What’s Worth Reading and Why
Compiled by Prabhjot Singh
The below introductory list of books should provide an energizing start for any student of Sikhi. I came across most of the titles in this book list while I was first seriously exploring Sikhi during college. These titles illustrate the love for Sikh history, ethos, and theology, and will whet the appetite for further reading. I believe these titles, some more than others, intertwine the three core elements of Sikh life, Gurmat (living as per the Guru’s way): Imbibing Gurbani (Guru’s word); Practicing the Rehat (our communal code of conduct); and taking lesson from Twarik (our history). These books have encouraged me to develop on these fronts and provided perspective about the world. The solitude of reading, away from tech and chatter, opens a wondrous world where we can think about the footsteps of giants, in which we stand, and which we should aspire to fill. I hope that these books can help further along the reader’s journey as they did for me.
The Spirit of Gurbani
The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs
Trilochan Singh et al
Allen and Unwin, London, 1960
Fantastic translations of Gurbani, by world renowned authors, which are accessible to those that can’t read Gurmukhi. This text contains some of the best English translations available of select Banis from the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Spirit Born People
Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, 1990
Prof. Puran Singh translates his love for the Divine into words that enable the rest of us to capture a glimpse of where his soul floats as well as provide us his insights to history, discipleship, and Gurbani.
Doubleday, New York, 2001
Patwant Singh does a fantastic job of tracing Sikh history from the time of Guru Nanak till the recent present. Its very well written and a great primer on Sikh history.
The Book of the Ten Masters
Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2004 reprint.
Prof. Puran Singh paints short biographical sketches highlighting the life and thought of the ten Gurus, bringing to life how their divine actions touched everyone around them. Prof. Puran Singh uses his personal spiritual connection to vividly paint the dimensions of tough topics like discipleship, love and war.
When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath
Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka
Lotus Roli Books; New Delhi, 2007
This book is a primer for anyone interested in learning about the events of the government organized 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in Delhi and across India as well as the machinery’s cover-up since then. Written by Indian journalist Manoj Mitta, who has followed the events since 84 and lawyer HS Phoolka, who has spearheaded the cases to hold the perpetrators accountable, this easy-to-read book provides a lot of insight and while provoking much thought.
Fighting for Faith and Nation, Dialogues with Sikh Militants
Cynthia Keppley Mahmood
University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1996
The Indian army’s attack on Darbar Sahib in June 1984 and the Indian government’s refusal to address Sikh demands culminated in Sikhs launching an armed independence movement. Dr. Mahmood provides gripping insights into the motivations, fears, and challenges faced by the militants who saw no other means to seek justice besides picking up arms.
Early Sikh Scriptural Tradition
Balwant Singh Dhillon
Singh Brothers, Amritsar, Punjab, India, 1998
Prof. Dhillon provides a rich histography of the Sikh scriptural tradition, tracing how Gurbani was transmitted from the time of Guru Nanak till the Adi Granth was installed by Guru Arjun. He also presents a critical discussion of certain recently prominent texts that have thought to have been early drafts or inputs for the AdiGranth.
Sehje rachio Khalsa (Punjabi)
Harinder Singh Mehboob
Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2000
For those interested in a deep historical, political, and philosophical analysis of Guru Nanak’s revolution, Sehje rachio Khalsa is a must read. Mehboob was one of the most prolific and socially conscious authors of the 20th century. It’s heavy, deep, it’s a tsunami of knowledge and your Punjabi vocabulary will definitely grow as well.
Sikhism for the Modern Man
Sardar Kapur Singh
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab, India, Third Edition, 1995
S. Kapur Singh, who was given the designation of National Professor of Sikhism, provides an overview of Sikh thought in this primer on comparative theology and ideology. If you like this book, explore “Guru Nanak Life and Thought, “Prashaprashna,” and “Sachi Sakhi” (Punjabi) for deeper delving.
The Sikh Revolution / Sikh Inqlab
Bahri Publication, New Delhi, 1998
This classic book explores into the objective of Guru Nanak’s project and the nation building exercise of the Sikh Gurus to raise the disenfranchised into spiritually conscious warrior kings. The book is a combination of history, theology, and philosophy and will surely leave the reader with more questions to explore.
Bhai Vir Singh’s fictional classic is a heroic portrait of a woman named Surasti who, born in a Hindu family, later embraces the Sikh faith and receives her new name Sunder Kaur (Sundari for short). She leads a daring life in the jungles with a band of Sikh warriors. Bhai Vir Singh uses this novel to convey Sikh values, philosophy and history.
Sunerhray or Messages, Amrita Pritam’s Magnum Opus, is essentially a long Poem that is quite moving. This book gave her the distinction becoming the first woman recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Hanere vich Sulghdi Varnmala
Dr. Surjit Patar
One of Patar’s main works, this book (named Words Smouldering in the Dark), is a contemporary classic of Punjabi poetry. He evokes feeling, thought, and consciousness through a very distinctive discourse that explores societal norms and the human condition. Patar was given the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book.
Jhana Di Raat
Harinder Singh Mehboob
Singh Brothers, Amritsar
This fantastic and volumous collection of poetry covers Punjab, Culture, Sikh heritage, Partition, and recent Sikh history. Mehboob was given the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book.
Prabhjot Singh is President and CEO of Pixatel Systems, a fast-growing mobile technology start-up based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to starting his own company he held management and engineering positions at many organizations including Citigroup and Indus River Networks.
Prabhjot is an active participant in community and philanthropic affairs. He was the Founding Chairman of the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh Civil Rights organization. He focused his full time efforts after September 11, 2001 to organize and mobile the Sikh community across America. Prabhjot is also a founder of Saanjh, a non-profit that runs leadership programs for Sikh children and young adults. He currently serves on the Boards of the Sikh Coalition, MBSK Foundation, and Saanjh