Literary fiction sometimes gets a bad rap. It conjures up images of elite readers with The New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books spread across their laps. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But a lot of literary fiction crosses over to the bestseller lists and a more general audience.
While definitions of literary fiction are fairly subjective, in general, the genre emphasizes writing style and the psychological depth of charaters. Plot sometimes is not as important. More mainstream commerical fiction, such as mysteries, sci-fi or romance tend to focus on plot and narrative.
Of course there are those that argue that literary fiction can be defined as “the books that teachers assign.” But, I would respond that “serious” fiction can be enjoyable and accessible. The books below demonstrate that:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen