2013 Armchair BEA – Literary Fiction and 3 Book Giveaway


May 30, 2013

Today is an exciting day for the Armchair BEA. There are giveaways of fantastic books all over blogland today – check out this post to get the links. I’m also pretty stoked to talk about Literary Fiction today – I have three great titles up for grabs (go to the bottom of this post to get information and enter to win), and I am going to be sharing some of my favorite literary authors and books with you. Grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite drink), sit back and enjoy!

What is literary fiction?

I am sure every reader has their own definition of literary fiction. In general, it has been well accepted to define it as a work which is “critically acclaimed” and “serious.” Traditionally, literary fiction focuses more on character than plot (which is not to say that literary fiction is not well plotted!). Most books falling into this category are slower paced, with prose that is often described as “lyrical” or “beautiful” or “poetic.” It is these types of books which most often find themselves being recognized for literary awards.

I have found that most of the literary fiction books I have loved, also fall into other categories like historical fiction. Today I want to share some of my favorite literary novels and introduce you to the authors who write them.

The “Big” Names:

Readers who gravitate to literary fiction can usually point to several “big names” within the genre. For me, three names immediately come to mind: Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and John Irving. I have read multiple books by these three authors and have (mostly) loved them all.

When I think of Margaret Atwood, I think: brilliant, contemporary themes, women’s rights, amazing characters, futuristic. Visit the author’s website.

Atwood has been awarded many literary prizes for her work including the Governor General’s Award, the Commonwealth Literary Prize, The Giller Prize, and the Booker Prize (See all her awards here). Below are the works I have read by Atwood (click on each graphic to read my review of each book – the only book I have not reviewed is Oryx and Crake). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Robber Bride – my hands down favorite – OR The Handmaid’s Tale which is now considered a bit of a classic.

AliasGrace CatsEye HandmaidsTale BlindAssassin

  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • Cat’s Eye (1988)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)

robberbride OryxandCrake YearOfTheFlood Penelopiad

  • The Robber Bride (1993)
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • The Year of the Flood (2009)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)

Louise Erdrich is a relatively “new” favorite of mine. When I think of her work I think: Native American themes, multi-generational, sardonic humor, civil rights. Learn more about this author.

This accomplished writer is considered one of the most significant writers of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This past November, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round HouseBelow are the works I have read by Erdrich (click on each graphic to read my review of each book). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Plague of Doves or Shadow Tag.

LoveMedicine ShadowTag PlagueOfDoves RoundHouse

  • Love Medicine (1984)
  • Shadow Tag (2010)
  • The Plague of Doves (2008)
  • The Round House (2012)

John Irving has been one of my favorite literary fiction writers since I first read his amazing The World According to Garp way back in high school. When I think about John Irving’s work I think: convoluted plots, fathers and sons, quirky characters, New England fiction. Visit the author’s website.

Irving’s work has not only been nominated for the fiction prizes, but has also been made into cinematic films. The movie The World According to Garp garnered several Academy Award nominations. Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany OR Cider House Rules. Because I’ve been reading works by this author for a long, long time, many of those books are not reviewed here on my blog. Below are the works I’ve read which have been reviewed here (click on each graphic to read my review of each book):

APrayerForOwenMeany LastNightInTwistedRiver InOnePerson

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  • Last Night in Twisted River (2009)
  • In One Person (2012)

I have also read these books by John Irving:

  • The World According to Garp (1978)
  • The Hotel New Hampshire (1981)
  • The Cider House Rules (1985)
  • Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (collection, 1996)
  • A Widow for One Year (1998)
  • Until I Find You (2005)

The “Newcomers”:

One of the things I love about literature is that there are always new names to add to the ranks of my favorite authors. When it comes to literary fiction, it seems that there are more and more amazing writers publishing every year. I went through the last few years of reading and thought I would mention four writers who have caught my eye and who I see as the new wave of literary fiction writers.

