While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, July 11th.
This post originally ran April 11, 2016.
I love strange and unusual novels, mostly because I, myself, am strange and unusual. (Okay, you got me – I wrote this list just so I could quote Beetlejuice.)
Seriously, though, I love weird books. So whether there’s something just a little different about the story, or the book is full-on bizarre, here are 100 wonderful books I have read and highly recommend.
Some of them are funny. Some of them are disturbing. Some of them are both of those things. And they are all amazing!
These were just the first 100 that popped into my head. I am happy to talk about more unusual books – and to learn about them! Please tell me about your favorite unusual books in the comments!
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: In the future, for starters, people will have blue butts.
Bear vs. Shark by Chris Bachelder: A young boy wins an essay contest and gets to take his family to Las Vegas to see a bear wrestle a shark.
Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis: Like Edward Scissorhands. But with dogs.
The Vaults by Toby Ball: Intrigue surrounding an archive, set in the dystopian 1930s.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks: *insert emoji for “OH GOD MY EYES” here*
The Incarnations by Susan Barker: The many variations of lives of two people in Beijing.
Beatlebone by Kevin Barry: So, John Lennon is on an Irish island in 1978…
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman: This has my favorite ending to any book ever.
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell: A man swallows his unborn fetus – like you do – and it whispers dark secrets to him from inside.
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry: Bizarre dystopian detective noir.
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier: People begin bleeding light from their wounds.
Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (Author), Michael Glenny (Translator): A dog implanted with the glands of a human criminal becomes a bureaucrat.
The Weirdness by Jeremy Bushnell: What if Satan wasn’t a bad guy? HAHAHAHAHA. But no, really.
Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey: About a group of eccentric misfits living in an apartment building.
Motherfucking Sharks by Brian Allen Carr: These sharks are not just limited to water, the big toothy jerks.
The Vorrh by B. Catling: I cannot succinctly explain it, nor did I understand it, but I definitely loved it.
The Daughters by Adrienne Celt: A family curse predicts a daughter will steal the voice of her mother.
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns: A quaint village begins experiencing a rash of gruesome deaths.
An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook: If Sherlock Holmes and Ignatius J. Reilly had a baby, that child would be Trike Augustine.
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland: Richard’s pregnant comatose girlfriend’s reawakening may bring about the apocalypse.
Being Dead by Jim Crace: The story of a couple’s murder, told backwards. Like Memento, in book form.
Duplex by Kathryn Davis: If you understand this book, please explain it to me. Or not. I still thought it was rad.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: NONCONFORMISTS FTW! This book is the BEST.
The Wilds by Julia Elliott: Weird Southern gothic stories that include robot legs, levitation, and bizarre spa treatments.
Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue (Author), Natasha Wimmer (Translator): Bizarre historical tennis.
Zeroville by Steve Erickson: This has my other favorite ending to any book ever.
Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre: If David Bowie wrote historical fiction.
The Blue Girl by Laurie Foos: About a blue girl, who eats moon pies full of secrets.
Prodigies by Angélica Gorodischer: This book scratched my Muriel Spark/Barbara Comyns itches, with an extra side of the unusual.
After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones: My first takeaway from this horror story collection: Don’t tattoo dead people.
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall: A shark made of text actually follows you through the book.
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham: One of the narrators of this book is crack cocaine.
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway: My favorite. The hardcover jacket is velour. It’s the only book I own that I clean with a lint brush.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: This melted my brains. It’s my current book obsession.
Fram by Steve Himmer: Employees of a fake government agency get sent on a real mission.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson: Conjoined twins, now separated, whose father is the celestial demigod of growing things.
Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Hossain: Bonkers war novel featuring jinn and an ancient librarian.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt: A religious fanatic runs an orphanage where some of his charges can channel the dead.
The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Author), Lola M. Rogers (Translator): The mysterious disappearance and society revolving around a famous children’s book author.
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving: SO many weird things going on here. The woman who lives in a bear costume, for starters.
Half Life by Shelley Jackson: Nora looks into a secret organization that might help her get rid of her twin. Er, her conjoined twin, that is.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen: Poor Louis could be a character in the Ghaslycrumb Tinies.
Pym by Mat Johnson: An English professor searches for an island described in an Edgar Allan Poe novel, bringing along bones and Little Debbie snack cakes.
The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits: A woman attending a school for psychics goes in search of the truth behind her mother’s death.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang: A woman’s decision to stop eating meat has dark and violent consequences.
The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka: A madcap quest to find a legendary cricket bowler.
