Literary Lists · Reading Challenge 2016

5 strange and unusual novels in my Nook

The beginning of a new month typically finds me culling a list of new novels I’m looking forward to reading. However, it’s beyond time to get serious about reading my own damn books.

I’ve done okay so far this year. Of the 26 books I’ve read, 15 were already in my library. With more than 500 books in my digital collection and The-Lord-alone-knows how many on my shelves, I have to believe I can do better. So this month, I’m resisting the temptation to add new books to my to-be-read list.

Oh, the joy of discovering I already own the books I want to readGiven this, I have no business reading articles with titles that include the following numbers and words: 10, 50, 100, must-read, and books. To repeat: These are the articles I must avoid like week-old tuna salad and expired allergy medication because these articles blow up my to-be-read list.

This is to say, I should NOT have clicked on “I got your weird right here: 100 must-read strange and unusual novels” by Liberty Hardy at BookRiot. But I LOVE strange and unusual novels! So much! So clicked despite my conscience nagging, Really? Have we not been over this?

As I was swooning over her list and wishing I could read at least 60 pages per hour and eight hours per day, I noticed something: Some of these titles are already in my digital library!

*Cue pulsating dance music, strobe lights, and general celebratory mayhem*

Now I think about it, I have many strange and unusual novels in my Nook library (and on my shelves). But these are five I have not yet read. #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks win!

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

I remember buying this because it’s a time travel story with a meta narrative. The main character is “City” Coldson, a 14-year old living in 2013 Mississippi who receives a book, called Long Division, whose main character is City Coldson. Novel-within-the-novel City lives in 1985 and knows how to travel into the future. His trip to the future gives him the tools to travel into the past, 1964, where he helps a fellow time traveler protect his family from the Klan.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Having enjoyed Oyeyemi’s Boy Snow Bird, I acquired this through a Nook book sale. Also, I love books that play with the author/subject relationship: Mr. Fox is a celebrated writer who can’t resist killing off his characters. Quirky twist: One of his characters turns him into the subject of stories they construct together.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

This is one of the few novels by Murakami that I haven’t read yet. I read the plot description and am so confused. I can’t wait to read it!

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

So I’m stretching with this novel in which mermaids are real, and they’re in trouble: I have the sample in my Nook, not the whole book. But I’ll work out a way to make it count. I’ll start by reading the sample and assess from there.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

This is also a sample (see above). It’s about a secret society of writers, one of whom disappears.

Please don’t give me the titles of strange and unusual novels I should read! Only joking. Please do share your favorites in the comments! I probably have at least the sample in my digital library, ha.

8 thoughts on “5 strange and unusual novels in my Nook

  1. I love, love, love the idea of this post, and how cool that you have already got some of those weird books you were longing to read, right there in your Nook!

    In terms of favorite weird books…sigh…I have so many. Some I’ve recently enjoyed include: “A Visit from the Goon Squad”, “Where’d you go Bernadette” (which was deemed “too weird” for my aunt’s book club, when I suggested it to her), “Mason & Dixon” by Thomas Pynchon (confession: I find the writing in this book so amazing that I have yet to finish it. I just end up like moth drawn to, and then burnt by, a flame), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (which I found super-smart and well-done – and soooo much better than the movie), and “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger, a book that continues to haunt me (no pun intended, really).

    To go more old-school, I love me some Kafka — “The Metamorphosis” just gets more meaningful and complex every time I read it, and “A Hunger Artist” is just amazing. And of course, Poe (my favorite story by him, “A Predicament” is up there on the weird scale, even by Poe fan standards). And this may not immediately come to mind when it comes to weird books, but I always thought it was so weird and funny how “Don Quixote” ends up sort of transgressing into the real world, where Don Quixote knows he’s being written about, etc.

    Quite possibly my favorite “weird” book – although it’s hard to say that because I do so love the Kafka and Poe pieces I’ve mentioned (and the overall collections of their works) is “L’Ecume des jours” (“Froth on the Daydream”) by Boris Vian. It’s just the strangest creation, but ultimately so profound, and wonderfully written.

    Thanks for your link to the list of the 100 weird books. It turns out I have a lot of reading to do! But one thing made me chuckle – like your mentioning that there was just one Murakami book on the list – is the fact that there’s also only one work by John Irving. And personally, I’d say “A Son of the Circus” is weirder than “The Hotel New Hampshire”. Although both are definitely not exactly run-of-the-mill stories.

