Some readers of our previous blog on the bestselling Indian titles in the UK expressed surprise at the number of Western authors and titles featured on the list. This reveals an important point about contemporary Indian publishing. India is in the perhaps unique position of having a non-English culture combined with a predominantly English language educational, academic and publishing industry. This gives the Indian publishing industry a universalism and diversity that is hard to find elsewhere. No title or author is ‘off-limits’.
Authors and rare titles from all over the world are frequently (re) published by Indian publishers, giving access to books that cannot be accessed through western channels.
This isn’t to say that many Indian authors haven’t become extremely influential in the West. They have. The following is a brief overview of the top 10 bestselling Indian books in the UK in 2016/17, all by Indian authors and published by Indian companies.
1) Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramahansa Yogananda - (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India)
The perennial favourite Autobiography of a Yogi is arguably the most famous non-fiction Indian book outside of India. Without Paramahansa Yogananda’s insightful (and often fantastic) account of his life, experiences and spiritual training, Indian spirituality would not have become so well known in the West. This is a bold statement but is well borne out by the number of authors and teachers who trace their primary inspiration to this book. The Autobiography was especially influential in introducing American and British readers to Yoga and concepts such as pranayama (breathing exercises), prana, kundalini etc.
2) Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha - Swami Satyananda Saraswati - (Yoga Publications Trust)
Reading books by Swami Satyananda Saraswati is like having a direct lecture by an Indian yoga guru. His writing style is approachable, abrupt and highly detailed all at the same time. This in-depth guide to yoga postures and breathing exercises, first written and published in the late 60s, is still one of the best textbooks for serious practitioners.
3) Yoga Nidra - Swami Satyananda Saraswati - (Yoga Publications Trust)
Yoga Nidra is the science of ‘yogic sleep’; essentially a deep relaxation state that induces the brain to release delta waves while still remaining conscious. Swami Satyananda Saraswati is a master of this discipline and presents the text in his familiar, indomitable style. Yoga Nidra contains a wide range of disciplines that practitioners have found useful to combat insomnia, anxiety, depression and stress – among other conditions of the modern world.
4) Hatha Yoga Pradipika - Swami Muktibodhananda - (Bihar School of Yoga)
Hatha Yoga is the most widely recognised form of yoga outside of India. Many people use Yoga for flexibility in stretching after other exercise, but this was not its original intent. Hatha Yoga means ‘the yoking together of the sun and the moon’: bringing together body postures (asanas) with breath control to bring a heightened mind-body awareness. When practised mindfully and persistently, true hatha yoga is an extremely powerful path. Hatha Yoga Pradipika is an approachable English translation of a 15th century manual originally written in Sanskrit, the wellspring of the modern yoga tradition.
5) Vipassana Meditation: The Art of Living - S.N Goenka & William Hart - (Embassy Books)
Vipassana, or insight meditation is growing in popularity among practitioners in the West. While mindfulness involves concentrating on the experience of living, insight get under the skin of experience by focusing on the moment to moment sensations that make up our consciousness. The ‘insight’ gained shows the profound subjectivity, transience and interconnectedness of all experience. Practitioners of Vipassana frequently report reduced levels of stress, increased empathy and a greater conscious appreciation of day-to-day tasks.
6) Mrs Funnybones - Twinkle Khanna - (Penguin Books of India)
Twinkle Khanna’s Mrs Funny bones: She’s Just Like You and a Lot Like Me will make readers in turns laugh and wince. With satirical humour and razor sharp wit, Khanna makes wry observations on life as a contemporary Indian woman, through a combination of anecdotes and a little fiction. Many of the episodes revolve around the author’s relationship with her husband and mother. Ordinary moments become entertaining episodes and opportunities for home grown wisdom. Twinke Khanna was the biggest selling female Indian writer in 2015, and is a regular columnist for The Times of India.
7) Prana and Pranayama - Swami S.Nirajanananda - (Yoga Publications Trust)
Prana and Pranayama is an in-depth textbook discussing the breath and how breathing exercises can affect our mental and physical health. In recent years, many Western health practitioners have encouraged conscious breathing for reducing anxiety, improving energy and boosting sport performance. In many ways this is not dissimilar to the advice given by yogic gurus in India for centuries.
8) Kundalini Tantra - Swami Satyananda Saraswati - (Yoga Publications Trust)
Kundalini Tantra explains the advanced theoretical concept of kundalini, a form of concentrated life force that can be accessed psychosomatically by activating parts of your nervous system. The second part of the book contains a comprehensive, six month course in kundalini and kriya yoga. Essential reading for dedicated yoga practitioners looking to take their practice to the next level.
9) I am That: Talks with Sri Misargadatta Maharaj - Sri N. Maharaj - (Nesma Books)
‘I Am That’ is the central formula of Vedic mysticism, where the practitioner transcends the limited ego and identifies with the totality of existence – which is simultaneously ‘God’ and the self. This concept is very difficult to explain in words and can only really be understood through direct experience. This book of talks captures the essence of Indian spirituality and gives practical advice for how a transcendent state can be approached through meditation, diet, mindfulness and yoga.
10) Greatest Stories From The Quran - Saniyasnain Khan (ISBN: 97888178983455) £12.50
Encouraging children to engage with religious and ethical teaching is a problem faced by teachers from every religion, the world over! Greatest Stories From The Quran is an accessible, exciting compilation of 30 Quranic stories reinterpreted for a young audience. The richly illustrated, action packed stories cover the full sweep of the Quran, from the creation of Adam to the global flood, to the eventful life of the Prophet Mohammed himself. Each story is short enough for a child to read in a single sitting, providing both entertainment and an introduction to core Islamic teaching. The translation is given in plain English so children can enjoy the stories without having to learn Arabic phrases or complex terminology. The book is a must have for mosques, classrooms and Muslim families with young children.
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