IN THIS POST, find a list of my favorite five contemporary fiction books.
Maybe one needs to be your next read? See one that you loved? Or, one that you hated? Tell me about it in the comments!
It is 100% impossible to recommend every book for every person. We’re just not wired alike or interested in the same things or even communicate in the same way. If we expect every book to be everyone’s favorite, then we’re putting unreasonable demands on story or reporting.
I read an eclectic range of books and think there’s a good chance I could recommend a couple for a few different people. Rather than create a post of dozens of book recommendations I thought it might be more fun and helpful to create small lists of book recommendations by categories.
Yay books! Yay lists!
I’ll call them my Five Favorites, followed by the genre-of-choice.
For each list I’ll recommend five books that I’ve read and appreciated within that category. I’ll link to Better World Books if you’re interested in possibly adding them to your shelf. Though I highly recommend your local library 🙂
Let’s start with a category of general interest and maybe get more specific down the road. Ready?
The first Five Favorites list is for…
In no particular order, here are five of my favorite books of contemporary fiction.
This book shocked me. A friend recommended it, but it didn’t really sound like my “cup of tea.” Still, I value this friend’s recommendations, so I gave it a try.
I could. not. put. it. down.
Two friends agree to go on a river trip (clarify context and circumstances) when a raging forest fire forces them to move quicker and more intentionally along their route. On the way they encounter a woman and a man in questionable circumstances. Though the friends do not get involved initially, that quickly changes.
External and internal conflict are strong in this quickly-paced novel. Who to help? Who to believe? When to take action? When to abandon action? And in the end, who will survive?
Man versus nature and man versus man are baldly juxtaposed with little sentimentality or time for development. The protagonists and the reader are forced to jump in however they will.
Each chapter in Homegoing progresses through a generation. I loved that this allowed history to become a sort of character. It is not that time had agency, but time moved forward simultaneously unencumbered by but influenced by the past.
Two sisters are separated as one is enslaved in North America and the other remains in Ghana as the wife of an Englishman. The story then moves ahead one generation at a time following their parallel progeny. Readers question whether it was better or worse to be one sister or the other. Readers get a sense of the impact of systemic racism.
The back-and-forth style of storytelling may not be for everyone – usually I don’t like it – but in Homegoing it is used quite effectively. The novel quickly spans two centuries and the style allows readers to experience time almost as a character in itself. It is, first of all, a good story. Second, it is powerful historical fiction.
Marilynne Robinson is one of my favorite authors. I found this gem at a community yard sale and picked it up on a whim. It is my favorite of her Gilead series novels. I learned later that it’s the second one in the quartet.
One child returns home to care for her father, an aging pastor, and question the trajectory of her life. Later, the prodigal son returns to upend the family dynamic further. His story will ultimately be told later, but his presence forces the narrative forward with more intensity.
I loved the quiet theological conversations, the restrained family drama, and the grappling with living faith.
Of all the books on this list, this one is probably the darkest. Set just after a terrible war, a community kills a stranger, and then asks one of their own, Brodeck, to write up an account – more or less to absolve them of accountability. To do so Brodeck wrestles with his own past, the village’s history, and the roles and nature of mankind.
Absolutely the darkest and not the most subtle on this list. Brodeck’s writing is poignant and direct. I had to read it in small bites, but I took down several sentences to think about after I finished reading it.
Politics, business, and art merge in this fast-paced story of a terrorist-hostage situation. An acclaimed opera singer is invited to sing for a Japanese businessman’s birthday party that is being hosted by the Vice President of an unnamed South American country. The party goes well until a terrorist group takes everyone hostage.
The story drew me in immediately, but ultimately I was impressed by Patchett’s ability to make music come alive on the page. An author that can make something that is best appreciated with the ear come alive through silent language for the eyes is working magic. Bel canto is an intriguing premise, good storytelling, and a unique setting.
Agree or Disagree?
Are any of the books from my favorite five list of contemporary fiction also on your list? Are there any on here that you have read and you absolutely did NOT like?
There’s a pretty good chance I won’t be able to help myself by limiting my favorites in any genre to just one list of five. I can already think of two others (The Night Watchman and The Mountains Sing) that would be strong contenders for a second list in this category – though The Mountains Sing might make it to another category.
For now these will stand…until it’s time to make a five favorites 2.0 🙂
What books have you read in this category that I need to read before I make another list?
The comments are always open to good book recommendations 🙂