In the spring of 2017 I was due to co-teach a new module on contemporary fiction for one of the School’s MA courses. Needless to say, compiling a remotely satisfactory reading list for such a module would normally be challenging enough. We pondered our criteria at length: how to weight aesthetics and innovation against politics and topicality; whether to accord significance to literary prizes and account for publishing trends; the need to balance literary debuts with already more established texts and authors; to give equal space to authors who were not white, male, middle-class, straight and English; to reflect on globalisation alongside listening to regional and local voices; the list could go on. It did go on. But above all, we needed to circle around the notion of the contemporary and how the novel tackled the ‘now’.