The best literary fiction books to read right now

Here we share the most exciting new literary fiction and the best literary fiction of all time. 

2023 was a remarkable year for literature and 2024 looks equally unlikely to disappoint. Here, we round up some of the most exciting new literary fiction of 2024, reflect on the best literary books of 2023, and recommend some of the best literary fiction of all time. 

For even more inspiration, don't miss our edit of the best fiction books. 

Long Island

by Colm Tóibín

Book cover for Long Island

One of the most anticipated titles of the year, Long Island is the sequel to Colm Tóibín’s beloved novel, Brooklyn. The now-married Eilis Fiorello, Tony and their two children live a safe, albeit staid, life on Long Island until a man arrives at their doorstep and everything Eilis knows is brought crashing down around her. Forced to confront the reality of her life and marriage, Eilis is drawn back to her native Ireland and the people she left behind decades ago. A powerful meditation on the nature of home, family and memory, Long Island is a masterpiece whether you have already read Brooklyn, or not. 


by Percival Everett

Book cover for James

After escaping his slave owner’s plantation on The Mississippi River in 1861, James holes up on nearby Jackson Island, trying to formulate a plan to ensure his and his family’s freedom. Meeting Huck, a man running from his own troubled past, the pair start a treacherous journey up the river in the hope of salvation. A masterful retelling of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that brings Jim’s story into the spotlight for the first time, Percival Everett’s James is one of 2024’s must-read novels. 

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The Burial Plot

by Elizabeth Macneal

Book cover for The Burial Plot

When Bonnie, a young woman trying to make her way in Victorian London meets Crawford, a wily trickster with a mysterious past, she instantly falls under his spell. As they swindle the city’s well-healed to make ends meet, Bonnie finds herself in hot water and Crawford promises to make it all go away. Sent to work for a peculiar family in a house full of the ghosts of their past, Bonnie realises that maybe she’s the one who’s been tricked all along. A chilling gothic thriller, The Burial Plot is the newest novel from the bestselling author of The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal. 

The Amendments

by Niamh Mulvey

Book cover for The Amendments

For Nell and Adrienne, the prospect of becoming parents is bittersweet. Adrienne is excited about the start of their new life, whereas, for Nell, their impending parenthood takes her back to a past she has long tried to bury, to finally confront her fractured relationship with her mother. A story of love, freedom, belonging and rebellion told through the stories of three generations of women from the same Irish family, The Amendments is a novel you won’t want to put down. 

My Beloved Life

by Amitava Kumar

Book cover for My Beloved Life

With his mother bitten by a cobra as she prepared to give birth to him in India, Jadunath Kunwar’s life was remarkable and full of challenges before he was even born. In My Beloved Life Amitava Kumar tells the story of Jadunath’s life, from his birth in 1935 to his death during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Poetically told through Kunwar and his daughter Jugnu’s experiences, My Beloved Life is a poetically written meditation of the life of one ordinary man living in a country in the midst of unprecedented change. 

This profound book is full of lives whose beauty lies in the wholeness of their telling.
Salman Rushdie on My Beloved Life

Whale Fall

by Elizabeth O'Connor

Book cover for Whale Fall

Growing up on an idyllic, albeit dull island off the coast of Wales in the 1930s, Manod dreams of a future full of colour and life but with war looming, her hopes of following her dreams seem too far off to fathom. That is, until the arrival of two anthropologists from the mainland arrive to study the island's secluded community, and Manod sees an opportunity to get off the island and discover the world for herself. As she entangles herself in their complicated relationship, will she get the future she's so desperate for? 


by Nathan Hill

Book cover for Wellness

When Jack and Elizabeth meet as college students in the 90s, the two quickly join forces and hold on tight, but fast-forward twenty years to married life, and the no-longer-youthful dreamers are forced to face their demons. Moving from the gritty 90s Chicago art scene to a suburbia of detox diets and home renovation hysteria, Wellness is a powerfully affecting novel about how we change, grow and age. It is a story of a marriage, middle age, our tech-obsessed health culture, and the bonds that keep people together. 

