About, and welcome

Nilanjana Roy Copyright Gauri Gill 2021 (5)
Nilanjana Roy. Copyright Gauri Gill 2021. (Please do not crop or alter image, and if using, please credit Gauri Gill as above.)

Nilanjana S Roy is the author of two award-winning fantasy novels (The Wildings and The Hundred Names of Darkness), a collection of essays on reading (The Girl Who Ate Books). Black River, her third novel and her first for an adult audience, is coming out in 2022.

Her anthologies include Our Freedoms: Essays and Stories From India’s Best Writers, A Matter Of Taste: The Penguin Book Of Indian Food Writing, and Patriots, Poets & Prisoners: Selections from Ramananda Chatterjee’s The Modern Review.

She writes about books and the reading life for the FT’s Life & Arts section, was a contributing opinion writer on gender and other subjects for the New York Times, and has written extensively for the BBC, the Business Standard and other places. She helped to set up the Indian publishing house, Westland Books, as its first chief editor, is a founder member of PEN Delhi, and has served on several literary juries, festival boards, gender and literacy trusts.

Before she became a full-time novelist, Nilanjana worked as a food columnist, a travel writer, a reporter and columnist on gender and gender violence, an editor, a publisher, was briefly a legal researcher, taught even more briefly in a nursery school and spent several happy years as an intrepid blogger, Hurree Babu over at the now defunct Kitabkhana.


The Wildings (2012); The Hundred Names of Darkness (2013)

“Nilanjana Roy’s novel is a delight to read. Eliot’s Old Possum would have enjoyed these Practical Indian Cats.” – Salman Rushdie

The Wildings won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Commonwealth Book Prize among others. Environmental fable about a clan of cats in the rapidly changing Old Delhi neighbourhood of Nizamuddin, with dazzling guest appearances by tigers, a warrior mongoose, black kites and Doginder Singh.


Patriots, Poets & Prisoners: Selections From Ramananda Chatterjee’s The Modern Review (2016)

“a must read for all interested in understanding the great debates and expositions that shaped discourse in India during four critical decades preceding Independence.” – Hiranmay Karlekar

“Every issue of the review packed a lot of intellectual punch. Besides the new Indian elite that devotedly followed The Modern Review every month, the British colonial authorities too read it closely to understand Indian nationalist opinion on contemporary issues.” – Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

The Girl Who Ate Books: Adventures in Reading (2016)

The Girl full cover.jpg

“A book so delicious it might make future bibliophagists of us all. Think of it as a guide to book lust, a compendium of Indian writing…” Tishani Doshi, The Hindu

A Matter of Taste: The Penguin Book of Indian Writing On Food (2004)


“In the next lane, a puja was being held in the house of a rich man. When darkness fell, Apu could see a large number of guests going into the house to have dinner. What if…what if he slipped in with them? It was such a long time since he had been to a big dinner. Could he do it? Who would recognise him anyway?
Apu stood in his balcony, swinging between temptation and fear.” –

Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay


Essays and short stories in anthologies:


50 Writers, 50 Books: The Best of Indian Fiction (Edited by Pradeep Sebastian)

Chillies and Porridge: Writing Food

(Edited by Mita Kapur)

The Panchatantra (Puffin Classics, translated by Rohini Chowdhury,

Introduction by Nilanjana S Roy)

Some early short stories have been published in BeWitched!, Spooky Stories and ‘7’, by Scholastic India


Journalism and publishing:



  • FT Life & Arts columnist, Reading The World (2017-present)


  • Business Standard, columnist, books and the reading life
    Speaking Volumes, my weekly column on the reading life and Indian publishing, was the longest-running literary column in India’s English-language media.


  • Contributing opinion writer, New York Times, 2013-2014


  • Columnist, gender, International Herald Tribune, 2012-2010.

Covered issues ranging from sexual violence to the rights of domestic workers and the battle of Muslim women for legal equity, over a two-year period.

  • Chief Editor, Westland Books/ Tranquebar Press, 2007-2009.

Westland Books is one of India’s largest English-language publishing houses, with offices in Delhi and Chennai. As its first Chief Editor, I helped to put an ambitious literary fiction and non-fiction publishing programme in place, leaving in 2009 to pursue my own writing.

Essays and journalism have also been published in Al-Jazeera, Biblio, the BBC, Granta, The Hindu, Outlook, The Sunday Times and other media.


 2013-11-24 21.27.08

Arts and Literary Arts Writing Fellow, Rockefeller Center Foundation, 2013

Writer at Tranquebar, Sangam House Residency, 2011

A few interviews about the books:



Parul Sehgal – The Art of the Review:

Tishani Doshi – Books For Breakfast:


The New York Times: A Conversation with…


Writers At Work: Interview by Somak Ghoshal


Urvashi Bahuguna: The Broken Taar



  1. Read Hundred Names in a straight four hours (in the train back from Jaipur; since I really couldn’t find space or time to read much in Jaipur itself this weekend) and loved it..slightly less than Wildings but that always happens to the younger sibling. My problems – I couldn’t understand why the Mara’s senses and the cats network didn’t stretch into the Golf Club if it could stretch all the way to Paolim, why was Magnificat so important to Mara and why darkness being your friend was so important to the plot?

