The Association of Small Bombs

Finalist, National Book Awards 2016 for NBA Award Categories, Fiction

The Association of Small Bombs book cover, by Karan Mahajan, 2016
ISBN 9780525429630
Viking Books/Penguin Random House
Karan Mahajan author photo, Photo credit: Molly Winters
Karan Mahajan

Karan Mahajan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, Family Planning won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and was a finalist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. It was published in nine countries. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family’s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb—one of the many “small” bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world—detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.

Judges Citation

Seductive language, masterful storytelling, and resonant characters distinguish this epic tableau drawn by the instruments of empathy, an illuminating human expedition from India to America and back, a story that burns straight through you—incandescent, absorbing, engrossing—a novel of hope and despair, love and rage, today and tomorrow. Karan Mahajan explodes the notion that anything or anyone is truly mundane, perforates the border between perpetrator and victim, and cautions us that weapons have no masters.


Karan Mahajan reads from The Association of Small Bombs, 2016 NBAs Finalists Reading