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.

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 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.

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.

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 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 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 Experimental Fiction, recommended by Rebecca Watson

Experimental fiction often uses unusual forms of syntax, style, or form—perhaps taking the form of fragments, footnotes or parallel narratives. Here Rebecca Watson, author of the critically acclaimed experimental novel little scratch, recommends five of the best experimental novels and explains why a writer might choose to bend the rules—and to what effect.

The Best of Contemporary Irish Fiction, recommended by Liz Nugent

Bestselling author Liz Nugent, whose latest novel Our Little Cruelties is out now, talks to Five Books about the Irish writers that have been taking the world by storm in recent years—as she selects five unmissable recent works of Irish contemporary fiction, including books by Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry.

The Best Psychological Thrillers, recommended by Tammy Cohen

Psychological thrillers play on our fears that those closest to us can’t be trusted and that even our homes aren’t safe, explains Tammy Cohen, author of Stop at Nothing and They All Fall Down. She recommends five psychological thrillers and explains what it is that makes them so deeply unsettling and utterly gripping.

The Best Self-Help Novels, recommended by Beth Blum

Since the publication of Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help (1859) in Victorian Britain, self-help has become a billion dollar industry—and its influence is even felt in the contemporary novel, says Harvard literary scholar Beth Blum, author of The Self-Help Compulsion, a new history of the rise of self-help narratives in modern literature.

The Best Elena Ferrante Books, recommended by Sarah Chihaya and Merve Emre

From her early novellas to the Neapolitan quartet, the elusive Elena Ferrante has achieved deserved superstar status for the compulsively readable, addictive quality of her writing. Two of the authors of The Ferrante Letters, Sarah Chihaya and Merve Emre, introduce us to Ferrante and recommend what to read next after My Brilliant Friend.

Editors’ Picks: Notable Books of 2019, recommended by Cal Flyn

Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn reflects on a year of spectacularly rich literary output, highlighting notable new books from Mary Gaitskill and Robert Macfarlane, as well as sparkling debuts that mark the arrival of exciting new literary voices in 2019.

The Best Indian Novels of 2019, recommended by Rana Dasgupta

India has a thriving literary community working in 22 official languages plus English, says Rana Dasgupta, the literary director of the JCB Prize: a major award for the best new novel by an Indian author. Here, he talks us through their 2019 shortlist.

The Best Fiction of 2019, recommended by Peter Florence

Each year, a panel of esteemed judges reads over 100 novels to determine which titles will vie for the award of the Booker Prize for Fiction. Peter Florence, chair of the 2019 judges and founder of the famous Hay Festival, tells us why the books on this year’s shortlist are gripping, enthralling must-reads.

The Best Cormac McCarthy Books, recommended by Stacey Peebles

From All The Pretty Horses to Blood Meridian to The Road, Cormac McCarthy has achieved deserved status as a living titan of literary fiction for his philosophical, violent, often deeply moving novels. Cormac McCarthy expert Stacey Peebles introduces us to the author’s oeuvre—and tells us that despite its apocalyptic bleakness, The Road is actually McCarthy’s “happiest book.”

Shanghai Novels, recommended by Paul French

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.

The Best Fiction of 2018, recommended by Kwame Anthony Appiah

Looking for the best novels of the year? Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at New York University and chair of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for fiction, gives an in-depth breakdown of the six books that made this year’s shortlist, and reflects on why the novel as a form is stronger than ever.

The Best of Trans Literature, recommended by Susan Stryker

Many of the current controversies over trans rights and identities derive from false beliefs, explains the author and academic Susan Stryker. Here she selects five excellent contemporary trans titles with depth, complexity and heart, to help us reframe what has all too often become a toxic debate

The Best of Autofiction, recommended by Olivia Laing

All writers draw from lived experience, but today’s most exciting experimental writers aren’t afraid to mine theirs explicitly. Here, the acclaimed writer and critic Olivia Laing – author of Crudo and The Lonely City – discusses five works of ‘autofiction’ that have influenced her.

Rachel Kushner on Books That Influenced Her

Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers and The Mars Room, which has been shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, discusses the five books that have most influenced her writing, from Dostoyevsky to Marguerite Duras. She muses on the question of what fiction can offer: “A novel itself, if it is good, and effective at whatever its particular aesthetic and philosophical aim is, can answer the question best, so that a novelist doesn’t have to.”