      • hi mam, my name is himank pathak. i am a journlism student. i have deep intrest in art and culture. mam please suggest me few books so i can make a basic plateform of art and culture knowledge. please mam i dont have the another way to ask this.

  2. In a cafe I read your Oct. 2/3 FT comments. Went for hike up Mt. Tzouhalem, then to Alderlea Farm for dinner. Engaged momentarily with couple over antics of a sulking child. ”Where,’ I asked of the mother, ‘are you from?’ ‘India.’ ‘Oh, I was just reading a column by an Indian writer.’ ‘Who?’ I showed the mother the column; she chuckled. I indicated I [not a literary critic] might send a critique to the author. Mother’s response: ‘Mention,”You’re not from La Martiniere in Calcutta, are you?”‘ The parents are visiting from Tibet, They’re teachers, probably still with the Krishnamurti system. Anyway ‘Is it necessary … to shape real life into fiction? Yes;’ all fiction … draws from the truth., or it has no life to it.’ Couldn’t one also say that non-fiction does the same? Aside from protecting the innocent, what is it about moored-in-reality, and skillfully altered facts that is valuable? I think that novelists like anyone else are inquirers after meaning … meaning deemed interesting and valuable. The biographer renders a life but may bring extra meaning to the subject, for to any subject there is extra meaning. Any enterprise may need that dimension to have life. Your column has me thinking. Thanks! Peter

    • Dear Peter,

      My apologies for responding so late – I missed seeing about 20 comments in the Pending folder, and everyone who wrote in must have wondered why I hadn’t replied! To answer your question: yes, I am from La Martiniere! On fiction versus non-fiction – you’re very accurate on the shaping that goes into both kinds of writing. I must find the exact quote, but in one of Van Gogh’s letters, he writes that painting is not about translating reality – that would not be enough, to make an exact copy, one must go beyond towards a deeper meaning. As with art, so with writing.

      Many thanks,


  3. I am a fan of your column in the FT and enjoyed your 11-12 February article elucidating some of the greatest painters of the Mughal period. I am a London-based dealer in Indian miniature paintings, sourced from European and American collections, and you might be interested to look at our eighth annual exhibition as part of the New York Asia Week in March, where we will exhibit Indian Court Painting, spanning the Mughal and Rajput traditions as well as some Company School examples. As well as the traditional British, European and American collectors and museums who buy in this area, the last five years has seen a growing number of cognosenti from India. See http://www.asiaweekny.com and our catalogue will be uploaded on our own website towards the end of this month, http://www.forgelynch.com

    • This is such a late response, I’m sorry – I missed seeing some of the comments that had been posted. Thank you for letting me know about your work, though. I’d be happy to tell friends in London about your exhibitions and catalogues.

      Best wishes, Nilanjana

  4. Nilanjana, are you planning a sequel to The Hundred Names of Darkness? I’ve devoured The Wildings & its sequel….will there be a trilogy? Or perhaps a new tale, altogether?

    Kindest regards

    • Thank you! (And apologies, I’d neglected this site because I’m working on something new. It’s not a Wildings novel, but I do hope to add a set of Monsoon-in-Corbett stories to the Hundred Names of Darkness family once this is done.)

  5. Nilanjana, earlier this year I noted with interest in one of your FT pieces your mention of Verrier Elwin. It so happens that four years ago I came across a faded photograph of him in a small museum in the Bastar District, Chhattisgarh. Back home in London, I began to investigate this intriguing character. The result of this is an article I have just had published in the current issue of Kyoto Journal on his life and work titled, ‘Revisiting Verrier Elwin’s Tribal Villages of Central India’, accompanied by several of my photographs. So yes – I understand your comment of ‘the finder’s thrill of discovering something lost and forgotten’, and hopefully more people may now come to know something of this warm and engaging man who documented the myths and folk-songs of the tribal peoples of India.

  6. Nilanjana, thank you very, very much for writing these books about the cats. I have referred them to so many people because I can see visually exactly what you are saying and hear the truthful communication between the animals. I have never read anything which is so factual in my world. So many people do not see all animals, birds and sea creatures as being sentient but I know they are. I work with animals (anything really) World wide, de-stressing, balancing energy structures and listening.
    Your books gave me the greatest thrill. Thank you very much. I live in N.Z. but do travel quite a lot – mostly to work with animals. Regards, Annis Parker

  7. I finished The Wildings last night and have to extend my compliments.

    I was reading during intermission of a comedy show, and when I reached Miao’s last stand, tears started rolling down my cheeks. It took me a few moments to compose myself when the show resumed, but it was a great performance and I laughed myself hoarse. Then, when I resumed reading, the subsequent scenes reduced me to tears once again.

