To me, a stereotypical English medium bred nerd, Bangla fiction was alien territory until a few years ago. If I hadn't failed miserably in Bangla during high school I would not have taken it upon myself to read Bangla fiction (to improve my grades).
So how did I get started? A school textbook actually; we had to study a few stories from Dui Banglar Chhotoder Sreshtho Golpo for Bangla class. It's an anthology of short stories and so serves as the perfect introduction to Bangla fiction. The stories are diverse and you can sample the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Humayun Ahmed, Dr. Muhammed Zafar Iqbal and many more brilliant writers all in one place. For first-time readers, Bangla might seem difficult and even looking up new words in the dictionary will seem like a chore. (Can you recite all the byanjonborno alphabetically?) In that case you can download Avro keyboard and just Google the unfamiliar words.
My next conquests were the Kishore Uponnash Shomogro of Muhammed Zafar Iqbal. His novels are worthy of their success; they have adventure, suspense, humour and most of all, they authentically present vignettes of the Bangladeshi life. If you are an Asimov fan I suggest reading Iqbal's science fiction novels, but for me the real draw is his more general fiction. Amar Bondhu Rashed, Dipu Number Two, Nitu O Tar Bondhura, Nut Boltu and Obonil are some of my personal favourites.
If you have not heard of Himu or Misir Ali then I salute you for having read this article so far. Humayun Ahmed was a writer I expected to like. But astonishingly I didn't, initially. I started with a children's short story collection by him and found that at the height of my absorption with the tale, he would abruptly end it. It was incredibly frustrating! However I learned to enjoy it; to be frank I became addicted to it. Pick up anything by Humayun Ahmed; he has written novels in many genres and his style is unique, you are bound to like it (well, probably). My recommendations for stand-alone books are Opekkha and Jochna O Jononir Golpo.
We all have our favourite genres. For the thrill-seekers Bangla fiction offers the Kakababu series by Sunil Gangopadhyay, the Feluda series and Professor Shonku series by Satyajit Ray and the Masud Rana series by Qazi Anwar Hussain. You will notice strong influences of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger in the aforementioned. Don't be repulsed by this, judge the Bangla versions of these Western icons in their own right. If horror is your cup of tea, try Onish Das Opu and Rumana Boishakhi's works; if it is humour you like, try the Shibram Rachana Shomogro. And once you feel that you have a good enough grasp of Bangla, you must (stressing the 'must') read Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (don't let his name daunt you) and Golpoguccho”by Rabindranath Tagore.
It's unfortunate that most of our teenagers either read Bangla or English fiction, with comparatively few reading both. Furthermore many with whom I associate seem to identify with Western culture. For those like I our connection to Bangla culture is far too distant and it is time we change that. Go, buy some Bangla books. You can also download PDF copies of the books but that is irrelevant for now. GO!