50 Contemporary Books Every Woman’s Gotta Read: Contemporary Fiction

From Publishers Weekly: "The last words of this haunting novel resonate like a pealing bell. 'He fell in love. It was his life.' This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. What's really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man's name. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from IndieBound
This is the first installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which revolves around the friendship between Elena and Lila. This book begins when the girls are in first grade and carries them through adolescence. I picked this up from my local bookstore's blind date with a book shelf: the bookseller had described it as "a masterpiece you probably haven’t read yet. (Three and a half years later, booksellers can no longer say that with confidence!) Originally written in Italian and beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein. (Hot tip: I LOVED this series on audio.)
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
From the publisher: "One of the most successful and acclaimed novels of our time, this fictionalized autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett is a subtle but affecting portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life. What transforms this seemingly ordinary tale is the richness of Daisy's vividly described inner life--from her earliest memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Bookshop
From the publisher: "National Book Award Winner. Colum McCann's beloved novel inspired by Philippe Petit's daring high-wire stunt. In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. McCann's powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the 'artistic crime of the century.'"
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from IndieBound
From the publisher: "With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, short-story writer Lucia Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from IndieBound
From the publisher: "The Handmaid's Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from IndieBound
From the publisher: "Mary Ingles was twenty-three, married, and pregnant, when Shawnee Indians invaded her peaceful Virginia settlement, killed the men and women, then took her captive. For months, she lived with them, unbroken, until she escaped, and followed a thousand mile trail to freedom--an extraordinary story of a pioneer woman who risked her life to return to her people."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from IndieBound
I couldn't get into this as a hardcover but then a friend with great taste suggested I give the audio a try. I started again from the beginning, and this time this grumpy old man story hooked me. Don't you love when that happens? A great narrator can truly make or break the reading experience. George Newbern's accents—especially for Ove—are fantastic. I laughed and cried and couldn't stop listening. But do yourself a favor: don't even think about finishing this novel in a public place, and consider removing your mascara first.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
I finally read this just a couple of years ago. In the book of Genesis, Dinah is the only surviving daughter of Leah and Jacob. She's a minor character in the Bible, but The Red Tent is her life story: Diamant interweaves characters from the biblical narrative with characters of her own invention to vividly portray what it was like to live in those times, with a strong emphasis on the relationships between the women. Stirring, imaginative, and atmospheric.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Bookshop
I was warned this beautiful and heartbreaking story would suck me right in and it certainly did. The year is 1791, and an orphaned Irish girl is brought to a Virginia plantation as an indentured servant and makes her home among the slaves. The story is told alternately by the orphan Lavinia and 17-year-old Belle, the half-white illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner, who becomes Lavinia's de facto mother figure. The story keeps a brisk pace, propelled forward by rape, corruption, lynching, and occasionally, love. Whether you've already read it or are thinking about it, don't miss Kathleen Grissom talking about how this story came to be on episode 78 of What Should I Read Next.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from IndieBound
This novel had me pinned to the couch for two days (or it might have been just one). It reads like the breeziest chick lit, but has a surprising depth that makes me love it even more.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
I keep hearing this new debut novel mentioned in the same breath as "best of the year" and now I understand why. For the first hundred pages I didn't quite grasp what the author was up to, but when it hit me it was powerful. By exploring the stories of two sisters, who met different fates in Ghana more than 200 years ago, Gyasi traces subtle lines of cause and effect through the centuries, illuminating how the deeds of ages past still haunt all of us today. A brilliant concept, beautifully executed. Read it.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
Robinson’s story of the dying Iowa minister John Ames is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read, containing some of the most beautiful sentences ever put to paper. Read it. Read it slow. Wistful, reflective, and wise, this is a book you can read over and over again.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
From the publisher: "A classic work of magical realism, this bestselling novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of Tilo, a young woman from another time who has a gift for the mystical art of spices."
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Bookshop
This is Nigerian novelist Adichie’s third novel, but the first I've read. The story centers around a smart, strong-willed Nigerian woman named Ifemelu. After university, she travels to America for postgraduate work, where she endures several years of near-destitution, and a horrific event that upends her world. She finds her way, winning a fellowship at Princeton, and gaining acclaim for her blog, called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." A highlight: Adichie seamlessly weaves blog posts—about race, national identity, class, poverty, and hair—into the narrative. The novel grapples with difficult issues without becoming overwrought. I would not have read this based on the flap copy, but I was hooked from page one. Haunting, moving, incredibly well done. Terrific on audio.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
At age 16, Starr Carter has lost two close friends to gun violence: one in a drive-by; one shot by a cop. The latter is the focus of this novel: Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. She is the sole witness. Thomas seamlessly blends current events with lower-stakes themes common to teens everywhere, with great success. Fun fact: the title comes from a Tupac lyric. Publication date: February 28.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
Pilcher's novels are sometimes categorized as romance, but if you're not a fan of the genre, don't let that scare you off. This family saga tells the story of three generations of a modern British family, brought together again during a time of crisis, all of whom have been burned by love and must figure out how to move forward. Full of interesting, well-developed, flawed-but-likable characters. This is a great beach/travel read, but it's LONG, making it perfect for your ereader library. It's one of the top 100 novels in the BBC's Big Read.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Hands-down, one of the best books I've read in a year (or five). This is a story about a family that, years ago, started keeping a little secret. And, as secrets tend to do, it became bigger over time, implicating all the family members in its keeping, until it felt like the secret was keeping them. I fell completely in love with Rosie and Penn, gained insight into a situation I thought had nothing to do with me, and had complicated feelings about the resolution. This is a terrific novel about an endearingly quirky family forced to make an impossible decisions. That title? It comes from the idea that parents frequently have to make terrifyingly important decisions about their kids with not enough information even though the stakes are enormous. If this sounds good to you, do NOT read the flap copy! Just pick it up and start reading—you'll be glad you did. Publication date: January 24.
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop