Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read

This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday is the top ten most unique books you've read. Now 'unique' could mean anything - a different kind of main character, a unique spin on the genre or writing style. I haven't put a lot of thought into this list, which makes me all the more curious to read the book you guys have come up with. Off the top of my head, in no particular order, these are ten of the most unique books I've read. Incidentally, I haven't loved everything about these books, but the things that made them unique did impress me. 

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams - All the characters were rabbits. What could possibly be more unique than that!?

2. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino - The main character is me.. I mean, you.. I mean, the reader. A book narrated from the second person perspective literally makes you a part of the story. 

3. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco - This book is about memories, I have never read anything like it. It's a book about the main character having amnesia and rediscovering himself through the trinkets that he has collected over the years - a unique idea and narrative technique.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - A book doesn't have to be obscure to be unique and in all honesty, everything about this book is unique. The characters, the plot and the weirdly humorous writing style. 

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Retellings couldn't get as original as this one - which is a sort of parody of The Jungle Book, set in a graveyard. As the story of a young orphan raised by ghosts, it's worth a read.

6. Hogfather (from Discworld) by Terry Pratchett - It's time for Hogswatch (the Discworld equivalent of Christmas) but the Hogfather, a fat jolly man who brings presents for the children, has gone missing. To maintain the spirit of Hogswatch, Death (yes, the hooded figure with the horse and the scythe) decides to dress up as the Hogfather, instead. If that doesn't sound unique, I don't know what will...

7. Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber - A compelling and (arguably) true story of a woman with sixteen personalities and her journey to cure. Fine, I haven't finished the book yet, but it is definitely unique so far.

8. Possession by A. S. Byatt - The book is about two literary academics uncovering the romance between two Victorian poets, through their letters to each other. The prose is unique, layered and deep, and every time you come close to calling it purple, you wonder if you have been teased all along, if it was satire, after all. It's a mysterious book that gives you something new with every read.

9. The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll - This uniquely literary fantasy is the story of a writer and the world he created, literally.

10. Perfume by Patrick Süskind - The book played on the uniquely disturbing idea that a man committed murders of beautiful smelling women to catch their scents and make them into the most wonderful perfume in the world. 

Do you agree with my list? Have you read any of these books? And which are the most unique books you've read?

15 comments:

Vishy said...

Beautiful list, Priya! I loved 'Possession' and 'Perfume' - they are definitely unique! From your list, I want to read 'Watership Down', 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller' and 'The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana' ('Queen Loana' is the only book I know which has a picture of one of my favourite comic characters Lucky Luke :)) After reading your thoughts on it, I also want to read 'Hogfather' sometime - it sounds so interesting! My list of unique books would include :

(1) The Wall by Marlen Haushofer - It is a long monologue of a 40-something old woman and describes her day-to-day activities with the animals at her home (a dog, a few cats, a cow). Looks like normal stuff. But I don't know any other novel which does that. One would think that this would be boring. But it is not. It is a masterpiece. Probably my favourite book of alltime.

(2) Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli - A graphic novel which is a love story. Nothing remarkable at first sight. But one of the reviewers said that many of us look at a book from the perspective of both style and substance and Mazzucchelli shows in his book that style is substance. That is true.

(3) Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes - Barnes cleverly mixes fiction and fact in his book and makes us believe that fiction is fact. It also made me fall in love with Gustave Flaubert.

(4) Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda - Neruda wrote these odes about everyday things like scissors, tomatoes, onions, a loaf of bread, spoons, tables, chairs and things like that. He showed that there is beauty and glory in everyday things. Thanks to him for that.

(5) Superman : Peace on Earth by Paul Dini - Unique because it took the Superman legend and myth and tried to explore whether Superman can solve the world hunger problem. Very beautifully told.

(6) Night Gardening by E.L.Swann - For making a 60-something old woman the main character in the story, giving her a paralytic stroke and then making her fall in love with the man next door. I haven't read a more unconventional but realistic love story before I read this one. The ending will break your heart like the best love stories do.

(7) Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma - Suzuma takes a forbidden topic (incest) and creates a beautiful love story out of it. Before I started the book, I thought that would be impossible. After I finished the book I realized that I was fortunate to have discovered a great writer.

(8) Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann - A shepherd is murdered. His sheep investigate. Thoroughly charming murder mystery where the detectives are sheep and the villain is probably human. And we the readers, of course, side with the sheep :)

(9) Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande - This book takes a topic which is probably taboo in most homes and which parents are extremely reluctant to discuss - whether God exists or whether the theory of evolution is true - and pulls it off well. The heroine of our story is a high school student and she believes in both and whether she can reconcile with that is the rest of the story.

(10) Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman - I don't know any other book which made bookish essays more fascinating than even books. A slim and beautiful gem.

Priya said...

