6 Must-Read Stories Of Self-Discovery

Many authors have been exploring the theme of self-discovery for as long as they have been writing. Join us as Rajeev Balasubramanyam, author of this year’s uplifting new novel Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss, talks us through six titles on the soul searching, self-awareness and adventure that are worth adding to your bookshelf this year.

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac


“For me, this is Kerouac’s best novel. It’s a journey of self-discovery through Zen and demonstrates a very clear understanding of Buddhism and the way that it was developed in America. It’s tinged with sadness as it marks the point in Kerouac’s life where he had to choose between spirituality and alcoholism. I reread it a few years ago and found it just as powerful and genuine as I did when I first read it as a teenager.”

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler


“I’m a big fan of Anne Tyler, who writes deceptively simple and wise stories. Ladder of Years is about a 40-year-old woman who walks out on her family and reinvents herself as a single woman. When she eventually returns, she hasn’t been on what we would traditionally think of as a journey of self-discovery but she isn’t entirely unchanged by the experience either – I love the realistic ambiguity of that.”

The Mahabharata by R. K. Narayan


“The greatest of all epics, The Mahabharata features multiple journeys of self-discovery. It can be enjoyed for its spiritual depth and wisdom – or just as a thrilling tale of family strife, battle and love played out in a universe thronged with heroes, gods and demons.”

Monkey by Wu Ch’êng-ên (also known as Journey To The West)


“One of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, Monkey depicts the adventures of Prince Tripitaka, a young Buddhist priest on a dangerous pilgrimage to Afghanistan (Gandhara) and India to retrieve sacred scriptures, accompanied by three unruly disciples. The physical journey they take is not nearly as important as the journey the characters take in their own minds.”



The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley


“The legend of King Arthur told from four different female perspectives. I am hopelessly addicted to this book, which finally made the story of King Arthur make sense to me. It details the clash between Christianity and Paganism, and depicts witchcraft and goddess worship in an intelligent, respectful way. Finishing this novel was like awakening from a deep intoxicating dream.”

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse


“This reads like so many of the ancient Indian stories I read as a child, despite being written by a 20th century German. It’s the story of a young Brahmin’s search for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. It integrates Eastern and Western spiritual traditions with psychoanalysis and philosophy, whilst the outcome is strangely simple. It’s a concise and beautiful piece of writing that has held a special place in my heart ever since I discovered it.”

Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s novel Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss out now.


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