Figuring out what to read next is a task that can cause enormous anxiety: Should I finally read the book my mother bought me for my birthday? Or the novel my friend lent me? Or maybe the one I saw on Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram? That’s why I’ve created this list of the best new literary fiction books to make the decision a bit easier for you. Be sure to check for updates to the list throughout the year.
Every Tuesday, a treasure is unlocked with dozens, if not hundreds, of new books inside. It can be difficult to sort out what is worth reading and what is not. The literary fiction books below represent the best that publishing has to offer: stories that shake the foundations of your being, spark conversation, and inspire radical thought.
In the final weeks of 2019, readers were treated to new books from beloved authors like Margaret Atwood, Angie Cruz, Ann Patchett, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Zadie Smith, Elizabeth Strout, and Jacqueline Woodson, as well as the early Breakout novels. stars like Lara Prescott. Find their novels – and more – below, on this selection of the best literary fiction novels of the moment:
I’m a huge fan of Jami Attenberg, and his latest novel is the most ambitious yet. It could all be yours is the story of an abusive patriarch and all those around him: his faithful wife, his absent son, his lonely daughter-in-law, his tired daughter and his precocious grandson. Finally freed from his grip, they must all reckon with his influence and forge a new path – a task that turns out to be more difficult than they had imagined.
Deborah Levy’s new Upside Down novel begins in 1988, when young Saul Adler, a historian working on an essay on the German Democratic Republic, is hit by a car as he crosses Abbey Road. Over the next several weeks, he sees things – ghosts from the past and visions of the future. It is only halfway through the novel that the reader becomes aware of What these visions actually mean.
Olive again by Elizabeth Strout (October 15)
It’s been 10 years since Elizabeth Strout came out Olive kitteridge, a book that won him a Pulitzer Prize and was subsequently adapted into an Emmy Award-winning miniseries. Strout returns to his beloved, cranky heroine in a novel that begins right after the events of the first. You don’t have to read Olive kitterridge appreciate this book, but you will take advantage of both.
Great Union by Zadie Smith (Oct 8)
Zadie Smith shows off her diverse talents in this collection of short stories, her first, with a little something for every type of reader. Eleven of those 19 stories are unpublished, and if you’re looking for an introduction to the works of one of our greatest living writers, great.
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (October 1)
In this imaginative reimagining of Frankenstein, Jeannette Winterson takes readers from the 1800s, when Mary Shelley wrote what would become a science fiction classic, and today, when Dr. Ry Shelley and technology visionary Victor Frank are working on a series of ‘experiments that challenge the limits of artificial intelligence and new life. This book is sure to lead to conversations about AI, queer love, and the meaning of life.
In her latest novel, the famous author of Bel Canto, Ann Patchett, turns her attention to two siblings facing a harsh new reality. After the disappearance of their mother and the death of their father, their stepmother takes them out of the luxurious Dutch house. For 30 years, the siblings pass through adulthood without any anchoring other than each other and the domestic staff of the house.
In The King of Shadows, Maaza Mengiste explores the evolution of a young woman, Hiram, from servant to soldier during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia led by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. It is an honest account of the war, but also of femininity, sexism, friendship, pain and courage.
In September, acclaimed non-fiction writer Ta-Nehisi Coates made his fiction debut with The water dancer, and it has already been named the new selection for Oprah’s Book Club. Described by Oprah as “equally tragic beautiful,” the book follows Hiram, a young slave man endowed with a mysterious power that grants him and others the freedom to escape bondage.
Red to the bone by Jacqueline Woodson (September 17)
Jacqueline Woodson is at the top of her game in Red to the bone, an amazing story about queer love, family and generational trauma. The book begins with 16-year-old Melody wearing the dress her mother would have worn that same birthday, if she hadn’t been pregnant. What follows is a tale of one family and how each got there, with all of their history, pain, love, fear, hope, worry and loss.
Wills by Margaret Atwood (September 10)
By now you’ve heard that Margaret Atwood has released a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, takes place 15 years after the events of this novel. If you still need to be convinced to take it back, read Siobhan Adcock’s essay on maternal mortality in the book, The Story by Mara Dolan on How the Book Tackles Climate Change, or the Review by Charlotte Ahlin for her captivating epilogue.
Dominican by Angie Cruz (Sep 3)
Growing up is tough, even more so when you’ve just moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City with your new husband, who is twice your age. When Ana, 15, arrives in America, she hopes to have dynamism; instead, she is locked in her apartment. When her husband returns to the island to settle the family business, she finally discovers the New York City of her dreams. But on her return, she makes a difficult decision.
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis (Sep 3)
In Uruguay in 1977, the rights of ordinary people were attacked by an authoritarian government that crushed all political and social dissent. Homosexuality is forbidden, but five women meet anyway and discover a safe haven – a desolate cloak they return to again and again over the course of three decades.
The September selection for Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club, The secrets we kept is one of the must-see fall books. The novel, based on a true story, juxtaposes two different stories: in one, a CIA secretary turned spy tries to smuggle the novel. Doctor Zhivago outside of Soviet Russia, where it cannot be published; in the second story, novel author Boris Pasternak grapples with his decades-long relationship with the woman who inspired his novel and who is later sent to the Gulag.
For more reading recommendations, head over to Bustle’s list of the best books for October 2019, so you can start adding stuff to your TBR stack for fall.
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