The Best Books of 2018 in the Fiction category has been listed here. The problem with creating lists like these is the huge temptation to squeeze in a few more books too. As I went around my books shelves, choosing the five books that go into this list, I felt sad and guilty about leaving out many other brilliant ones behind. But I told myself I would stick to five and that is what I’m going to do.
Out of the five books that I talk about here, three are translations. That makes me realise that I have been reading a lot of translated works this year. A big shout out to the fabulous translators we seem to have amidst us.
My Brilliant Friend
The New York Times calls Elena Ferrante as one of the greatest novelists of our time and I agree with them completely. My Brilliant Friend is the first book of the Neopolitan novels. It takes place in the 1950s in the poor but vibrant neighbourhood of Naples. Through the lives of Elena and Lila, the author shows us Italy as it was then. She shows us how some friendships transcend ideals, thoughts, goals and hardships.
I am a bit ashamed to say this. Like most readers, I am swayed by Literary prizes and I pick up and read those books that win such awards much more easily than others. This was why I picked up Jasmine Days. It won the JCB Prize for Literature 2018. Unlike certain books that do not deserve such accolades and that make you wonder if these awards were actually rigged, Jasmine Days deserves every award that comes its way.
The book is a brilliant narration of how a revolution in a country can scar the lives of the common people. It shows us how difficult it is to be sandwiched between opposing views and to stand up for what you believe in.
When Padma Bani Paula
After reading innumerable heavy books this year, Anupama’s book came as a breath of fresh air. I don’t read or review a book just because my friend has written it. In fact, I think I judge my friend’s books much more harshly because my expectations increase when I know the person. When I chanced upon a book reading by the author at Pune International Literary Festival, I loved her writing style and the fresh humour. I picked up the book and wheezed through it immediately. Being a South Indian, I could relate to Padma and all the confusion she goes through. One of the only books that made me laugh out loud this year.
The Unseeing Idol of Light
There is something about Meera’s writing that will grip you and crush you. When we read a book, we can hear our voice reading the words in our head. I’ve realised that when I read Meera’s writing, my voice grows heavy and sad. I slow down, savour words, reread sentences and get lost into her world. Meera’s books are among the best books of 2018 for me.
The Face at the Window
After reading 100+ books every year for the last few years, I have realized that what I look for in every novel that I read is a good story. Don’t get me wrong—I love language; it is what I breathe, caress, memorize, underline and write down in my journal, but it all vaporizes in the absence of a good story. Opinions differ, and I know many readers who can sacrifice the pleasure of a good story just to be enchanted in the arms of beautiful prose. That’s not me! However, if you give me a book that has a unique plot narrated by a master storyteller in the most delightful language, you turn me into a fan of the author. That’s exactly what I found in ‘The Face at the Window’—a grasping tale told in stunning prose.
Not many Indian authors write horror, and this is what intrigued me to pick up this one. A few pages into the story, I realized this wasn’t another one of those cliché horrors that make one roll their eyes and yawn from boredom. Kiran Manral weaves a web of intrigue, conjures up an atmosphere of dread and brings to life characters who will haunt us long after we read the last page.
Read a complete review of this book here.
Here are the Amazon (affiliate) links to these best books of 2018:
- My Brilliant Friend
- Jasmine Days
- When Padma Bani Paula
- The Unseeing Idol of Light
- The Face at the Window
(This post contains affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission if you buy using these links at no extra cost to you.)