25 acclaimed international writers choose 25 of the best books from the last 25 years

This is one of the 200 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri

    The novel centers around the life of an abiku, a spirit child, who resides in the bustling city of Lagos. Despite numerous attempts to return to the spiritual world, the boy is tethered to the physical realm through the love of his mother. As he navigates through the political unrest and poverty of post-colonial Nigeria, he experiences a series of surreal and mystical encounters, all while wrestling with the pull of the spirit world. The narrative is a blend of reality and the supernatural, providing a unique perspective on the struggles and complexities of human life.

  • Complete Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

    "Complete Poems" is a comprehensive collection of works by a renowned poet, showcasing her mastery of language and imagery. The book features a wide range of themes including travel, nature, loss, and human connection. The poet's keen eye for detail, unique perspectives, and her ability to infuse ordinary moments with profound insights, make this collection a compelling exploration of the human experience.

  • Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer

    "Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain" is a comprehensive account of the African diaspora in Britain from Roman times to the present day. The book explores the various contributions of Black people to the British society, culture, and economy, challenging the traditional narrative that Black presence in Britain began with the Windrush generation. The author delves into the struggles, achievements, and resilience of Black people in Britain, offering a nuanced and detailed historical perspective.

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

    Set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, this novel follows the life of a young African American girl and her family who are struggling to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. The family owns a piece of land which provides them some protection from the harsh realities of racial discrimination. The story is a poignant exploration of how they navigate through a prejudiced society, face social and economic challenges, and fight to keep their land.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    "The Savage Detectives" is a novel that follows the lives of two Latin American poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, who are founders of a literary movement called "visceral realism." The book is divided into three parts and is narrated by multiple characters, providing different perspectives on the protagonists. The narrative spans over 20 years, following the poets' journey from Mexico City to Europe, Israel, and Africa, as they search for a mysterious poetess and navigate through the world of literature, sex, drugs, and the complexities of life.

  • The Stories of Raymond Carver by Raymond Carver

    This collection of short stories presents a gritty and realistic view of American life, often focusing on characters struggling with poverty, alcoholism, and failed relationships. The author's minimalist style and use of everyday language create a stark and often bleak portrait of the human condition, while his ability to capture the profound in the mundane lends a sense of depth and complexity to his seemingly simple narratives.

  • North by Seamus Heaney

    "North" is a collection of poems that delve into the history and culture of Ireland, exploring themes of violence, conflict, and the struggle for identity. The poems draw on Irish mythology, archaeology, and the contemporary reality of the Troubles to create a powerful and evocative portrait of a nation in turmoil. The collection is notable for its deeply personal and introspective tone, as well as its rich, vivid imagery and masterful use of language.

  • A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

    The novel narrates the life of Mr. Biswas, a man of Indian descent living in Trinidad, who struggles against poverty and adversity to achieve personal independence and to build a home for himself and his family. Born into a poor family and married into an oppressive one, he constantly strives for autonomy and identity against the backdrop of post-colonial Trinidad. His dream of owning his own house becomes a symbol of his desire for self-determination and respect in a society that often denies him both.

  • Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

    "Birthday Letters" is a collection of 88 poetic works that serve as a deeply personal reflection on the author's tumultuous relationship with his late wife. The poems, written over a span of 25 years but not published until after her death, depict the intense passion, emotional struggles, and heartbreaking tragedy that marked their life together. Through his evocative storytelling, the author provides a raw and intimate glimpse into his own psyche and the profound impact their relationship had on his life.

  • Palace of the Peacock by Wilson Harris

    The novel follows a crew of men on a dangerous journey up the Amazon River to find a lost tribe. Led by a domineering, half-indigenous foreman, the crew grapples with the harsh realities of the jungle, their own pasts, and the blurred lines between dreams and reality. As they venture deeper into the wilderness, they are forced to confront their own mortality, the violent legacy of colonialism, and the spectral presence of a beautiful, mysterious woman who seems to embody the spirit of the Amazon itself.

  • River of Fire by Qurratulain Hyder

    "River of Fire" is an expansive novel that spans over 2,500 years of Indian history. The narrative unfolds through the intertwined lives of four characters who are reincarnated in different eras: a Buddhist monk in 400 B.C., a court poet in the Mughal Empire, a British colonial administrator, and a modern Indian intellectual. This literary masterpiece is a reflection on the cyclical nature of history, the continuity of life and the human spirit, and the eternal quest for freedom and identity, providing a panoramic view of the socio-political evolution of the Indian subcontinent.