Wow, Vishy, I love your comment. That's a good list and it made me think of a few more for my list. Although, the fact that I haven't red a single one on it makes me sad.

The Wall reminds me of another German writer I read - Max Frisch (a book called My Name is Gantenbein) which is also a meandering monologue. If The Wall is anything like that, I'd love to read it.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli sounds like a book I should read too. I have little experience with graphic novels and most I come across are either horrors or mysteries. A love story through pictures sounds intriguing enough to this graphic-novel-newbie.

I did read Julian Barnes' The Sense of An Ending and I know this one's at the local British library, so I'll pick it up, thanks. But since I have never read Flaubert, I wonder if that'd be a problem.

Thanks for all the recommendations! The ones I'm definitely checking out immediately are Neruda (have read a few stray poems only) and Suzuma and Brande - they all sound intense and unique.

Vishy said...

I hope you enjoy the books by Neruda, Suzuma and Brande, Priya. The Neruda is especially good, because we can identify with most of what he says poetically about everyday things. 'The Wall' is probably my alltime favourite book. Because you can read in German, maybe you can try to read the German version. It is an amazing book. I haven't read Flaubert either and that didn't spoil my enjoyment of Julian Barnes' book. But I have heard other readers having mixed feelings about it. Thanks for telling me about Max Frisch. I would love to read his book one day.

I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of these books, whichever ones you get to read. Happy reading!

barefootmeds said...

I've only read Life of Pi on your list, which I agree was unique. That island still haunts me!
Some of the other books are on my TBR list, like The Graveyard Book and Perfume. Is Perfume very scary though?

Priya said...

barefootmeds - It's not as much scary as it is gory and absurd. You feel kind of freaked out in places, specially towards the end. I know many people who love it, though, I thought it was original but kind of hard to digest. The Graveyard Book is very Gaiman and fun, though!

Divers and Sundry said...

i loved #s1,2,4&8. i enjoyed sybil but the controversy over how true the story was & to what extent the story was a deliberate fraud soured me on the book. i like eco, gaiman & pratchett & will work my way to all their books eventually, i hope.

wow! there are so many blog posts linked up at this week's "top ten tuesday"! is the topic always that popular?

Priya said...

Divers and Sundry - Your comment prompted me to read up on the controversy and it does sound a bit too much, especially the part about how her doctor might have overdone it and made it worse. You're right... that's kind of a horrible thought!
I've only read this one by Eco, but do plan to read more of him.
Yeah, Top Ten Tuesday always gets a huge response. I used to regularly participate a long time ago, and re-started it last month. It's fun to read others' lists!!

Viktoria Berg said...

What a great topic for a list! Personally, however, I can´t think of a single book I´d consider - I suppose I´m pretty accepting of novel ways to write (no pun intended). I found "The Perfume" very disturbing, I remember that. And I have put Vishy´s suggestion about the investigating sheep on my list - that sounds very entertaining!

Priya said...

Viktoria - You're good to have preempted not making the list, because after reading everyone else's lists, I just kept thinking of other books that would fit the 'unique' label and now I'm not even sure what I mean by it. I suppose most books kind of are unique.
Yea, I had the distinct impression that Vishy's choices sound way more original than mine - detective sheep, superman bringing peace and all that. More books to the TBR pile!

nishitak said...

I don't know how I could have missed the Discworld series. They are so totally original, and such fun.

Priya said...

Nishita - Exactly! And weirdly, every book in the series is just as original as the next... if that makes any sense. ;)

Andrew Blackman said...

Hi Priya
Nice list! I loved Calvino's book - definitely unique. And Life of Pi too - couldn't believe how he made such a crazy premise so believable. There are a few others on your list that I've been meaning to read for ages, so thanks for the reminder!

Priya said...

Andrew - I agree, the idea of Life of Pi was crazy if you think about it, but it kind of made sense, too. Thanks for stopping by!

Delia D said...

That's quite an interesting mix.
I loved Possession, unlike any book I've read before, the poetry and prose beautifully interconnected. A bit complicated but well worth the read.
Life of Pi & Perfume - I watched the movies, does it count? :) Loved them both.
Watership Down is a book I would really like to read one day.

One of the most unique books I have read is Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. It was love at first word, and I never experienced that intensity with a book before. I will never forget the way it made me feel - indescribably happy.

Priya said...

Delia - Possession was complicated, but yes, in a good way. I haven't seen the Perfume movie and if it follows the book exactly, I couldn't bear to watch it! Life of Pi, on the other hand, I've seen and the book is better (isn't it always?) but you'd agree it was unique from the movie, too, I'm sure.
Fahrenheit 451 - of course! "Love at first word." I love that phrase. In case of that book, it couldn't have been truer, it has quite the iconic beginning, doesn't it? That's a perfect pick for this list, actually. :)

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