Robin Robertson on Books that Influenced Him

“That’s what writing is: a struggle with oneself.” Scottish poet Robin Robertson—author of the verse novel The Long Take, shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize—lists the five works that have most influenced his writing, from Ulysses to Heaney.

The Best of Georgian Literature, recommended by Gvantsa Jobava

How does a country left in ruins by 70 years of Soviet oppression rebuild its literature? It starts from scratch and breaks all the rules. Gvantsa Jobava reveals the riches of Georgian literature, from 12th-century feminist epics to radical, experimental accounts of a post-Independence underworld

Daisy Johnson on Books That Influenced Her

Daisy Johnson—short story writer, novelist, and the youngest author to be shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize—chooses the five books that most inspired her novel Everything Under and shares some of her writing rituals and philosophy.

Hermione Hoby on New York Novels

The writer and journalist Hermione Hoby’s highly acclaimed first novel is set during a New York heatwave. Here she picks five books inspired by this capacious, overstated, indomitable city and discusses how it shaped her as a writer.

The Best Cli-Fi Books, recommended by Dan Bloom

Fiction that explores issues of climate change is growing at an unprecedented rate today, says the journalist who coined the phrase ‘cli-fi’, Dan Bloom. Here, he picks the five best books of the field, and introduces us to a globally important, underexplored literary genre

Joanna Walsh recommends the best Absurdist Literature

‘Absurdism is completely out there – it’s about clashing and bright colours and over-the-top metaphors.’ Author and critic Joanna Walsh considers the peculiar nature and aims of absurdist literature, from Daniil Kharms’s shattered narratives to Isabel Waidner’s joyful assaults on sense.

Ian McEwan on the Books That Shaped His Novels

Novelist Ian McEwan talks about five of the books that have helped shape his own, from the biography of a scientific genius to a treatise on the end of time, and discusses the importance of finding “mental freedom”

Essential Norwegian Fiction, recommended by Roy Jacobsen

Sagas old and new, from Gisli Sursson’s trials to Knausgård’s struggle, form the backbone of Roy Jacobsen’s selection of essential fiction from Norway, a country that is like ‘a black and not very polished diamond’, and where writers and readers seek out the human, ‘no matter how awkward, grandiose, sentimental, nostalgic, embarrassing, hyperbolic, stupid, hilarious or dangerous it may be’

Mathias Enard on The ‘Orient’ and Orientalism

Study of the ‘Orient’ and Orientalism has evolved considerably since Edward Said's seminal study of 1978. Here, the multi-award winning French novelist Mathias Enard, whose own novel, Compass, draws on this rich history, discusses five books that capture key aspects of this ever-shifting terrain

Dorthe Nors on the best Contemporary Scandinavian Literature

Minimalism is big with the Danes while Icelanders favour magical realism; the Swedes keep it classical while the Norwegians get emotional. Man Booker International shortlistee Dorthe Nors takes us on a tour of the most exciting voices in contemporary Scandinavian literature.

Katie Kitamura on Marriage (and Divorce) in Literature

Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but what happens when the horses are spooked and the whole procession is run off the road? Katie Kitamura, whose new novel A Separation charts the disastrous—and tragic—failure of a marriage, considers some of literature’s most heartfelt accounts of relationship failure

Max Porter on the Books That Shaped Him

Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers, on the books that have taken him from childhood to adulthood, the deepening shadow of nuclear war, and why he’ll always be on his knees in front of Emily Dickinson

The Best Electronic Literature, recommended by Jessica Pressman

When we think of an ebook, we think of a printed book delivered in electronic form. But it can be so much more than that. Here, literary scholar Jessica Pressman talks us through the the rise of electronic literature—books that are composed not just of words, but take advantage of all the tools that a digital medium has to offer.

Fran Lebowitz on New York Writers

‘The authors of these five books are people who came to New York for freedom – not so they could get rich, but so they could be free to pursue their interests and live their lives the way they wanted.’ New Yorker par excellence Fran Lebowitz recommends the writers who best capture her immutably mutable city.

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 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.

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 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.