What is literary fiction, you may ask? Often described as "serious" literature (think the Great American Novel), literary fiction often doesn't fit neatly into the parameters of other genres, and is usually more character-driven than plot-driven. But don't let that lofty definition put you off—plenty of literary fiction is accessible, fascinating, and all the more interesting for its fully fleshed-out characters. In fact, some of the most popular books of all time are literary fiction.
At the same time, a literary fiction label doesn’t mean a novel can’t have elements of other genres—there’s plenty of books shelved as literary suspense, literary romance, or even literary fabulism. You can expect these kinds of novels to still have those genre traits, but with elevated writing styles and more character development.
Another hallmark of literary fiction is the prizes. From Booker Prize winners to National Book Award winners to Pulitzer Prize winners, literary fiction features the kind of writing that deserves all the accolades.
Intrigued? Dive in to our lists of recommended literary fiction books below.
The South African author had been shortlisted twice before.
Her most powerful works remind us that our actions affect the world.
Meet the woman who inspired Virginia Woolf's most fanciful novel.
These works deserve a whole lot more attention.
By Orrin Grey
Don't be put off by the term "literary fiction."
Tensions reach unbearable heights in these dark explorations of the human psyche, the inescapability of our pasts, and more.
“If literary romance is your genre, this book is for you.” —Men Reading Books
Take a trip from the streets of Tokyo to the seaside villages of Japan.
By Jenni Reid
Stories don’t feel the same the second time around.
By Abby Ausmus