Literary fiction. Just mentioning that phrase brings many terrifying years of English professors to many minds. However, it does not have to. Literary fiction distinguishes itself by addressing an overarching theme. For example: "good versus evil" or "can children of abusive parent child relationships ever be capable of true love?"
In the past, libraries and librarians were taught to guide patrons to reading which would educate their minds and lift them up intellectually. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. However, literary fiction does tend to bring up visions of thousand page tomes on dry topics that most people would not voluntarily read. Hence, most of these that were read were done in the form of some type of structured educational program or put on reading lists by librarians hoping to educate thier patrons in the "correct" books to read.
Two books that were recently released in 2012/2013 were The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Their overarching themes are as listed above. This might lead one to think that these books are dry and boring, however they are anything but. This is great news for someone who has methodically avoided anything marked literary fiction since my school days.
The Night Circus, as you may imagine, is set at a circus that opens at night. The book runs the gamut from the creation of the circus to its near demise and rebirth. It is an intelligent and engaging tale of love, redemption, and sacrifice in a magical setting. It makes a great book group selection because there are so many facets of the story that can be discussed. It is a tale that sticks with you long after its read. Morgenstern is a young writer with this first novel as her only at the moment, it will be great to see what she writes next.
The Demonologist is a story written around the epic verse, Paradise Lost by Milton. I am not a fan of thrillers, but this one was neither too gory nor too frightening and so a good choice for this reader. In addition, it discussed the various aspects of Paradise Lost that made me want to reread the original. Its premise of good versus evil set in modern times was a great one. If it makes readers want to reread classics, I am in favor of that as well.
The point here is that not all books classified as literary fiction have to be drab and boring. Authors are very clever at working in contemporary detailing and magical settings to bring the reader into the story and engage them. I sure do not remember that in my high school reading days. If I had, perhaps I would not have waited so long to read anything that was perceived as "literary fiction."
In any event, both of the above books are worth checking out and reading to see if you agree. Have fun and keep reading!