Telling Tales: Books About Delhi

10231 Interested |

Pages and pages of beautifully written literature, which document and capture the history and culture of a city, and tell the story of a place and its people through the unique perspective of the author himself—these are some of the books on Delhi that you must not miss out on.

City of Djinns

Much before William Dalrymple wrote about the Mughals, it was their city that mesmerised him. This travelogue about his adopted city, Delhi, is written simply, yet beautifully, tracing the lost cities of Delhi, and wonderfully juxtaposing the past with the present. A must-read, this.

Capital: The Eruption of Delhi

Capital by Rana Dasgupta explores one of the most important trends of our age: The growth of the global elite. Wealth has poured into the country since liberalisation, and the capital has become the centre of all transmogrification. Capital talks about our beloved city and also of capitalism, so get ready to draw all those parallels.

Delhi: Adventures in a Mega City

Sam Miller’s work is unique, for it is a walking tour of Delhi. He takes his readers from Shankar Market, to Malcha Marg, to Sheikh Sarai, and all the way to Tihar Jail! Mundane places that Delhiwallas cross every day provided him with escapades worth a tale—from tasting the long-gone Campa, to coming across a board that reads, “Trespassers will be gunned downed”.

Delhi by Heart

Raza Rumi takes on the mammoth task of explaining this city from the point of view of a Pakistani. “Why?” asks Rumi, “does the capital of another country feel like home?” His wanderings lead him to make certain connections between Delhi and Lahore, and the nature of the modern city. Try it if you’re looking for something different.

City Improbable

Khushwant Singh, of course, needs no introduction. This collection of essays has a list of contributors that range from Amir Khusro to Ruskin Bond. You can also check out Delhi by the author {an incisive read, we are told}.

Delhi, Mostly Harmless

By Elizabeth Chatterjee, this is a book for all tourists, and some Delhiites. With no dearth of scathing criticism, we find what we love in what we most hate in this chaotic city of ours. Moving out from Oxford to Delhi, Chatterjee takes us through the power structures, and through to its inherent charm.

Delhi: Phoenix City

Illustrated with brilliant sketches, Delhi: Phoenix City gives a fresh perspective to Delhi’s monuments. CSH Jhabvala’s knowledge as an architect is reflected throughout this book; in addition to being conclusive in its research, it also stands out for its comprehension and coherence.

Twilight in Delhi

Being a descendant of the famed Mughals probably added to Ahmed Ali’s understanding of the city of Delhi, and Twilight in Delhi, published during a tumultuous time in Indian history, takes its reader on an uncommon journey. In William Dalrymple’s own words, this book “provided me an answer to my question: What happened to the people who made Delhi?”

Twilight in Delhi has captured the attention of many great minds, including EM Forster.

Delhi: The First City

Malvika Singh’s book uncovers Delhi beautifully in a series of contributions from lesser-known intelligentsia, and leaves the reader bleeding with love for this city extraordinaire. The series, which this book is a part of, covers the cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Lucknow. Its relative absence from bookstores adds to the whole experience of possessing a copy.

Delirious Delhi: Inside India’s Incredible Capital

By Dave Prager, Delirious Delhi is, simply put, about two New Yorkers trying to find their feet in the capital. Prager’s pages take you from the city’s ancient monuments to the large, glass-cased malls, and back again. It can be confusing to peg this book—is it a travelogue, or a memoir? Or merely a collection of anecdotes? Regardless, Delirious Delhi is a good reference for readers who are new to the chaos of Delhi, or have never experienced it before.

All Quiet in Vikaspuri

The one graphic novel on the list, Sarnath Banerji’s gorgeous book showcases a Delhi where the water wars have reached a critical point. With water more valuable than gold, the novel depicts whole neighbourhoods banding together to fight one another for the precious resource. Poignant, funny, beautifully illustrated, and a more than a little scary glimpse into the future, All Quiet in Vikaspuri is a great addition to any and all bookshelves in Delhi.

Trees of Delhi: A Field Guide

Dissecting our concrete jungle, Krishen finds over 250 species of trees and painstakingly documents them in his field guide. Simple, comprehensive and an obvious labour of love, Trees of Delhi is a botanist’s dream.

Find these books online or look out for them at these bookstores here.

You can also go hunt at the Daryaganj Sunday book market. Find out more here.

{With inputs from Talah Siddiqui}


A full time enthusiast of the 'gram', Kasturi paints and writes on her eponymous blog. She's looking to establish herself in a stable job despite her impending and current existential quarter life crisis. Not having stayed in one place for too long, she muses about the Arts and has an astronomical appetite for, well, food.