American storytelling at its era-spanning best . . . An immersive, multi-layered portrait of a marriage, Nathan Hill’s follow-up to The Nix is a work of quiet genius.
The Observer

How I Won A Nobel Prize

by Julius Taranto

Book cover for How I Won A Nobel Prize

Helen, a graduate student on a quest to save the planet, is one of the best minds of her generation. But when her irreplaceable advisor’s student sex scandal is exposed, she must choose whether to give up on her work or accompany him to RIP, a research institute which grants safe harbour to the disgraced. As Helen settles into life at the institute alongside her partner Hew, she develops a crush on an older novelist, while he is drawn to an increasingly violent protest movement. Julius Taranto’s wickedly satirical and refreshingly irreverent debut , examines the price we are willing to pay for progress and what it means to be a good person.

Where There Was Fire

by John Manuel Arias

Book cover for Where There Was Fire

Set in Costa Rica, 1968, John Manuel Arias’s debut novel  explores the aftermath of a devastating plantation fire that veils a huge scandal and alters Teresa Cepeda Valverde’s family forever. Twenty-seven years later, Teresa and her estranged daughter Lyra are still grappling with the past. Lyra is determined to uncover that night's events, while Teresa is haunted by her lost husband and a resentful spirit. This powerful tale unfolds a mother-daughter journey toward understanding and forgiveness, amid a family mystery rooted in love, betrayal, and greed.


by Kaveh Akbar

Book cover for Martyr!

Cyrus Shams has been grappling with his mother's death ever since her plane was shot down when he was just a baby. Now, newly sober, he embarks on a journey to uncover her true identity and the mysteries attached to her life, triggered by an encounter with a dying artist. As Cyrus pieces together clippings from his mother's life, he is faced with a shocking revelation that shatters his beliefs. Electrifying, funny, wholly original, and profound, Martyr! heralds the arrival of a blazing and essential new voice in contemporary fiction.

The World and All That It Holds

by Aleksandar Hemon

Book cover for The World and All That It Holds

Rafael Pinto spends his days crushing herbs and tablets at the pharmacy he inherited from his father. While it's a far cry from his poetry-filled student days in Vienna, life feels peaceful. That is until a June day in 1914 when the world explodes and soon, finding himself in the trenches of Galicia, Pinto's fantasies fall flat. As war devours, all he has left is the attention of Osman, a fellow soldier who complements Pinto's introspective, poetic soul. Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches and find themselves entangled with spies and Bolsheviks. In this story of love and war, it is Pinto's love for Osman that will truly survive. 

Alexsandar Hemon's new novel is immense. ... It contains almost as much as its title promises. By turns lyrical and sardonic, it is as emotionally compelling as it is clever. I'll be surprised if I enjoy a novel more this year.

What You Need From The Night

by Laurent Petitmangin

Book cover for What You Need From The Night

How can a father and son find common ground when everything seems set to break them apart? A father, forced by tragedy to raise his sons alone, releases they are taking two different paths. One plans for university in Paris. The other joins a far-right group. Initially seeking camaraderie, their activities lead him to a violent confrontation. Tense, sharp and ultimately heartbreaking, Laurent Petitmangin's first novel, What You Need From The Night, asks what acts can truly be forgiven.

Now I Am Here

by Chidi Ebere

Book cover for Now I Am Here

About to make his last stand, a soldier facing certain death at the hands of the enemy writes home to explain how he ended up there, a gentle man gradually transformed into a war criminal, committing acts he wouldn’t have thought himself capable. A profound reflection on how good people can do terrible things, this is a brave, unflinching and thought-provoking debut. 


by James Hynes

Book cover for Sparrow

This vivid story set at the end of the Roman Empire, follows Sparrow – a boy of no known origin living in a brothel. He spends his days listening to stories told by his beloved ‘mother’ Euterpe, running errands for her lover the cook, and dodging the blows of their brutal overseer. But a hard fate awaits him – one that involves suffering, murder and mayhem. To cope he will create his own identity – Sparrow – who sings without reason and can fly from trouble. This is a book with one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction, brought to life through James Hynes' meticulous research and bold imagination. 

