Just another reading game to entertain myself… The GOODREADS TOP 3 CHALLENGE: FICTION Complete!


One of the things I’d planned to do this year as part of my Reading Framework was to read the GoodReads top 3 voted Best Books of  2017 in the Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi and Debut categories. The idea was to diversify my genres (in this case moving towards more Sci-Fi and Debut), get a chance to catch up with the most popular titles from the year and at the same time also do my own ranking to see if the order of the top 3 changed for me and why.

I love GoodReads and the peer reading community that it supports. So the results of the GoodReads Choice Awards are always something I look forward to (even though there is a small glitch in the voting system that needs sorting, which I talked about here).

Though I’d set this challenge for myself quite eagerly, eventually I wasn’t too sure if I was going to be able to finish even one category, what with my wildly untamed reading moods and my thirst for new titles that throw me off-track all the time. But 10 books and two months into 2018, I’ve managed to achieve 25% of my GoodReads Top 3 target and I’m so glad because it made for some really great reading. 

So, the GoodReads top 3 voted books in the Fiction category in 2017 were:

I LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng with 39,077 votes

IBEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman with 38,268 votes

IIELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman with 32,156 votes

As you can see, the top two come really close and the third is behind by quite a margin, so there’s a clear popularity choice coming through. All three books are extremely well written and have very unique plot lines, which is refreshing. I was particularly enamoured by both Beartown and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but something about Little Fires Everywhere fell short for me.

So here’s why I think they should have been ranked as follows:

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1. BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman

BEARTOWN is a brilliantly translated Swedish novel about an obscure town whose culture and identity is tied to its local ice-hockey team, its only ticket for recognition and validation. When a crucial incident occurs, it threatens to destroy everything the community has worked for – years of sacrifice and dedication, and brings age old loyalties, friendships and ethics into question. The atmospheric characteristics of this remote, freezing town form the backdrop for a really introspective narrative for all the characters in the story.

Though it is not meant to be a mystery, the story is quite unpredictable and has many compelling plot developments that keep you hooked and thinking about what decisions a character is going make. Backman writes with a lot of wisdom, developing extremely complex but relatable personalities for his characters, in a way that you understand the psyche of each one. There are no black or white / good or bad people, everyone has a perspective that they operate from. He captures and expresses some of the most common and obvious though unmindful behaviours that we all practice or observe in our lives but seldom take the time to deeply think about. This is a great piece of contemporary fiction that I would recommend everyone to read.

2. ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman

A story about a misfit, a socially awkward woman who finds a new lease to life when she opens up to an unlikely friendship. This book gave me a fuzzy, warm feeling in the nicest most un-cliched way. I am not one for mushy romances, and this is exactly not that kinda book. Even though it deals with themes of loneliness and depression, it does it with so much sensitivity, and a whole lot of wit, humour and heart. This is a book about emotions, relationships and the importance of being accepted for who you are. Its a wonderful,  meaningful, funny, easy to read and uplifting book that must be read sooner than later 🙂

3. LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng

I am not sure how I feel about this book anymore, even though I rated it 4/5 on GR. The story revolves around the themes of identity, belonging and rebellion, pitching the perfectly planned lives of native American residents into sharp contrast with the lives of Chinese-American immigrants, who struggle to make ends meet but fiercely protect what is theirs. When I think about it now, I am left with a sense of the story being dark and heavy.

Celeste Ng writes extremely well and I’ve been a fan since I read her first book Everything I Never Told You, which was brilliant, but I think with this one, I wasn’t able to form a connection with any of the characters. I also feel that the context was “too American” or “too suburban American” and somehow as more time has passed since having read it, its turned out to be less and less memorable. That said, it has been voted the most popular fiction in 2017 and has also got many rave reviews in America – but for me, it wasn’t better than the other two.

So those were my thoughts on the Best Fiction from 2017. I now look forward to getting on with the other categories. Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Best of 2017: Fiction


On the 2nd last day of 2017, I am much too excited about getting together my reading lists, plans and challenges for 2018, than about the fiction I read in 2017. The most frustrating bit about this whole reading business is not being able to read enough; I can never stop bombarding myself with book lists from Twitter, Feedly, the Guardian, Goodreads and what not – and there is always just too much to read but too little time and too slow a reading speed to do it with!

