The Straits Times' favourite books of 2018

The Straits Times picks 10 favourites from the books it reviewed in 2018.

SINGAPORE - Many of this year's best novels gave voice to women through the ages from ancient Greek myth to the Irish Troubles of the late 20th century.

Some books dipped into history - from the aftermath of World War II to a 1986 library fire - while others journeyed through time into dystopia.

The Straits Times picks 10 favourites from the books it reviewed in 2018.

1. Winter by Ali Smith

As the Brexit deadline creeps ever closer, take solace in the luminous second novel of Smith's seasonal quartet about a Britain in crisis. A woman haunted by a disembodied child's head, sits down for Christmas with her estranged sister, her apathetic son and a homeless immigrant he picked up at the bus stop.

2. Circe by Madeline Miller

This brilliant retelling of Greek myth focuses on Circe, the first witch in Western literature. A minor character exiled to an island in Homer's epic Odyssey, she unfolds here from colourless daughter to full-blown "nasty woman".

3. Ponti by Sharlene Teo

In hazy 2003 Singapore, 16-year-old Szu is an outcast in a convent school as her unbearably beautiful and distant mother Amisa, once briefly famous for starring in a cult horror film series about a pontianak, wastes away. This dreamy, disquieting debut looks at female friendship and the link between womanhood and monstrosity.

4. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

In the Golden Man Booker prize winner's latest elegant, shadowy novel, 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister are left behind by their parents in post-World War II London, in the care of a group of mysterious maybe-criminals. Years later, an adult Nathaniel tries to piece together his mother's covert career as a war spy and reconcile himself with her sins.

5. An Ocean Of Minutes by Thea Lim

This remarkable debut, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a prestigious Canadian literary award, links themes of dystopia and immigration to a compelling love story. A young woman in Texas volunteers to time-travel 12 years into the future to save her boyfriend from a viral pandemic, but cannot find him when she arrives.

6. The Silence Of The Girls by Pat Barker

This brutal, unflinching novel retells the Trojan War through the eyes of the women whom the Greek army took as sex slaves. Through Briseis, the young queen reduced to the "bed-girl" of the warrior Achilles, Barker gives voice to a group of women that have been silenced for centuries.

7. My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

In this caustic, blackly comic novel, a privileged young woman retreats into a drug-induced haze in her Manhattan apartment, numbing her senses with television, antidepressants and blackout-inducing pills even as the world around her changes, culminating in the Sept 11 attacks.

8. Milkman by Anna Burns

Burns' Man Booker Prize-winning novel is in a way like the Disney movie Beauty And The Beast - both have a heroine who likes to read while walking and is therefore a social outcast - but instead of a fairy-tale ending, creepy men just follow the protagonist around endlessly.

The experimental novel depicts an unnamed 18-year-old's experiences during the Irish Troubles, as she is sexually harassed by a senior paramilitary figure.

9. The Long Take by Robin Robertson

A dazzling, desolate neo-noir odyssey, this was the first novel in verse to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. Its narrator Walker, a World War II veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, wanders the mean streets of America's changing, failing cities.

10. The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Journalist Orlean turns an investigation into the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire into an exceptional love letter to libraries and reading, as she delves into the colourful history of the library, tracks down the family of the alleged arsonist, and even tries setting a book on fire herself.