I can’t imagine not reading fiction.

For me, reading novels is one of the best and relatively inexpensive forms of escapism that life has to offer and is one of the few things that manage to help me feel grounded when I’m overwhelmed by life.

For a few hours a day I am transported into the world and lives of complex characters who find themselves in situations that are not always good for them but make for interesting and nuanced storytelling.

Whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction or contemporary romance, each genre provides and fills my leisurely requirements in different ways.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that escapist books don’t have anything to offer. In fact many plot points often focus around social commentary and throw in a good dose of reality to remind us of our humanity.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about the kind of books I’d recommend to those who prefer reading non-fiction if they’re looking for something that offers a break from the norm while still keeping them rooted in reality.

Here are a few some suggestions:

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

This is one of those books that is quite a bit of a divisive one. I know many of my fiction-loving friends who disliked this because it’s told from multiple perspectives and personifies a brain tumour, but I actually thought this was very cleverly done and is perfect for those who want to delve into the nature of reality tv culture.

The story focuses on a young girl whose family is thrust into the spotlight after her father, who has been diagnosed with stage 4 gliobastoma multiforme (inoperable brain tumor), auctions off his life to a ruthless and domineering reality TV show executive.

It’s a novel that tackles the invasive nature of celebrity culture and explores what it means to lose agency and the lengths people go to in order to present a perfectly cultured image – one that’s rooted in banking on emotion for the sake of capitalism.

It also offers a lot of commentary on social media, euthanasia and the power of greed over that of human empathy.

The personification of the brain tumour is a bit unnerving and might seem a bit gimmicky but I thought it was quite well done in terms of showing the physical and emotional effects of living with the condition.

Purchase a copy from Raru.co.za

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger, this one's is a collection of short stories about women we can all relate to. Interwoven in her stories are topics that touch on sex, violence and abuse.

The women in Roxane Gay’s collection are multifaceted and complex and deal with issues that are heartbreaking, haunting and often tragic. Difficult Women may have stories that are rooted in fantastical metaphors but they are also stories that are stark in their realism.

Read the full review.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

I read this book a good couple of years ago and to this day, it’s still one of my favourites.

Part magical realism, part historical fiction, it's a love letter to Mexican culture and love story that combines an earthy and tumultuous mix of forbidden attraction, delicious recipes (you’ll definitely want to try them) and difficult and complicated relationships steeped in Mexican tradition and hierarchical family structures.

Tita and Pedro, our main protagonists, engage in a romance that spans more than two decades and is fraught with obstacles and complications everywhere.  It’s a novel infused with political upheaval and the emotions brought on by the power of Tita’s cooking – metaphorical and deep in their symbolism for every situation they all find themselves in.

A beautiful read that deserves to be always be reread.

Purchase a copy here.

Softness of the Lime by Maxine Case

If you’re in the mood for some local historical fiction, this important work of historical fiction takes a look at colonial structures and systems and tackles the topic of love, betrayal and ownership in the 1600s.

Our reviewer says: “Lena's story is not the story of a specific slave but the story of so many. Lena is a character in Case’s family history but the journey she took to land up where she did was a journey similar to that forced upon so many people.”

Read our full review here

Are you a non-fiction lover? Tell us about the fiction reads you enjoyed more than you thought you would? Oh and don’t worry, we’ll be doing another list – except next time around, we’ll be recommending some non-fiction reads for fiction lovers.

In the meantime you can check out our top reads for the month below:

The Last Girl by Nadia Murad
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
What about Meera by Z.P. Dala
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
Warcross by Marie Lu
Will by Christine Bernard
Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Migrations: New Short Fiction from Africa edited by Efemia Chela, Bongani Kona and Helen Moffett
100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell

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