Books in Pairs: Literary Fiction
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
All titles are linked to their respective Goodreads page for easy access to full synopsises and purchasing links. Some titles will come with heavier themes/trigger warnings, marked with an asterix. Please take care of your own wellbeing and consult more resources if you need them.
If you liked: The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni* you might like: Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy* Stunning nature-writing combined with character portraits of damaged women against a background of arctic isolation.
If you liked: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Gutterson you might like:Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens A court-trial stirrs up memories of prejudice, outcasts and forbidden love in a small town community
If you liked: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens you might like: The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah Literary protagonists dealing with grief and trauma through the healing power of "going back to nature"…
If you liked: Sight by Jessie Greengrass you might like: The Upstairs House by Julia Fine or A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa Two modern explorations of the beauty and horrors of motherhood, intertwined with elements of historical memoirs from the past...
If you liked: The Overstory by Richard Powers you might like: Greenwood by Michael Christie Generational fiction with strong nature-writing about our relationship with and dependance on the forests and natural world around us.
If you liked: Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter you might like: Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer** or Me (Moth) by Amber McBride Three novels in verse with a central theme of grief. the first and second are primarily targeted at an adultaudience, whereas the latter features young-adult protagonists, all three transcend age-categories and cross-over easily.
If you liked: Burntcoat by Sarah Hall you might like: The Fell by Sarah Moss Two pandemic novels that perfectly capture the feeling of isolation combined with heightened social pressure, and other unique anxieties of the 2020 pandemic.
If you liked: 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak* you might like: The Antarctica of Love by Sara Stridsberg* Two stunningly written stories about a woman's turbulent life and tragic death, told by the woman herself from beyond the grave. Both stand out to me as having exceptional sensory writing as well.
If you liked: The Unseen World by Liz Moore** you might like: The Museum of You by Carys Bray** Coming of age novels about memory, missing, grieving and letting go of a parent you maybe didn't know the way you wanted to. Also: two of my personal favourite coming of age novels of all time.
If you liked: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld you might like: Caribou Island by David Vann Two deeply dark stories of characters living their lives in a cold and isolated rural setting in self-emposed exile. What ties these novels together is their tone: hard-hitting and beautifully executed , but at times so deeply dark and pessimistic that it can become almost draining to read. If you liked one though, the other is a safe-bet for something similar.
If you liked: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss you might like: Lanny by Max Porter If you loved the small and intimate scope of these small-community-tragedies, woven through with vivid descriptions of their rural Brittish settings of one, you'll be sure to love the other as well. Both make for perfect atmospheric fall reads.
If you liked: Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden you might like: Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejide Literary fiction with a dash of magical realism, following characters coming to terms with themes of life, death and eternity, helped by a "death-companion". (Death personified as a working-class black woman, vs a ghost that haunts the trunk of a Plymouth Belvedere respectively). Both authors are poets as well, leading to works that brim with liminality in both themes and style.
If you liked: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell you might like: The Actual Star by Monica Byrne or Arcadia by Iain Pearce or Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell or Storyland by Catherine McKinnon or The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick or Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel Cloud Atlas' unique format, of weaving together stories that span generations, format ánd genre's, has spawned a complete new genre. For fans of the original, there's plenty more in that vein.
If you liked: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel you might like: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequioa Nagamatsu Both similar in setting and feeling, both these books portray a post-pandemic future world through a fragmentary storyline. To me personally, these stories are mostly linked by their atmosphere of melancholic contemplation with júst the right amount of hope through interhuman connection.
If you liked: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel you might like: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson Two sci-fi novels that focus on the human aspects and a deeply felt sense of melancholic hope, rather than the space-ships or action. Both share themes of leaving, remembering and starting anew from scratch.
If you liked: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar you might like: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd London-based historical fiction about collectors of curiosities who stumble upon what may or may not be a mermaid.
If you liked: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid you might like: City of Girls by Elizabet Gilbert Although I personally didn't enjoy these two novels, they did remind me a lot of the other. Both are show-girl centered historical fiction, about an aged star recounting the dramatic and turbulent (love-)life of her hay-days.
*Contains themes of sexual violence against women. Nothing is graphical or used for shock-value, but still make sure to look up trigger-warnings if you need them.
**Contains depiction of (chronic) illness, cancer and dementia.