...or autobiographical fiction. It’s sometimes about the author; sometimes about the author’s re-perception of their past; sometimes an account of true events with an altered timeline; sometimes an entirely made up story with deep emotional truths. It’s not all factual, but you’d best believe everything.The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Published a month before Plath's death, The Bell Jar is the story of an intelligent young woman's despair, her attempted suicide, and her shaky journey back to mental health, as she questions the limited choices she faces on the edge of adulthood. The novel is replete with the literary device of the double, or doppelganger: the narrator, whose senior thesis is supposed to be about twins in Joyce's epic Finnegan's Wake, encounters people and images in her own life that represent opposing visions of what it means to be a successful and contented woman. Throughout the book, the struggle to resolve the two halves of her identity—her ambitious, intellectual need for self-determination with the societal pressure to fulfill her feminine role as a wife and mother—are depicted as the crux of her emotional meltdown.Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life (Book 1) by JM Coetzee
In Boyhood…, Coetzee reflects upon who he is and why he writes as he does. Writing in the third person, Coetzee develops his character, a young boy on the verge of adolescence, through a richly detailed interior monologue. Trying to make sense of his place in his family, his parents' unhappy marriage, his conflicting needs for nurturing and independence from his mother, and his complicated feelings about the racially segregated society in which he lives, Coetzee struggles with basic questions of identity and purpose.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
You’ve probably read this one before, but it’s worth a second shot. This story of a group of Americans and English on a sojourn from Paris to Paloma, evokes in poignant detail life among the expatriates on Paris's Left Bank, during the 1920s and conveys in brutally realistic descriptions the power and danger of bullfighting in Spain. But look beyond the literal actions of the characters, and you begin to get a sense of the the moral and philosophical destruction of human values caused by World War 1, the wake of which the story is set in.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson
Adopted and raised as one of God's elect by her mother, Jeanette seems to be destined for life as a missionary - zealous and passionate, until she falls for one of her converts. At the age of sixteen, for the young woman she loves, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is an innovative, punchy and tender journey into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.
My Struggle (Book 1) by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Translator: Don Bartlett)
There is no plot here. The first part of Knausgaard's memoir deals with his childhood and early adult years. In the second half, he describes returning to his grandmother's home following the death of his father, who drank himself to death. His father's death and the fallout is felt keenly throughout the book, and the extended scene in which his vacant house is emptied and cleaned has become iconic, representing Knausgaard’s hyperreal and compelling writing style.