Lionel Shriver

Fiction favorites from the author's shelves.



Journalist and author Lionel Shriver published her first novel in 1987 (The Female of the Species), but it wasn't until 2003's We Need to Talk about Kevin that she became a household name. That epistolary novel won the Orange Prize for its treatment of a mother's guilt at an act of targeted violence committed by her son. Her new work of fiction, The New Republic, was actually written in 1998 but is only now being published. A tale of terrorism in a Portuguese backwater and one man's misguided desire to be popular, it feels more prescient than ever. When we asked her to pick three favorites, Shriver chose three works of fiction with astonishing imaginative scope.


Books by Lionel Shriver




By Allegra Goodman


"This author has an unusual ability to completely inhabit other people's professions, in this case the world of cancer research. If you're tired of protagonists who write novels for a living, Goodman's for you. What might seem like just a little cheating in the conduct of an experiment has momentous consequences for a researcher's career and the reputations of colleagues as well. Believe it or not, Intuition crackles with the suspense of a good thriller."



English Passengers

By Matthew Kneale


"The tale of an ill-fated sea journey from Britain to Tasmania to discover the original Garden of Eden, this historical novel has an immediacy rare for the genre. And it's hilarious. Kneale spent seven years on this book, but his research is seamlessly woven into the narrative, and you never feel you're being force-fed someone else's homework. A great send-up of religion and racism both, with a dark, farcical ending reminiscent of The Mosquito Coast."



Lost Memory of Skin

By Russell Banks


"Taking on subject matter that most authors would cross the street to avoid, Banks tackles the modern-day pariah: the sex offender. Though the protagonist never actually seduces a 14-year-old girl he met on the Internet, he certainly intended to do so. This novel doesn't issue any kind of blanket pardon for sex offenders, but it does extend to them the measure of sympathy that every human being probably deserves. A brave project and a compelling story."

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.