Marshall Cavendish, 2012 (latest edition)
This book is in the Culture Shock! series of books that covers many different countries.
It is a good choice for someone with a very light understanding of India who is getting ready to spend a lot of time here. Its best quality is how comprehensive it is. It is partly a book about general Indian topics (e.g. food, festivals, family relationships) and partly advice for people coming to live in India (househelp, entertaining, communication). The information is about as accurate as you can be when speaking about such a large topic as India, though you should make sure to get the most updated edition (currently 2012).
Now that you know it is a good book and probably worth your time, here are a few things to be aware of:
- This is not a travel-guide book. If you are used to a Lonely Planet style, you will not find that here. This book is more for people looking to spend several months or more in India.
- Keep in mind this book is written from one perspective. The author (of Indian origin, Syrian Christian, from Kerala, studied extensively in Chennai) presents a mostly holistic view of India, but that is really not possible when there is only one author. A few things stand out: she slips into using some Indian concepts and terms that may be unfamiliar to the uninitiated, she gives a slight preference to South India in her examples and stories, and her overview of Hindu terms reflects more of a popular Western understanding than someone who has grown up with it.
- Its comprehensiveness can be wearying. There is so much information on so many topics that you are unlikely to be able to digest it all, especially if you are new to India. I wouldn’t recommend reading the book cover-to-cover. Pick out the sections that interest you, and leave the others for another session.
Who would like it: Either someone preparing for his/her first India experience, or someone who has been for a short trip once and wants to get a bit of a deeper understanding before coming back.