Armchair BEA: Literary Fiction

And for today’s Armchair BEA topic: Literary Fiction — how do you define it? What are some great examples?

While I’m tempted to give the same answer as I did for definining classics — “I know it when I see it” — I’ll try to actually say a bit more. For me, when I think of literary fiction, I think of books in which the language itself is a key piece of the reading experience. Interesting or unusual word choices, lyrical phrasing, thoughtful use of symbolism, a unique approach to sentence structure — these are all elements that elevate a book for me into the realm of literature. On top of the language itself is the subject matter and how it’s presented. Literary fiction can have any topic, any setting, any type of character — but should have more going on in it than heavy action or a pulse-pounding plot. Literary fiction makes me think about what I’m reading — not just in terms of “what will happen next?” — but really think about the deeper meaning of events and choices, the way the characters express themselves, the signs and symbols that might add another layer to the plot itself. Finally, I tend to equate literary fiction with beauty, especially in terms of beautiful writing and beautiful descriptions.

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years that I would consider literary fiction are:

  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Another part of today’s prompt from the Armchair BEA organizers is:

Name a novel that hasn’t received a lot of buzz that definitely deserves it.

I think I’ll switch that up a bit and mention an author who deserves much more attention than I think she gets, and that’s Mary Doria Russell, author of five amazing novels (so far!), on topics ranging from space exploration to WWII to the old West to Lawrence of Arabia. What makes each and every one of her novels a literary masterpiece, in my mind, is her incredible talent for choosing just the right words to express a feeling, a mood, a setting, an emotion. Her writing is beautiful and never fails to just slay me; in fact, I wrote a post about the emotional impact her book The Sparrow had on me when I reread it last year.

So, literary fiction. How do you define it? Are you a fan? And what are your favorites?

Thanks for stopping by! Don’t miss my giveaway today, ending soon!


Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction

The second Armchair BEA topic today is Genre Fiction:

Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, and more–is genre fiction your thing? Post about the genre(s) you love–or the ones you don’t-

I’ve never been one for strict definitions. If I like a book, I like a book! That said, I do aim toward some sections of the book store more than others.

While I do read straight-up contemporary fiction, I tend to veer off toward the weird, the unusual, the spooky, and the odd more often than not. My reading wanders all over the map, but what I end up enjoying most is:

  • Science fiction/fantasy: I love excellent world-building, new frontiers, unusual circumstances or rules. Throw in time travel, threats to human civilizations, maybe a bit of a humorous approach, some deep interpersonal connections, and I’m there.
  • Paranormal/urban fantasy: I can OD on these pretty quickly, but give me a few well-chosen series to commit to, and I’m happy.
  • Horror: Of a sort. Nothing too gross for me, but I do love a more psychological chill-inducing thrill ride.
  • Historical fiction: When it suits me. I won’t read historical fiction indiscriminately, but if I find a good book or series on a time period that interests me, I’m easily hooked!

What I mostly avoid:

  • Mysteries: I’ll read a good mystery once in a while, but overall, this is a section of the fiction world that I avoid. Much like I don’t watch police procedurals on TV — I’m just not interested in a “case of the week”.
  • Romance: Again, I’ll give any good book a try, but typically if a book has a shirtless man on the cover or a woman who looks like she’s about to pop out of her low-cut dress, it’s not for me.

Outside of the “genre” classification, I find in general that I’m also drawn to:

  • Graphic novels and comic book compilations: I’m relatively new to this world, but over the past few years I’ve absolutely fallen in love with certain books and series, including the children’s Bone series, Fables, and Y: The Last Man, to name but a few.
  • Children’s books: As a mom, I’m always on the look-out for good, engaging middle grade books — but I also enjoy these for myself as a reader. I like smart characters, interesting scenarios, and good writing, and finding a gem for this age is such a delight!
  • Young adult: I’m not a big fan of labels, but I do find so much to enjoy from the young adult shelves. I keep trying to convince my “grown-up” friends to give certain young adult titles a try. Good fiction is good fiction!

Overall, though, I’m not a big believer in “wills” and “won’ts”. Convince me that a book is worth my time and I’ll read it, regardless of what shelf it sits on!