If You've Never Read Anything By Salman Rushdie, Here's The Book You Should Start With

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Salman Rushdie has been in the news a lot after a brutal knife attack on the septuagenarian author occurred during a speaking engagement in New York. However, an update on Rushdie's condition has Twitter celebrating, and he's already recovered enough that he no longer requires a ventilator. His son, Zafar Rushdie, said in a statement (per The New York Times): "Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humor remains intact."


The resulting flood of media attention has created new interest in works by the celebrated novelist, who was born in India, knighted in 2007 (per Britannica), and had a tumultuous marriage to Padma Lakshmi. Rushdie's many published works run the gamut from essay collections and short stories to children's books and a memoir. Barron's reports that his novels are now selling briskly on Amazon and in bookstores.

For anyone wishing to read Rushdie's writing for the first time, you might be wondering where to start.

The Satanic Verses receives more attention than his other books

Salman Rushdie published "The Satanic Verses" in 1988. The novel "pits Good against Evil in a whimsical and fantastic tale," according to a review in Publishers Weekly. "Rushdie's fanciful language is as concentrated and overwhelming as a paisley pattern."


Author E.L. Doctorow described this magical realist tale as a "kitchen-sink novel — one in which the author puts in everything he can think of" (per Vanity Fair). Unfortunately, several of the elements that Rushdie included were deemed blasphemous by some Muslims, including a section in which a character dreams of prostitutes with the same names as the Prophet Muhammad's 12 wives.

In 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini banned the controversial novel in Iran. The country's leader issued a fatwa (edict) against Rushdie, which read (per The Guardian): "I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled 'The Satanic Verses' — which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an — and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God Willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr."


After the fatwa and a $3 million bounty were placed on Rushdie, he went into hiding for years.

Salman Rushdie's best book is Midnight's Children

"The Satanic Verses" has received more press than any of Salman Rushdie's other novels, after the fatwa issued against the author and the book's banning in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, Singapore, and Venezuela (per The Guardian). However, arguably, the highly controversial novel isn't his best book.


Seven of Salman Rushdie's works have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but only one has snagged the award — repeatedly: "Midnight's Children." It won the 1981 Booker Prize. In 1994, it won the Booker of Bookers, a special prize marking the award's 25th anniversary, which honored the best book out of all the previous winners. And then in 2008, it nabbed the Best of the Booker, edging out all the other winners from the award's four-decade history (per BBC).

After all the awards hype, a reviewer for The Guardian worried that the novel would be dry and earnest, a slog to wade through. "Instead, I was overwhelmed by its zest and sparkle; the sheer joy in creation shown in every gleefully overloaded sentence, every authorial sleight of hand and every scatological joke." The reviewer praised the magical realist tale as "tremendous fun."