22 of the best fiction books to read—from ghost tales to love stories

In our round-up of the best fiction books you'll find everything from historical novels, to romantic love stories, to gripping thrillers—and so much more

a collage image featuring eight of the books in our best fiction books round-up
(Image credit: Future/Amazon)

The best fiction books offer a fantastic way to unwind—giving us a chance to lose ourselves in a new story every time. In our round-up of the best, we've included fiction books from a range of genres, including thrillers, historical, romantic and so much more.

While we love reading about the lives of real people in the best non-fiction books, there's something special about exploring a fictional world on your own. With the best fiction books, you can bring the world inside the book to life in your own head. And these titles all offer that irresistible blend of believable characters, compulsive plot, diverting dialogue, and exquisite prose.

Whether you’re looking for one of the best romance books to lose your heart to, are seeking adventure, feeling brave enough to lose yourself in a ghostly tale, or are yearning for a book that will wring out your heart, there will be a title for you in our list. The only difficult decision facing you now is which of these fictional tales to read first. So grab a book, or your best eReader, and dive in...

The best fiction books to read in 2022

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1. State Of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Given her insider knowledge of how things work in the inner sanctum of the White House, former First Lady Hillary Clinton is ideally placed to collaborate on a thriller set within its walls. State Of Terror follows novice Secretary of State Ellen Adams, who has been brought into her role as part of a power-play by a President she dislikes and is promptly tasked with cracking a deadly terrorist plot. With the help of an investigative journalist and eager young foreign service officer, Ellen sets about doing just that, but there are many hard lessons to be learned along the way. Can the team mend what has broken in their country at the same time as catching those responsible for the atrocities? Fast-paced and fascinating five-star fiction.


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2. The Impossible Truths Of Love by Hannah Beckerman

When Bill Hartley grips Nell’s hand on his deathbed and tells her that he always loved her ‘even though you were never really mine to love’, it understandably leaves her reeling. Nell has always felt like an outcast in her family, where her elevated intellectual ability offered her opportunities that ostracised her siblings, and now it appears that she has been lied to her entire life. When she approaches her mother Annie, who is suffering from dementia, we are taken back 35 years to the older woman’s earlier life and slowly, piece by intricate piece, the truth is revealed. There is no shying away from the big issues in this raw and emotionally hard-hitting novel, but it is exactly this that lends it such authenticity—and is the reason it's made it onto our list of the best fiction books.


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3. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Set in 1980s Glasgow, this Booker Prize-winning debut fiction novel has been captivating readers since its release in February 2020, but it's still made our pick of best fiction books for right now. Mum Agnes has been yearning for a better life for as long as she can remember, but when she is abandoned by her husband and left to raise three children alone, any hope that remained is stripped away and she seeks solace in the bottle. Shuggie is the son who stays, the one who refuses to give up on his mother, and the character you cannot help but root for throughout. Funny, sad and undeniably human, it's also one of our best audiobook picks.


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4. The Women Of Troy by Pat Barker

Returning to the same mesmerizing form that saw her 2018 novel The Silence Of The Girls receive wide acclaim, Pat Barker follows that Greek myth retelling with this second chapter in the age-old story. Troy has fallen and the Greeks are free to return home with their spoils piled high in their ships. The wind they need to sail, however, is not forthcoming. The desecration of Priam’s body has offended the Gods and the victorious armies are left with no choice but to wait by the shore. Captured Briseis takes advantage of the restless undercurrent to form her own alliances within the camp, and as tempers fray and allegiances begin to fall apart, she wonders if there’s a way to seek her revenge.


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5. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recently enjoying a resurgence of global popularity thanks to TikTok’s army of book fans, this deliciously sumptuous novel is one of the best historical fiction books. It tells the tale of reclusive former Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo, who decides to share the story of her great life and loves with an unknown young journalist. Monique is surprised to be handed the assignment but embraces the distraction it offers her from the disasters befalling her own life and settles into the older woman’s apartment ready to listen. The truth about why Evelyn chose Monique, as well as the reason the star disappeared from society, will leave you reeling. If you read and enjoyed Daisy Jones & The Six or 2021’s Malibu Rising by the same author, you’re guaranteed to love this.


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6. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Short- and long-listed for a slew of literary awards in 2021, this darkly comedic debut follows Dublin-born Ava out to Hong Kong, where the sardonic 22-year-old embarks on a quest to make money by teaching English to the children of the rich. Initially intrigued by banker Julian, who wants to spoil her and lets her move into his guest room, Ava then meets alluring lawyer Edith—and everything she thought she knew about herself is turned on its head. Written with a wry, fearless edge and deft in its dissection of society, sexuality and expectation of both self and others, this is an impressive and delightfully droll novel.


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7. Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

The author of 2017’s breakout debut, Elmet, returns with a rollicking tale of pimps, prostitutes, politics and power, set against the murky backdrop of London’s Soho. Sitting on a corner amidst the everyday grit and glamour is a townhouse, packed from basement to attic with all manner of souls. Precious and Tabitha inhabit the top floor, while Cheryl spends her nights sheltering below stairs. When billionaire owner Agatha announces plans to sell the brothel off to a property developer, the women make a vow not to let go of their home without a fight. Energetic, engaging and every bit as hot as its title suggests.


