12 of the best thought-provoking books

Powerful fiction books that will make you think deeply.

The best books make us think and choosing what to read is often underpinned by our desire to expand our mind. They can make us think differently about the world, question our own assumptions, or teach us a new perspective. It’s not just about great writing, but insightful content and subject matter too. So if you’re ready to be mentally provoked, here’s our list of the best works of fiction that will have you contemplating their profound themes long after the final page.

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

by Maddie Mortimer

Winner of the Desmond Elliot Prize and Longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a heart-breaking yet darkly funny story of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. Partly told from the perspective of the cancer inside of her, Lia tries to keep her past, her present and her body separate for the sake of the loved ones around her. This deeply thoughtful book exploring the human condition will have you facing some of the hardest questions of all, in particular, what it means to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go.

A Time Outside This Time

Book cover for A Time Outside This Time

A one-of-a-kind novel about memory, politics, and about the lies we tell ourselves and each other. It’s feverishly close to home; featuring a tweet-happy US President, a global pandemic and the twenty-four-hour news cycle. Prepare to be politically provoked by this highly observant novel that explores a world where misinformation is mistaken as fact in the midst of a  post-truth era.  A Time Outside This Time captures the uncanny sentiment in all our minds, of how impossible it can feel to remember a time outside of this one.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four remains George Orwell’s most acutely relevant and influential novel to this day. In this terrifying dystopia, people are watched day and night by Big Brother and controlled by the Thought Police. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics and perversions of truth without referencing this book. It haunts our cultural consciousness to this day, with these fictional regimes seemingly eerily familiar in the real world — it’s no coincidence that book sales of  Nineteen Eighty-Four soared following Trump’s election. This is the ultimate thought-provoking read that will have you captured by its unnerving familiarity.

What You Need From the Night

by Laurent Petitmangin

Looking to delve into a story of unconditional love? In What You Need From the Night, a widowed father has a strong bond with his two sons. But when his eldest son starts to head down a  different path,  their once close bond becomes threatened by the disparity between their  politics. Tragedy ensues, and this tense and ultimately heartbreaking novel shines a spotlight on how far forgiveness can stretch within a family, and how a father and son can find common ground when everything seems to break them apart.

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Road is the story of a remarkable and profoundly moving journey that will get you thinking about the best and worst of humankind. In a burned-out America, a father and his young son are on a journey to the coast, with nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless men that stalk the roadside. Post-apocalyptic novels are the best at provoking us — they warn us of hypothetical futures. But it is the relationship between father and son that  will really grip you both by the heart and the mind, as their love becomes the only redemption from the destruction and disaster of the world around them.

You Will Never Be Forgotten

by Mary South

Mobile phones are great, social media is great. . . until they’re used for the wrong reasons. You Will Never Be Forgotten is  a collection of short stories that are savagely critical of the way in which we misuse technology for personal gain. You’ll be confronted with ten darkly funny stories of flawed individuals whose overuse of technology starts to impact their connections with others. It will get you thinking about whether technology has heightened our innate  selfishness and our need for love and acceptance. But you’ll also be left with the moments of hope and tenderness that bring us back down to earth. 


by Virginia Woolf

There isn’t a novel that could be more ahead of its time than Orlando. The story presents us with the concept of gender fluidity as Orlando, a young Elizabethan nobleman, wakes up one morning to find he is a woman. We follow the newly female Orlando as she charges through English history to end up as a modern, 1920s woman. You’ll enjoy how this classic comic masterpiece indulges in irony to explore the roles of women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and will get your brain whirring on the topic of how gender and love were perceived through the ages.

We Had to Remove This Post

by Hanna Bervoets

Need a thrilling conversation-starter about the digital age? When Kayleigh takes up a job of a content moderator she is tasked with reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and her worldview is shifted in alarming ways. It’s a universal feeling that social media can be a controversial and provocative place, but let’s count ourselves lucky that there’s so much that we don’t see. We Had to Remove This Post will force you to ask: what is right? What is real? And who or what determines our world view?

The Silence

by Don DeLillo

From one of America’s greatest writers, The Silence is a timely and compelling novel about what happens when an unpredictable crisis strikes. It’s Superbowl Sunday in 2022, suddenly there is a power blackout, and millions of people are left staring into a black void. As we follow various character’s inability to connect to each other, it becomes a gripping conversation about how much we rely on technology and how vulnerable we become when we are stripped of our digital devices. Don Delillo definitely gives us something to think about, perfectly capturing our existential anxieties on the page.


by Raven Leilani

A proactively page-turning book about what it means to be young, Black and female. Edie is just trying to survive in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office. If life wasn’t already a little bit difficult, she then finds herself falling head-first into an entanglement with a wealthy, older white couple. Luster is a sharp, funny but surprisingly tender story about navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics that will get you thinking about the reality of what it is to be young, and how to find your place while trying to make sense of the world. 

Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book cover for Never Let Me Go

If you love a good debate around morally ambiguous topics, this is the book for you. Centred around the idea of human cloning, Never Let Me Go is set at an apparently ordinary English boarding school, but the students are taught nothing of the outside world. They are vaguely aware of the organ donation program they are part of, but are shielded from a full understanding of what their future holds as a result. A dystopian novel that will captivate you with its social commentary on what happens when science is devoid of ethics, as well as a moving love story and a literary masterpiece.

Such A Fun Age

by Kiley Reid

Book cover for Such A Fun Age

A striking and surprising novel, Such A Fun Age is a powerful message about race and privilege. Emira Tucker, a black woman, is confronted by a supermarket security guard and accused of kidnapping the white toddler she is babysitting. At the heart of the novel is Emira’s complicated relationship with Alix, her employer, a white woman who, despite a shallow performance to be well-intentioned, sadly lacks any self-awareness and fails to recognize Emira’s true experience as a woman of colour. You’ll be confronted with the uncomfortable truth about the everyday unconscious biases that still exist, and it’ll challenge you to reflect on your own behaviour and the relationships with those around you.