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10 Thought-Provoking Fiction Books You Need to Read

May 5, 2022 in Book Lists
10 Thought-Provoking Fiction Books

AD • I received copies of some of the books featured on this list from the publishers. My reviews are always voluntary and opinions are entirely my own.

If you’re anything like me, you want your books to give you more than just a great story. You want to be left thinking about that book for months. Maybe it had some powerful social commentary or perhaps it posed a question about morality. Either way, it gives you food for thought. So for today’s post, I’m going to recommend 10 books that gave me plenty to think about.


What You Need to Know:

  • Political thriller/literary fiction
  • Set in contemporary India
  • Multiple POVs
  • Diverse characters (race, religion, class, sexuality)
  • Content warnings: Transphobia, sexual assault, murder, lynching, death by burning, death by hanging, graphic violence, surgery trauma


My Review of ‘A Burning’:

A Burning is one of those books that leaves a mark. At the start of the book, I felt sympathetic and hopeful. By the end, I was just angry. It’s a bleak and brutal piece of fiction where the tension simmers before eventually boiling over.

What I loved most about A Burning was how it tackled morality through the way that its main characters act, react and are treated by others. There was a lot to think about here from social responsibility to capital punishment all the way through to the dangers of social media and corruption.

Some of the scenes were distressing to me as I’m quite sensitive to graphic descriptions. As such, I wouldn’t recommend this book to sensitive readers like myself. But if you’ve got the stomach for it, this is a brilliant book that will definitely give your brain a workout.


What You Need to Know:

  • Multiple timelines
  • Content warnings: references to religious extremism/cults, sexual assault, attempted murder/murder, therapy and talking about trauma


My Review of ‘After The Fire’:

I don’t recall ever rooting for someone quite as much as I rooted for Moonbeam. She’s a young woman on the verge of adulthood but she’s spent her entire life inside a religious cult that she had strong doubts about. Now she’s free and needs to process all that trauma and somehow start over.

It’s just beautifully written and you feel every emotion that Moonbeam does as she talks you through what she experienced or witnessed on the compound. I cried a lot. It’s a fantastic book, well worth reading if you like YA fiction or are interested in fiction about cults.


What You Need to Know:

  • YA contemporary
  • Told partly through letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Content warnings: racism, shootings and references to gang crime, police brutality, death/grief, murder, bullying


My Review of ‘Dear Martin’:

First of all, this needs to be added to secondary school English Literature curriculums as soon as possible. Its themes are deep and relatable to anyone who feels marginalised as part of a minority although the focus is obviously on how people of colour, in particular black males, are treated by society. 

This book made me feel so many different emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, joy. It’s a delightful book that tackles sensitive topics in a powerful yet responsible way and paves the way for an anti-racist world.


What You Need to Know:

  • YA contemporary
  • Mental health representation (anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD)
  • Complex family dynamics
  • Told partly through letters to Justyce (the main character from Dear Martin)
  • Could be read as a standalone but I recommend reading Dear Martin first
  • Content warnings: Domestic abuse, PTSD, attempted suicide, racism, gun violence, inequality in the justice system, mental health, panic attacks, poverty, classism, references to drugs, murder


My Review of ‘Dear Justyce’:

Because I loved Dear Martin so much, I had very high expectations for this and I’m pleased to report that it exceeded all of them. It’s a very different story to Dear Martin but an equally important one. Quan is a fantastic main character, I absolutely adored him and was rooting for him throughout the book.

What I loved most about Dear Justyce is how character driven it is. You really get to connect with Quan on a deeper level. We see what he goes through and how he becomes more disconnected over time because he doesn’t have a support system. So when we see him connecting with people, even Martel’s gang, you really get to see first-hand how important those relationships are to him. I think character development was done so beautifully throughout. And again, I loved Quan as a main character so much.

If you’re looking for a light and fluffy read, this isn’t it. There are a lot of heavy themes going on. You’ve got domestic violence, mental health, classism and of course the big one: inequality and systemic racism within the legal system. This is a big area for discussion and I can see both books in this series being great resources for educators teaching about racism and inequality.


