurbani lovers.
16. The End of India
It's a book talking about the time, back in history, when Khushwant Singh witnessed the violence of Partition. He has written what he saw nearly seventy years ago. He believed that he had seen the worst that India could do to herself. But after the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, he had reason to feel that the worst, perhaps, was still to come.
17. Big Book of Malice
This book by Khushwant Singh brings together some of his nastiest and most irreverent pieces. Witty, sharp, and brutally honest, this collection is certain to delight and provoke readers of all ages.
18. On Women
On Women is a selective writing work, where Khushwant Singh has written about so many women he met in life. Like Khushwant Singh shares an embarrassing meeting with the drunken actress, Begum Para, he talks about Shraddha Mata and a Tantrik Sadhvi, who claimed she was the mother of the illegitimate child of Jawaharlal Nehru, about his grandmother, and many more.
19. Khushwant Singh on Women, Sex, Love, and Lust
This novel by Khushwant Singh is a compilation of the author’s writings and presents his liberal views on women, love, sex, and lust. Each topic in the book has been masterfully written and is must read for all the youngsters.
20. We Indians
What makes you proud to be Indian and what makes you ashamed to be one? What makes a Hindu a Hindu? Why are Indians such as champion sycophants and name-droppers? And does love really matter in an Indian marriage? These are some of the aspects talked in this book, written by Khushwant Singh.
21. Me, The Jokerman: Enthusiasms, Rants and Obsession
Khushwant Singh's Me, The Jokerman’ assembles over 50 essays. Most of them are unpublished in book form, but placed in the categories that Khushwant Singh had made his own – religion, nature, sex, autobiography, and, above all, humour. The Khushwant Singh book has been edited by Singh’s daughter Mala Dayal.
22. The Voice of God
The theme of the book, The Voice of God, is based on social order, corruption, connection, control and change. This is also a collection of many short stories narrated by an unnamed third narrator. At first, the reader may realise that Singh may be exploring social order, but later as the reader goes, they will realise how powerful Sikhs can be when it comes to election.
23. India: An introduction
If you want to know what India is? How it has evolved and developed over the years. Then this book has all your answers. It's a short and very concise biography of India. In the book, India: An introduction, Khushwant Singh narrates the story of India, it's land and its people from the earliest time to the present day. This Khushwant Singh book is an informative, lively account of India. It has everything from a few paragraphs on the Indus Valley civilization to the final chapter on Indira Gandhi.
24. Gods And Godmen of India
In this vibrant Khushwant Singh book, Gods and Godmen of India, Khushwant Singh tackles all issues related to religion, faith, new cults and new movements in his own way. Khushwant Singh calls himself as agnostic and so you can expect his honest views in the book. The book's title reads Gods and Godmen of India, so you can assume where and about what the writings shall point to.
25. Agnostic Khushwant: There is No God!
'Agnostic Khushwant: There Is No God!' is a very important book by Khushwant Singh. It asks people not to question the existence of God, instead, people should understand that the answer to that question has no impact on the character of an individual. One must question one's character, which is built by the will power and not by the fear of God.
Karma is a story by Khushwant Singh, which was originally published in 1989 in Singh's The Collected Stories. The story is about an Indian Gentleman who tries to adopt upper-class English culture and lifestyle such as speaking the Queen's English. It also brings out his relationship with his wife and what all he went through in the process.
27. More Malicious Gossips
Originally published in 1989, this book here is a collection of some of the best-written stories by Khushwant Singh. In the book, you'll know the people that Khushwant Singh had met in his life, people worth being characters themselves. The book will also let you know the places, both common and strange that Khushwant Singh has been to. You'll also know the (sensitive) issues Khushwant Singh strongly and proudly opinionated upon.
28. Book of Unforgettable Women
In this book, Khushwant Singh profiles women who have played important roles in his life as well as his fiction. A very interesting read. Singh keeps it short and crisp, highlighting the details. This is one of those books that amuse you and entertain you. Unforgettable women can be revisited multiple times.
29. The FreeThinker's Prayerbook
Who knows, then, where everything arose? Who can say how creation happened? The gods themselves came after Creation. Then He, whether He created all that is or whether He did not. He, who looks upon everything from the highest heaven -
He alone knows. Or maybe He too does not. Khushwant Singh was an agnostic and this is widely known, at least among his readers. The above lines are from the here describing book, The Freethinker's Prayerbook.
He didn't believe in god's existence. He, however, believed in more rational facts such as humanity, compassion, non-violence, fraternity and this is the central point of his book.
30. Ranjit Singh: Maharaja Of Punjab
It’s a fairly good read if you are interested to know about the Sikh Empire and the political scenario of the Northern part of India during the early to late Eighteenth century. More than a biography, this book is a detailed record-keeping of Maharaja Ranjit Singh about all the wars he fought and passion of Maharaja be it a house(Laila) or a beautiful girl or a city or even a region.
The brings us to the end of the list of Khushwant Singh books. All of these are amazing and hence, popular books. You can read them to understand the personality and thoughts of Khushwant Singh.
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