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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Notable New Novels of Summer 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Foreign holidays are still looking unlikely for most of us this summer, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find a spot in a park or garden to relax in the sun with a good book. Here, author and Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn highlights some of the most notable new novels of summer 2021 to help you narrow down your reading options.

Best West African Fantasy Books for Teenagers, recommended by Efua Traoré

Fantasy inspired by West Africa is taking the literary scene for teens and young adults by storm. These books have strong world-building and all the usual fantasy ingredients. At the same time, drawing on rich seams of mythology and magical traditions such as juju, they bring something entirely fresh to the genre. Author Efua Traoré talks us through her pick of West African fantasy novels for teenagers.

Five of the Best European Classics, recommended by David Campbell

Europe may be made up of many cultures but its component parts share an artistic and literary sensibility, says Everyman’s Library publisher David Campbell. Here, he recommends five European classics that everyone should read at least once in their life, including “the greatest novel ever written” and some lesser-known masterpieces.

The best books on The Harlem Renaissance, recommended by William J. Maxwell

It was a golden age for American culture, a flourishing of Black literature, music and the arts that exploded in the 1910s and lasted through to the Great Depression. It was focused on Harlem, the area of New York City above Central Park, but its origins and its impact were much, much broader. William J. Maxwell, Professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, recommends some of the best books on the Harlem Renaissance.

Forgotten Classics: The Best B-Side Books, recommended by John Plotz

New books are constantly being published. Sometimes they slip by unremarked; sometimes their impact is so enormous as to divert the flow of literature altogether. But what of those books that made a splash on arrival, but have long since disappeared from view? John Plotz, the literary scholar, has spent five years resurfacing these forgotten classics: the ‘B-side books’ that have fallen from the public consciousness.

Best Manga for Children and Teens, recommended by Oscar

Long associated with Japanese popular culture, manga are now found in translation across the world. In North America, this dynamic form of visual narration is overtaking comics and graphic novels in popularity. Oscar, age 13, recommends his favourite manga for children and teenagers.

Landmark LGBTQI books, recommended by Rosie Wilby

Queer readers have had to transpose themselves into heteronormative stories for most of their lives, says the comedian and writer Rosie Wilby. That’s one of the reasons why straight, cis- readers should make time to read books from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex community. Here she highlights five landmark books by LGBTQI writers that everyone should read.  

The best books on Fairy Tale Tellers, recommended by Nicholas Jubber

Once upon a time, someone told a story that would be told for hundreds of years, making its way into books and, eventually, into movies, where the tale would again be told afresh multiple times. Who was that someone? Nonfiction writer Nicholas Jubber introduces some of the original tellers of fairy tales, as well as some of his favourite 20th-century interpreters.

Notable Novels of Spring 2021, recommended by Cal Flyn

Fiction fans can expect “an embarrassment of riches” in spring 2021, according to Cal Flyn, deputy editor of Five Books and author of the forthcoming Islands of Abandonment. From buzzed-about debuts to the latest novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, we are spoilt for choice this season.

Best Crime Fiction of 2020, recommended by Sophie Roell

If you’re looking for escapism, crime novels can be a good way to go. Which is strange, given that nearly all of them revolve around murder. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books and an avid consumer of the genre, picks her personal favourites published in 2020.

The Best Philip Roth Books, recommended by Ira Nadel

Philip Roth was one of the great contemporary American novelists. He wrote about what he saw when he looked in the mirror, even when he didn’t like it, and claimed his only real interest was writing about what made him feel uncomfortable. Roth’s literary biographer, Ira Nadel, Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, talks us through Philip Roth’s novels and explains why they’re worth reading.

Best Herman Melville Books, recommended by Hester Blum

Today it is celebrated as one of America’s great novels, but when it came out, Moby-Dick was received with little acclaim and none of the commercial success of Herman Melville’s first book, Typee. Here, Hester Blum, Professor of English at Penn State, introduces the 19th century American novelist and recommends which books to read by and about him.

The Best Graphic Novels for Eight Year Olds, selected by Helen

“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?” Eight-year-old Helen feels the same. Here she tells us why reading graphic novels is fun, relaxing and definitely not for babies – and recommends her current five favourites.

The Best Science Fiction of 2020, recommended by Tom Hunter

Sci fi is booming, says Tom Hunter, the director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction, as he discusses their 2020 shortlist: six novels that embrace classic sci fi narratives, while subverting or reimagining them for a contemporary audience.

Talismanic Tomes, recommended by Maria Tatar

The stories we read as children and as adults really do change us and how we see the world around us. Here Maria Tatar, Emerita Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University, speaks about the power of five ‘talismanic tomes’ that had a meaningful influence on her life.

The Best Murder Mystery Books, recommended by Stuart Turton

The best murder mysteries set up their stories like a game between the reader and the writer, says Stuart Turton, bestselling author and lifelong mystery fan. Here he highlights five of his favourites, in which detectives make miraculous deductions, or doggedly chase clues until they meet with satisfying solutions.

Five Favourite Books, recommended by Philip Pullman

The author Philip Pullman—creator of the beloved His Dark Materials trilogy, and one of the world’s greatest storytellers—recommends five of his favourite books: from a fragmentary masterpiece by Fernando Pessoa to P. G. Wodehouse’s comic triumphs.

The Best Mythopoeic Fantasy, recommended by Samantha Shannon

Fantasy writers often create vivid, intricately detailed worlds in which their stories unfold. Rich mythmaking of this kind often features alternative religions, languages and cultures, and is known among fans and scholars as ‘mythopoeia’. Here, Samantha Shannon—author of the internationally bestselling The Bone Season sequence—recommends five of the best mythopoeic fantasy books.

Best William Faulkner Books, recommended by Ahmed Honeini

Where to start with the novels of the American writer William Faulkner, chronicler of the Old South and winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature? Here, Faulkner scholar Ahmed Honeini of Royal Holloway, University of London, recommends the best books by and about the man who tried to capture “the agony and sweat of the human spirit”.