Utterly engrossing, vivid, and honest, this coming of age story reaches across millennia to grab us by the throat.
Emma Donoghue on Sparrow


by Sarah May

Book cover for Becky

Vanity Fair meets Succession as Becky Sharp works her way up the journalistic greasy pole in nineties tabloid-era London. Scoop after scoop, Becky's downfall looms as she becomes more and more involved in every scandal her newspaper publishes and cares less and less about the lives she ruins in the process. A sharply intelligent and funny interrogation of how far society has really come since Thackeray's nineteenth-century Becky Sharp, just like the stories broken by The Mercury, everyone will be talking about Becky.

Not Alone

by Sarah K Jackson

Book cover for Not Alone

Five years ago, a toxic microplastics storm killed most of the population. Now Katie, a young mother, must forage and hunt for meat as she attempts to feed her little boy, Harry. At a time when stepping outside could kill you, Harry is kept indoors at all costs. Then, after years without human contact, Katie and Harry are terrified by the unwelcome arrival of another survivor. Katie realises she must undertake a previously unthinkable journey in search of a new life for her son. Perfect for fans of Room, Station Eleven and dystopian fiction in general, this gripping novel explores just how far a mother will go to save her child. 

An Honourable Exit

by Eric Vuillard

Book cover for An Honourable Exit

From the International Booker Prize shortlisted author comes a searing account of a conflict that dealt a fatal blow to French colonialism. 19 October 1950. The war is not going to plan. In Paris, politicians gather to discuss what to do about Indochina. In this gripping and shocking novel, Éric Vuillard exposes the tangled web of politicians, bankers and titans of industry who all had a vested interest in France’s prolonged presence in lands far from Paris. At just 192 pages, what this book lacks in length, it certainly doesn't lack in drama - short, sharp and brutal, An Honourable Exit is a journey behind closed doors to witness how history is really made.


by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2023

This literary puzzle about money, power, and intimacy challenges the myths shrouding wealth, and the fictions that often pass for history. Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth — all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune?

Everything's Fine

by Cecilia Rabess

Book cover for Everything's Fine

When Jess first meets Josh at their Ivy League college she dislikes him immediately: an entitled guy in chinos, ready to take over the world, unable to accept that life might be easier for him because he's white, while Jess is almost always the only Black woman in their class. But as a tempestuous friendship turns into an electrifying romance that shocks them both, Jess begins to question who she is and what she’s really willing to compromise. Can people really ever just agree to disagree? And more to the point, should they? This hugely funny and deeply moving love story offers no easy answers.

Western Lane

by Chetna Maroo

Book cover for Western Lane

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023

Exploring themes of grief and sisterhood, this debut coming-of-age story packs a lot of emotion into just 176 pages. Eleven-year-old Gopi has been playing squash for as long as she can remember. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a brutal training regimen. Soon, the game has become her entire world, causing a rift between Gopi and her sisters. But on the court, governed by the rhythms of the sport, she feels alive. This novel beautifully captures the ordinary and annihilates it with beauty as we follow a young athlete's struggle to transcend herself. 

Young Mungo

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Young Mungo

Mungo is a Protestant and James is a Catholic, both inhabiting the hyper-masculine world of two Glasgow housing estates, split violently along sectarian lines. The two should be enemies but, finding sanctuary in the doocot James has created for his racing pigeons, they grow closer and closer. Dreaming of escape and under constant threat of discovery, Mungo and James attempt to navigate a dangerous and uncertain future together.

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Five Tuesdays in Winter

by Lily King

Book cover for Five Tuesdays in Winter

With Writers & Lovers, Lily King became one of our most acclaimed writers of contemporary fiction. And now, with Five Tuesdays in Winter, she gathers ten of her best short stories. These intimate literary stories tell of a bookseller who is filled with unspoken love for his employee, an abandoned teenage boy nurtured by a pair of housesitting students and a girl whose loss of innocence brings confident power. Romantic, hopeful, raw and occasionally surreal, these stories riff beautifully on the topic of love and romance.