    Also, I was sure that between you and that other list, someone would mention “The Master and Margarita”, a book that’s been on my to-read list for a while.

    I think I’m going to be up all night thinking about weird books and stories I’ve enjoyed….and planning my next weird read, thanks to your list and the one on bookriot.

    And also all of this brings another question to mind: The divide between “weird” and “magical”. I wanted to put “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” on my list, but that book isn’t exactly weird, so much as deliberately enchanting. There were a few other works like this that made me hesitate, as well.

    So thanks for all this…and I won’t even be mad about the lack of sleep! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Alysa! Though I’ll feel very badly indeed if you lose your much-needed sleep over this! I absolutely adore “A Visit From the Goon Squad.” That one is so high up on my list. I also loved “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” and have been wanting to read “Her Fearful Symmetry” for ages. It’s good to hear this about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It’s not a book I would think to read, but if you liked it, then I’m in. Kafka, Poe, Bulgakov – all awesome. “The Master and Margarita” is one of my all-time favorite books (on an admittedly long list, it should be conceded). I do want to read “Heart of a Dog,” though. And from Irving, I thought “A Prayer for Owen Meany” could be on this list – I loved it when I read it and kind of want to reread it to see how I’d experience it now. Oh! And I need to read “Don Quixote”!

      Ah, your whole post made me so happy. *sigh*

      1. I’m glad my reply made you happy! And that you’re considering reading “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. The title is silly, of course, but to me, it showed real knowledge of Lincoln’s life, politics, and the time period. Also, fun manipulated photos. I was delighted by it and impressed by the research that must have gone into it. Plus, any book with a cameo by my teen crush Edgar Allan Poe can’t go wrong in my eyes.

        I mentioned “The Master and Margarita” because I know it’s one of your favorite books, from reading *your* book. That’s why I was surprised it wasn’t on the list.

        I definitely agree on “A Prayer for Owen Meany”, but to me, pretty much anything Irving writes is at least a bit odd. I was really surprised that a list of strange books only had one each by him and Murakami. And that’s gotten me thinking: There are so many authors whose pretty much entire body of work is a bit weird, but I’m wondering at what point does that get chalked up to them falling into a genre, like magical realism, Surrealism, etc. Is that why people like Italo Calvino, Isabelle Allende (at least her early stuff), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Andre Breton aren’t on the list at all?

        As for “Don Quixote”, I really loved the translation I read – it not only was pleasant to read (but yes, it is long); it also included explanatory footnotes that were really helpful but not overwhelming. I’m trying to find who the translator was (my book is in storage) but not seeing the cover I have…I’ll let you know if I figure that out, if you want.

        1. Oh yes, I’d love to know if there’s a particular translation of “Don Quixote” that you recommend. That one is high on my list of books I want to read. But don’t go to any trouble!

          And that’s a good question about genre. I adore magical realism generally speaking, which is different from speculative fiction, which I also love. Sometimes it’s the narrative style that’s kind of off the beaten track, so to speak. I think of “Lucky Us” as an example, which may be why some readers had a hard time with it (again, I loved it). For my list, I was picking 5 that are on my e-reader and that I haven’t read, which is why I didn’t include Bulgakov. The writer who put the original list together picked 100 off the top of her head (!).

          1. I will try to find that translation. I can’t believe it’s so hard to figure out – why is the book I bought in a perfectly ordinary bookstore about 15 years ago simply nowhere to be found on Amazon, Ebay, etc?

            What you wrote about “Lucky Us” makes me want to read it more than ever! I also love magical realism and weird narrative styles, too!

            Thanks also for the explanation of why “The Master and Margarita” wasn’t on either list -but I’m still sort of puzzled about it not being on the Goodreads one. I mean, she had a hundred books to list – that seems like one that would certainly come to mind in terms of weirdness!

          2. Thank you, Alysa. Please don’t got to any trouble, though! For me, it can be a nightmare trying to find a book on my shelves. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! 🙂

            I would be so interested in your take on Lucky Us! That one doesn’t have magical realism. The weirdness is in the narrative and the characters. I really enjoyed reading it. Another one that I recommend over and over again (and you’ll recognize the name from my book) is 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, which does has a magical realist element at the end.

  2. And I have now added several new books to my TBR list. Thanks for this, lol! Now I’m going to check out the article you read.

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