What You Need to Know:

  • Translated from Japanese
  • Not just a beautiful cover
  • Themes of grief, friendship and the magic of books.
  • Content warnings: death of grandparent/guardian, grief


My Review of ‘The Cat Who Saved Books’:

In this heart-warming magical story, we follow Rintaro following the loss of his bookseller grandfather who was his guardian. I felt that the discussion of grief and loss was dealt with in a very warm and sensitive way. You can see that Rintaro has lost much more than just a loved one and yet the nature of the book forces him to focus on the present and the future, to find hope, purpose and friendship at the darkest of times.

The Cat Who Saved Books will also challenge your ideas of what being a book lover looks like by looking at various reading habits and how they can be harmful. I’m guilty of hiding in books to escape reality so the grandfather’s message of “It’s all very well to read a book, but when you’ve finished, it’s time to set foot in the world” had a big impact on me.

Overall, this was a delight to read. It’s hopeful, not too heavy and perfect for readers who like cats or books about books.


What You Need to Know:

  • Set in Nigeria
  • Literary fiction that’s also part coming-of-age story and part mystery
  • Found family
  • Non-binary main character
  • Multiple POVs
  • Content warnings: Explicit sexual scenes (opposite sex and same sex), affairs, animal sacrifice/cruelty to animals, exorcism, homophobia, transphobia, lynching, riots, references to sexual assault/rape, loss of a child, loss of a parent, references to infertility and miscarriage, incest, domestic violence


My Review of ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’:

I was captivated by this beautifully written book. In many ways, it reads like a mystery because we want to find out what caused Vivek’s death. (Something we only find out right at the end.) If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself desperately clutching at straws trying to figure it out.

I did have some issues with the book in that it contains several graphic sex scenes which I wasn’t too comfortable with however I felt that they were included to demonstrate the fluidity of sexuality. Likewise, it’s important to note that this book does feature an incestuous relationship. 

All in all, this isn’t going to be a book for everyone. But it is a very important book. It challenges societal norms of sexuality and gender and encourages us to be more accepting of others.


What You Need to Know:

  • Translated from Korean
  • Short read
  • Eco-thriller
  • Content warnings: sexual harassment, gentrification, natural disasters, murder, decapitation


My Review of ‘The Disaster Tourist’:

I’m not a huge traveller so I love reading books where the setting comes to life and that’s exactly what you get in The Disaster Tourist. All except instead of glamorous sun-soaked locations, you’ve got a disaster zone. It’s bleak but hey, disaster capitalism! This one has some super immoral characters, corruption and an attempt to gentrify an area through genocide. It’s a bit confusing at times but the ending absolutely blew me away. I loved it!


What You Need to Know:

  • Lots of POVs
  • Set around the world
  • Some multi-media formats
  • Sci-fi – pandemic fiction
  • Content Warnings – Death of male relatives, death of children including babies, infertility, suicide


My Review of ‘The End of Men’:

If you can stomach reading pandemic fiction these days, this is a great option. The End of Men is a highly ambitious exploration of what post-pandemic life could look like. The book itself was written pre-COVID but the parallels are striking. I especially resonated with the way that people tried to protect their loved ones and the intensity of grief when you’re constantly confronted by it.

There are so many POVs here that it should have been overwhelming to read. But it wasn’t. If anything, I’m in awe at how the author managed to carry them all so well. Sure, it was confusing at times but once everything clicks into place, it’s incredibly satisfying.

As for how it made me feel… This book made me cry. So many times. There’s a lot of on-page death and grief and some of those scenes are absolutely heartbreaking.

What I liked most about The End of Men was the way that it married the dark and the light together. For a book that’s filled with so much darkness and an almost unbearable amount of loss, it also contains a lot of lightness. Survivors find hope, love and purpose. And it’s truly moving. There’s also a hopeful ending which was nice. (And I loved that this post-pandemic world found a cure for endometriosis!)


What You Need to Know:

  • Content warnings: depression, suicide, death (including parental and pet among others), grief, alcoholism, drug abuse and references to scars from self-harming


My Review of ‘The Midnight Library’:

As someone who has battled depression for most of my life, this book hit me so hard. Its message radiated light into the dark crevices of my soul. It’s moving, hopeful and dare I say it, it’s a little bit hygge! I also loved that it didn’t shy away from the fact that depression doesn’t vanish simply because your circumstances are different.