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8. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty grew up believing that her family’s migration from Ghana to Alabama was a story of heroics and adventure—but that all changed with the loss of her brother and father. Determined to understand the opioid addiction that led to her beloved sibling’s death, Gifty turns to science for answers, determined to pin her past trauma on logic. When her mother then comes to stay, however, Gifty learns that there is more to the sorrowful story of her life than she thought possible and that in order to find out the truth, she must be prepared to venture deep into the underbelly of her home country. An enlightening and dazzling read and one of the best fiction books of 2021 so far.


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9. Girl In The Walls by AJ Gnuse

It is hard to fathom that this goosebump-inducing novel is a debut, such is the lingering power of its subtle-yet-chilling prose. Elsie spends her days and nights roaming the house that has long been her home, a dwelling that she knows as well as one might their own body—how it bends and sighs, and where its hiding places lurk. Eddie is a teenager now and knows that he should really have stopped seeing the girl out of the corner of his eye. But then his older brother senses her too. While the obvious question is how they can get rid of this uninvited guest, the one they should really be asking themselves is should they…


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10. Flappy Entertains by Santa Montefiore

Flappy Scott-Booth is very happy with her lot. As the self-appointed queen bee of Devon village Badley Compton, she thrives on a daily diet of home improvements, social gatherings and being the undisputed center of attention. Everything is perfect because Flappy is perfect—that’s just the way it is. Until it isn’t. The arrival of Hedda Harvey-Smith and her husband Charles, with their grander house and more elevated social standing, ruffles Flappy’s extremely well-groomed feathers. She knows this calls for drastic measures, but even the ultra-organized Flappy could not have predicted what would happen when she actually sets eyes on her charismatic new neighbors. A funny and uplifting slice of cheerful escapism, which is why it's one of our best fiction books for right now.


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11. Girl A by Abigail Dean

The best thriller books capture your attention from page 1—and Girl A does just this. Perhaps one of the most-hyped fiction releases of 2021, Girl A became an instant bestseller in both the UK and the USA when it was released in January. Dark and shocking, it follows Lex—dubbed by the media as “Girl A”—the only one of six children who managed to escape their parents’ House of Horrors. When her mother dies in prison, Lex must reconcile with her siblings and decide what to do with the home that was once their prison. A powerful, intense read.


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12. People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd

Husband and wife Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos teamed up to become Ellery Lloyd and share the narrative strands of this unputdownable chiller. Mumfluencer Emmy puts so much effort into portraying the perfect image on her social channels that she fails to see just how distant her novelist husband Dan has become. There is also someone watching her—a follower who’s becoming increasingly malicious—and they are a lot closer than Emmy could ever have imagined. Sinister and smart, People Like Her reels you in from the very first page.


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13. The Push by Ashley Audrain

Set aside a day to devour this startling psychological drama, because you will find it very difficult to put down. Blythe is not sure she should have a baby. Her own mother left her when she was young, so what if she’s simply not built for it? Her husband Fox disagrees, and so the couple welcome a daughter, Violet, and it is then, as Blythe holds the infant in her arms for the very first time, that things begin to unravel. Is there something wrong with her, wonders Blythe, or is it Violet who is not quite right? A compelling, visceral and bruising portrayal of motherhood that once read cannot ever be forgotten—one of the best books of 2021.


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14. Surrogate by Susan Spindler

At 54, Ruth should by rights be happy. She has a thriving TV career, a successful husband, two grown-up daughters and a lovely home. But with the menopause behind her and empty-nest syndrome eroding any pleasure she might have gained from life slowing down, Ruth feels as if something is missing. When her eldest daughter Lauren comes to her desperate for help after multiple rounds of failed IVF, Ruth agrees to act as a surrogate, surprised yet undeterred to learn that it will be possible with the right hormone treatment. But as the pregnancy progresses and Lauren’s feelings of envy and worthlessness intensify, the already desperate situation within the family worsens, leading to an outcome that nobody saw coming. Compulsively readable with a big moral question at its heart, this is a thought-provoking must-read and a great book for women


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15. The High House by Jessie Greengrass

If you knew that life as we know it was going to end, who would you save? This is the dilemma facing Francesca, whose scientific expertise means she can predict exactly what will happen. To that end, she and stepdaughter Caro, son Pauly and local caretakers Grandy and Sally begin to prepare the high house that was once a holiday home, planting seeds, powering the mill and keeping an extremely close eye on the weather. There is much about The High House that feels relatable, its characters tiptoeing towards catastrophic change with a soft, almost indifferent attitude that rings far truer than so many stories where protagonists run screaming from an approaching meteor. A sublime work of science fiction that begs to be savored.


