Ever before we could even write or read, fiction had already become an important part of the human experience, something we can deduce from the many stories passed down through oral tradition which made it to this day.
With the help of fiction we not only entertain ourselves and others, but more importantly, we can push ourselves to think far beyond the limits we would have known otherwise. As far as I know, the vast majority of great ideas in human history came from great thinkers who sought to pierce the limits of the known and imaginable.
I feel like there are definitely too many literary genres for me to name, but even so, we always have books coming along which don’t seem to fit in any one specific category, essentially defying classification through content which transcends the idea of genres.
In this here category you’ll mostly find these types of books, the ones without any kind of particular home and very much worth reading. In most cases, these types of books tend to have a slower, more profound and methodical to storytelling, and if given the chance, they can teach us quite a bit about the world, the people in it, and ourselves.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon has single-handedly put his beloved city of Barcelona on the map as the perfect setting for mysteries basking in the eternal lights of art, history, and literature. The Cemetary of Forgotten Books is, without a doubt, the series which best exemplifies the author’s adoration of his hometown as well as his literary prowess. In the second novel, titled The Angel’s Game, he takes us back in time to the 1920s and 1930s to meet a young pulp fiction writer whose life is about to change for both the worst, and the best.
Mary Beth Keane writes the sort of fiction which digs a little deeper than your typical thrillers and mysteries, often exploring some of the greyer areas in our lives. In The Half Moon, she tells us the story of Malcolm and Jess Gephardt, a couple faced with a rather uncertain future, one where their dreams and life aspirations might be extinguished for good.
John Boyne has dealt with a wide variety of topics and ideas over the course of his twenty-plus novels, and in All the Broken Places he takes us into the life of a ninety-one year-old woman with a giant problem. She has a dark past she wishes to hide, one relating to Nazi Germany, but one night she witnesses a violent argument between her new neighbours, one which threatens to expose the history she so carefully protected for decades.
Colleen Hoover has the habit of taking her readers along to explore some of the more difficult-yet-meaningful aspects of human existence, as she does once again in Reminders of Him. The story follows Kenna Rowan, a young mother having just served a five-year prison sentence, coming back home in an attempt to reconnect with her four-year-old daughter, despite everyone intent on shutting her out.
Haruki Murakami is no stranger to exploring the slices of reality which exist somewhere between truth and imagination, to the point where I suspect he came out from one of them. In his recent novel, Killing Commendatore, he tells the story of an unnamed portrait painter who, upon finding a magnificent painting in an attic, embarks on a strange journey of self-discovery, one which blurs the thin line between fiction and reality and shows him a world hidden in plain sight.
Celeste Ng is an author who uses her voice not only to entertain, but to also lead a personal fight against the discrimination and injustice still suffered by Americans of Asian descent. In her latest novel, Our Missing Hearts, she tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy going out on a quest to find his missing mother, a Chinese-American poet, amidst a country gripped by national fervour and excessive patriotism.
Ian McEwan has the valuable talent of pushing his readers to reflect on the more profound topics in life, and in his latest novel, Lessons, it feels as if, in a way, he meditates on his own path through the history of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The novels follows the story of Roland Baines, eleven years of age at the end of WWII, as he marches forward through the tumultuous years ahead, all while trying to search for answers deep in his own family history.
Bob Van Laerhoven is the type of author whose works tend to defy traditional classification, more often than not merging elements from a number of different genres. In Alejandro’s Lie he tells a story part Noir, part historical fiction, and part human drama, following the story of the titular Alejandro, a broken musician desperately searching for meaning while living in a fictitious South-American dictatorship.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon has earned his title of the most successful contemporary Spanish author for good reason, his stories carrying the reader to places few authors could imagine. In The Shadow of the Wind, the first entry in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, Zafon tells the story of a young bookkeeper’s son in post-war Barcelona as he tries to unravel the tragic fate of Julian Carax, an author whose works someone has been systematically destroying.
Benjamin Labatut is quickly proving himself a unique author defying traditional classification, a notion he reinforced most recently when he published his third novel, When We Cease to Understand the World. In short, it’s a fictional examination following the lives of numerous real-life scientists and mathematicians, with an emphasis on the earth-shattering discoveries they’ve made and the repercussions those have had on the world, both beneficial and destructive.
Joshua Henkin has sought to tackle the types of questions which have no concrete answers across his numerous works, and he continues his streak with his most recent novel, Morningside Heights. It follows the story of Ohio-born Pru Steiner, who arrives in New York in 1976 and gets married shortly after. Thirty years later, her life controlled by her husband’s illness, Pru has a chance encounter which leads her on an unexpected and unpredictable path.
