Literary Fiction: Definition & Examples

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Fiction has two types, ”Genre Fiction” and ”Literary Fiction”. While Genre Fiction is easily recognizable with its subcategories such as mystery/thriller, horror, crime, science-fiction, romance, fantasy, etc. Literary Fiction is difficult to describe as there is no proper and rigid definition of Literary Fiction.

Related: A Guide on Popular Book Genres

But here is one of the best and simplest definitions of literary fiction by HuffPost which says;

Literary Fiction is anything which doesn’t fit into any genre.

Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction, Huffpost

So when you are reading something which cannot be confined to a genre, you are probably reading literary fiction.

Literary fiction is generally regarded as more meaning full and superior to genre fiction.

It has also been termed as a ”serious” fiction exploring more complex subjects and themes compared to genre fiction which shows a clear story presenting a specific genre.

Understanding Literary fiction-

  • Rather than bound under a specific genre, this work of fiction is considered a literary work with artistic value and of literary merit.
  • A work of literary fiction often includes social commentary (showing issues in society), political criticism (criticism concerning politics, policies, types of government), or reflection on humanity (the human conditions, their emotions, conflict, mortality, aspirations, etc.)
  • In literary fiction, the story plot is not the central concern but the character.
  • The story narrative of literary fiction novels is character-driven and introspective in nature, putting out the author’s own thoughts and feelings in writing. 

Literary Fiction Characteristics-

  • Explores the complexity of language, symbolism, metaphor, theme, allegory, etc.
  • Presents a character-driven story.
  • Often talks about social and contemporary issues.
  • Explores political themes.
  • Presents the human condition, their emotions, and conflict.
  • Showcases a great prose writing with rich and finely crafted words & phrases, often containing difficult vocabulary.
  • Doesn’t follows any rule or stick to a fixed formula.
  • Pushes the boundaries of fiction writing and presenting more deeper themes.
literary fiction definition and examples in literature

Examples of Literary Fiction Novels-

Below are examples of popular literary fiction novels written by renowned writers. Take a look at the list to understand literary fiction better.


#1. To the Light House

by Virginia Woolf


#2. Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell


#3. Olive, Again

by Elizabeth Strout


#2. The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

#4. The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros


#5. The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini


#6. Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe


#7. The side of Paradise

by F. Scott Fitzgerald


#8. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

by Italo Calvino


#9. A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry


#10. The Handmaid’s Tale

by Margaret Atwood


#11. The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt


#12. The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead


#13. Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mendel


#14. Animal Farm

by George Orwell


#15. Americanah

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


#16. Every Thing I Never Told You

by Celeste Ng


#17. Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck


#18. The Alchemist

by Paulo Cohelio


#19. Beloved

by Toni Morrison


#20. All the Lights We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a YA short story author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. Neel’s magnum opus YA short storybook, “The Drunken Ghost” has been well received by the readers.