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16. My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Bridget has always considered her mother to be something of a puzzle. Helen—or “Hen”, as she is known by her few friends—is extroverted, chaotic and flighty, with two failed marriages languishing in her wake and two children with whom she shares a strange and strained relationship. Now in her forties, Bridget only sees her mother once a year, which she considers to be more than enough. But when Helen makes it clear that she needs far more than her daughter is willing to provide, Bridget must find a way to overcome the past cruelties that she perceives were committed by the woman who was supposed to love her best of all. A tragic yet tender exploration of the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.


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17. Her Perfect Family by Teresa Driscoll

Gemma Hartley’s parents Ed and Rachel are given prime seats at their daughter’s graduation ceremony, which means they’re perfectly positioned to witness the moment she is shot. To anyone on the outside, it appeared as if Gemma’s life was perfect, so what happened to turn her into a target, and who pulled the trigger? This is up to private investigator Matthew Hill to figure out, and as the narrative splits into chapters from him, Gemma, her parents, and the sinister unknown assailant, the reader finds out the truth alongside the detective. Intelligent, twisty, and tightly plotted, this intriguing slice of thrilling fiction will keep you guessing until its shocking end.


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18. The Winter Cottage by Rachael Lucas

All Rilla Clark plans to do when she hears that her father has died is head from New England to Scotland for long enough to sort out his affairs. However, when she arrives in the village of Applemore in the Highlands, she is immediately drawn in. Not only is the place beautiful, but so is a certain man… Lachlan Fraser wants little to do with Applemore House, the crumbling old ruin he has inherited, but might he be tempted to stick around once he finds out who has also been lured back by the past? If you’re looking for an escapist romantic tale set in a truly stunning location, this feel-good novel – which is the first in a planned series by bestselling author Rachael Lucas – will not disappoint. One to curl up with and enjoy.


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19. The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella

Effie Talbot is not best pleased. Her parents have divorced, her father is dating someone new and using cringe-worthy hashtags to document the fact, and the home she grew up in is about to be sold. Invited to a ‘house cooling party to say her goodbyes, Effie decides to go but remain defiantly incognito, if only to collect the Russian dolls she stashed in the chimney as a child. When she arrives, however, she not only bumps into her ex-boyfriend but also uncovers shocking secrets about her family. Hilarious from the off with mishaps aplenty, the newest release from the author of the Shopaholic series delivers a strong ten on the entertainment scale.


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20. Silverview by John Le Carré

The last completed work of fiction by the master of espionage, Silverview begins with Julian, who has turned his back on a high-flying City career to run a bookshop in a small English seaside town. All Julian wants is to live a quiet life, but just a month after he arrives, a stranger comes knocking. Polish émigré Edward seems to know a lot about Julian and his family and has a keen interest in exactly how he runs his new business. Meanwhile, in London, a spy chief receives a letter warning him of a dangerous leak…one that leads to a seaside town. John Le Carré delves into his flawed cast of characters with the usual finesse, effortlessly evoking an underground world and a captivating story. A true modern classic.


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21. The Appeal by Janice Hallett

A Waterstones’ Books of the Year, The Appeal is a whodunnit with an ingenious difference – and one that will grab you from the first page. Told exclusively through a series of documents, emails, and transcripts, the book asks the reader to sift through all the evidence and attempt to solve the mystery. The small town of Lockwood is the setting, the amateur actors of the Fairway Players its suspects, and the charity appeal for little Poppy’s medical treatment the backdrop against which murder took place. Someone is already in prison for the crime, but whether it’s the right someone is up to you to decide… In a genre that has seen many an imitative novel emerging over the past 18 months, The Appeal feels like a breath of fresh air – and a wonderfully entertaining one at that.


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22. Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Falling in love with Duncan feels to Jane as if it’s inevitable. He has everything she’s looking for in terms of looks, personality, and charisma; it’s just unfortunate that he’s also slept with most of the women in Boyne City, Michigan. Jane can just about cope with seeing his ex-girlfriends all over town, but the fact that he still mows his ex-wife’s lawn grates a little. And then there’s his co-worker, Jimmy, who shows up at their home unannounced whenever he pleases. Just as Jane is debating what she should do, a tragic accident occurs that means the four will be bonded forever. That is unless Jane can find a way out of the mess… Wry, emotive, and funny, this is a character-led story that shines with wisdom and wit.


Isabelle Broom is the author of eight escapist fiction novels. She won the Romantic Novelist’s Association Best Contemporary Romance Novel award in 2019 and The Great British Write Off short story competition in 2015, with her winning entry, The Wedding Speech, later being adapted into a short film. 


Following a degree in Media Arts from the University of West London, she spent an eventful summer working in a bar on a Greek island, became an avid traveller, and vowed to one day write stories set in all her favourite locations around the world. Before this dream became a reality, Isabelle spent a gloriously fun 11 years working at heat magazine, 


As well as heading off on adventures abroad—a pastime she now gets to call ‘research’—Isabelle is lucky enough to write book reviews and travel features on a freelance basis. To find out more about her novels—and her mildly chaotic Suffolk-based life—you can visit isabellebroom.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@isabelle_broom) or search for Isabelle Broom Author on Facebook.