With so many novels and works of fiction to choose from these days, where do you start? Here, we’ve put together reading lists compiled by some of the most eminent authors, poets, critics and academics writing today to help you find the best novels and works of fiction. Whether you’re looking for some light holiday reading or writing an essay about Charles Dickens books, you should be able to find what you’re looking for.
Our fiction section is broadly organized as follows. First, we have interviews with leading academics on some of the great authors of the past (e.g Jane Austen, George Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov). Generally the recommendations will be a combination of the most important works by those authors, as well as one or two books of literary criticism.
For prominent authors still alive and writing today, our interviews tend to focus on the books that inspired them. Our collection of interviews and book recommendations entitled ‘Novelists’ Inspiration’ can be found here
We also have a lot of novels and fiction broken down geographically, so our site is a good place to find (say) the best Egyptian or South African novels or the best of Israeli fiction. The best Italian novels are a perennial favourite.
Finally, we have a lot of genre fiction – from thrillers and horror to historical fiction and romance.
Our book recommendations are all made by experts, who explain their choices in an interview. You can browse our database either by book or by interview:
Troilus and Criseyde
Geoffrey Chaucer (ed. by Stephen Barney)
Oxford Guides to Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde
by Barry Windeatt
The Double Sorrow of Troilus: A Study of Ambiguities in ‘Troilus and Criseyde’
by Ida L. Gordon
The Tragic Argument of Troilus and Criseyde
by Gerald Morgan
A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde
by Lavinia Greenlaw
Long before Renaissance dramas or realist novels, Chaucer wrote a love story set in a besieged city that was a deep psychological exploration of character and human relationships. Jenni Nuttall, author of Troilus and Criseyde: A Reader’s Guide, shares her reading recommendations after over a decade of teaching the poem to Oxford undergraduates.
Friendships: they can be hard to keep and even harder to understand. Yet so often they end up having enormous impacts on our lives. Lauren Mechling, contributing editor at Vogue and author of the novel How Could She, picks the novelists that best portray the thorny underside of friendship as well as its joys.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer
The Pine Islands
by Jen Calleja & Marion Poschmann
The Shape of the Ruins
by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McLean
by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes
Bettany Hughes, author of Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities and chair of this year’s Man Booker International Prize judging panel, talks us through the six books they have shortlisted for the title of best novel in translation.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales not only revolutionized English poetry—they’re also extremely funny and moving. Oxford Professor Marion Turner, who has written the first full-length biography of Chaucer in a generation, tells us about the extraordinary man who wrote them and why we should all read the Canterbury Tales.
Looking for a pacy, suspenseful thriller to take on holiday this summer? Look no further. Anthony Franze, author and coordinator of the International Thriller Writers’ annual awards, talks us through some of the books that made the 2019 shortlist.
If you’re hoping to travel to a galaxy far, far away this summer, these six excellent sci fi novels will help you on your way. Tom Hunter, the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction books, discusses the 2019 prize shortlist.
“I’ve been reading Quebec literature since the 1980s. I can tell when I’ve found a voice that I resonate with, when something is really beautiful or when it’s just trash.” Georgetown University Professor Miléna Santoro picks her favourite Quebec writers and showcases some of the region’s best contemporary fiction and poetry translated from the original French.
Emerson: The Mind on Fire
by Robert D Richardson
Emerson: Essays and Lectures
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson in His Journals
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joel Porte (editor)
Emerson in His Own Time
Ronald A. Bosco and Joel Myerson (editors)
One First Love
by Ellen Louisa Tucker & Ralph Waldo Emerson
Known to many of us as the American Transcendentalist champion of individualism and self-reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson is a much more soulful and sorrowful, brilliant but deeply contradictory thinker than we often give him credit for, says James Marcus, as he recommends the best books by – or about – Emerson.
William Shakespeare has a strong claim to be the most influential writer of all time. But whose works influenced him? And how? Robert S Miola discusses the breadth of Shakespeare’s reading, the vexed question of how we can reconstruct what he read, and the staggeringly innovative ways that Shakespeare shaped his sources
It’s not quite poetry, yet not quite prose: the prose poem is “the defining poetic invention of modernity,” argues Jeremy Noel-Tod, editor of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem. Here he chooses five of the best prose poems from Arthur Rimbaud to Claudia Rankine.
The best fiction allows us to hold ideas in our heads about time and space and causality and connection that are difficult to articulate in other ways, argues the Australian author James Bradley. It helps its readers engage with dangers and possibilities that are at the very edge of imagination
Though biographical sensation has often diverted attention from her work, Sylvia Plath remains one of the finest lyric poets of the twentieth century, argues Professor Tim Kendall, Academic Director of Arts and Culture at Exeter and author of Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study. Here, he recommends the best places to start (or return to) with Plath, from a fresh look at Ariel to illuminating an oft-overlooked, brilliant appendix in her unabridged journals.
Looking for recent collections of poetry to read this year? Longtime Faber poet and virtuosic translator Jamie McKendrick recommends the five best poetry books he’s read in the last year, from a peculiar book of grief by Anne Carson to a long-awaited volume by Michael Hofmann.
An ever-growing body of authors are writing about the reality of what it means to be black in America, says Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Here she recommends five works of African American literature, from greats like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison to lesser-known gems by Ann Petry.
With the help of a good anthology and a heaping dose of American classics, anyone can be converted to being a lover of poetry. Elisa New, Harvard scholar and host of the new PBS series Poetry in America, recommends her favorite American poets, from Emily Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop.
The British public-school system, with its hidden homosexuality and feelings of loneliness, encouraged subterfuge and led to a generation of great spy writers and spies, suggests author and journalist Ben Macintyre. He picks the best books on spies.
From the humorous and dark stories of a young V. S. Naipaul to recent coming-of-age novels, set in a cut-throat Jamaican holiday resort or American’s urban battlefields, Alexia Arthurs explores the myriad expressions of Caribbean identity in fiction
Romance: it’s one of the bestselling and most widely-read genres, with thousands of books published each year. But where to start? And which books are at the cutting edge of the genre? We turned to Frannie Strober Cassano, the Romance Writers of America’s 2018 Librarian of the Year, for her choice of the best new romances published in the past 12 months.
Daphne du Maurier is one of the most overlooked writers of the twentieth century, says Oxford University’s Laura Varnam. As Rebecca celebrates its eightieth anniversary and du Maurier enjoys a critical renaissance, Varnam explores the best Daphne du Maurier book which highlight this novelist’s sheer range and brilliance—from biography and fiction to history and horror.
Though it was the fifth biggest city in the world in the years following the Second World War, there aren’t nearly as many novels set in Shanghai as there are in Paris, Berlin and other international cities. Author and expert on modern Chinese history Paul French takes a look at the literary history of an often underwritten city from the 1930s through to the new millennium.
Samuel Beckett remains one of the most significant writers of the twentieth century. Ruthlessly experimental, his plays, novels, and poems represent a sustained attack on the realist tradition. Dr Mark Nixon looks at the mutating nature of Beckett’s literary style and explains why he didn’t choose Waiting for Godot.
A century ago, the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—became independent. This year, 2018, we highlight five of the best works of Baltic literature recently translated into English. Baltic literature expert Jayde Will breaks each of them down, and introduces us to an area of the world with a vibrant literary culture too often overlooked.
When it was published on December 19th, 1843, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was an instant classic. As families settle in front of the fire to read it aloud on Christmas Eve, Oxford Professor of English Literature Robert Douglas-Fairhurst runs through the best of Dickens’s prolific writings about Christmas.