Roman Stories

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Book cover for Roman Stories

Inspired by the city she’s lived in for the past two decades, Jhumpa Lahiri's new work of fiction turns her gaze towards those who call Rome home. Weaving each character’s story around a set of steps they encounter daily, and examining how the city is constantly evolving and changing, Lahiri masterfully  illuminates the joys and tragedies of daily life. From a man mourning the person he once was to a couple coming to terms with loss and a family trying to make a new city home, the rich characters she has created will stay with you long after you finish reading. 


by Ashleigh Nugent

Book cover for Locks

Aeon is a mixed-up and mixed-race teenager from a leafy Liverpool suburb, trying to understand the Black identity foisted upon him by his friends and his community. To his growing shame, the only Black people in his life are his dad and his cousin, who he's decided don't count. Desperate to find his Black roots he travels to Jamaica. Mugged, stabbed and arrested, he's beaten unconscious in a detention centre for being the 'White Boy'. And then things really start to go wrong. 

Stone Blind

by Natalie Haynes

Book cover for Stone Blind

As the sole mortal in a family of gods, Medusa begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt, and the only one who lives with an urgency that her family will never know. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest. At last, Medusa's story is told.

Open Throat

by Henry Hoke

Book cover for Open Throat

A queer mountain lion lives in the drought-devastated land under the Hollywood sign. The lion spends their days protecting a nearby homeless encampment, observing hikers complain about their trauma and grappling with the complexities of their own identity. When a man-made fire engulfs the encampment, the lion is forced from the hills down into the city. As they confront a carousel of temptations and threats, the lion takes us on a tour that spans the cruel inequalities of Los Angeles. Feral and vulnerable, profound and playful, Open Throat is a marvel of storytelling that brings the mythic to life.

A Time Outside This Time

by Amitava Kumar

Book cover for A Time Outside This Time

A writer called Satya visits a high-profile artists' retreat, and soon finds that the pressures of modern life are hard to shed: the US president pours out vitriol, a virus threatens the world, and the relentless news cycle only makes things worse. Satya realises these pressures can inspire him to write, and he begins to channel presidential tweets, memories from an Indian childhood, and his own experiences as an immigrant into his new novel. A fascinating exploration of memory in a post-truth world, Amitava Kumar's A Time Outside This Time is a beautiful and necessary novel.

Maps of our Spectacular Bodies

by Maddie Mortimer

Book cover for Maps of our Spectacular Bodies

Something is moving in Lia's body, learning her life with gleeful malevolence and spreading through the rungs of her larynx, the bones of her trachea. When a shock diagnosis forever changes Lia's world, boundaries in her life begin to break down as buried secrets emerge. A voice prowling inside of her takes hold of her story, merging the landscape within her body with the one outside. A coming-of-age at the end of life, Maddie Mortimer's compelling debut novel is both heart-breaking and darkly funny, combining wild lyricism with celebrations of the desire, forgiveness and darkness in our bodies. 

Compelling and uplifting . . . undeniably impressive: Mortimer is clearly a talent to watch
The Telegraph on Maps of our Spectacular Bodies

Other Women

by Emma Flint

Book cover for Other Women

Based on a real case from the 1920s, Other Women tells the story of Beatrice, one of the thousands of nameless and invisible unmarried women trying to make lives for themselves after the First World War, and Kate, the wife of the man Beatrice has fallen in love with. When fantasy and obsession turns to murder, two women who should never have met are connected forever.

To Paradise

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for To Paradise

This amazing new novel from the author of A Little Life begins in the nineteenth century, and spans stories of love, family, loss and promised utopia over the following three centuries. In 1893, New York is part of the Free States, and a gentle young member of a privileged family falls for a charismatic and impoverished music teacher. In 1993 Manhattan is being swept by the AIDS epidemic, and a young Hawaiian man with a wealthy older partner must hide his difficult family background. And in 2093 in a world where plague and totalitarian rule is rife, a young woman tries to solve the mystery of her husband's disappearances. 


by Julia May Jonas

Book cover for Vladimir

The narrator of this provocative and utterly readable novel is a much loved English professor, who finds that her charismatic professor husband is facing a flood of accusations from former students. The couple have long had an understanding about taking lovers, but suddenly life has acquired an uncomfortable edge. And things get even more twisted when the narrator finds herself in the grip of an obsession with Vladimir, a young and feted married novelist who is new to the campus. This explosive, edgy debut traces the tangled contradictions of power and lust.