Richard Bach is without the shadow of a doubt one of the most original and inspiring authors of the twentieth century, somewhat ironic considering his self-professed disdain for writing. In Illusions and Illusions II he tells a tale starring himself, one where he meets Donald Shimoda, a self-professed messiah capable of elevating Richard’s world to new and unseen heights.
Richard Bach is one of the few authors whose works continue to stand the test of time, with his classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull still being as current as back when it was written. A tale of inspiration, it follows the titular seagull as he learns the art of flight and finds his own way through life, despite his peers’ lack of approval.
Yaa Gyasi has stunned the world more than once since her recent arrival on the literary scene, and Transcendent Kingdom is her latest effort to draw on her unique life experiences to write a novel. The story follows Gifty, a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience whose brother passed from a heroin overdose and whose suicidal mother basically lives in her bed. Struggling to find answers in both science and faith, Gifty sees there are no easy paths open to her.
Beth Duke has found two years ago the kind of breakthrough any budding author could wish for, when her novel, It All Comes Back to You, became a celebrated bestseller. In it, we are told the story of Ronni, a practical nurse and aspiring writer, whose old patient, Violet, recently passed away. In the process, she left Ronni with a challenge: she must publish Violet’s life in a book within a year, standing to inherit a grand fortune.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, is a figure who needs little introduction among book lovers. His works have always been distinguished by their profound and meaningful nature, and One Hundred Years of Solitude represents those qualities like none other. Telling of the rise and fall of a mythical town called Macondo, the story follows the lives of multiple generations belonging to the Buendia family.
Adam O’Fallon Price may not have begun his literary career a long time ago, but he is certainly setting some high standards for his future works with his latest publication, The Hotel Neversink. This saga traces the lives of the Sikorsky family members through their ownership of the titular hotel. As generations go by we witness the building of a legacy, as well as the decades-long search for the culprit behind a young boy’s disappearance.
Robert Dugoni is without a doubt one of the modern giants of literature, his novels earning him fame around the globe. Though he is generally accustomed to writing thrillers, he went in a different direction with The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, presenting us with a profound drama. The story is centred on the titular Sam, a boy who had the misfortune of being born with ocular albinism, branding him as an outcast from his earlier years. Now a few decades later, Sam looks back upon his life, uncertain of anything anymore, armed only with the will to make sense of the path he had to walk.
Ernest Hemingway has always had a real talent for portraying complex characters in equally complicated situations, made even more impressive with his concise vocabulary. For Whom the Bell Tolls might be one of his more popular stories, following a young American, Robert Jordan, as he fights through the Spanish Civil War as a member of the International Brigades, attached to an antifascist guerrilla unit in the mountains.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon has enchanted his readers in every way imaginable with each entry in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books universe, intimately exploring the dark and Gothic streets of Barcelona and the curiosities they hold in store. With The Labyrinth of the Spirits, Zafon brings the series to a close with a story following a young inspector trying to unravel the disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture. Little does she know, it’s only the tip of the conspiracy iceberg… and her road to the truth is littered with the dead.
Keith Gessen is in a better position than most to truly ponder on the relation between home and country, having grown up in the United States since the age of six after his family emigrated there from the Soviet Union. In A Terrible Country, he presents us with a man in his mid-30s by the name of Andrei who went through the exact same path, with a small difference: he chooses to come back to the country he left behind so many years ago. With few prospects to dream about in the U.S., he hopes to find in Moscow the topic for an article to propel his career… unsuspecting of an infinitely greater prize to his journey: profound insights into the human soul.
The question whether or not to have children is one that’s becoming more and more prominent in people’s minds, for long gone are the days when we needed to have as many children as possible to put them to work and have someone to take care of us. There are many who decide against it, and in her debut novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas explores just such a woman. Having married a man who shared her desire not to have children, Joan sees her world turned upside down as she becomes unexpectedly pregnant, and against her instincts, decides to keep the child and nevertheless build the family she never really wanted.
Though Stanislaw Kapuscinski (pen name Stan I.S. Law) only truly began his writing efforts after retirement, he has already established himself as a philosophical powerhouse in the science-fiction genre. Though he did publish many books in this short period of time, it could be argued that what really catapulted him to new literary heights was the Avatar trilogy. Containing all the trademarks of his unique and off-beat style, the first book in the series, titled The Avatar Syndrome, follows the life of Anne as she grows from a baby into a fully-fledged adult, all while having contend with some curiously unusual challenges and harbouring some extraordinary talents.