A lot of contemporary fiction is overhyped, but I’ve found a few new releases that deserve all the praise they can get. Here are five of my favourite auto-read (or auto-buy) contemporary authors. I’ll read everything new they publish!
My Picks for Enjoyable Contemporary Fiction Writers
If you’ve spent more than two minutes on this site, you know I gravitate towards classic and mid-century novels. I love the likes of Wilkie Collins, L. M. Montgomery, and Agatha Christie. But, I don’t always read in bygone eras. Every year I consume a hefty slice of modern-day, contemporary lit as well. Many of these are from authors who are one-offs for me, but there are a handful that whet my appetite for more. I seek out the other books they’ve written, and keep an eye out for when they publish something new.
At the request of Tea and Ink Society members, today I’m sharing these favourite contemporary authors with you! These are my auto-read authors, because I’ll automatically check out and read anything new they release. I love digging up old classics, but it’s also so much fun to keep an eye on living authors so you can savor the anticipation of their next novel!
In addition, reading a good, absorbing contemporary novel is an excellent way to get back into a reading habit. (When you’re out of practice reading, trying to tackle a heavy classic isn’t the best segue to becoming an avid reader again!)
One thing I always wonder about with contemporary fiction is what kind of “mature content” I might stumble upon. In case you’re wondering the same thing, rest assured that the following authors don’t rely on overt sex scenes or graphic violence to sell their books. (In some of these books, the story takes you up to the moment of a sexual encounter–or implies there’s been one–but shifts the scene before walking you though it.) You might find some disturbing elements, but they’re not portrayed as desirable.
Basically, I think all of these books would be fine for older teens (except maybe Ruth Ware? Use your best judgement there!) The last two authors have books for younger teens as well. I recommend you use this little trick for vetting books first, though, before you read them, especially when it comes to a new-to-you author.
Alright, enough intro! On to the list! Be sure to share your auto-read authors in the comments after the post!
My go-to favourite contemporary authors
Click on each book cover to go to that book’s Amazon listing.
When I read The Lake House–my first Kate Morton novel–it reminded me of Dickens the way Morton wove together multiple characters and plots. Kate Morton writes historical fiction, and her books always jump back and forth between different eras–the historical period, and the present day. Generally I’m not a fan of this narrative structure (or I thought I wasn’t!), but Morton’s lovely novels are changing my mind.
Top things I love about Kate Morton’s novels: These are books with an old-fashioned feel. The characters are very human, and you get to know them over the course of the narrative. Morton includes multiple plot twists throughout the story; there are enough that even if you see some coming, others will surprise!
Best time to read a Kate Morton novel: When you’re on vacation with lots of reading time.
Words that describe Kate Morton’s books: Long, slow-burning, gentle, poignant, engrossing.
When I heard Diane Setterfield’s debut novel The Thirteenth Tale described as a “book lover’s book” I was intrigued. It certainly is an ode to books, but more specifically an ode to classic books. The Thirteenth Tale is laced with subtle and not-so-subtle nods to The Woman in White, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, and Rebecca. Yes, all of them Gothic-y novels! I found it most similar in temperament to Wuthering Heights.
After devouring The Thirteenth Tale, I eagerly awaited the release of Once Upon a River, which is set in Victorian England along the Thames. I haven’t read Bellman and Black, yet, but it’s waiting for me!
Top things I love about Diane Setterfield’s novels: I love the atmosphere they evoke. It feels as if the story keeps talking inside your head, even when you’re not reading it.
Best time to read a Diane Setterfield novel: On a cozy night with tea and your favourite reading blanket. Rain, wind, or snow outside are a plus.
Words that describe Diane Setterfield’s books: Haunting, lyrical, intricate, spell-casting.
Ruth Ware has been called the modern-day Agatha Christie, which is high praise indeed. I’ve read all six of her novels to date, and I’m hooked. But don’t go into her books expecting a classic whodunnit puzzle plot–these are really in the genre of psychological thriller, not detective. In my opinion, she gets compared to Christie because she creates a personality-rich cast of characters and tells their story in an isolated location like a cruise ship or a remote country estate.
Top things I love about Ruth Ware’s novels: As I pointed out in the 2019 Book Oscars, Ware is a genius at creating memorable settings. I love the locations she takes us to in each novel. She’s also great at helping you get inside the protagonist’s head–seeing and feeling through them. And her protagonists are all unreliable narrators, which makes it even more fascinating. One thing I’m not as crazy about is that Ware employs a “colorful” vocabulary for many of her characters; her books would get an R-rating for language! It makes things authentic, I suppose, for the types of characters she creates. (There’s heavy substance abuse in a couple of her books as well.)
Best time to read a Ruth Ware novel: On a long Sunday afternoon, or on a night when you don’t have anywhere to go the next day…because you might stay up past your bedtime.
Words that describe Ruth Ware’s books: Atmospheric, cerebral, twisty.
K. B. Hoyle
I love telling people about K. B. Hoyle’s books because they’re not widely known (yet), so it feels like sharing a secret treasure. Hoyle writes middle grade and YA novels, but deals in a variety of genres. Her Gateway Chronicles is a six-book fantasy series with masterful planning and plotting. (If you loved looking for “clues” in the Harry Potter series to help you guess what was coming, you’ll have the same fun here). The Breeder Cycle is a page-turning dystopian series that’s so much smarter and more substantial than its peers in the genre. (But please note the Breeder books are for older teens, not a younger audience.)
Top things I love about K. B. Hoyle’s novels: Hoyle’s books engage you quickly. It’s like the feeling of wading into the water and getting pulled by an undertow: you’re instantly in the current. I also appreciate that Hoyle values character development. Her characters change, adapt, and mature, and you get to watch that happen.
Best time to read a K. B. Hoyle novel: Whenever you have snatches of reading time. There’s lots of dialogue, so you can get in a few pages easily, even if you just have a short window.
Words that describe K. B. Hoyle’s books: Intelligent, escapist, imaginative.
I’m a sucker for a good island/coastal story, so when I read that Beyond the Bright Sea is set on a chain of islands off the coast of Massachusetts I had to give it a try. I ended up loving the book so much that I picked it as a read for my local book club! Wolk’s previous novel, Wolf Hollow, is a Newberry Honor book. Echo Mountain is set in rural Maine during the Great Depression.
Top things I love about Lauren Wolk’s novels: Wolk’s books deal with themes that are important to me: love of nature, community, virtue, identity, and place, to name a few. Although her recent novels are categorized as “middle grade,” they’re just as engrossing and relevant for adults.
Best time to read a Lauren Wolk novel: When you’re outside on a lovely day, with an apple in hand.
Words that describe Lauren Wolk’s books: Thought-provoking, memorable, vivid.
Who are your favourite contemporary authors? Have you read any of these?