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.
Almost a century later, hope continues to endure through disillusionment.
“Trifles make the sum of life."
Unique and poignant fiction from a Nobel Prize-winner.
Read an essay from Alice Walker’s book, Living by the Word.
By Alice Walker
The National Book Award winner has written much more than The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Nobody does romance quite like the classics.
These characters were there through thick and thin.
Ms. Walker answers readers' questions about her most famous work.
They've bewitched us, body and soul.
By Cailey Hall
From Jane Austen to Roxane Gay, these inspiring stories prove that you are never too old to find yourself.
By Cailey Hall
Read an excerpt from Jack London's classic adventure novel.
"Don't try to make me grow up before my time..."
The iconic feminist praises Alice Walker's ability to move readers.
Powerful wisdom from the author of The Color Purple.
These reads from the last century all deserve a place on your bookshelf.
Who knew a short story could stir up so much rage?
From the 17th century to the late 90's, we've covered the classics.
Meet the man who helped define magical realism.
If we could do it all over again, we'd make time for these stories.
In honor of Jorge Luis Borges's 120th birthday, here are 8 short story books similar to Borges's works.