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 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.

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 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.

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.

The Best Vietnamese Novels, recommended by Sherry Buchanan

Vietnam has had a tumultuous history and its literature is one powerful way of trying to understand it better. Journalist, author and publisher Sherry Buchanan—who has spent two decades introducing Vietnam’s culture to English-speaking audiences—talks us through the best Vietnamese novels available in English, spanning the years from French colonialism to the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.

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.

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 Goethe Books, recommended by David E. Wellbery

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) has been described as ‘the last true polymath to walk the earth’. A defining figure in German literature, Goethe coined the concept of world literature. And his literary and dramatic achievements are matched by his scientific work. David E. Wellbery, Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago and recipient of the Golden Goethe Medal, introduces us to the life and work of Goethe. He explores why figures such as Beethoven and Napoleon were magnetised to him, how Rousseau influenced Faust, and why Goethe’s Faust does not sell his soul to the devil.

The Best Native American Literature, recommended by Megan Tusler

“There’s a lot more diversity within Native American literature than many imagine,” according to Megan Tusler. The University of Chicago academic and cohost of the Better Read than Dead podcast recommends five fantastic novels which avoid “the authenticity shuffle” and demonstrate the range of literary production by American Indians.

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

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.

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’

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 Modern Japanese Literature, recommended by Linda Flores

To the western eye, Japan often appears as a surprising combination of very advanced development, and extreme cultural peculiarity. Linda Flores, Associate Professor of modern Japanese literature at the University of Oxford, guides us through this discovery with five great works of modern Japanese literature.

The Best Italian Novels, recommended by Tim Parks

In the decades following Italian unification, its authors started writing in the new common language: Italian. Italy-based novelist Tim Parks introduces us to some of the best novels by some of Italy's greatest writers.

The Best Transnational Literature, recommended by Mohsin Hamid

Beleaguered ‘citizens of nowhere’ will be pleased to know they have their own literary genre. For anyone who has ever wondered where they belong, or why, when you leave your home country, it’s never the same when you return, here are the best five books to read—including some by the greatest authors of the 20th century.

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 Fyodor Dostoevsky Books, recommended by Alex Christofi

His father had clawed his way up into the minor aristocracy, but Fyodor Dostoevsky chose to live the life of an impecunious author. He was sentenced to death, but his execution was stayed and he spent years in a Siberian labour camp instead. His books are about human compassion, but he was a difficult man who had trouble with his own personal relationships. Alex Christofi, author of a brilliant new biography of Dostoevsky, one of Russia’s greatest novelists, recommends five books to learn more about the man and his work—including the novel of which Tolstoy said he ‘didn’t know a better book in all our literature’.

Enrique Vila-Matas on Books that Shaped Him

‘I like to show some restraint when it comes to making things up…’ The Spanish novelist Enrique Vila-Matas discusses the role of risk in writing, the ‘crisis of the novel’, and five books that have shaped his own work. (You can also read this interview in the original Spanish.)

Massimo Carlotto recommends the best Italian Crime Fiction

Journalists are no longer able to properly investigate organised crime in modern Italy — leaving it to crime fiction writers to pick up the slack, says the acclaimed Italian novelist, Massimo Carlotto. Here he chooses five noir novels that explore the reality of Italian corruption in highly original ways.

The best books on Cuba, recommended by Oscar Hijuelos

In 2011, two years before his death, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos told us about books that evoke the land of his parents, from a noirish take on contemporary Havana to the cabaret scene of pre-Castro Cuba

Susan Abulhawa on Palestinian Writing

Acclaimed novelist and author of Mornings in Jenin chooses five books about Palestine by Palestinian writers. She says what she sees among the young people in Palestine is humbling, ‘they have such remarkable spirit’

Georgina Godwin on Memoirs of Zimbabwe

Via five engrossing memoirs, the Zimbabwe-born journalist Georgina Godwin talks wistfully about her country; amongst the older generation, she says, there is a feeling that Rhodesia was sold down the river by Britain and things needn’t have turned out the way they did.