The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour: A boy raised in a birdcage is rescued by a behavioral analyst and befriends a man who claims he can fly.
The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd: Weirdness at art school. (Is that redundant?)
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King: Invisible helicopters, naked men in the bushes like it’s no big thing, and a girl who swallowed herself.
Radio Iris by Anne-Marie Kinney: The receptionist at a company doesn’t actually know what the comany does. (See also: The Beautiful Bureaucrat.)
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman: This is the kind of weird that might make you weep because it’s not too far off from being reality.
Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss: Alligators roam the world like humans during the Civil War. (I first read this when I had a fever, then read it again to be sure I hadn’t hallucinated any of it.)
Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace: Ghosthunters, supersoldiers, and goddesses, oh my!
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich: It’s like a Burroughs vampire novel that might not actually be about vampires.
Big Machine by Victor LaValle: A bus porter is invited to join a group of paranormal investigators.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon: Time travel in the post-Katrina deep South.
Disquiet by Julia Leigh: Sometimes it’s really hard to let go. *shudders*
Just Like Beauty by Lisa Lerner: Futuristic beauty pageants, mutant grasshoppers, and suicide cults.
As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem: Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl to a void in space.
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link: SHE IS THE QUEEN. Read everything she has written. Right now. I’ll wait here.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan: A future where the world is mostly water and people are web-footed.
Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce: Short stories, including one about a toaster that can predict when people are going to die.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Author), Christina MacSweeney (Translator): Three guesses what the main character likes to collect.
Remainder by Tom McCarthy: Have you seen Synecdoche, New York? It’s a lot like that, but in book form.
The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken: A librarian becomes involved in the life of a boy who can’t stop growing.
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie: Science! Romance! Squirrels! These things are not mutually exclusive.
Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet: Mermaids are real, and they’re being exploited for financial gain.
Slade House by David Mitchell: Five different Halloween nights, five different times people shouldn’t have gone in Slade House.
Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe (Author), Alexander O. Smith (Translator): A boy seeking to change his fate enters the magical world of Vision.
The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers: It’s like Roald Dahl had a baby with Terry Pratchett.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison: A woman begins experiencing weird changes to her body when things in her life start going wrong.
The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosely: A white man pays a black man to keep him locked in a cage in his basement.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami: Madness surrounding a particle accelerator, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, librarians, thugs, and more.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer: A woman struggles at home while her husband is on a mission to populate the moon with robots.
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman: In a future America, people don’t live past the age of twenty.
What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn: What’s behind the unexplained images on the security camera at the mall?
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor: A famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier walk into a bar…
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi: A bloodthirsty author is taken to task by one of his own characters.
Version Control by Dexter Palmer: I don’t know if I’d like the President having the ability to pop ’round whenever he likes.
The Bees by Laline Paul: A novel set inside a beehive, starring – what else? – bees.
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips: Josephine works entering endless strings of numbers into a computer, but she has no idea what they’re for.
Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis: A crackpot religion is founded based upon the lost city of Atlantis.
Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson: The spirits of famous people visit a Parisian cemetery in the form of cats.
Dendera by Yuya Sato (Author), Edwin Hawkes (Translator), Nathan A Collins (Translator): A group of elderly women form a utopian community. Plus bears. (There’s a lot of bears on this list.)
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders: Inner Horner is a country only big enough to hold one resident at a time.
Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe: A resettling of Jamestown, post-destruction of Manhattan.
Cat Country by Lao She: Cat men on Mars! I repeat: Cat men on Mars!
A Jello Horse by Matthew Simmons: The narrator embarks on a road trip to visit America’s bizarre museums and roadside attractions.
The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks: Short stories, including one about two orphans who take up taxidermy to help with their grief.
Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon: The life of soldier George Smith, presented in letters and documents surrounding his case.
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente: Three words: Stalinist house elves.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: Expeditions investigate Area X, an unknown area that appeared over a section of the country.
Zazen by Vanessa Veselka: A young woman may or may not be behind a series of anarchistic bombings. She’s not actually sure.
Slapstick or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut: It’s about the last president of the United States. May be read as fact soon.
Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters: It had me at “a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost.”
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead: Elevator operators in a parallel universe.
Damnificados by JJ Amaworo Wilson: 600 squatters take over an abandoned tower, complete with wolves and ghosts.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson: Serious Royal Tenenbaum vibes.
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson: Napoleon! Venice! More web-footed people! And a woman who is trying to retrieve her heart from a locked box.
The Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor: The protagonist is a walking, talking, saxaphone-playing bear.