Sea Change

by Gina Chung

Book cover for Sea Change

Stuck in a rut, Ro faces the challenges of her thirties: a strained relationship with her mother and a boyfriend who left for a Mars mission. Her days are mundane at the aquarium, and her nights involve consuming sharktinis. With her best friend drifting away and Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus, as her sole connection to her vanished marine biologist father, Ro's world unravels when Dolores is sold to a wealthy investor. On the verge of self-destruction, Ro must confront her past, rediscover her purpose, and embrace the evolving world to heal her childhood scars and rebuild her life.


by André Dao

Book cover for Anam

Anam takes us on a poignant journey from 1930s Hanoi to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne, and Cambridge, exploring memory, inheritance, colonialism, and belonging. The narrator, born into a Vietnamese family in Melbourne, grapples with his grandfather's haunting tale of imprisonment in Chi Hoa prison under the Communist government. Straddling his Australian upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, he faces the impact of his grandfather's death and the birth of his daughter on his own life's trajectory. André Dao artfully weaves fiction and essay, theory and personal experience, revealing forgotten aspects of history and family archives. 

Learned by Heart

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for Learned by Heart

In 1805, at a boarding school in York, two fourteen-year-old girls cross paths. Eliza Raine, an orphan with an Indian heritage, feels isolated due to her differences. Anne Lister, a rebellious spirit, defies societal norms for women. Their love story blossoms, creating a profound bond that transcends time and shapes their lives forever. Learned By Heart is the heartbreaking story of the love of two women – Anne Lister, the real-life inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, and her first love, Eliza Raine – from the bestselling author of Room and The Wonder.

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Briefly, A Delicious Life

by Nell Stevens

Book cover for Briefly, A Delicious Life

It's 1838, and Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her children are en route to a Mallorcan monastery. They are in recovery from life in Paris, seeking a more simple existence. The unexpected witness of their new life is Blanca, a ghost who has been at the monastery for more than three hundred years, her young life having been cut short. And when George Sand arrives, a lovely woman in a man's clothes, Blanca is in love. Meanwhile, the village is looking suspiciously at the new arrivals, as a difficult winter closes in . . . 


by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Devotion

It's 1836 in Prussia, and teenage Hanne is finding the domestic world of womanhood increasingly oppressive. She longs to be out in nature, and finds little companionship with the local girls. Until, that is, she meets kindred spirit Thea. Hanne is from a family of Old Lutherans, whose worship is suppressed and secret. Safe passage to Australia offers liberty from these restrictions. But a long and harsh journey lies ahead, one which will put the girls' close bond to a terrible test.

The House of Fortune

by Jessie Burton

Book cover for The House of Fortune

A glorious, sweeping story of fate and ambition, The House of Fortune is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s bestseller The Miniaturist. Amsterdam, 1705. Thea Brandt is about to turn eighteen and she can't wait to become an adult. Walter, her true love, awaits Thea at the city's theatre. But at home on the Herengracht things are tense. Her father Otto and Aunt Nella bicker incessantly and are selling furniture so the family can eat. And, on her birthday, the day her mother Marin died, secrets from Thea's past threaten to eclipse the present. Nella is feeling a prickling sensation in her neck, which recalls the miniaturist who toyed with her life eighteen years ago.

Very Cold People

by Sarah Manguso

Book cover for Very Cold People

Growing up on the edge of a wealthy but culturally threadbare New England town, Ruth goes under the radar. Nobody pays her attention, but she watches everything – recording with precision the painful unfurling of her youth and enduring difficult and damaging parenting from the mocking, undermining adults in her life. But as the adults of the book fail to grow up, Ruth gracefully arcs towards maturity in a story that grapples with many of life's ugly truths. 

Concerning My Daughter

by Kim Hye-jin

Book cover for Concerning My Daughter

A mother lets her thirty-something daughter – Green – move into her apartment, with dreams that she will find a good job and a good husband to start a family with. But Green arrives with her girlfriend Lane, and her mother finds it hard to be civil. She is similarly unaccepting of her daughter's entanglement in a case of unfair dismissal from her university employers, involving gay colleagues. Yet Green's mother finds that she has her own moral battle to fight, defending the right to care of a dementia patient who has chosen an unconventional life and has no family. Translated from Korean by Jamie Chang, this is a universal tale about ageing, prejudice and love.