What You Need to Know:

  • Genre-blending novel – is it a horror? Sci-fi? A thriller? Why pick one when you can be all of them?
  • Themes of motherhood
  • Content warnings: home invasion, suicide bombing/terrorism, death including child death


My Review of ‘The Need’:

Okay so… I read this one 2 years ago and I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s the book that creeps into my bloodstream and fills my body with dread. When I reviewed this after reading, I was surprised to learn that it was one of the runners up for Goodreads’ Best Horror award in 2019. It didn’t feel horror-y to me. Turns out it was just more slow psychological horror that apparently now lives in my brain rent-free waiting to induce panic attacks whenever it feels like it. But don’t be put off if you’re not a horror fan because this little book is very much a weird genre-blend. Not scary, not gory but extremely tense at times.

The thing that stood out to me most about The Need was the portrayal of motherhood and in particular, maternal loss. It was absolutely gut-wrenching at times. I cried so hard at the end that it took me days to make sense of what had actually happened. Sometimes it feels like my brain is still trying to process that trauma. But overall, it’s a weird but powerful book that’s worth picking up.

So there you have it – 10 thought-provoking fiction books from a wide range of genres. Has one of these piqued your interest and found its way onto your TBR? Maybe I’ve featured a book you love? Let me know your thoughts below!

Hayley @ Cosy Chapters

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I'm Hayley (she/her) and I'm more than a little bit bookish. Cosy Chapters is where I share all things book-related plus the occasional post about the cosy lifestyle. When I'm not reading, you'll find me spending time with my little family, rewatching sitcoms, planning the now somewhat elusive trip to Disneyland Paris and losing entire days playing ACNH.

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  • Jodie May 6, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    I can certainly see why these books are memorable to you! I love that you’ve provided enough about the book to give your readers a good idea what each of these are about. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hayley May 18, 2022 at 8:55 am

      Thanks Jodie! 🙂

  • Lauren May 7, 2022 at 10:11 am

    I haven’t read any of these books before, so this was an interesting post. I have seen a lot of people recommend and share books before By Matt Haig. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren x

  • Sue Berk Koch May 7, 2022 at 11:00 am

    You got me! I haven’t read any of the books on your list but I tend to shy away from more serious titles. I appreciate the recommendations, thank you!

    • Hayley May 18, 2022 at 8:56 am

      That’s understandable, life can be hard enough sometimes! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  • Fadima Mooneira May 7, 2022 at 11:52 am

    The Cat Who Saved Books, Dear Martin & Dear Justyce sounds like a book I want to read. I’ve been wanting to read The Midnight Library. But that book is so hard to find in Malaysia. Btw, thank you for sharing this list. Great books!

    • Hayley May 18, 2022 at 8:57 am

      Thanks Fadima, I hope you manage to find a copy of The Midnight Library eventually. It’s such a wonderful book. 🙂

  • Rocking Specter May 7, 2022 at 11:57 am

    These choices sound so thought-provoking, and we are definitely interested in checking them out. Some of the best books out there are those that makes one think. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hayley May 18, 2022 at 8:57 am

      100%! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  • readandreviewit May 7, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    Fab suggestions! The Cat Who Saved Books and The Midnight Library are both on my tbr, so I’m really glad to see you enjoyed them! I’ve added Dear Martin and Dear Justyce too. Thank you so much for sharing x

    • Hayley May 18, 2022 at 8:59 am

      Ooh I’m so glad that you’ve added Dear Martin and Dear Justyce – they are fantastic books. I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

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    Welcome to Cosy Chapters!

    I'm Hayley (she/her) and I'm more than a little bit bookish.

    Cosy Chapters is where I share all things book-related plus the occasional post about the cosy lifestyle.

    When I'm not reading, you'll find me spending time with my little family, rewatching sitcoms, planning the now somewhat elusive trip to Disneyland Paris and losing entire days playing ACNH.

    Follow Cosy Chapters on

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