[edgtf_dropcaps type=”normal” color=”#d6a67c” background_color=””]L[/edgtf_dropcaps]ooking for those books that are more character-driven than plot-driven? We have you covered with a list of bestselling authors you’re already acquainted with, and debut authors making their mark in the genre. So make space on your bookshelves, stop by your favorite indie bookstore, and make those library requests after you’ve browsed our most anticipated literary fiction books of Summer 2021!
Second Place by Rachel Cusk
Second Place, Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift–and to destroy.
A Lonely Man by Chris Power
The author of Mothers delivers an existential mystery that explores the uncertain intersection between fiction and reality, and the disastrous consequences of a chance encounter.
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for–who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.
Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng
A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday.
Angel & Hannah by Ishle Yi Park
The sweeping, unforgettable story of an interracial couple in 1990s New York City who are determined to protect their love against all odds–a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet.
A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin
It’s a club like no other. Only the most important women receive an invitation. But one daring young reporter is about to infiltrate this female-run secret society, whose bewitching members are caught up in a dark and treacherous business.
The Betrayals by Bridget Collins
An intricate and utterly spellbinding literary epic brimming with enchantment, mystery, and dark secrets.
Phase Six by Jim Shepard
A spare and gripping novel about the next pandemic–completed by the award-winning Jim Shepard before COVID-19 even emerged–that reads like a fictional sequel to our current crisis.
Revival Season by Monica West
The daughter of one of the South’s most famous Baptist preachers discovers a shocking secret about her father that puts her at odds with both her faith and her family.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Urgent, propulsive, and sharp as a knife, The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.
Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn
Double Blind follows three close friends and their circle through a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d’Antibes, Big Sur, and a rewilded corner of Sussex, this thrilling, ambitious novel is about the headlong pursuit of knowledge–for the purposes of pleasure, revelation, money, sanity, or survival–and the consequences of fleeing from what we know about others and ourselves.
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett
From the author of the New York Times-bestselling sensation Mostly Dead Things a surprising and moving story of two mothers, one difficult son, and the limitations of marriage, parenthood, and love.
Animal by Lisa Taddeo
Lisa Taddeo illustrates one woman’s exhilarating transformation from prey into predator in Animal. Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
An essential and revelatory coming-of-age narrative from a thrilling new voice, Rainbow Milk follows nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.
Hard Like Water by Yan Lianke, Translated by Carlos Rojas
A novel of rare emotional force and surprising humor, Hard Like Water is an operatic and brilliantly plotted human drama about power’s corrupting nature and the brute force of love and desire.
Home Stretch by Graham Norton
Explores the aftermath of a tragedy on a small-town to illuminate the shame and longing that can flow through generations–and how the secrets of the heart cannot stay be buried forever.
What You Can See from Here by Mariana Leky, Translated by Tess Lewis
A heartwarming story unfolds about a small town, a grandmother whose dreams foretell a coming death, and the young woman forever changed by these losses and her loving, endearingly oddball community.
This Shining Life by Harriet Kline
A boy struggling to process an unexpected loss believes he has been given a series of clues to the biggest puzzle of all–the meaning of life.
Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
A transporting love story of music, stardom, heartbreak, and a gifted young singer-songwriter who must find her own voice.
Heatwave by Victor Jestin
A vivid, mesmerizing novel about a teenage boy on vacation who makes an irrevocable mistake and becomes trapped in a spiral of guilt and desire.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
An astounding work of fiction from a New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott, always deeply honest, at times electrically funny, that goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole.
Nobody, Somebody, Anybody by Kelly McClorey
A moving and darkly comic debut novel about an anxious young woman who administers a self-made “placebo” treatment in a last-ditch attempt to rebuild her life.
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
This hilarious and profound debut follows a morbidly anxious young woman who stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and becomes obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death.
Alec by William di Canzio
William di Canzio’s Alec, inspired by Maurice, E. M. Forster’s secret novel of a happy same-sex love affair, tells the story of Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper Maurice Hall falls in love with in Forster’s classic, published only after the author’s death.
The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, Translated by Jennifer Croft
From acclaimed Argentine author Pedro Mairal and Man Booker International-winning translator Jennifer Croft, the unforgettable story of two would-be lovers over the course of a single day. The Woman from Uruguay is both a gripping narrative and a tender, thought-provoking exploration of the nature of relationships.
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
A mixed-race American woman signs up to teach English in Saigon to connect with the Vietnamese part of her heritage. She ends up in a relationship with a fellow teacher, but then she suddenly goes missing. Other accounts of disappearing young women are revealed while illustrating Vietnam’s history of colonialism, war, and violence against women.
Wayward by Dana Spiotta
A moving, funny, engrossing novel about mothers and daughters, and one woman’s midlife reckoning.
Bolla by Pajtim Statovci, Translated by David Hackston
A dazzling tale full of fury, tenderness, longing, and lust. Entwined with their story is a re-created legend of a demonic serpent, Bolla; it’s an unearthly tale that gives Arsim and Milos a language through which to reflect on what they once had. A relentless novel of desire, destruction, intimacy, and the different fronts of war.
A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan
Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch
Two women abroad search for the truth about their husbands–and their country. Embassy Wife asks what it means to be a human in this world, even as it helps us laugh in the face of our own absurd, seemingly impossible states of affairs.
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
A young man journeys into Sri Lanka’s war-torn north in this searing novel of longing, loss, and the legacy of war from the author of The Story of a Brief Marriage.
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
This graceful and indelible debut about love, grief, and family welcomes you into its pages and invites you to linger, staying with you long after you’ve closed its covers.
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
A transfixing novel about two unforgettable characters seeking to free themselves–one from the expectations of women in early 20th century Punjab, and the other from the weight of life in the contemporary Indian diaspora.
The Bachelor by Andrew Palmer
Intellectually ambitious and keenly observed, The Bachelor is also an absorbing coming-of-age tale that tells the story of finding one’s footing in love and art. If salvation can no longer be found in fame, can it still be found in romantic relationships? In an era in which reality TV can make two dozen women fall in love with one man in six weeks, where does entertainment end and reality begin? Why do we, season after season, repeat the same mistakes in love and life?
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair–and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
In this blazingly smart and voracious debut, an artist turned stay-at-home mom becomes convinced she’s turning into a dog — expertly balancing the uncanny and quotidian moments of early motherhood.
Virtue by Hermione Hoby
A powerful novel of youth, desire, and moral conflict, in which a young man is seduced by the mirage of glamour–at terrible cost.
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.
The Minister Primarily by John Oliver Killens
A major literary event–the eagerly anticipated publication of a long-lost novel from legendary writer and three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee John Oliver Killens, hailed as the founding father of the Black Arts Movement and mentor to celebrated writers, including Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Arthur Flowers, and Terry McMillan.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
An intimate yet sweeping novel with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, Sing; and The Water Dancer–that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.
A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin
From the universally admired, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting and The Boat Rocker, an urgent, timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country as he works to find his way in the United States.
When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen
A haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind.
Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson
An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.
All's Well by Mona Awad
From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers.
Savage Tongues by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
A novel about a young woman caught in an affair with a much older man, a personal and political exploration of desire, power, and human connection.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves–if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.
Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost by David Hoon Kim
In a strangely distorted Paris, a Japanese adoptee is haunted by the woman he once loved. David Hoon Kim’s debut is a transgressive, darkly comic novel of becoming lost and found in translation. With each successive, echoic chapter, Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost plunges us more deeply beneath the surface of things, to the displacement, exile, grief, and desire that hide in plain sight.
Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman
A novelist discovers the dark side of Hollywood and reckons with ambition, corruption, and connectedness in the age of environmental collapse and ecological awakening–a darkly unsettling near-future novel for readers of Don DeLillo and Ottessa Moshfegh.
The President and the Frog by Carolina De Robertis
As engrossing as it is innovative, vivid, moving, and full of wit and humor, The President and the Frog explores the resilience of the human spirit and what is possible when danger looms. Ferrying us between a grim jail cell and the president’s lush gardens, the tale reaches beyond all borders and invites us to reimagine what it means to lead, to dare, and to dream.
Ramadan Ramsey by Louis Edwards
The Guggenheim Fellowship and Whiting Award-winning author Louis Edwards makes his long-awaited comeback with this epic tale of a New Orleans boy whose very creation is so filled with tension that it bedevils his destiny before he is even born. Spanning from the Deep South to the Middle East, Ramadan Ramsey bridges multiple countries and cultures, entwining two families who struggle to love and survive in the face of war, natural disasters, and their equally tumultuous, private mistakes and yearnings.
The Shimmering State by Meredith Westgate
A luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.
The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije
Reminiscent of Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon, this coming-of-age tale follows a young man who is forced to flee his homeland of Rwanda during the Civil War and make sense of his reality.
The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye
In this lush, magical, queer, and feminist take on Hamlet in modern-day New York City, a neuro-atypical philosopher, along with his best friend Horatio and artist ex-fiance Lia, are caught up in the otherworldly events surrounding the death of his father.
In the Country of Others by Leila Slimani
The award-winning, #1 internationally bestselling new novel by the author of The Perfect Nanny, about a woman in an interracial marriage whose fierce desire for autonomy parallels her adopted country’s fight for independence.
The Human Zoo by Sabina Murray
At once a propulsive look at contemporary Filipino politics and the history that impacted the country, The Human Zoo is a thrilling and provocative story from one of our most celebrated and important writers of literary fiction.
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, Translated by Jessica Cohen
From the internationally best-selling author, a remarkable novel of suffering, love, and healing: the story of three generations of women and a secret that needs to be told.
Are you looking forward to any of these books?
What literary fiction books are you looking forward to in 2021? What books would you add to the list?