life and times of angel

Opening a Gateway to Adult Fiction

I might not look like it, but I’m 23 years old. And to be quite honest, that’s about the number of adult books that I’ve read in my lifetime.

As a creative writing major, I studied mostly literary fiction–Murakami, Joyce, Carver and their ilk peppered my readings with their winding existentialist stories. They were brilliant pieces of literature and the extent to which they stretched their craft astonishes me.

None of them captured my imagination.

I’ve grown to see adult fiction, especially high-lit, as extremely dry and boring, and that worries me. I’m 100% sure that there are hundreds of novels that would interest me, but I can’t seem to find any. While I’ve grown to understand that this is probably just a personal quirk, I would like to be fair and give the genre another go.

So this is where I turn to you readers: what are some wonderful adult novels that you can recommend? I’ve wanted to ask this question for a while now, and now that I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a lot of you out there, I trust your judgment.

In the interest of full disclosure, I love romance novels. I will read any and everything by Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn. I also fell hard for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus this year, so magic realism is definitely on the table. And if you plan to rec a literary-fiction piece: tell me as much as you can about why you loved it. Nicholas Sparks’s novels and others like it are deal-breakers and I draw the line at Neil Gaiman for horror. (I’m a wuss.)

This might result in a new project for 2012, or it could just be another TBR checklist. Either way, I appreciate the recs and can’t wait to see what these stories hold for me.


29 replies »

  1. Romance novels: JENNIFER CRUSIE, OH MAH GAWWWWW. (Start with Bet Me, seriously one of my favorite romance novels ever, I’ve had to buy a second copy). I also like a lot of Susan Elizabeth Philips, but it depends on which book with her. For instance, I read one book called Glitter Baby and didn’t love it so much, but adored one called Match Me If You Can. They both do Rom Com, which I’m a big fan of

    How do you feel about Chick-Lit and books that sort of straddle the chick-lit/romance line? I’ve got some recs there too.

  2. Other than Jane Austen and George Eliot, I haven’t read an adult book in quite possibly forever. Thus, I am merely passing along a rumor that THE TIGER’S WIFE by Tea Obreht is an adult book that people who love YA will like.

      • Oh, hey, Michele! What about SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell? Have you read that? It was listed in Book Riot’s “Crossover Appeal” post recently. (Book Riot has a frequent feature in which it posts adult books that YA readers would like, and YA books that adult readers would like.)

  3. I love Rachel Vincent’s Shifters series. There are 6 books total and I thought they were fantastic. Also Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent too. I have heard that Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is good too although I haven’t read them.

  4. I just finished Evelina by Frances Burney and enjoyed it (I’m actually hoping to get a review of it up later today), though I’m not sure if it’s considered adult fiction? I know you’ve already read all of Austen’s stuff… Have you read Oryx and Crake,, The Year of the Flood, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? Atwood is an amazing adult-fiction writer and probably my favourite contemporary one. The Kurt Vonnegut stuff I’ve read has been pretty good as well, though I can’t for the life of me remember the titles. Oh, and Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead was cool.

    I also read a couple of Meg Cabot’s adult novels, and it was a nice way to ease into the genre because she writes so much YA, but I wouldn’t say they were amazing.


  5. I think I read more adult novels when I was in high school than I do now, which is kind of strange. The first ones that come to mind are Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella. I can’t read too many of them in a row or they drive me crazy, but they are fun. I just read Jeri Smith-Ready’s WVMP series (there are 3 out, with a 4th and last one coming next year) and I really liked them, even though I’m not usually into vampires. I’ve also heard good things about Rachel Vincent and Rachel Caine’s adult series, as well as Kelley Armstrong and Richelle Mead. But… yah, those are all writers who also do YA and they’re all pretty much paranormal romance. Clearly I’m lacking on the adult recs front as well, so I’m interested in everyone’s responses. =)

  6. You should go for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Especially the first 2 books a magical. Otherwise if you like historical fiction I can revommend Sara Donati’s Wilderness series.
    I love Nora Roberts thriller series In Death, written under the name J.D. Robb. It’s very powerful. And I agree Susan Elisabeth Philips writes very amusing contemporary adult novels.

  7. I HIGHLY recommend Meg Cabot’s adult series. Specifically her “Boy Series”, and Heather Wells Mysteries. They’re both kind of Rom-Com series that I just adore.

    The way that “The Boy Series” (Boy Next Door, Boy Meets Girl, and Every Boy’s Got One) is written is so unique. They were the first “adult” books I ever read.

    As for the Heather Wells Mysteries, I picked the first one up, based purely on the title “Size 12 Is Not Fat”, it was head over heels love after that. I think I’ve read this series (three, soon to be four books) almost as much as I’ve read the Harry Potter series.

    If your looking for something a bit more along the adult/romance line, I really recommend The Highlander Series by Karen Marie Moning, it has time travel and pretty Scottish men… what more could you ask for?

  8. So many come to mind Angel! I love The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, ROOM by Emma Donoghue, one of my faves this year — Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin, anything by Ann Patchett or Joyce Carol Oates….

    And if you love chick lit I’m a huge fan of Emily Giffin & Lindsey Kelk!

    Happy Reading! — Shannon

  9. I’m, um, slightly (read: a LOT) older than you, Angel, but I still lean to the YA fiction quite a bit. I’ve been trying to consciously add in more ‘adult’ titles along the way recently to mix it up and to keep my mental faculties from getting stuck in the *sings* “I don’t wanna grow up…” mode. For years I have loved Guy Gavriel Kay (a TO author to boot), especially his books Tigana and Under Heaven. I second (or third or whatever) Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, and Diana Gabaldon. I’m currently reading Alan Bradley and though the main character is eleven years old, it still comes across as an older read. Good luck finding books you like 🙂

  10. Someplace to be Flying by Charles De Lint (urban fantasy)
    The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (dystopian)
    The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (slice of life/literary)
    Spin by Catherine McKenzie (chick lit)
    Size Twelve is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (chick lit/funny mystery)
    The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

  11. I’m 42 and I don’t like a lot of adult fiction either. Some of the stuff that I’ve read and loved: anything by Anne Rice, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lady of the Forest and Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson, Sharon Kay Penman and Judith Merkle Riley.

  12. Have you tried Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story collection South Sea Tales? “The Ebb-Tide” is amazing, as are “The Bottle Imp” and “The Isle of Voices”. As for the literary-piece justification, it’s not mainstream Victorian fiction, and the type of magic realism is probably something you’ve never encountered before, so you should give it a go. (And because it took me a good thirty minutes to come up with a suggestion, which is probably longer than it’ll take you to devour the stories, so now you’re obligated to read them. :D)

  13. Thirding Anna and Helen’s recommendation of Meg Cabot’s Boy series. They were one of the first adult books I’d ever read. Only I didn’t realize they were considered adult fiction until years later.

    One of my favorite books is Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. I had to read it for freshman year in high school, and I absolutely loved it.

    (And this post is seriously making me reconsider adult fiction. Just because I can barely count the adult fiction books I’ve read on one hand, excluding classic literature.)

  14. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer (there is a movie coming out for it soon so it makes it a bonus if you like it.)
    As mentioned above Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

    I’ll try to think of some others that stick out in my mind.

  15. Some short story collections that I love:

    Shadowboxing by Tony Birch
    The Boat by Nam Le
    Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

    If you read any of them let me know what you think (especially the Birch and Le collections – I love recommending Aussie authors). 😀

  16. The Marked Ones by ME! Lol shameless plug but I took forever to grow out of a certain style of books too. Mine is a sexy fairytale written just for me that my friends went so mad for that it’s now on Kindle:)

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