The Best Fiction of 2022: The Booker Prize Shortlist, recommended by Neil MacGregor

The Booker Prize is awarded each year to the best original novel written in the English language. We asked the art historian Neil MacGregor, chair of this year’s judging panel, to talk us through the six novels that made the 2022 shortlist—and why fiction can be a most effective means of engaging us emotionally in social and political crisis elsewhere.

The Best Thrillers of 2022, recommended by Tosca Lee

Every year, the International Thriller Writers—an honorary organisation of authors—showcases the best new books in the genre at their annual awards. Here, bestselling author and the organisation’s vice-president Tosca Lee talks us through the six-strong shortlist of books, and explains why ‘Southern noir’ writer S.A. Cosby won the title for the best thriller of 2022—only a year on from his last triumph.

The Best Science Fiction of 2022: The Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist, recommended by Andrew M. Butler

Every year, the judges for the Arthur C. Clarke Award select the best of the latest batch of new scifi books. In 2022, the science fiction award’s shortlist includes new work from Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, a novel-in-verse from the Scottish writer Harry Josephine Giles, and a new title in Arkady Martine’s beloved Teixcalaan series. Andrew M. Butler, academic and chair of the judges, talks us through the finalists.

The best books on Fantasy’s Many Uses, recommended by Brian Attebery

Visionary storytelling, or fantasy, is part of our cultural DNA. Far from being simply fantastical or facile, we can use the fantasy realm as a testing ground for important ideas, argues Brian Attebery, a leading scholar of the genre. He talks us through five key works that demonstrate fantasy’s many uses, from 1922 through 2010.

The Best Tudor Historical Fiction, recommended by Alison Weir

The Tudor dynasty, which ruled England from 1485 to 1603, has been the focus of extraordinary public attention in recent years, thanks to the success of books like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and the lavish television drama The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. We asked Alison Weir, the author of many bestselling factual and novelistic books on the period, to recommend her favourite works of Tudor historical fiction.

The Best Golden Age Mysteries, recommended by Martin Edwards

Partly as a response to the horrors of World War I, the 1920s and 30s saw a surge in the writing of whodunnits, a period often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of mystery writing. Here, Martin Edwards, one of the leading experts on the genre, picks out some key works, with a special focus on ‘locked room’ mysteries.

The Notable Novels of Summer 2022, recommended by Cal Flyn

If you’re looking for a new book to keep you entertained or intellectually excited over the summer break, we’ve got you covered. Five Books’ deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a round-up of the notable new novels of summer 2022, from snappy debuts and fantasy epics to the latest book from the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Best Police Procedurals, recommended by Louisa Scarr

Crime fiction told from the point of view of the police investigating a crime is hugely popular, with dozens of books published each year. Here British writer Louisa Scarr, author of a series set in Southampton and featuring DS Robin Butler and DC Freya West, talks us through some of her favourite police procedurals and explains why they’re so fun to read and write.

The Best Romance Books of 2022, recommended by Katherine D. Morgan

If you like your novels to end happily ever after, then do we have reading recommendations for you. Guest editor Katherine D. Morgan selects five of the best romance books of 2022, and offers a quick round-up of the love stories you should be looking forward to over the next few months.

The Best Contemporary Mystery Books, recommended by Mark Edwards

Crime writers are often mild-mannered individuals who have learned to delve into the deepest, darkest recesses of their imagination to create their books, says the bestselling author Mark Edwards. Here, he recommends five of the best contemporary mysteries that will keep you guessing right to the final page.

The Best of World Literature: The 2022 International Booker Prize Shortlist, recommended by Frank Wynne

The International Booker Prize celebrates the best fiction in translation published over the previous year. Frank Wynne, acclaimed translator and chair of the 2022 judging panel, tells Five Books about the six novels that made the shortlist, and reminds readers that world literature need not be tough, consumed only in the interests of self-improvement—but is often joyful, surprising and full of feeling.

Notable New Novels of Fall 2022, recommended by Cal Flyn

Fall is a busy time in publishing, as the biggest names in fiction prepare to release new books in the months leading up to Christmas. Here, Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn rounds up some of the most notable novels of Fall 2022—including two new books from the great American novelist Cormac McCarthy and a sumptuous work of historical fiction from Maggie O’Farrell.

The Best Literary Thrillers, recommended by Chris Power

For those with a taste for fine literature, but who also enjoy their fiction with a bit of suspense and momentum, the acclaimed novelist Chris Power—author of A Lonely Man—has put together a recommended reading list of five ‘literary thrillers’, including work by Fernanda Melchor, Roberto Bolaño and the Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano.

Best Medieval Historical Fiction, recommended by Marion Turner

The medieval era in Europe lasted a millennium and saw massive social change and technological innovation, as well as calamities like the Black Death. That makes it a great period for historical fiction, offering a glimpse of a past that was very different from our own lives, and yet can resonate with the present. Here Marion Turner, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, recommends some of her favourite historical novels set in the Middle Ages and explains why she finds them so compelling.

Five of the Best Classic Mexican Novels, recommended by Ave Barrera

We asked the award-winning Mexican novelist Ave Barrera—whose latest book, The Forgery, has recently been translated into English—to recommend five classic Mexican novels. Here she discusses her choices, which include books by Juan Rulfo, Elena Garro and Nellie Campobello.

The Best Near-Future Dystopias, recommended by Rosa Rankin-Gee

Books featuring dystopian or post-apocalyptic themes offer us an opportunity to study human nature outside of the normal structure of society, says Rosa Rankin-Gee, author of the acclaimed novel Dreamland. Here, she recommends five other books featuring a near-future dystopia, all of which explore a societal or cultural unraveling through beautiful prose.

The Best Summer Mysteries, recommended by Caroline Crampton

If you’re about to jet off for a relaxing vacation, you might be looking for a page-turning detective story to keep you enthralled on your sun-lounger. Here, Caroline Crampton—creator of the popular podcast Shedunnit—recommends five classic murder mysteries set in glamorous summer holiday locations.

The Best South Asian American Novels, recommended by Wajahat Ali

South Asian Americans are too often treated as sidekicks or even suspects in national narratives. Wajahat Ali recommends five fantastic novels by South Asian American authors, and makes a compelling case that for the United States to succeed as a multi-racial democracy, “it is key that people pick up the pen to tell America’s full story.

The Best Crime Fiction of 2021, recommended by Sophie Roell

If you’re into crime fiction as a form of relaxation, a wide range of books continue to be published, set in places around the world. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books and a keen reader of the genre, picks out some of her favourites from 2021.

Notable Novels of Spring 2022, recommended by Cal Flyn

If you’re nervous of what 2022 has in store for us, you’re not alone. But at least there will be plenty of excellent new books to read. Here, Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a round-up of the notable novels of spring 2022, including exciting new work from Sheila Heti, Ali Smith and Marlon James.

Literary Horror Books, recommended by Sue Rainsford

The most unnerving and disturbing novels are often those books that leave room for interpretation and uncertainty. Here, the acclaimed Irish novelist Sue Rainsford selects five frightening works of literary horror, by authors who are masters of the unsettling implication—because nothing is quite so scary as what you dream up to fill the voids.

The Best Detective Fiction, recommended by Jeffrey Archer

With so many works of detective fiction coming out each year, which books stand the test of time? Here, bestselling British author Jeffrey Archer talks us through some of his favourites, the books he found completely unputdownable and made him want to read everything the author had written.

The Best Haunted House Books, recommended by Kylie Whitehead

Looking for a scary story this Halloween? Us too. We asked Kylie Whitehead, author of the acclaimed literary body horror Absorbed, to select five of the best haunted house books. Here she discusses her spine-tingling recommendations, which include Anne Rivers Siddons’s cult hit The House Next Door and Michael McDowell’s Southern Gothic novel The Elementals.

The Best South Asian Novels in Translation, recommended by Jenny Bhatt

The writer and translator Jenny Bhatt selects five key works of South Asian literature, all historical novels available in English translation, that showcase the richness and diversity of the region’s lesser known languages: from a modernist classic decrying the depradations of the coal mining industry to a ‘loose, baggy monster’ of a Victorian novel exploring utopian ideals.

Science Fiction and Philosophy, recommended by Eric Schwitzgebel

Serious philosophy need not take the form of a journal article or monograph, argues the philosopher and U.C. Riverside professor Eric Schwitzgebel, as he selects five science fiction books that succeed both as novels and provocative thought experiments that push us to consider deep philosophical questions from every angle.

The Best Romance Books of 2021, recommended by Natasha Tomic

Romance is one of the most widely read and commercially successful genres, a literary haven for those seeking a happy ending. Here, the book blogger and self-confessed romantic fiction addict Natasha Tomic chooses her top five romantic novels of 2021, and explains why it's the perfect escapist genre.

The Best Recent Novels from Francophone Africa, recommended by Mutt-Lon

The award-winning Cameroonian novelist Mutt-Lon selects five of the best recent novels from Francophone Africa, including Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s Prix Goncourt-winning La plus secrète mémoire des hommes. These novels, he notes—as with many others from West and Central Africa—are united by a common search for identity in post-colonial Africa.

The Best Toni Morrison Books, recommended by Marilyn Mobley

In 1993, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to American novelist Toni Morrison, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Here, literary scholar Marilyn Mobley—Professor Emerita of English and African American Studies at Case Western Reserve University and a former President of the Toni Morrison Society—introduces her work, from the best novel to start with to the essays she published just before her death in 2019.