An admirably nuanced portrait of prejudice . . . one that boldly takes on the daunting task of humanizing someone whose prejudice has made her cruel.
The New York Times on Concerning My Daughter

The Passenger

by Cormac McCarthy

Book cover for The Passenger

A sunken jet. Nine passengers. A missing body. The Passenger is the story of a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God. The first of two novels published in 2022 by literary great Cormac McCarthy, The Passenger is followed by Stella Maris  – both are too good to be missed. 

The Women Could Fly

by Megan Giddings

Book cover for The Women Could Fly

The Women Could Fly is a speculative feminist novel for our times, set in a time where magic is reality, and single women are monitored in case they turn out to be witches. Josephine Thomas has heard a plethora of theories about her mother's death: that she was abducted, murdered and that she was a witch. This is a concerning accusation, because women who act strangely – especially Black women – can soon find themselves being tried for witchcraft. Facing the prospect of a State-mandated marriage, Jo decides to honour one last request written in her mother's will.

The Exhibitionist

by Charlotte Mendelson

Book cover for The Exhibitionist

Meet the Hanrahan family, gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for a new exhibition of his art – the first in many decades – and one he is sure will burnish his reputation for good. His three children will be there: beautiful Leah, sensitive Patrick, and insecure Jess, the youngest, who has a momentous decision to make..And what of Lucia, Ray’s steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist, too, but has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. But Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice. 

It takes the most ferocious intelligence, skill and a deep reservoir of sadness to write a novel as funny as this. I adored it.
Meg Mason on The Exhibitionist

The Dance Tree

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.


by Elaine Hsieh Chou

Book cover for Disorientation

This raucous and heartwarming satire asks – who gets to tell our stories? And can we change the narrative if we get to write it ourselves?  PhD student Ingrid Yang can't wait to finish her dissertation on major poet Xiao-Wen Chou so she never has to read about ‘Chinese-y’ things again. Then she finds an enigmatic note in the Chou archive, which leads to an explosive discovery and a roller coaster of misadventures. Ingrid's gentle fiancé doesn't look quite the same in the aftermath, as she confronts her troubled relationship with white men and their institutions and, more importantly, herself . . .

Sea of Tranquillity

by Emily St. John Mandel

Book cover for Sea of Tranquillity

It's 1912, and eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew is on a journey across the Atlantic, having been exiled from society in England. Arriving in British Columbia, he enters a forest, mesmerised by the Canadian wilderness. All is silent, before the notes of a violin reverberate through the air. Two centuries later, and acclaimed author Olive Llewelyn is travelling over the earth, on a break from her home in the second moon colony. At the heart of her bestselling novel, a man plays a violin for spare change in the corridor of an airship terminal, as a forest rises around him. This compelling novel immerses the reader in parallel worlds, and multiple possibilities.

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Our Wives Under The Sea

by Julia Armfield

Book cover for Our Wives Under The Sea

Leah is back from a perilous and troubling deep sea mission, and Miri is delighted to have her wife home. But Leah has carried the undersea trauma into the couple's domestic life, and it is causing a rupture in their relationship. The debut novel from the author of acclaimed short story collection salt slow, Our Wives Under The Sea is a rich meditation on love, loss and the mysteries of the ocean.

White Noise

by Don DeLillo

Book cover for White Noise

Possibly DeLillo’s funniest book, White Noise introduced his work to a wider audience than ever before and established his reputation as a master of postmodern fiction. Jack Gladney is the creator and chairman of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. The novel is a story about his absurd life; a life that is going well enough, until a chemical spill from a rail car releases an 'Airborne Toxic Event' and Jack is forced to confront his biggest fear – his own mortality. DeLillo's bestselling story effortlessly combines social satire and metaphysical dilemma, exposing our rampant consumerism, media saturation and novelty intellectualism.

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart’s blistering, Booker Prize-winning debut is a heartbreaking story that lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things. But when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help her long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. Shuggie is different and he is picked on by the local children and condemned by adults as 'no’ right’. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can be like other boys and escape this hopeless place.

Blood Meridian

by Cormac McCarthy

Book cover for Blood Meridian

Written in 1985, Blood Meridian is set in the anarchic world opened up by America’s westward expansion. Through the hostile landscape of the Texas–Mexico border wanders the Kid, a fourteen year-old Tennessean who is quickly swept up in the relentless tide of blood. But the apparent chaos is not without its order: while Americans hunt Indians – collecting scalps as their bloody trophies – they too are stalked as prey. Powerful, mesmerizing and savagely beautiful, Blood Meridian is considered one of the most important works in American fiction of the last century.

