11 Poignant Books From Exceptional Voices In Modern Fiction

Readers who love to challenge their preconceptions and expand their minds by reading astute works of literary fiction have come to the right place. The books listed here are written by talented authors who have crafted poignant stories full of compelling characters and thought-provoking plots. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Contemporary Literary Fiction: Our 11 Picks

Title Author
1. The Chalk Artist Allegra Goodman
2. All Stories Are Love Stories Elizabeth Percer
3. Jessica Z. Shawn Klomparens
4. Each Vagabond by Name Margo Orlando Littell
5. Sparta Roxana Robinson
6. Enon Paul Harding
7. Sadness Is a White Bird Moriel Rothman-Zecher
8. The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep Steven Heighton
9. Pig Iron Benjamin Myers
10. Laura & Emma Kate Greathead
11. Sight Reading Daphne Kalotay

Literary Charities

If you want to spread your love of literature with those in need, then you should consider looking into these non-profit organizations that help kids and teens get access to books and high-quality education.

  1. First Book
  2. Books for Kids
  3. Room to Read
  4. LitWorld
  5. 826 National
  6. KIPP

How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better

In Depth

The most thought-provoking novels challenge readers through language, symbolism, and insight about the human experience. For those who enjoy poetic explorations of life and all its challenges, here, in no particular order, are eleven books that will make you think, wonder, and feel.

In the #1 spot is "The Chalk Artist" by Allegra Goodman. Collin and Nina are dreamers who meet by chance at their neighborhood bar. Collin is a gifted chalk artist who creates works that are destined to be erased. Nina is a teacher from a privileged background who can't seem to reach her students. When Nina helps Collin get hired at her father's video-game company, it seems like the perfect opportunity for him to finally create lasting art. However, when her father's company releases a too-real virtual reality game, one of Nina's students becomes dangerously addicted. Nina must now find a way to save her student and stay connected with Collin.

At #2 is "All Stories Are Love Stories" by Elizabeth Percer. On Valentine's Day, San Francisco is hit back-to-back by two powerful earthquakes. The story centers around the experiences and emotions of three main characters, and how they act and feel in the wake of the earthquakes. Against the backdrop of survivors emerging from the debris and struggling to safety, the author explores the many faces of love, and how turmoil can charge and change our feelings. As the city strives to recover from the destruction, each character experiences their own healing as they explore sorrow, love, and forgiveness.

On Valentine's Day, San Francisco is hit back-to-back by two powerful earthquakes.

Coming in at #3 is "Jessica Z" by Shawn Klomparens. With her great job and close family, Jessica Zorich seems to have the perfect life. However, beneath the surface, she feels lost and adrift. Jessica becomes even more unsettled when suicide bombers begin blowing up buses and buildings in San Francisco. That is perhaps why she finds Josh Hadden so appealing. He is a gifted, dictatorial artist, and as Jessica's world explodes, his domineering nature provides sanctuary. However, the longer she is with Josh, the more he manipulates her, and she goes along with a new project that makes her increasingly uncomfortable.

For #4 we have "Each Vagabond by Name" by Margo Orlando Littell. Zaccariah Ramsy is possibly the loneliest man in a lonely place. He's a Vietnam veteran and local businessman, and doesn't really belong in his humble mining town. Stella also doesn't belong, thanks to a haunting loss that isolates her from their community. The rest of the townspeople enjoy their safety and sameness, and want nothing to change. When a band of young runaways camps nearby and steals people's most precious possessions, everything changes. As Ramsy and Stella try to help two of the outcasts, the thefts push the town to vigilantism.

In the #5 spot, we have "Sparta" by Roxana Robinson. Classics major and idealist Conrad Farrell joins the Marines to understand the honor, brotherhood, and courage that the ancient Spartans experienced. He is deployed to Iraq and becomes a self-sufficient and strong leader. When Conrad returns from his tour, he finds that his home is not like he remembers. Noises are too loud, spaces are too crowded, and cars seem ready to explode. Even worse, his family wants him to be someone who no longer exists. Conrad must find a new sense of purpose that lets him live a normal life, and also keep his ties to his Spartan self.

Noises are too loud, spaces are too crowded, and cars seem ready to explode.

At #6 is "Enon" by Paul Harding. When Charlie Crosby's daughter, Kate, dies after being struck by a car while riding her bike, his world is turned upside-down. Soon after, his wife leaves him suddenly and without explanation. Now, Charlie is left alone with his grief in the small town where his daughter was born and died, without friends or family to support him. As Charlie struggles to find meaning, he summons Kate in eerie, drug-fueled visions. "Enon" is a lyrical exploration of profound, desperate grief, and the precious fragility of our time with loved ones.

Coming in at #7 is "Sadness Is a White Bird" by Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Ever since his family moved to Pennsylvania, Jonathan has dreamed of returning to Israel to serve his country. After all, his grandfather helped found his homeland, so serving in its military will fulfill his family legacy. However, when Jonathan's family moves back to Israel, he finds that things are not as clear-cut as he believed. He develops a secret, deep friendship with two Palestinian siblings, and through them Jonathan learns what it means to live, but not belong, in a country.

For #8, we have "The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep" by Steven Heighton. Since 1974, the island of Cyprus has been divided in two by the Greek and Turkish governments. At its center lies the Dead Zone, a forgotten place where no one is supposed to visit or live. Elias Trifannis is a soldier struggling with PTSD, and is visiting Cyprus to aid in his recovery. However, when an evening stroll becomes yet another harrowing experience, Elias finds himself taken in by a hidden community of Greeks living in the Dead Zone. As Elias explores his new, secret home, he faces himself, and the scars that wars leave on people and places.

At its center lies the Dead Zone, a forgotten place where no one is supposed to visit or live.

In the #9 spot is "Pig Iron" by Benjamin Myers. John-John Wisdom comes from a family of travellers, and is the son of an infamously brutal fighter. When he is released from prison after serving time for his part in a shocking murder, he finds that he is rejected by his own people and has nowhere to go. John-John settles in a run-down part of northern England, and finds lodging in a squalid, dangerous apartment complex. Even so, he is determined to be true to his morals and to ground his new start in the lush nature surrounding him. However, his budding peace is soon threatened when the consequences of his father's violent past come back to haunt him.

For #10, we have "Laura and Emma" by Kate Greathead. Laura is a misfit in her privileged, blue-blood family. She has no interest in marriage or even sex, wears simple eco-friendly clothing, and has conflicted feelings about her family's wealth. However, when a boozy one-night stand leaves her pregnant, Laura decides to keep the baby and begin the family she never wanted. As she raises her daughter Emma, she struggles to define who she is in a social class that demands easy labels. In New York City in the 1980s and 1990s, together Laura and Emma live and learn through family drama, the AIDS epidemic, gentrification, the cocaine crisis, and more.

And finally, coming in at #11 is "Sight Reading" by Daphne Kalotay. On a balmy spring day, Hazel runs into the woman who stole her husband twenty years ago. Nicholas, a renowned composer, left his wife for Remy, an ambitious and self-centered violin student. Although it has been decades since the divorce, the brief time they all spent together has defined their lives since. "Sight Reading" follows the perspectives of all three characters as they reflect on their experiences and express themselves with their art. Throughout their remembrances are secrets, betrayals, amnesties and absolutions, portrayed against the backdrop of their music.