Here are my favourite literary novels of 2018. Tap the book link to read my full review.
This is going to be a shorter post than my crime fiction books of the year and perhaps an esoteric one. A lot of the big names and award winners in 2018 just didn’t grab me.
By contrast, I found some interesting books from independent publishers. The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh by Jenn Stroud Rossmann is an absorbing and drily funny coming-of-age novel set against the bursting of the first tech bubble in the early 2000s.
In Inside the Bone Box by Anthony Ferner, a highly competent neurosurgeon is losing control of his relationships and even his own body. I loved this for its humour, compassion and elegant, understated prose.
I’ve read a couple of interesting novels in translation. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, upends our understanding of what it means to conform or to rebel. The Song of Hild by Vibeke Vasbo, translated by Gaye Kynoch, tells the story of the seventh-century Abbess of Whitby with immediacy and insight.
I’m a fan of Jonathan Coe but his Brexit novel Middle England didn’t work for me (if you want a Brexit novel I’d go for London Rules by Mick Herron instead). John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky had an interesting premise – about a writer who steals stories from his more successful peers – but I felt it didn’t deliver the emotional punch of Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies.
Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif asks questions about morality, truth and perception in a confrontation between a US airman and the refugees he was supposed to bomb. Suicide Club by Rachel Heng asks what it means to die – and to live – in a society where a chosen few are on the fast-track to immortality.
My favourite literary novel of the year also considers the effects of technology, not on our bodies but on our minds. I Still Dream by James Smythe is the story of one woman’s relationship throughout her life with the AI which she developed as a teenager. It’s a book that has stayed with me and has left me asking ever more questions about memory, identity and the relationship between creator and creation.
What were your favourite literary novels this year? Did any disappoint?
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Lots of interesting thoughts here and a few books I will need to add to my shelves.
Thanks, hope you find something you enjoy.
My partner has just finished Middle England and between the two of you I’m well and truly put off. So disappointing!
Such a shame. I just don’t want it to influence how I feel about his other books.
The later half of December is usually a very busy reading time for me, so I haven’t yet started to think in “best-of” terms, but I have enjoyed reading your post. I’ve yet to read anything by Jonathan Coe, so I’ve also yet to be disappointed. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy him when I get there! Hope you have lots of good reading ahead of you for 2019 as well!
Coe is definitely worth reading. My favourite of his novels is What a Carve Up! and The Rotters’ Club is brilliant too.
I’m always several years behind on reading books, so I haven’t read any of these books. I tried the Book of the Month Club, but they are not literary fiction. This year, I’m going to try to read the Booker shortlist and the National Book Award shortlist and at least get some newish literary fiction in that way. 🙂
Sometimes I think it’s good to wait a while – to see if a book still seems important, and not be influenced by the hype around publication.