The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst

Book cover for The Line of Beauty

The Line of Beauty is Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning masterpiece. In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the wealthy Feddens: Gerald, an ambitious Tory MP, his wife Rachel and their children Toby and Catherine. Innocent of politics and money, Nick is swept up into the Feddens’ world and an era of endless possibility, all the while pursuing his own private obsession with beauty. This is a novel that defines a decade, exploring with peerless style a young man's collision with his own desires, and with a world he can never truly belong to. 

Middle Passage

by Charles Johnson

Book cover for Middle Passage

Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and a woman who seeks to marry him. When the heat from his pursuers overwhelms him, he cons his way onto the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, he discovers that he is on an illegal slave ship, looking to capture members of the legendary Allmuseri tribe. The Captain also has a secondary objective: securing a mysterious cargo that possesses an otherworldly power. A blend of allegory, black comedy, naval adventure and supernatural horror,  Middle Passage is a true modern classic.

The Lamplighters

by Emma Stonex

Book cover for The Lamplighters

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week. Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on, when they are given the chance to tell their side of the story. Inspired by true events, this enthralling and suspenseful mystery is a beautifully written exploration of love and grief, perception and reality. 

A House for Mr Biswas

by V. S. Naipaul

Book cover for A House for Mr Biswas

Written in 1961 and set in post-colonial Trinidad, this is the story of Mr Biswas, a man born into misfortune, and his quest to find a worthy home of his own. A House for Mr Biswas is a multi-faceted read that is all-at-once satisfying, lyrical and humorous.


by Raven Leilani

Book cover for Luster

Raven Leilani is a funny and original new voice in literary fiction. Her razor-sharp yet surprisingly tender debut is an essential novel about what it means to be young now. Edie is messing up her life, and no one seems to care. Then she meets Eric, who is white, middle-aged and comes with a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. And as if life wasn’t hard enough, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s family. 

In this cutting, hot-blooded book, the entanglements that unfold are as complicated as they are heartbreaking.
New Statesman on Luster

Annie John

by Jamaica Kincaid

Book cover for Annie John

Much loved only child Annie has always had a tranquil life. She and her beautiful mother are intertwined and inseparable. But when Annie turns twelve, her life shifts. She questions authority, makes rebel friends and wonders about the culture assumptions of her island world. And the unconditional love between Annie and her mother takes an adversarial turn. A coming of age classic, narrated with wonderfully candid complexity.

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and celebrated as ‘the great gay novel’, Hanya Yanagihara’s immensely powerful story of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance has had a visceral impact on many a reader. Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB meet at college in Massachusetts and form a firm friendship, moving to New York upon graduation. Over the years their friendships deepen and darken as they celebrate successes and face failures, but their greatest challenge is Jude himself – an increasingly broken man scarred by an unspeakable childhood. This is a book that will stay with you long after the last page.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

First released in Japan in 2015, this bestseller has since been translated for English audiences. The story takes place in a small basement café in Japan, home to a very special urban legend: visitors can travel back in time. There are strict rules, however; you can only travel back to speak to people who have visited the café itself, you cannot leave your seat while in the past, nothing you do will change the present, and you must return before your coffee gets cold. Each character comes to the café with a new reason to time travel. As many of the patrons discover, you can’t change the present, but you can change yourself.

Breasts and Eggs

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for Breasts and Eggs

This literary debut, which Haruki Murakami called ‘breathtaking’, is a must-read for fans of contemporary literary fiction. Mieko Kawakami paints a radical picture of contemporary working-class womanhood in Japan as she recounts the heartbreaking stories of three women who must survive in a society where the odds are stacked against them.

I can never forget the sense of pure astonishment I felt when I first read Mieko Kawakami’s novella Breasts and Eggs . . . breathtaking . . . Mieko Kawakami is always ceaselessly growing and evolving.
Haruki Murakami on Breasts and Eggs

Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Burial Rites

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.

In this episode of Book Break Emma shares her recommendations for the best literary fiction of 2023: