“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.” ― John Cheever
As the old year draws to a close and the new year begins it’s a good time to take stock of the best fiction releases of 2018. To do this, we’ve created a list of 100 books that we regard as amongst the finest releases of the year. We’ve selected titles from across the fiction spectrum, from science fiction to mysteries, best sellers to award-winners and all points in between. Amongst them is a growing trend of popular and commercially-successful books whose world views, ideas and perspectives originate from non-western backgrounds. China and the Middle Eastern countries were particularly strong, especially with books like Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri.
There have also been a few names who have either burst onto the fiction scene or have cemented their reputation, like Anna Burns with her Booker Prize-winning novel Milkman or Sally Rooney with Normal People. And finally we’ve seen some well-established writers creating masterful works like All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan or Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.
All in all it’s been a fascinating and exciting year–roll on 2019!
Red birds / Mohammed Hanif.
“An American pilot crash lands in the desert and takes refuge in the very camp he was supposed to bomb. Hallucinating palm trees and worrying about dehydrating to death isn’t what Major Ellie expected from this mission. Still, it’s an improvement on the constant squabbles with his wife back home.
In the camp, teenager Momo ‘s money-making schemes are failing. His brother left for his first day at work and never returned, his parents are at each other’s throats, his dog is having a very bad day, and an aid worker has shown up wanting to research him for her book on the Teenage Muslim Mind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Frankenstein in Baghdad : a novel / Ahmed Saadawi ; translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.
” From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi–a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café–collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Drive your plow over the bones of the dead / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated from the Polish by Antonia Llyod-Jones.Server ErrorYour request could not be completed.
“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Duszejko is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Empire of sand / Tasha Suri.
” Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy. The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Milkman / Anna Burns.Milkman
“In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Normal people / Sally Rooney.
“Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
All this by chance / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“If we don’t have the past in mind, it is merely history. If we do, it is still part of the present. Esther’s grandparents first meet at a church dance in London in 1947. Stephen, a shy young Kiwi, has left to practise pharmacy on the other side of the world. Eva has grown up English, with no memory of the Jewish family who sent their little girl to safety. When the couple emigrate, the peace they seek in New Zealand cannot overcome the past they have left behind. Following the lives of Eva, her daughter Lisa and her granddaughter Esther, All This by Chance is a moving multigenerational family saga about the legacy of the Holocaust and the burden of secrets never shared, by one of New Zealand’s finest writers.” (Syndetics summary)
Warlight / Michael Ondaatje.Warlight: A Novel
“London, 1945. The capital is still reeling from the war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel are abandoned by their parents who leave the country on business, and are left in the dubious care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. Nathaniel is introduced to The Moth’s band of criminal misfits and is caught up in a series of teenage misadventures, from smuggling greyhounds for illegal dog racing to lovers’ trysts in abandoned buildings at night. Years later Nathaniel, now an adult, begins to slowly piece together using the files of intelligence agencies – and through reality, recollection and imagination – the startling truths of puzzles formed decades earlier.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)