Third World Novels… The Top 10

This is one of the 305 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • God's Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène

    This novel tells the story of a railway strike on the Dakar-Niger line that lasted from 1947 to 1948. The workers endure low wages and dangerous conditions, while their French bosses live comfortably. The strike is initially led by men, but as it drags on and hardship intensifies, the women of the community play an increasingly vital role, culminating in a triumphant march where they demand equal rights and recognition. The book explores themes of colonialism, gender roles, and the struggle for equality.

    The 989th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    This novel explores the life of Okonkwo, a respected warrior in the Umuofia clan of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria during the late 1800s. Okonkwo's world is disrupted by the arrival of European missionaries and the subsequent clash of cultures. The story examines the effects of colonialism on African societies, the clash between tradition and change, and the struggle between individual and society. Despite his efforts to resist the changes, Okonkwo's life, like his society, falls apart.

    The 50th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Petals of blood by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

    This novel tells the story of four characters living in post-colonial Kenya, who are arrested for the murder of three prominent figures in their village. As the narrative unfolds, it explores their personal histories and how they are intertwined with the political, social, and economic transformations of the nation. The book is a critique of the corruption and inequality that emerged in Kenya after the end of colonial rule, and a call for a return to communal values and practices.

    The 2205th Greatest Book of All Time
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

    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 Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 39th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

    "Woman at Point Zero" is a powerful novel about a woman named Firdaus who, after a life filled with hardships and abuse, finds herself on death row in an Egyptian prison. The narrative explores her life story, from her childhood of poverty and genital mutilation to her experiences with domestic violence, prostitution, and finally murder. Through her journey, the book offers a profound critique of patriarchal society and the systemic oppression of women.

    The 709th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Wine of Astonishment by Earl Lovelace

    "The Wine of Astonishment" is a gripping narrative that explores the struggle of a small, rural community in Trinidad during the early 20th century, as they grapple with the effects of colonialism, World War II, and the prohibition of their spiritual practice, the Shouter Baptist faith. The story is told through the eyes of Eva, a strong-willed matriarch, and her husband, Bee, the spiritual leader of the community. The novel examines themes of resilience, faith, and the fight for cultural and religious freedom.

    The 6896th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta by Mario Vargas Llosa

    This novel revolves around a failed Peruvian revolution and the man who attempted to lead it, Alejandro Mayta. The story is told from the perspective of a novelist who is researching Mayta's life and the events surrounding the failed uprising. The narrative oscillates between the present and the past, unraveling the complex threads of Mayta's personal history, political beliefs, and the broader socio-political context of Peru. The novel explores themes of truth, fiction, and the blurry lines between them.

    The 4036th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 204th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

    Set against the backdrop of a South American country under a military dictatorship, this novel follows the story of a woman journalist and her lover, a photographer, who, while working together, uncover a hidden mass grave in a remote part of their country. Their discovery leads them into danger as they try to expose the truth about the brutal regime ruling their country, while also dealing with their own personal issues and their growing love for each other. The story is a blend of romance and political drama, showing the power of love and courage in the face of oppression and fear.

    The 2203rd Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

New Internationalist, 10 Books

There are many gifted Third World writers who can
help you transcend barriers of language and tradition
but you might find it difficult to know where to start. As a guide,
the NI has chosen its ten best novels - the ones which are both
enjoyable to read and give a vivid impression of life in developing
countries. They are not listed in any significant order.

Added over 7 years ago.

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