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.”