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

    The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a man with a disturbing obsession for young girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. His obsession leads him to engage in a manipulative and destructive relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Lolita. The narrative is a controversial exploration of manipulation, obsession, and unreliable narration, as Humbert attempts to justify his actions and feelings throughout the story.

  • Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    This book is a seminal work in 20th-century philosophy, presenting a detailed critique of the notion that our language directly corresponds to reality. The author argues that the meaning of words is not inherent, but rather derives from their use within specific forms of life. The book also introduces the concept of language games, suggesting that our understanding of language is akin to learning the rules of a game. The author further explores the limits of language, the nature of understanding, and the relationship between public and private language.

  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  • Disgrace by J M Coetzee

    "Disgrace" is a novel that explores the life of a middle-aged professor in South Africa who is dismissed from his position after having an affair with a student. After losing his job, he moves to the countryside to live with his daughter, where they experience a violent attack that significantly alters their lives. The story delves into themes of post-apartheid South Africa, racial tension, sexual exploitation, and the struggle for personal redemption.

  • Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

    This memoir explores the life of a man who grew up in a multicultural family, with a Kenyan father and an American mother. The narrative delves into his early years in Hawaii and Indonesia, his self-discovery and racial awakening in Chicago, and his journey to Kenya to learn more about his father's heritage. The book provides an introspective look at the author's struggle with his racial identity, his relationship with his family, and his path to finding his place in the world.

  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

    "The English Patient" is a story of four diverse individuals brought together at an Italian villa during the final days of World War II. The narrative revolves around a severely burned man who can't remember his name or past, a young Canadian nurse who tends to him, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief. As they navigate their own traumas and losses, the past of the mysterious patient slowly unravels, revealing a tale of love, identity, and betrayal.

  • Collected Poems by Allen Ginsberg

    "Collected Poems" is a compilation of works by a renowned poet that spans over several decades, capturing the essence of his thoughts, emotions, and observations of society. It explores a wide range of themes such as love, war, spirituality, and social issues, reflecting the poet's unique voice and perspective. The collection is a testament to the poet's literary prowess and his significant contribution to the Beat Generation and counterculture movement.

  • Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

    "Anil's Ghost" is a gripping tale of a forensic anthropologist who returns to her native Sri Lanka in the midst of its civil war. She partners with local archaeologist, Sarath, to investigate a skeleton discovered in an ancient burial site, which they believe might be a victim of the war. The narrative explores the horrors of war, the quest for truth, and the struggle for personal and national identity in a land where the past and present are inextricably intertwined.

  • Sula by Toni Morrison

    The novel is a poignant tale of two African American girls, Nel and Sula, growing up in the racially segregated town of Medallion, Ohio. The narrative explores their friendship, personal struggles, and the societal expectations imposed on them. Sula, the more rebellious of the two, leaves town to live a life of freedom and independence, while Nel chooses to conform to societal norms, marrying and raising a family. When Sula returns, their friendship is tested due to a betrayal, and the town labels Sula as evil. The book delves into themes of friendship, betrayal, individuality, and the societal roles of women.

  • The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhi-Sui

    This book is a memoir written by a personal physician who served Chairman Mao for over two decades. It offers an unprecedented and intimate look into the life and character of the powerful Chinese leader. The book reveals Mao's personal habits, manipulative nature, political maneuvers, and his disregard for human life in the pursuit of his goals. It also uncovers the power struggles within the Chinese Communist Party, providing a unique perspective on China's political history.

  • Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

    The novel follows two Indian actors who miraculously survive a plane explosion, and as a result, find themselves embodying good and evil. As they navigate their new identities, the story also delves into the life of a prophet and his creation of a new religion in a city of sand. The narrative is a blend of fantasy and reality, exploring themes of identity, religion, and the immigrant experience, while also providing a controversial interpretation of Islamic faith and the life of Prophet Muhammad.

About this list

Wasafiri Magazine, 23 Books

The 25 books were chosen by 25 respected names in international writing, many of whom have contributed over the years to Wasafiri magazine, including Indra Sinha, Blake Morrison and Fred D’Aguiar.

Note: I don't think the voters understood "the last 25 years" bit. There are many books that are much much older.

Added about 7 years ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 54%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • Limited to 25 or less years

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