I guess this is probably the most bitter-sweet of all frustrations in the world and like Ann Patchett said,

Its always better to have too much to read than not enough

So I will try and hold back the ranting for a bit 😛 and celebrate the good stuff I was actually able to read in two-oh-one-seven!

Oscar Wilde

I embarrassingly admit that it was in 2017 that I finally discovered Oscar Wilde, and it was probably the best thing to have happened in all the good things that happened this year. And what fun it was to read all three plays aloud and dramatically – funny, witty, layered and oh that punchiness that comes with the refined language and dialogue! So artful, so satisfying.

The Importance of Being Earnest is the first one I read and it is my favourite, though An Ideal Husband and Lady Windermere’s Fan are super too. After having read the plays I craved for more and found a couple of film versions, which are apparently pretty popular. I watched these two – and I must say, I was NOT IMPRESSED – at all!.

Neither of these are even half as good as the written play. So, if you’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the plays, I would highly highly recommend you read the plays and enjoy how brilliant they really are!

Madhavi by Bhisham Sahni

madhabi_hbAnother brilliant play I read this year, in Hindi, was Madhavi. Written by renowned writer, playwright and actor Bhisham Sahni, Madhavi is the story of one woman’s sacrifices in the face of the duties that all the men in her life must fulfil.

The play is based on the story of Madhavi, King Yayati’s daughter from Mahabharata and brings out the notions of how male pride and honour often, if not always, supersede female sacrifices – that go unrecognised and unconsidered, obscure in the pride and vanity that each man feels – even though, without her, they could never have fulfilled their duties.

Read my full review on GoodReads.

Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

I really really enjoyed reading both these books by Liz Nugent and read them back to back. Unravelling Oliver was her first book (so brilliant!) and won the Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2014. It has also been translated into 7 languages. Lying in Wait is also pretty brilliant.

Both stories are based on a foundation of human depravity and auto-centric conniving characters. I like that every chapter is narrated by a character, moving the story forward, revealing differing perspectives and conclusions on the same event. This is especially interesting when one of the characters fails to understand the depths of another character’s deceit or duplicity.
Both stories begin with powerful hooks and after the first sentence, you can forget about doing anything else for the rest of the day. Isn’t that the best kind of thing ever! here are the opening lines of both these books:

‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ – Unravelling Oliver

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’ – Lying in Wait

The reveal is so gradual that the event itself becomes less important. It is the reasons that led to the event that become much more interesting. There is something satisfying about the author’s unrestrained depiction of her low-life characters. Just go get them!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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I closed the year with this sweet, warm, funny, touching, witty book. By the end of if, I just wanted to give Eleanor a few hugs and tell her, she really was completely fine 🙂

Another great debut – I don’t know how people are so good at writing their first book, but who’s complaining eh!

If you’re looking for a meaningful, funny, easy to read and uplifting book, then I highly recommend this one. I waited nearly 6 months to get a copy and when I finally did, it was absolutely worth it.

Read my full review here.

And that wraps up the Best of 2017: Fiction edition! I’ve really enjoyed thinking about all of these books again and I really hope you will give some of these a shot.

Officially looking on to 2018 now, and all the amazing, stunning, astounding, astonishing, awe-inspiring, stupendous, staggering, extraordinary and incredible books that I will get to read!

Happy New Year!!! And see you in 2018!!! 

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Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Eleanor Eleanor Eleanor, can I give you a hug and then a few more!

My reading luck seems to peak at the end of the year, every year, because the most enjoyable book somehow happens to be the last one I squeeze in before the year wraps up, usually after the obligatory reading target has been met.

I’d been waiting to get my hands on this book since July and when I finally did I was afraid of being left disappointed because of all the wanting and expectations I had built up over the months. Luckily though, I absolutely loved the book and Eleanor’s character and I loved the voice that the author created for her; she is so unusual and endearing. Also, the vocabulary in this book is enough to get you half way through your GRE preparations! But thats just Eleanor being Eleanor, you’ll see.

There were so many passages I highlighted and saved through the book. Some of them deadpan but hilarious, like this one where Eleanor talks about fast food,

I wondered why humans would willingly queue at a counter to request processed food, then carry it to a table which was not even set, and then eat it from the paper?

and others which were heart breaking but so well put, like the one where she describes ‘loneliness’

These days loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.

This is just a great debut novel and I’m gonna be watching out for Gail Honeyman’s next one. If you want to close the year on a meaningful, funny, easy to read and uplifting book, then I highly recommend this one.

View all my reviews