Many readers in India often want to start their serious reading course (reading fiction of course) with some novels of repute but also comprehensible enough so that they can grasp the idea and enjoy their time with the book. However, when it comes to picking up the novels for serious reading, Indian English literature has not left the traces that can be called, in any possible way, easy. There are many options for beginners in philosophical and serious fiction reading and one has to be careful with the choices so that the interest only goes up and does not end in an unlikely situation. So, for assistance, I am listing a few books that can be read by the beginners who want to read some serious stuff instead of the regular, mundane and comical romantic, sleazy or cheap fiction that sells but does not offer anything else.
The Guide (1958): I will always be a huge admirer of this novel by R K Narayan. Very meaningful, deeply enriched with philosophic essence, and equally interesting a work – this is what The Guide, published in 1958, by R K Narayan is. A marriage takes a wrong turn and those who are supposed to be soulmates are left as a cracked portrait that can be fixed with the glue or tape but cannot be made one as it has to be. And then, a turncoat enters the scene in full flow but with many dilemmatic problems and solutions. Who is Raju, in fact? That is the question to keep the readers engaged with the novel until the last and they will surely have a lot to discuss, talk and share with fellow readers.
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916): James Joyce’s style will be debated as long as the readers like us are alive and kicking. His novel traces the building of a ‘man’ through various perspectives. As a person, the protagonist is portrayed with respect to his thinking, his education, his religious beliefs and his emotional development. With so many things to offer, this novel will be an intriguing read for the readers who love to read fiction with a difference. There is philosophy – there is psychology – and then, there is the art of writing fiction as well!
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The Magic Mountain (1924): One of the leading thinkers in German Literature, Thomas Mann’s list of best works will always shine with the name of this novel based on almost-a-war – The Magic Mountain. The novel successfully depicts the world (of course Europe, mostly and strictly) that was before the first world war broke in 1914. Yes, it might be influenced by Thomas Mann’s own exile in the Swiss land. The various characters that the protagonist of this novel interacts with are from Italy, Netherland and various other European countries. This novel might be boring for those who are looking for novels where things happen quickly. However, for serious readers, the novel is simply amazing!
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Greed Lust Addiction (2019): Well, one might legitimately ask why the hell this novel appear on this list by English Literature Education. True. Questioning is the right of anyone who is interested in literature because this is the art of questioning that brings us the best of the critics. We did the same here! Ravi Dabral’s debut novel, Greed Lust Addiction features on our list because it exhibits the qualities of contemporary serious fiction, fused with a purpose and philosophy and also a dilemma. Spirituality vs materialism is the core debate that forms the theme of this novel and it will be very interesting to find out how the protagonist, along with others on his side, fight against evil forces.
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To the Lighthouse (1927): This novel by Virginia Woolf is still considered as a challenge for the casual readers of English fiction and a deep ocean for the serious readers of serious English Fiction across the world. Things happen in this novel – it begins and ends and that’s so amazingly drawn on canvas by the protagonist who is successful in ‘making something’ at last. Written in the Stream of Consciousness style, the novel has kept Woolf’s reputation to a large extent. However, this novel is only advised to be read seriously (to discover and learn things) if you have read all other novels on this list.
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A list by an expert on English Literature Education