To Literary Fiction, or Not to Literary Fiction?

Ah, it’s that time of year. All the award lists are coming out, and the talk is flowing about books that I … haven’t even heard of. Or, if I have heard of them, I made no effort to read them. The Women’s Prize, the National Book Award, the Booker the Pulitzer … those aren’t books I read. Because I don’t really read literary fiction. Ever.

But, like, I kind of want to?

When I have a good experience with literary fiction, it’s always an amazing experience. Y’all, there’s a reason people love these books so much that they give them awards. High quality literary fiction is so good. I used to read books like that, a long time ago, but lately … I don’t know. I just don’t like them as much.

I talked in a post a few weeks ago comparing literary fiction to genre fiction about how literary fiction tends to be so bleak a pessimistic. It’s not like I expect the book to be hilarious, or as swoony as a YA book. I just don’t want the overall theme of the book to be that life is depressing. So often the literary fiction I’ve read has such a dark outlook on the world. And that’s not how I see the world, nor is it how I want to see the world.

But I want to like literary fiction. The snobby side of me wants to read “smart” books that make me seem so literary and fancy. The lonely-reader side of me wants to be able to join in the discussion, like a book club. And the reader side of me wants to read a book I’m going to fall in love with. So, I guess I want to read more literary fiction.

But also, I don’t.

For all the reasons listed above and more. I don’t like the pessimism. I don’t like the genre snobbery. I don’t like that they are always freaking set in New York City. I don’t like that I want to read them just so I’ll look smart. When I don’t like them (which is usually) they’re boring. The characters are always complete jerks. Why are we glorifying alcohol and alcoholism? There are a million and a half reasons I’ve started avoiding this genre lately. I don’t like literary fiction.

But I want to.

*sigh* As you can see, it’s a never ending cycle.

So, let’s compromise. Tell me ONE piece of literary fiction from 2019 or 2020 that I absolutely HAVE to read. I’ll pick the one that I think I’ll like the best, and I promise, I will read it. Not today, not tomorrow, but as soon as I’m done with all the books I bought myself for Christmas. I’ll give this literary fiction thing another try. But I’m not promising to read more than one.

11 thoughts on “To Literary Fiction, or Not to Literary Fiction?

  1. I don’t think it’s from 2019, but I loved A gentleman in Moscow (Towles) I also recently read The Water Dancer (Coates) those are my choices for you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also dislike how much of it seems bleak, but then I might be in a cycle where I don’t read much so maybe some of it is NOT depressing at all, but I’m just unaware of it and keep assuming it is….

    Also, when I was interning for literary agencies, like 80% of the “literary fiction” submissions were weird stream of consciousness things about people finding themselves through casual sex. I’m not sure this is what gets actually *published*, but it really put me off literary fiction if that’s what a bunch of aspiring authors think they should be writing to get published….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, accidentally hit send!

      Stream of consciousness is the literal worst, and I also get annoyed with how many authors think finding your sexuality is the equivalent of finding yourself. Those two things are NOT always tied together.


  3. Have you tried ‘Girl,Woman’Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo? It shared the Booker prize in 2019 with Margaret Atwood but I would encourage you to give it a try anyway. I hope you’ll enjoy it as it seemed to me when I read it that it was impossible not to.

    Liked by 1 person

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