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.
"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.
100 years after her birth, we celebrate the impact of the novelist and philosopher.
If you loved Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, we know what you should read next.
These impressive works of fiction paved the way for the genre.
Celebrate these stand-out father figures.
There's nothing quite as unique as the relationship between a mother and her daughter.
A timeless exploration of love and politics set in turbulent 1950s Vietnam.
They broke through barriers to get their voices heard.
It's time to revisit the great literature we skimmed through in English class.
Love the oldies, but looking for something new? You’ve come to the right place.
Before the If Beale Street Could Talk author became a symbol of today's Black Lives Matter movement, he was a high-priority target of FBI surveillance during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
The acclaimed novelist has passed away, leaving behind a rich body of work on Israeli identity and politics.