The year has been full of stellar debuts and sparkling fictional novels by women authors, and interestingly, most of the books that made it to the prestigious Man Booker prize shortlist in 2018, were also by women.
Whether it was the story of a child fleeing slavery on a sugar plantation, a tale of how education helped a woman escape from an abusive childhood or a simple saga of nine perfect strangers in health resort in Sydney, they were books that held readers entranced and publishers in euphoria.
Not all books, however, came loaded with deep and solemn themes. There was an unusually large crop of light-hearted books too, set in sunny Spain, cupcake cafes or the pristine waters of the Caribbean for fiction-lovers who like their books to lull them to happiness. But for the serious reader, it was a year like no other, as many of best novels by women authors had edgy themes, sharp plots and finely etched characters.
Here is an overview of the most-talked about books by women this year in a wide variety of genres…
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated, the memoir by essayist and historian Tara Westover is arguably one of the finest books of the year. It traces Westover’s life, from her childhood and pre-teen years in rural Idaho where she was raised by her fundamentalist Mormon parents and describes what it was like growing up in isolation and on fringe beliefs. But at the age of 16, Westover decided to educate herself. Her journey of trying to acquire knowledge and ultimately reaching Harvard and Cambridge is a coming-of-age story that has to be read to be believed.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Robert Galbraith, pseudonym for JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series made it to the top of the bestseller lists with her Cormoran Strike series. These are contemporary crime fiction books that will keep you hooked till the end. The fourth book in the Strike series, titled Lethal White is about Billy, a young man who comes to Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for help on a crime that he had witnessed as a child. Strike and his partner, Robin Ellacott set off on a mystery that will leave them baffled and keep the reader thrilled and captivated, both by the mystery and also by the romance that is woven into the book.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Anna Burns is the first Northern Irish author to win the Man Booker prize this year for her book, Milkman, which has been described as “incredibly original” by the Booker’s panel of judges. This is a story of a young woman being sexually harassed by an older, powerful and married man, who is known as the “milkman”. It is a story of hypocrisy, injustice silence and inaction that ultimately leads to enormous consequences.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
If you love heart-warming romances, An American Marriage is an intimate look at the worlds of people who have to handle their pasts while trying to move forward. This book was an Oprah book club selection this year, especially for the way it redefines the traditional American love story. It is about two newlyweds, one of them an artist and the other a young executive who are settling into the routine of a life together. Suddenly, they are ripped apart by circumstances that they are unable to control. Will things get better as time goes by? Will the young couple be able to get past all the pain and forge ahead together? Read the book to find out.
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
Twenty-seven year old Daisy Johnson, hit headlines when her debut novel, Everything Under was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She is the youngest ever author to have achieved this acclaim and her book is testament to her skill as an A-list writer. Her book is set in the waterways of Oxford where she lives and is a troubled story of mother-daughter estrangement, woven together with some unique storytelling threads, as she retells the Oedipus myth in a remarkable way.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
If you have watched Big Little Lies on Netflix which is an adaption of Liane Moriarty book that sold 14 million books globally, followed by her book, Truly Madly Guilty which topped the New York Times bestseller list in the first week of its publication, you will also enjoy her new novel, Nine Perfect Strangers. Moriarty’s latest book is set in a health resort, where nine strangers arrive, with different hopes, aspirations and regrets. The spa promises them physical and mental transformation within a span of ten days. Everything seems blissfully therapeutic at first but they soon realise that there is something fishy and sinister about the place and the twists in the tale will keep you turning the pages till the end. All in all, it is a perfect winter read that will transport you a beautiful, old home in Sydney and a health resort where you can soothe your blues away and look forward to reaching a state of tranquillity and empowerment.
Indian celebrity writing
The two most talked about books by Indian celebrities this year were Twinkle Khanna’s Pyjamas are Forgiving and Shweta Bachchan-Nanda’s book, Paradise Towers. Khanna’s book revolves around her protagonist Anshu who goes to an ayurvedic spa in Kerala to find herself. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. Much to her dismay, she meets her philandering ex-husband and his new young wife at the ashram. Emotions run haywire and matters come to a boil as the plot unravels. Nanda’s book is about an apartment complex called Paradise Towers that houses people from different communities and ideologies. We get a glimpse of what happens in this apartment on a day-to-day basis, right from the gossip that floats around, clandestine love affairs and many more shenanigans. But a sudden turn of events could change the lives of the residents in ways they had not imagined.
So, if you are looking for the buzz-worthy books of 2018, this list will help you get started and maybe you can finish them before the year ends. It might be good to begin the New Year with a new list, because 2019 promises to be even better.
A bunch of exciting books by women are on the cards for book lovers that you need to pre-order right away. Right from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new book, The Forest of Enchantments, to Sophie Kinsella’s new novel, I Owe You One to Merchants of Truth by Jill Abramson, former managing editor of New York Times, The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison, The Path Made Clear’ by Oprah Winfrey to City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, there are many books to add to your wish list in 2019.
Here’s a toast to years ahead of great books by fine women authors! Happy reading!