The best literary fiction engages the mind, stirs the soul, and is rich with humor and heartache. Here are nine powerful novels that explore all the struggles and joys life has to offer.
Literary Fiction Books That Will Warm Your Heart
Curl up with books that explore the importance of finding joy and human connection.
We Are the Brennans
By Tracey Lange
Tracey Lange’s debut is a richly woven tale of family secrets, shame, and the healing power of love. The novel follows Sunday Brennan, who returns home to her New York–based Irish Catholic family after a terrible drunk-driving accident in Los Angeles. While recuperating back home, Sunday finds herself needing to mend broken relationships, answer hard questions about her past, and grapple with complicated family dynamics. But when the Brennan’s family business is in jeopardy of going under, the entire clan must confront their generational secrets if they hope to move forward. An instant New York Times bestseller, We Are the Brennans is the perfect read for fans of well-crafted family dramas.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
By Maria Semple
Maria Semple draws on an array of genre conventions in this national bestseller, crafting an enchanting narrative that’s part adventure novel, part mystery, part family drama, and part coming-of-age tale. At the heart of the novel is Bernadette Fox, an architect and mother living in Seattle whose agoraphobia is becoming more pronounced. Shortly before the Fox family departs for a planned vacation to Antarctica, Bernadette vanishes without a trace. Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, is devastated; after all, the trip to Antarctica was a reward for her straight-A report card. Determined, Bee sets out on a quest to solve the disappearance and reconnect with her missing mom.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
By Gail Honeyman
In her #1 New York Times bestselling novel, Gail Honeyman presents a tale about human connection and the expectations we have for our lives. Socially awkward Eleanor lives a solitary existence consisting of frozen pizza dinners and long phone calls with her mother. But her social life brightens when she meets Raymond, the disheveled IT guy from her office. Together, Eleanor and Raymond encounter an elderly man named Sammy, rescuing him from a nasty fall on the sidewalk. The three become fast friends, saving one another from loneliness, each helping the others heal their broken hearts.
The Midnight Library
By Matt Haig
It’s human nature to wonder about all the paths we didn’t take: Should I have accepted that job? Pursued that relationship? Followed my dreams? What if there were a place that answered these questions, an enchanted library at the end of the universe where each book reveals a different life you might have lived? How would this impact the life you’re living now? Nora Seed is about to find out. As she steps into the Midnight Library and explores its endless archive, she’ll soon discover what might have been — and who she’s destined to become. Boundlessly imaginative and brimming with heart, Matt Haig’s internationally bestselling novel is a stimulating story about choices, regrets, and what makes life meaningful.
No One Can Pronounce My Name
By Rakesh Satyal
Rakesh Satyal’s acclaimed multigenerational novel invites you into an Indian American community just outside Cleveland where men and women juggle cultural traditions with the pressures of assimilation and the desire for more. The main relationship is between two charming middle-aged immigrants: Harit, who lives with his mom and dresses up as his dead sister at night, and Ranjana, a lonely empty nester who secretly writes paranormal erotic fiction. Through their unexpected friendship, the novel explores themes like grief and heartbreak, loneliness and companionship, and the benefits of community and individuality.
A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman’s celebrated debut introduces us to Ove, a solitary old grinch known around the neighborhood as “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But when a spunky young family moves in next door, they form an unexpected bond with Ove, cracking through his curmudgeonly exterior to understand the sadness within. Full of heartbreak and heart, A Man Called Ove is a deeply gratifying tale. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life” (People).
A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki
Ruth Ozeki’s New York Times bestseller is a fascinating story-within-a-story that will tug at your heartstrings. The first story centers on Nao, a Japanese American teenage girl now living in Tokyo who’s so beaten down by her classmates’ incessant bullying that she decides to end her life. Before doing so, however, Nao wants to finish her diary, in which she’s documenting the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived for more than a century. The second story follows a novelist named Ruth, who finds remnants of Nao’s story inside a Hello Kitty lunch box after the container washes ashore on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. A finalist for both the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Tale for the Time Being is a beautiful meditation on faith, culture, and human connection.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
By Mira Jacob
In The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, author Mira Jacob plays with space and time, taking readers on a voyage that spans both continents and decades. The novel centers on Amina Eapen, a Seattle-based photographer who returns home to visit her parents after her father, the celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen, begins acting strangely. Amina’s mother, Kamala, believes that Thomas is speaking to dead people, but the reality is far more complex and mysterious. This deeply human novel moves from Seattle to New Mexico to India in the 1970s, all the while exploring generational dynamics and unbreakable family bonds.
The Most Fun We Ever Had
By Claire Lombardo
At the heart of Claire Lombardo’s sweeping family saga are four Chicago sisters who lead very different lives. Each shoulders a different life burden, from anxiety and infidelity to fading romantic relationships and an unwanted pregnancy. Into this familial fray steps young Jonah Bendt, a teenaged boy given up for adoption by one of the sisters some 15 years ago. With Jonah’s surprise appearance, the family must confront their secrets, heal from past traumas, and forge a better future together.