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by Gregory David Roberts

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum-security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas - this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

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Recommendations: 3

Categories: Action & AdventureLiterature & Fiction

Reading time: 3134 hours


Whitney Wolfe Herd

Something I’ve always gifted and just kind of held close over the years is the book Shantaram. And I loved that it took you into this different element of human understanding. And I wanted my team to read it because I think it’s actually a great marketing example how to build a product based on human behavior, and how to understand people around you and what makes people tick. Not just what’s the ROI on some billboard. And so, I don’t know what it is about that book. I can’t summarize it in one sentence. But it just gives you a peek into the soul of humanity, if that makes sense. And so, that’s a book that I’ve gifted frequently, and I love.

Kevin Kelly
Executive Editor

I actually recommend that if people are going to try this, you actually to get the Audible version and listen to it. It runs on and on, but it'd be one of those books that you wish will never end.

Josh Waitzkin
Chess Player, Martial Artist, and Author

Shantaram, one of the most beautiful novels I ever read by Gregory David Roberts, is one I've gotten to know very well, just an ecstatically beautiful book.