Joyce Hinnefeld won my heart with her novel In Hovering Flight (Unbridled Books, 2008). Last year she published her second book with Unbridled Books titled Stranger Here Below. When I think of this author I think: poetic, sensitive, evocative, strong sense of place. Visit the author’s website. Below are Hinnefeld’s books with links to my reviews. I hope Joyce Hinnefeld has a long career because I want to keep reading her amazing books.

InHoveringFlight StrangerHereBelow

Peter Geye is a shining star in literature these days. I keep pushing his books into the hands of readers because when I think of his work, I think: Minnesota wilderness, redemption and forgiveness, love of family, and profound sense of place. Geye’s debut novel, Safe From the Sea (Unbridled Books, 2010) grabbed the 2010 Northeast Minnesota Book Award for Fiction and the 2010 Indie Lit Award for Fiction. His second book (The Lighthouse Road, 2012) was also published by Unbridled Books and has gotten universally sterling reviews. Visit the author’s website. Below are Geye’s books with links to my reviews.

SafeFromTheSea LighthouseRoad

Jesmyn Ward caught my attention with her National Book Award winning novel Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011). This was not Ward’s first book, but it is the one which catapulted her into the literary spotlight. When I think about this author’s work, I think: original, strong characters, the South, honest. I really hope that Ward is working on her next novel, because I intend to read it. My review is linked from the graphic below.


Bruce Machart first reeled me in with a short story. When I learned he had written a novel, I could not wait to read it. His debut novel, The Wake of Forgiveness, blew me away. When I think of Bruce Machart, I think: believable dialogue, wide open spaces, unforgettable characters, and rich prose. Visit the author’s website. I hope you’ll get a chance to experience this author’s fabulous writing. Below are the books of his I have read (click on each graphic to read my reviews).

WakeOfForgiveness MenInMaking

If you have not yet tried literary fiction, I hope you will. I could have listed at least 30 more authors on this post who thrill me with their prose and touch my heart with their characters. There is a big world of literature out there! If you’ve read literary fiction, who are the authors YOU would recommend?

The Giveaways

All giveaways on this post are open for FIVE DAYS from May 30 – June 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm PST. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced here on my blog on June 4th. Book giveaways here on Caribousmom are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway have been supplied by the publisher, I do not accept payment to host these special events.

I am offering up three interesting titles for giveaway today. Each of these books fall within the literary fiction category. Below I’ve given a short description of the book, a link to my review of the book, and a link to enter to win it. One title is open internationally, the other two are open for addresses in the US or Canada (I also have another giveaway open for US addresses: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – go to this post to enter).

ConstellationA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, May 2013) – read my review

I loved this book. And I am predicting that it will be nominated for some literary awards this year. Set in Chechnya, the novel  is a powerful, poignant, and deeply moving story that unfolds over five days. The characters who drive the narrative reveal their stories which happen in a war torn, violent part of the world between 1994 and 2004.

  • Copy of the book is hardcover, new.
  • This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

To enter: Click here to take survey

BurgessBoysThe Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, March 2013) – read my review

Elizabeth Strout’s novel, Olive Kitteridge, won her the Pulitzer Prize for literature. In her latest novel, she once again takes readers to Maine where she examines the cracks that develop within families and communities and the often difficult road to healing and forgiveness after loss and misunderstanding. Strout’s character development is exceptional in this book.

  • Copy of the book is an Advance Readers Edition, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and CANADA mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey

GardenOfStoneIn The Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve (Hub City Press, May 2013) – read my review

Susan Tekulve has had many short stories published, and her first novel feels a bit like short stories woven together. This quiet novel about several generations of one family living in Virginia and West Virginia captured the South Carolina First Novel Prize. In The Garden of Stone is deeply rooted in a sense of place and examines the lives of Italian immigrants who came to the United States to stake their roots, raise their families and find work in and around Virginia. Tekulve’s prose includes beautiful descriptions of landscape and celebrates the lives of her characters.

  • Copy of the book is soft cover, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and Canada mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey


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    • Judith on May 30, 2013 at 00:45

    Thanks for the giveaway. I read a lot of literary fiction. I’ve read Atwood’s dystopian novels but not (many) of her others. I keep intending to.