    I’m a heavy reader, and while many stories can make me mist up, I can’t remember the last time a book made me cry like yours did.

    So, thank you.

    • Dear Lis,

      This might be one of the most heartwarming responses I’ve got on The Wildings. Thank you, and Miao was one of my favourites, too. You might be happy to know that there was a real Miao, a wise Siamese stray, who was adopted by one of our neighbours and lived a long, peaceful, battle-free life.

      My best wishes,


  8. Ms. Roy, I just read your FT, 9, Feb. column: Be your own bibliotherapist and it made me feel good about the books I have chosen to keep. Over the past 50 yrs. I’ve been purchasing, collecting and weeding out my book shelves and have got them down to the the essentials that I re-read frequently for all the reasons that you mention. It’s nice to “meet” a kindred spirit. I live in a small town in Thailand and an English friend in Bangkok sends me his FT’s. I always look forward to reading your columns, they cause me to think and reflect on my life, surroundings and world at large. You are a treasure. Thank you.

    George Neidorf, American Primitive

    • Thank you so much, George — I trust you’re fine in Thailand during this pandemic. Your life sounds like a booklover’s dream, so nice of you to write in.



  9. Dear Ms Roy,
    A friend just sent me a link to your April 30th FT column on flight and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I am so happy that my photographs in the book meant something to you. I was photographing seagulls even before Richard Bach and I became friends because their beauty in flight was so inspiring to me. And I am still photographing them to this day. During this pandemic flight and flying mean even more to me. My wife and I are sheltered in place on the south fork of Long Island. The best part is that I am near the airport where I keep my little Aviat Husky airplane, and I have been flying almost every day that the weather permits. After 58 years as a pilot it means more to me than ever. Thank you so much for your wonderful article. If you respond to this, please do so on my email as I don’t follow Twitter.
    My best to you
    Russell Munson

  10. Dear Nilanjana (if I may),

    Just a quick note to thank you, yet again, for your wonderful FT column. How wonderful to share the joy of language and the frustration to not have the right words for what we’re all going through at the moment with somebody who lives so far away.

    With all good wishes,


  11. Dear Nilanjana,
    I’m a big fan of your FT column, your passion for reading and bibliotherapy. I am a professional violinist with the BBC Concert Orchestra in London, and also a first time writer. My self-published book is a memoir about my mother’s time living in Bombay in the 60’s, and our family’s adventures in India in the 80’s/90’s. I really enjoyed the process, reminiscing with family and friends about these golden memories, and feel like I’ve been on a real journey which will hopefully provide a loving legacy for my young children. I would be very happy to forward you a copy of the text and would welcome any feedback.

    I hope that you are keeping safe and well in these troubled times.
    All best wishes,

  12. Dear Ms. Roy

    I’m a long-term reader of your excellent column in the FT and particularly loved reading your piece on the books that take us around the world. The past few months of unfolding crisis made me think of how limited we can be in the understanding of our more proximate world….for the past eight years, fellow academics and students at the University of Virginia have been documenting the ecology of the Yamuna River as it flows through Delhi, and the lives of those sustained on the banks of its various drains. We’d love to share a copy of the book with you! Yamuna River Project: New Delhi Urban Ecologies

  13. Hi Nilanjana,

    I was part of Amit’s class that you regaled with your incredible insights and advice – many thanks for that. I read your “Girl who ate books” to prepare for the interaction which I loved.

    All that said, my real reason for writing is to let you know that my 9-year old loves Wildlings. He is obsessed with reading and a fan of the Warriors series – a fantasy series for about cats (as you must know). With Wildlings, he has gotten the first taste of a “literary” novel. I hope he can nurture his reading habit as well as the author 🙂

    Figured you may be pleased to know that your books are being received very well by the next generation.


  14. Dear Nilanjana,

    Just wanted to say that I have enjoyed reading your article on the shifting shape of the writing-publishing life in the FT. It resonated with me.

    Happy New Year!

  15. Ms. Roy,

    I just stumbled upon your FT column about “the lessons of Flashman” and I can’t thank you enough. After being introduced to Flashman at the turn of the century I’ve spent the last twenty years struggling unsuccessfully to explain what is so great about a series with such a bastard at its heart. From now on when I try to recommend the series to a friend I’m going to share your column instead of making such a hash of it myself that they never read them.

    Your column was so complete and compelling that it has me fired up to read it all again.

    One question, which Flashman book would you recommend first? Even though I liked it, I tend to think “Flashman” is nearly the weakest of the series, only just ahead of “tiger”. I’ve always had a soft spot for “the charge”.

    I was thrilled to find out that you are an accomplished novelist as well as FT columnist and I am looking forward to tracking down and reading as much of your work as I can find.

    All the best,


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