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12 literary novels for breaking out of a reading slump

By Kobo • November 04, 2022Recommended Reading

Even voracious readers sometimes want a guaranteed page-turner that breaks them out of their reading slump.

Most readers seeking help shaking off a reading slump benefit from having books sliced into pieces they can consume regularly until the reading habit sticks. One way we've tried to help is by suggesting books to those readers that can be finished in a month with a minor daily commitment.

This list is different. Because as a reader of literary fiction, you’re different. You don’t need to be encouraged to read, or to find hacks for turning downtime into time with books. What you do need are some recommendations of books that aren’t already on your TBR pile (realistically speaking you don’t actually need that at all, but we’re not judging) so here are some reader-tested books that have all been devoured by discerning readers like you.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

In the summer of 1954 Emmett Watson is released from a juvenile labour camp at the age of eighteen after serving a sentence for manslaughter. There’s nobody in his life except his little brother Billy, who he plans to take with him to California where they’ll start a new life. But a pair of friends from the work farm who stowed away in the trunk of the warden’s car that delivered Emmett home to Nebraska have plans to bring Emmett eastward instead on a 10-day road trip to New York City.

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What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad won Canada’s most prestigious literary prize for this fable-like book about a Syrian boy who washes up on the shore of some unnamed European island and is taken in by Vanna, a teenage girl who’s determined to bring this stranger to safety—though she has nothing but contempt for the people of the island who she lives among.

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara is an Artificial Friend who wants only to be purchased and taken out of the shop where she sits on the shelf watching the world go by. Fans of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go will find this a fitting companion piece to that book, playing along the same themes of who matters, and what sacrifices are demanded from those who don’t.

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The Winter Wives by Linden MacIntyre

A pair of old friends, married to sisters, spend a weekend together catching up over rounds of golf—only to discover the true nature of their relationship when one is suddenly struck down by illness.

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A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

This is the Trojan War as you’ve never heard it told before—through the voices of 50 characters mentioned, often just barely, in the original texts. The heroes of classical literature are moved into the background or obscured completely in this wildly inventive reimagining of a story we think we all know.

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The Push by Ashley Audrain

Anybody who’s been through the sleepless days of early parenthood will relate to the confused, overwhelmed state of mind of Blythe Conner She’s sure there’s something wrong with her daughter Violet—though everyone, even her husband Fox, tells her it’s all her imagination. But Fox is concerned about Blythe’s mental health and how it’s impacting the family, especially after they have their second child.

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A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

What if a portal to another dimension opened in Cairo in the early 20th century and brought with it magical innovations in science and technology that positioned the Egyptian capital as the hub of the modern world? How would a police force operate in a world where impossible things happen every day and angels and djinn, among other supernatural creatures, could be among the suspects or victims of violent crimes? That’s the premise of this novel (and the preceding novellas which are wonderful but don’t have to be read prior to this book) featuring inspector Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. At once a detective novel and work of speculative historical fiction, this novel is almost a genre unto itself.

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The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Oppenheimer triplets don’t care much for each other and are perfectly happy when the time comes to head off to college, leaving behind their widowed mother and a much younger sister who they all do their best to ignore. But circumstances pull them back into one another’s orbits and they learn that there’s more to their mother, their sister, and even their late father, than any of them had assumed. This is a big, rich novel of American life that’s also funny and moving.

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The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Nella’s the only Black employee at publisher Wagner Books. When another Black girl, Hazel, is hired it seems like a good sign—doesn’t it? But then some very strange things start happening to Nella, while Hazel’s career takes off like a rocket.

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Bewilderment by Richard Powers

As an astrobiologist Theo Byrne is focused on the distant possibility of life in distant places. But after his wife passes away he needs to bring his attention earthward to care for his nine-year-old son Robin. Robin's a sensitive boy with deep feelings about endangered animals and the threatened natural world. As he struggles with grief and acts out violently at school, Theo confronts choices about how to handle it all, and how best to love this boy feeling so much pain about loss.

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Home by Marilynne Robinson

Glory, a woman who’s returned home to care for her dying father is surprised by the arrival of her troubled brother Jack. Jack always chafed against the strictures of a traditional upbringing, and yet through it all Reverend Boughton loved him fiercely. This is a story about how families fracture, and how they can be imperfectly pieced back together.

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The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox

New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox’ hugely ambitious novel about Taryn, a writer with a painful past she’d rather forget. But DI Berger has questions that need answering, even if it means following Taryn into actual hell. Is that a clear description? Not even close. And yet once this epic tale gets its hooks in, you won’t be able to put it down.

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