We’ve already discussed the Best Novels: Top 10 novels, and I’m sure you’ll love the list, you might even contradict the list, but as a bookworm, it was extensively difficult for me to rank those masterpieces one above the other, and equally difficult was selecting the ten novels. In this blog, we’ll be discussing the best books: the alternative list. The novels present in this alternative list are chosen after a great deal of deliberation, and I’m sure you’re gonna love each and every one of them.
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Best Books: The Alternative List
1) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
“Only the victims and survivors can truly comprehend the awfulness of that time and place; the rest of us live on the other side of the fence, staring through from our own comfortable place, trying in our own clumsy ways to make sense of it all.”
I’m sure you’ve read or heard about other books featuring the holocaust, like The Diary of a Young Girl and The Book Thief, but I’m sure this one master in making us cry through the hilarious and heartbreaking story of the 9-year young German protagonist, Bruno. The story is set during World War 2 in Berlin. Bruno’s father was promoted to the Commandant level and the family has to move to the biggest concentration camp in the world, Auschwitz. Bruno and his family had to leave Berlin, leaving behind his friends and grandparents. And his relations aren’t good with his 12-year sister Gretel.
Bruno wanders around the fence of the concentration camp, and he makes a Jewish friend on the other side of the fence, Shmuel. Shmuel is the boy in the striped pajamas. They develop a deep friendship, and Shmuel tells his story to Bruno, about how his family ended up in the concentration camp. Bruno and Shmuel meet regularly along the fence and with each visit, Shmuel (who was initially very thin) gets thinner and thinner. But how long would the holocaust bear their friendship?
2) Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
“Flames are not just the end, they are also the beginning. For everything you have destroyed can be rebuilt. From your own ashes, you can grow again.”
You’ve probably heard about authors doing wonders in their debut novels, Shuggie Bain, the debut novel of Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart is no different. Shuggie Bain also won the 2020 Bookers Prize.
Shuggie Bain is a heart-breaking story of the 5-year old protagonist, Shuggie. The story is set in the 1980s, in the post-industrial time in Glasgow, Scotland. Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, is a beautiful woman but a drunkard, and his father is not there for him. Agnes’s desire to live a glamourous life is unfulfilled, which eventually leads her to alcohol. And her condition worsens after her parents die and her daughter leaves her after getting married. Even though all these, Shuggie continues to devote himself to her, but for how long?
3) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
“Every man’s island, Jean Lousie, every man’s watchman, in his conscience.”
Well, it’s difficult to keep Harper Lee away from the best books list, isn’t it? And she truly deserves to be on it, even though she wrote only two novels, but both of them are legendary, with To kill a mockingbird being the ‘modern classic’, winning the Pulitzer Prize. Go Set a Watchman is the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird and believe me, it’s equally profound and hilarious as its prequel.
The novel is set two decades after the prequel. Jean Louise, the 26-year old protagonist returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York. The beloved Atticus Finch is an old man now, suffering from arthritis. There’s an ongoing controversy in their little community due to the establishment of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Supreme Court’s Brown V. Board of Education decision. Atticus, still a practicing lawyer takes up the case of Calpurina’s grandson, who killed a drunk man by speeding his car. However, he takes it just to keep the NAACP out of it. Jean Louise senses a change in her father’s behavior and conscience about the blacks and she is devastated by Calpurina’s behavior. Would she be able to bear her father, who once defended a black man, going against the whole community, but now questioning affirmative actions?
4) Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
“Freedom is for the educated people who fought for it. We were slaves of the English, now we will be the slaves of the educated Indians- or the Pakistanis.”
There are hundreds of stories about the bloody partition, like The Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, which we discussed in our previous list. This novel is equally legendary, narrating the story of the bloody partition in a hilarious manner, well, that’s what makes Kushwant Singh one of the greatest writers.
Train to Pakistan depicts the Partition of India in 1947 through the fictional village of Mano Majra, located near the borders. The village consists of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians, with all of them living in harmony. The novels depict the chaos and religious violence caused by the partition, with almost 10 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs moving to India from Pakistan and to Pakistan from India, and the sufferings of the refugees. With death and murders becoming ‘normal’ for them, and the running of the ‘ghost trains’ between the borders. Well, would the village still remain harmonious?
5) Animal Farm by George Orwell
“If she herself had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak.”
George Orwell, probably the best writer in the political genre, with his masterpiece 1984, which served as a powerful warning against the totalitarian regimes and extremist political ideologies, even considered the most influencing political novel. And Animal Farm is no different, conveying the story of gaining freedom, equality, and justice through revolution.
A group of animals, rebelling against the farmer to fulfill their aspirations of a just and equal ecosystem. The two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, leading and staging the revolt, with their principle of Animalism. Would the revolt be successful, or is there a traitor within them?
6) A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
“I’m done. I’m old, I’m sad- that’s on a good day. I want out of this mess. But I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away- I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.”
Of all the novels we’ve discussed in the list, this one’s like an odd one out. The novel isn’t about War, Holocaust, Political fiction. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a psychological fiction by Jennifer Egan. It also won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and is often considered the best fiction of the 2010s.
The novel isn’t really a novel, but a series of 13 short stories, with numerous characters, who all are somewhat interrelated with the protagonist Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his young and troubled assistant, Shasha. The characters are mostly self-destructive in nature, facing unusual and difficult conditions.
7) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”
The great Charles Dickens needs no introduction. Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’ second first-person novel after David Copperfield. Similar to his other famous works like A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield, Dickens hilariously describes the poverty and hardships of the people, and that’s what makes his novels legendary.
The novel portrays the story of the seven-year-old orphan protagonist Pip, living with his ill-tempered sister and her husband. Pip encounters an escaped prisoner, who forces him into stealing food and other items from his sister. As he grows old, he desires to be a gentleman and has ‘great expectations. But would the cruel world of Charles Dickens let him fulfill his great expectations?
8) Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
“History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.”
History is boring, isn’t it? But this book would completely change your perception. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind surveys through humankind history, from the stone age to the 21st Century. The book interlinks the biological sciences with social sciences.
The novel mainly portrays the story of Homo Sapiens, who had the ability to dominate the world and annihilated other human species like the Neanderthals. Harari states that due to their cooperative nature, they were able to achieve dominance. And their cooperative nature was rooted in their capability to believe in truly imaginary things such as god, money, and human rights.
9) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Death really did not matter to him but life did, and therefore the sensation he felt when they gave their decision was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was probably one of the most influential novelists, who amazed the whole world with magical realism, beautifully writing the most profound novels, and hilariously depicting the subjects of racism and poverty. And his most significant work of literature, One Hundred Years of Solitude is no different, selling over 50 million copies and translated into 46 languages, acclaimed widely all over the world.
One 100 Years of Solitude is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family living in the fictitious town of Macondo. The novel discusses the ups and downs in their life over the century and the protagonist tries to deal with the problems of their past. Through the fictitious town of Macondo, Marquez portrays the utopian view of the new United States, which is still a dream of many.
10) Bird Box by Josh Malerman
“It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.”
I guess one of the most loved genres was missing from our list. Thriller and Suspense. Well, we’ve got it for you. If you love reading novels that are full of twists, thrills, and suspense, then this is the perfect one for you. Bird Box is a post-apocalyptic thriller by the American author and singer Josh Malerman. It’s also adapted into a film on Netflix. But as we all know, reading the book is far better than watching its film adaptation.
The novels follow the story of a pregnant woman, who must save herself and her child from an unseen and unknown adversary which is devastatingly killing the people who see it, and the population is slowly being annihilated. In order to save herself and her child, she embarks on a dangerous journey to move away from this and start a new life, but how could she not see something that almost all the population came through?