Literary fiction has long been seen as a genre that few can enjoy. With themes that traditionally revolved around suburban life and privileged existences, the genre is finally starting to evolve. Featuring forward thinking ideas and beautiful language, these eight books unpack much more than previous literary fiction works. Their mission, along with the rest of the industry, is to expand who has access to these books and who these books are for. Without further ado, here are the 8 most exciting upcoming Literary Fiction books, selected at Publishers Weekly’s US Book Show.
Sally Rooney: Beautiful World, Where Are You
Sally Rooney’s latest release is a thrilling tale jam packed with themes. Four characters, on either side of 30, are trying to figure out how to live life in our world. This book covers extensive topics in life, such as friendship, love, sex and work. This book is a real look into life. Instead of one carried plot throughout, it mirrors the day to day intricacies of real life. Fans of Virginia Woolf will also appreciate the language in this book, as it mirrors Woolf’s lyrical writing style. This book is all about the characters, their fervor and their spirit. As they struggle to envision their futures, they see the magic that lies behind everyday life. In the end, Rooney’s intensity of style brings her writing to a never-seen-before place.
Gary Shteyngart: Our Country Friends
Early pandemic life sets the scene for these 8 friends, who decide to shelter in place early on into COVID-19. Gathered in a country house, isolation slowly starts to take its toll. Through romance and unique experiences, Gary Shteyngart provides a dynamic unlike any other. But, the book is also about friendship and finding new human connections during the toughest of times. As an immigrant from the Soviet Union, another unique feature of Gary’s books is their dedication to diverse characters. This story features immigrants from Russia, Korea and India, who form friendships because they live in two worlds: the world they came from and America. While Shteyngart himself is a serious writer, his book is full of wit and humor to spice things up. This book is bound to keep you on your feet, as it’s a mixture of drama, tragedy and comedy, all wrapped up in one thrilling package.
Chibundu Onuzo: Sankofa
Main character Anna is a biracial woman who grows up in Britain with her mother. After her mother passes away, she discovers more about the father she never knew: a freedom fighter to some, a terrorist to others. As it turns out, he is still alive and one of the primary individuals who liberated West Africa from colonial rule. In pursuit of his secrets, Anna’s story starts off immediately on page one. This book possesses a confident spirit and a clarity of purpose, combined with beautiful language. Those looking for a great story about father-daughter and familial relationships will eat this novel up. Freedom, prejudice and identity are all packaged together. It’s for anyone looking for stability in a home but finding something more complex.
Sarah Winman: Still Life
Art and war come together in Sarah Winman’s latest release. Ulysses, a young British soldier, meets with an art historian who changes the course of his life. This book is about so many things, but key themes include the beauty in Italy, war and the importance of art. It serves to try and answer the question: why is art worth saving? Winman captures it with this idea: because art captures forever that which is fleeting. It is an exploration of thought and philosophy in the most modest way, filled with fun jabs throughout (such as a parrot!) This novel will make you feel like you’re right in the center of Italy. It’s grand and broad, featuring epic nature, magic energy, life and color. But, it’s also an intimate tale that will capture the true beauty in life.
Lauren Groff: Matrix
Laurne Groff’s transfixing, bold and intense new release features a strong, inspiring female character. Marie de France is outcast from the French royal court, into an impoverished abbey, plagued by disease and starvation. This is a book that revolves around female empowerment, featuring themes such as female power and single gender self sufficiency. But, the characters are full of a range of intense and beautiful emotions: being fierce, clever, passionate and confident. This book is a great historical read that is well researched, but also rich in content that speaks to the now. There are big ideas for what turns into a self-sufficient island of women, propelled across a large story arc.
María Amparo Escandón: LA Weather
This is a family story and a peek into the dynamics of a Latinx family. Focusing on diversity, this book translates the Latinx experience into quarrelsome and humorous adventures. The Latinx community is a diverse one, and Escandón pulls from a variety of household situations. From those who have been here for generations, to those who have just immigrated, her characters live through all careers and life paths. However, the primary family the book follows is also filled with lies, infidelity, and family drama. Escandón has said this book was one of her favorites to write. It’s very personal to her, as she reflects on her own community and family. These raw experiences make this literary fiction much more powerful.
Atticus Lish: The War for Gloria
The brutal reality of ALS is finally highlighted in The War for Gloria. A 15-year-old Corey finds himself sucked into a conflict with his estranged father, about how to best help his mother, who has just been diagnosed with ALS. To save his mother, he finds himself having to dismantle the myth surrounding his father. Relentlessly honest and penetrating, this is a book that will make you get up and pace around the room. As Corey continues to grow up, he must quickly uncover the truths his father has tried so desperately to hide. This book is deeply personal to Lish. The War for Gloria explores the father/son narrative, life at the border of death and strained relationships.
Joceyln Nicole Johnson: My Monticello
A short story and novella about the heart of America, My Monticello discovers who truly gets to belong in America. Set in Charlottesville, Virginia, this collection of different plots help illustrate the true heart of America. This book explores race through the ages, looking at both the history of racial division in the United States and also how they apply to the present. The lessons in this book speak volumes to the events in 2020. In a multiracial America, readers identify with an idea of creating a home with those around them. America is beautiful because of its diversity, not in spite of it. That is the core of America, one that has largely been forgotten with recent events, and one that Joceyln Nicole Johnson wants to remind readers of.
Featured Image via Ed Robertson from Unsplash