Top 10 Most Unique Books I've Read
In many social circles showing up late to party is the best way to make an entrance. I'm going to pretend that was my intention all along when penning my first Top Ten Tuesday post for a challenge that has been running since 2010...
Regardless of how long it took me to find the great community over at The Broke and The Bookish, I'm happy to be here now.
This week we're looking at unique books. And while I'm all for the comfort of well plotted mystery or the familiar pangs of unrequited love so common in YA fiction, occasionally you need something to shock the system or to break up a reading slump. There are many books that can do that, but here are 10 of the books that I have read and can vouch for their uniqueness.
And, as it turns out, I've shared each of these books at least once before on Instagram, some dating back to before I used only white backgrounds. So also enjoy this little trip down memory lane.
1 The Supernatural Enhancements
Readers get to puzzle out just what exactly is happening in Axton House through journal entries (some of which include descriptions of vivid dreams), handwritten notes, recovered security footage, letters to the mysterious Aunt Liza, and other interesting entries, like the transcripts of audio files. Given that one of the contributors to the narrative is mute, so many written notes feels natural to the story.
While the ending didn’t tie things up as much as I would have liked I enjoyed all the things that went bump in the night, and the idea that there was a much larger mystery at work than meets the eye.
2 The Hike
The cover is a colorful blend of seemingly unrelated items that make more and more sense once you read the book. Part videogame-esque adventure, part supreme exercise in suspension of disbelief, this book is chockablock full of crazy adventures, including a talking crab companion. Admittedly, a few times I felt like putting the book down for good, wondering “where could this possibly be going?” And then I got to the end and was delivered one hell of shock. One that had me looking at the people around me a little differently.
Back when this came out in 2013 I was more or less over the trauma of the final season of Lost (though sometimes I think about the finale and scream “Oh, come on!” inside my head…) and was ready to get more J.J. Abrams in my life stat. Reading a story in the margins of a fictional book created for the purposes of this adventure is a really cool idea. I liked all the little items that came inside the pages of the book, discovering the meanings of the different colored inks and puzzling out the questions of this unique story, but I kept worrying I was “doing it wrong,” that there was something I might be missing or that there were notes I should be taking in order to enjoy the story completely. I’ve yet to read the book a second time in the almost four years that I’ve owned it, so admittedly there are some details that are a little fuzzy, but there isn’t another book on my shelves that’s just like it.
4 The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Call me easily impressed, but I was blown away by the clarity with which I came to know Sophie Stark, the various facets of her life and personality, all without ever hearing from her as a narrator. There’s a unique mythology that comes with talking about anyone when you know, knowing they’ll never hear what you said, and it becomes even more captivating when talking about someone involved in the business of filmmaking, where there’s a literal lens that is bound to transform things. The writing in this book is also uniquely beautiful, written in the kind of voice that makes me want to be a better writer, and few books inspire that kind of longing. In fact, writing about it today makes me want to pick it up and give it another read.
5 The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
This is another one that requires a heady dose of “suspension of disbelief” but I for one was happy to jump down the rabbit hole. And it’s one of the rare instances when I completely disagree with a majority of the reviewers. So many people hated this book. I absolutely loved it. I loved the strange magical realism that was sprinkled in, I loved the mystery that you weren’t sure needed to be a mystery, and I really enjoyed that there were some interesting ways in which the ideas of beauty were unpacked and presented in new ways. The conflicting reviews are almost enough to make me wonder if some magical spell wasn’t incorporated into the pages of the book so that certain readers experienced completely different emotions than others.
6 Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable Path Adventure
The title is pretty self-explanatory. The first time I played through this book I elected to read as Romeo and died after only seven or so story choices because I thought disguising myself as a wall while in the Capulet household would keep me from being discovered, but even in this crazy world, pretending to be a wall won’t fool anyone and you will be discovered and killed.
Ryan North’s creation is hilarious fun that seems unfinishable, unless you’re willing to take on adventure after adventure for days on end. But that’s part of the appeal, for me anyway. Every few months I pick up the book and try another journey. This book was way more fun than any of the choose-your-own-adventure style books of my youth.
Lexicon is one of those books where I was sold on just the premise. I felt like I could read the description over and over and be happy with that, but thankfully the novel itself delivers so much more. The idea that there is even more power in language that the power of the written word that we’ve already come to revere is a heady one. It’s the kind of book that when I’ve tried to recommend it to a friend I gush about the worldbuilding and the ideas of language being treated like almost a magical tool of manipulation, then I backpedal, and say “But it’s more than that, I mean there’s this secret organization, but like...” and I flap my hands around trying to think of a better way to describe it without giving too much away and end up just throwing the book at them and yelling, “Just read it, okay?!”
I’m doing the same thing to you now, just minus the book throwing.
8 The Library at Mount Char
Writing the ridiculous into something not only entertaining but somehow plausible is a rare skill and frankly I just enjoyed the hell out of the world built here. This story spans so many genres and includes so many different kinds of mythology that it’s hard to capture the scope of the world without giving too much away. This book is gruesome and beautiful in equal measure, enchanting you while also thinking that maybe you need to hide under a blanket and escape the pages for a little while. This one of my absolute favorite reads of 2016 (it took awhile to land on my radar after its 2015 publication) and I recommend it to anyone wanting to go on a truly strange and epic adventure.
9 The Time Traveler’s Wife
While the success of this book and the creation of a movie based on the novel makes it feel incredibly mainstream, this book occupies a unique corner of my heart. This book offered a mind blowing take on time travel, offered redemptive beauty through art and love, and shattered my heart into a million pieces in a way that few books have ever replicated. So many time travel books involve so much science and labs and technology, but in this book, for a single person, someone whose travels begin when he is still just a boy requires readers to think about time in yet another new way.
10 Tequila Mockingbird
So this last one isn’t a novel, but it is a book that I own, and as a big fan of books, cocktails, and puns, this book is a welcome addition to my shelves. Or my drink cart, which is where it currently resides. While Federle is certainly not the only one to create literary inspired drinks, he’s one of the few to publish those cocktails in a standalone book. (Also check out his “Gone with the Gin” collection if you’re a movie fan)
Any of these on your TBR lists or maybe even one of your unique favorites as well?