    Of your newcomers, Peter Geye is on my wishlist – I think because I read about him here!

    • Jenna Evans on May 30, 2013 at 01:21

    Great post! And great giveaway!

  1. WOW, I am bookmarking this post for future reference when I want to read some new-to-me literary fiction! You have a really extensive list 🙂

    Here’s my Literary Fiction post. And I have a separate post for my giveaway.

    • Tanya on May 30, 2013 at 03:33

    I love Atwood and Irving so I think I’m going to have to Erdrich a try. I know her latest book has received tons of critical acclaim, but as a Canadian I do not follow American writers as closely as i should.


    • Kimmy on May 30, 2013 at 03:40

    Margaret Awtood’s books have been on my TBR list forever and I still haven’t read any. Your post just reminded me how much I want to read The Handmaid’s Tale! 🙂

  2. I love LOVE Margaret Atwood, and referenced her in my post as well. I just read Louise Erdrich for the first time this spring in my child lit class – “The Birchbark House”. We read it at the same time as “Little House on the Prairie” – and it was interesting to hold these two books against each other in theme, POV, and actually the character’s relationship with animals and nature.

  3. Great post! I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read any of the books that you’ve listed.

    Here’s My Post

    • AlyssaZ on May 30, 2013 at 05:15

    Thanks for this explanatory post. I am often really confused when people start mentioning ‘literary fiction’.

  4. I like your description of literary fiction….and Margaret Atwood is the first name that springs to mind for me.

    I’ve only read one book by Louise Erdrich: Shadow Tag.


  5. I did a brief discussion of Literary Fiction at my blog today, too. I pondered the label a lot a few years ago as I challenged myself to read mostly literary fiction for 7 months of the year. It was rewarding and I found some good stuff. Although, admittedly, I tend to enjoy literary fiction with a flavor of genre included.

    I loved Irving’s Cider House Rules but haven’t read more! I didn’t have much luck with Owen Meany, but there are others I need to try.

    • Akilah on May 30, 2013 at 06:49

    Wow, what a wonderful and thoughtful post. I’ve heard wonderful things about Irving; I should really check some of his stuff out.

  6. Fantastic post!

    I gave away The Handmaid’s Tale for World Book Night this year…oh how I love that book!

    I recently read and reviewed both Constellation and Garden but I would love to read The Burgess Boys. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Great discussion! I love historical fiction too, and Margaret Atwood, and John Irving… and I’m looking forward to reading “The Round House” soon… AND now I have four new authors I need to check out! Thanks for the chance at the giveaways 🙂

  8. Lots of great giveaways! 2013 is the first BEA I missed in years due to overlapping vacation plans. Armchair BEA to the rescue!

  9. Got my jasmine green tea and enjoying the entering of giveaways like these one! Its interesting to learn everyone’s different views of what literary fiction is. I heard of Handmaid’s tale and am interested in reading it.

    • lisa S on May 30, 2013 at 11:05

    Great giveaways! Thanks 😀

  10. Thanks for the great giveaways!! 😀

  11. I love that you broke this down like a history! There are some here that I’m not familiar with, I can already tell today is going to kill my TBR.

    • Athira on May 30, 2013 at 14:17

    Great list of authors! I haven’t read an Atwood book yet although I own a couple of her titles. I must change that.

    • Nise' on May 30, 2013 at 16:48

    I recently discovered Louise Erdrich and have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Love Atwood’s books. Just brought home A Constellation of Vital Phenomena from the library today.

  12. What a great list of authors!! Thank you for sharing your viewpoint on this interesting topic!

  13. What a great list, I’ve wanted to read Atwood for a long time. Thanks for hosting these giveaways! I’m your friendly ABEA cheerleader for tonight. I like literary fiction as well, see the books I awarded the Thanks for Changing My Life Awards on my ABEA post today.

  14. Great post! I have Round House and want to read it this summer. I’ve never read A Prayer for Owen Meany but it’s a favorite for a lot of people, so I MUST get to it! Your giveaways are fantastic – I entered all three! 🙂

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