Book review: Nine Lives – In search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple


With so many brilliant books to his name, it was almost impossible to chose just one from acclaimed historian and author, William Dalrymple.  But in Nine Lives Dalrymple delivers something that’s really special. 

In India in Nine Lives: In search of the Sacred in Modern India, Dalrymple tells us about the lives of nine incredible people.

The Jain Nun who watches her friend ritually starve herself to death, the story of a Buddhist Monk from Tibet atoning for picking up arms by painting prayer flags and the tale of the Baul musician, a wanderer from West Bengal exploring life and its meaning, are all eloquently told.

It’s a book all about people, belief and faith at a time when change in India is happening at an unprecedented pace.  The modern Indian lives right next door to an ancient world where ritual, tradition and religious practice take centre stage.  Dalrymple brings this world to life by introducing the reader people to some extraordinary people leading extraordinary lives..

In the words of Wendy Doniger, from the Times Literary Supplement, “A glorious mix of journalism, anthropology, history and history of religions, packaged in writings worthy of a good novel.  Not since Kipling has anyone evoked village India so movingly.”

A powerful, moving book that will make you think.  Nine Lives was long listed for the BBC Samual Johnson Prize and was the Winner of the 2010 Asia House Award for Asian Literature.  Like so many of Dalyrymple’s books, it’s a must read.


Dalrymple has joined forces with Anita Anand for a new book, Kohinoor: The story of the world’s most infamous diamond.  It’s being released this Friday, 9th December at  7pm at Bikaner House, near India Gare.  Join talks, discussions and debates with the authors.  To secure a place reach out to

If you are wondering where to buy books in Delhi give Amazon a miss and head on over to any one of these five fine book shops

3 thoughts on “Book review: Nine Lives – In search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple

  1. Dear Namaste N D

    Small Typo ! Nine Lives not Nine Lines

    BTW, Dalrymple will launch his new book, about the Kohinoor diamond, on the 9th at Bikaner house. Not sure of the time – 6? 7 ?

    Best wishes



  2. Pingback: Brilliant books all about India | Namaste New Delhi

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