The Best Post-Soviet Spy Thrillers, recommended by Charles Cumming

With the end of the Soviet Union, many thought the spy novel was dead. Within a decade, it was back, with old antagonists back in different guises and a new raft of international flashpoints to keep both fictional and real-life spies busy. Here, British spy novelist Charles Cumming, author of more than ten books, recommends five key post-Soviet spy thrillers and explains how the genre has evolved since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Best Thrillers of 2021, recommended by Tosca Lee

Looking for a fantastic new thriller to read? We asked Tosca Lee, the bestselling author, to talk us through the International Thriller Writers 2021 shortlist. With their amazing characters, palpable tension, unique voices and incredible plot twists these thrillers achieve what every reader is looking for: a book they can’t put down.

The Best Wartime Mystery Books, recommended by Caroline Crampton

The ‘golden age’ of detective fiction is usually considered to end suddenly with the outbreak of the Second World War. But many of the era’s leading novelists continued to write prolifically throughout, says Caroline Crampton, creator of the popular Shedunnit podcast. Here she selects five of the best wartime mysteries.

The Best Fiction of 2021: The Booker Prize Shortlist, recommended by Maya Jasanoff

This year the Booker Prize finalists include new work from previous shortlistees Richard Powers and Damon Galgut, a sweeping historical novel by Maggie Shipstead, and a fragmentary account of a life lived ‘extremely online.’ Maya Jasanoff, Harvard historian and chair of the 2021 judging panel, talks us through the best fiction of the past year.

The Great American Novel, recommended by Lawrence Buell

Albeit an object of satire and overreach, the ‘Great American Novel’ remains a vital concept in American literature, encouraging writers to capture the essence of national culture and history, argues Lawrence Buell, Professor of American Literature Emeritus at Harvard University. He talks us through the origins of the phrase and nominates five novels as contenders.

The Best African Novels, recommended by Blessing Musariri

“We are connected to the spirit and it’s an active connection. It’s not somewhere that’s only in the afterlife, it’s here in the present as well. That, I think, is endemic across all African cultures and traditions,” says Zimbabwean novelist and poet Blessing Musariri. Here she recommends some of the best African novels, books that had a big personal impact and have stayed with her.

The Best William Golding Books, recommended by Judy Golding

The Nobel laureate William Golding is best known for his novel Lord of the Flies, in which a group of schoolboys marooned on a desert island revert to savagery. But he was a prolific writer who produced eleven further novels, including the Booker Prize-winning Rites of Passage. Here, his daughter and manager of his literary estate Judy Golding selects five of William Golding’s key texts, including The Inheritors—the book he felt to be his best work.

The Best Science Fiction of 2021: The Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist, recommended by Tom Hunter

Every year, the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award talks us through their six book shortlist. The 2021 crop of the best science fiction books features a “deliciously pulpy” space opera, a time travel story for young adults, and a cacophonous tale of talking animals. What they all have in common is that they are by debut authors, says Tom Hunter: they represent a new generation of sci fi writing.

The Best Catalan Fiction, recommended by Gala Sicart

For a long time, Catalan fiction was eclipsed by books in Spanish but these days it’s flourishing, says translator and editor Gala Sicart. Here, she recommends four of the best contemporary Catalan novels and one book of short stories, from the classic Mercè Rodoreda to her 21st-century equivalent.

Landmarks of Scottish Literature, recommended by James Robertson

Scottish culture is best understood as related to, but distinct from, that of Britain or England, says the acclaimed novelist James Robertson. Here, he selects five landmark works of Scottish literature, from Sir Walter Scott’s sweeping, panoramic social novels of the 18th century, through Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, to Nan Shepherd’s beloved nature writing.

The Best Shirley Jackson Books, recommended by Joan Passey

Shirley Jackson, the 20th-century horror author, has had a remarkable resurgence in popularity in recent years, with a series of screen adaptations bringing her writing to a new audience. Joan Passey, an academic at Bristol University and co-editor of an upcoming collection of essays on the ‘mother of horror’, selects five books that offer the best introduction to Shirley Jackson’s work.

Notable Novels of Fall 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a round-up of the notable novels that need to be on your literary radar in Fall 2021, including the hotly anticipated new book from Sally Rooney—set to dominate bestseller lists in the coming weeks—as well as eagerly awaited follow-ups from Richard Osman and Elizabeth Strout, and a return to more traditional fiction from Karl Ove Knausgård.

The Best Novels of 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

It’s been another vintage year for fiction. As book sales continue to soar, Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn talks us through her personal highlights: the best new novels to be released in 2021. Her recommendations include a workplace comedy that unfolds through the medium of Slack, a “darkly sardonic” story of a 17th-century witch trial, and a witty novel-of-ideas examining trans parenthood.

The Best Books for an Introduction to Octavia Butler, selected by Nisi Shawl

In 1995, Octavia Butler became the first science fiction and fantasy author to be awarded a Macarthur ‘genius’ grant. Her writing often dealt with the moral complexities of survival, and foregrounded African American characters at a time where Black protagonists were few. Nisi Shawl, a personal friend and editor of Butler’s collected works, selects five of the best books to read for an introduction to Octavia Butler’s writing.