Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten on Tuesday: All Books Are Unique

This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme from The Broke and The Bookish is to identify the most unique books you've read. This was a tough list for me to get a grip on. All books are unique, aren't they? Of course a given book may share similarities with other books, but in the end, no two books are alike. I know this isn't the interpretation the prompt is intends to elicit, but I thought it was an interesting thought to consider.

So, here are books that I think qualify as more idiosyncratic than most, that are different by virtue of representing reality, or constructing reality, from an oblique angle.

1) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Books can be infiltrated by people? Jane Eyre without its iconic ending? A slapstick literary mystery set in an alternate world with a very different science. This oddball book rates as my best airport find ever. I tired of the series after the first few, but this this first outing for Thursday Next is still a funny, smart, and distinctly strange book.

2) Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

A horny, history obsessed sixteen-year old boy deals with life in a decaying small town while trying to work through his conflicted feelings about being attracted to his girlfriend and his best friend at the same time.  Okay, a pretty classic set up for standard realistic YA novel. Then the book veers onto another course channeling The Twilight Zone and B-grade 1950s Science Fiction movies as Austin and Robbie become warriors in an apocalyptic battle with bio-engineered six foot tall invincible grasshopper soldiers. Not for everyone, but if you are willing to hold on for the ride, it's a hoot and very moving.

3) The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

A book that defies summary--the link above will take you to the Goodreads description, but trust me, it doesn't do Beauman's second novel justice. A wild, genre defying, inventive ride filled with oddball characters. You need to read it more than once to begin to make sense of it all, but if you only read it once, you'll still have a great time.

4) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Genius, pure and simple. The nesting doll structure may owe a debt to others, particularly Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night A Traveller, but Mitchell's astonishing skill in mimicking multiple genres stunned me. However, what makes this a great book, not just smart literary posturing, is Mitchell's characters who manage to find kernels of beauty, generosity, and determination to do the right thing a world that often works against them.

5) Room by Emma Donoghue

What can I say that hasn't already been said about this beautiful book narrated by a boy raised by his mother in a room where they are prisoners of a sexual predator? A harrowing reminder that such things should never happen, but that to live is to have hope of something better. Also, it's a bravura piece of narrative conjuring on Donoghue's part.

6) Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

As with so much of Atkinson's early fiction this novel is jam-packed with post-modern narrative hijinks (in this case sixteen year old Isobel Fairfax gains an omniscient view into her family's history and future that takes on the cast of a fable) that enable Atkinson to explore themes that reappear often in her fiction: mother - daughter relationships, English family life in the 20th century, and the nature of storytelling. I read this a long time ago and my memories of the book are a bit fuzzy. I just pulled it off the shelf to give it a re-read.

7) Time and Again by Jack Finney

Time travel, a mystery, a tour of old New York that begins in the Dakota plus it's an illustrated novel from an era that wasn't big on that concept. The casual sexism that imbues Finney's perspective is annoying, but I still love this book because it opened up the New York City that lay beneath the version I saw everyday growing up.

8) A Wild Sheep Chase by Harukai Murakami

Surreal and funny, this was my introduction to Murakami's genius in bending western genres to fit with his off-center views of Japanese society. It was so different from everything I thought I knew about Japan that I was enthralled. I still can't quite figure out why his brand of weird is so appealing and thought-provoking, but it is.

9) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I was a very literal child and I didn't get this book when it was read to my fourth grade class.  When I read it to my daughter (who got it immediately at the age of five proving she's smarter than I am) I was overjoyed with cornucopia of puns and verbal games. All I can say is my nine year-old self was just too damn serious.

10) Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

No explanation needed here, but I will say that this is another book that I love a great deal more as an adult than as a child when I thought it was a bit creepy.  Good to know I am capable of learning something.

What are your 'unique' reads?


  1. Oh, I LOVE the Phantom Tollbooth. Great list!

    My TTT.

    1. Thanks for stopping and commenting, Samantha. I love wending my way through everyone's selections for TTT.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my TTT. I agree, that all books are unique but you really do have some unique ones listed, some are favorites of mine.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I loved your list and look forward to reading more of your blog.

  3. I've read the first on your list and the last two. Clearly, I need to read some of the titles in the middle, too!

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. Thanks for checking out this list. If you read something else on it, I'd love to hear what you think.

  4. Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorites as a kid and I still re-read it periodically. This was a tough topic to find a coherent take on.

    1. I know. One interesting approach I saw on a blog this morning took a look books that were visually inventive which I thought was wonderful. It also occurs to me that uniqueness may not be in the books themselves but in our reactions to them. If I were to redo this list I might think about that perspective and see if it would change the selections.

  5. I didn't "get" the Phantom Tollbooth either, as a child (although I loved it), but my daughter has synaesthesia and understood it right away!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.