I can’t say with utter certainty whether these books are unique, but they were certainly different from the books I usually read. I chose these particular ten because not only were they different from my usual faire, they were also things I enjoyed. There are probably a bunch of other, more unique books that I’ve read (like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) but wasn’t a fan, so I’ve just left them off my list entirely.
Top Ten Of The Most Unique Books I’ve Read
Inferno by Dante Alighieri – Actually, much of epic poetry probably goes in this category of uniqueness. I don’t often read epic poems these days, but they certainly do lend well to storytelling in a sense. I did enjoy Inferno (which I read in both Italian and English…though goodness knows why because I have very little grasp of Italian to begin with), though I still haven’t read the full Divine Comedy.
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti – Alright, I honestly put this here because the copy I have is lovely. Based on the original print, Goblin Market is a short story written in the form of a poem. The best part about this little book, however, is the fact that it’s fully illustrated by Arthur Rackham, who is renowned for his fairy tale art. So yeah, something unique, that’s for sure.
Animal Farm by George Orwell – Obviously the classics were bound to show up. I suppose it’s what makes them timeless, no? It’s probably not as strange as it seems, considering there’ve already been numerous books out there with animal main characters, but still. I’d bet not many of them tell the story of Communist pigs throwing out their human overlords.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – I will admit that I’ve never read the full collection of this book, but I always found it an interesting story. It is, essentially, a collection of stories told by the campfire. Well, not literally a campfire, but it comes close. Chaucer sets his narrative through a situation–in this case, a journey–where each character tells a story while on their way to Canterbury.
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino – This book and perhaps The Periodic Table by Primo Levi were probably my favorite books I had to read in college. And mostly because they are a collection of short stories that revolve around scientific ideas (or terms). Cosmicomics was just odd because I don’t think I’ve ever had to read a book where I couldn’t pronounce the main character’s name. Try saying Qfwfq out loud, I dare ya.
World War Z by Max Brooks – I’m finding a pattern about what I consider “different”, and most of them involve short stories/vignettes, heh. Again, World War Z was interesting for me because it was broken up into different accounts. No character was truly main, and the bigger picture of the zombie apocalypse was fleshed out through the interviews and written missives of the people who’d experienced it. It’s not the first time this has been done, and it’s certainly not the last (Sleeping Giants runs a similar format), but it was one of my favorites of this kind of narrative.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – And back to straight-up story narrative! Only, not really, because Gaiman doesn’t necessarily stay within the confines of Shadow’s perspective. Which means several POVs. But! What was unique for me in the case of American Gods was that it was practically the story of a classic American road trip that somehow managed to involve ancient gods and their war against the new gods. It’s a beautiful mixture of old and new, something Gaiman could do effortlessly.
The Epic of Gilgamesh – I thank the divine beings above that I did not have to read this strictly in cuneiform. There’s an English translation that helped me understand the basic gist of the story, thank you very much. Even back 4,000 years, humans are still entertained by stories, and Gilgamesh is arguably the first epic hero. I added this into the mix because it was the kind of book I appreciated being translated and available to the masses.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes – Yes! Because of all the plays I’ve read, none made me laugh as hard as Lysistrata. I mean, Shakespeare came close, and Oscar Wilde often makes me giggle, but Lysistrata just kills me every time. It’s bawdy, it’s rude, it’s women having enough with men and their dick-measuring competitions. It’s quite literally a group of women withholding sex in order to end a pointless war. And they are successful. YAAAAS. I mean, you’d think this was written in a distant future, not thousands of years ago. But there it is.
Sorcery & Cecelia by Caroline Stevermere and Patricia C. Wrede – One of my favorite epistolary novels, hands down. I don’t often read stories that were written in letter-form, mostly because I find that it gets rather dull and/or confusing, but I enjoyed Sorcery and Cecelia a lot! Kate and Cecy were hilarious characters, and their romantic interests were quite lovely. The story is part of a trilogy, though admittedly the first book was the best because of the format. Its sequels, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician also follow suite in the same format, but I admit the magic was at its finest in the first book.