Top Ten Tuesday #24: Unique Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic:

The most unique books I’ve read

This was a difficult list to compile because I haven’t read many books that are unique.

Building Stories by Chris Ware (illus.)

This is one of the most unique books on this list. It’s a graphic novel about the people living in a three-story apartment building in Chicago. Building Stories is included on this list because of its structure. It’s not constructed like a usual book. It seems quite interactive and has various posters and other pull-out items with illustrations of the rooms in the apartment. I was intrigued by it when it was published and promptly placed it on my TBR. I haven’t yet read or acquired it, but it seems like a book I’d love. You can find out more about it from this Brain Pickings post.

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

S. is one of the most intimidating books I own. Why do I find it intimidating? Because I don’t know how to read it. I also find it difficult to tell you what it’s about, partly because I haven’t yet read it, but I think this sentence from the Goodreads summary will give you an idea: “[It] is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand. It is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.”

I was immediately drawn to this book when I first saw it in an indie bookstore. I liked how it was bound (like one of those old tomes I’d see in libraries) and the writings in the margins made me curious, though initially I thought someone had scribbled in the book while visiting the store. Since the book contains a story but also pull-outs and copious notes in the margins, reading it seems like a daunting task because I don’t know where to begin.

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss (illus.)

Here starts the books I have read. Thunder & Lightning was one of the best books I read last year. I included it on this list because it’s an illustrated nonfiction book about the weather that’s not intended solely for children. It’s a book that adults can read and learn from and find engaging. The text is accompanied by numerous simple but beautiful illustrations that help to break up the text and maintain the reader’s interest. It’s a good read and well written and I highly recommend it.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (illus.)

I’ve discussed this one a lot on here. It’s an illustrated story told without words about a man seeking a safe place for his family to live. I included this book because it’s the first silent book I’ve ever read. Omitting the words made me pay closer attention to the details in the illustrations, such as subtle changes in facial expression and gestures. The Arrival is a wonderful, heartfelt story accompanied by great, detailed illustrations. It’s a really good read. I also like the book’s structure: The cover and end pages remind of an old photo album, which, I think, is fitting for the story.

In Search of Lost Dragons by Élian Black’Mor (illus.) and Carine-M (illus.)

In Search of Lost Dragons is perfect for dragon lovers. I can’t tell if it’s a graphic novel or just a heavily illustrated story, but it’s about a journalist who searches for and documents the existence of dragons in Europe and Asia. The story is told through the journalist’s notes about his travels and other documentation and the entire book is filled with beautiful illustrations of dragons in various forms and places. It’s awesome. It’s pricey, but I highly, highly recommend it.

A Long Day’s Evening by Bilge Karasu

A Long Day’s Evening is one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. It’s divided into three sections, the first two take place in the 8th-century Byzantine Empire of Leo III and the third section is set in the 20th century. I only read the first section and part of the second because I began to lose interest and found the form of writing difficult to read. Karasu was a Turkish modernist writer, so A Long Day’s Evening contained several characteristics of a modernist novel, such as experimentation with sentence structure: some sentences had no punctuation so it was hard to tell where sentences, or even paragraphs, stopped. It was an interesting read. I preferred and admired the first section, The Island, because how it’s written mirrors the protagonist’s mental state.

A Time Code by Ruth Ozeki

Another great read from last year, A Time Code is a memoir about Ozeki’s face. The book is on this list because of the memoir’s structure: Ozeki basically stared in the mirror for three hours and wrote whatever thoughts she had and the time they popped in her head. Along with the time-stamped entries are essays about Ozeki’s life, family, and culture. This is a wonderful, amazing read and I highly recommend it. I’m also intrigued by the exercise of staring at my face in a mirror and writing what I think. I’d like to try that. A Time Code is part of a series called The Face.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

A classic family saga set in South America that’s infused with magical realism. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books. I love how Márquez writes (so descriptive) and the characters he creates (all unique and not) and the structure of the story (that’s why it’s on this list). One Hundred Years of Solitude can seem confusing and daunting, but I think it’s manageable if you’re patient with it (really patient with it). Instead of linear, the story has a circular structure. It doesn’t start at the beginning, just at a point in the story, and it’s hard to tell where or what the beginning is. Personally, I think the beginning feeds into the end, and vice versa, hence the circular structure. It is a wonderful read and I encourage all to give it a try. It is all prose with hardly or no dialogue, but it will keep you hooked.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This one is probably unique to only a few people. It’s a science-fiction novel about an astronaut trying to survive on Mars as he awaits rescue. It’s on this list because its not like the sci-fi stories I’m used to hearing about or watching on TV. It’s borderline contemporary and it seems like something that could or has happened. It is an entertaining read and though it includes a lot of science, it didn’t burden the plot or bore me.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

A YA contemporary fantasy novel about teens who aren’t the “chosen ones.” This is on the list because of its plot. It’s unusual and I’ve never encountered it before. Basically it gives us the story of the side characters in YA sci-fi/fantasy books who see (or not) crazy shit happening but aren’t able to share their thoughts on it. I thought this story was okay. The concept was cool and the execution of it was fine, but I wasn’t crazy about it.

Honorable mention:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

I’m currently reading this one, but I have no idea what it’s about and I refuse to read a synopsis. However, it receives a honorable mention because of how it’s written. It has some big-ass paragraphs and long-ass sentences that go on and on and on and on, but I love them. The book is long as fuck with about 866 pages, which, compared to some fantasy novels, isn’t that long, but that’s 866 pages of all prose and no dialogue breaks because it seems that there’s no dialogue in this story. I would worry, but I’ve experienced this before. I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude. I CAN DO THIS!!

It seems like it will be a family saga, but I get some One Hundred Years of Solitude vibe from it too. I think it’s because of how it’s written. I haven’t yet encountered any magical realism. So far, I like the story and how Auster tells it.

Well, that’s it folks. Please share your unique reads below, or a link to your post. I’d like some recommendations.
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32 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday #24: Unique Books

  1. Great picks! I’m really curious of S. by J.J. Abrams. It sounds like a really fun book to read. Really want to read One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s been on my TBR for soooo long now! I also thought The Rest of Us Just Live Here was pretty unique. It was my first book by Patrick Ness.

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    • S. looks so cool. I need to read it.
      And yea! Give 100 Years of Solitude a try. It’s really good and you’ll like it, I think, if you don’t find it too confusing.
      That was my first Ness book too. I was a little let down by it was as great as it was hyped to be.

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  2. I seriously considered The Martian. It’s mainstream, but I think it’s unique that a book so technical was so readable and funny. I really loved Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, and also considered that one for my list, so I should probably read this one.

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    • Exactly. The humor in Martian was what surprised me the most.
      Oh yes! I think you’ll like Ozeki’s A Time Code. So far, it’s the only book I’ve read by her.

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  3. We had one book overlap…100 Years. The rest of these look interesting. Not sure why, but that cover for The Arrival is very intriguing.

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    • Aww man. Had to include 100 Years.
      And I think you might enjoy reading The Arrival with your grandkids. It’s not graphic (as in violent) and the illustrations are great and I think you’ll appreciate the depth of the story.
      I also recommend The Only Child by Guojing, which might suit the kids better and I think you’ll also enjoy it too.

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    • Yea, you might like it. But it’s about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones, not necessarily the supporting characters. It was quite interesting the way he mixed in the chosen one’s story with the everyday lives of the “normal” characters.

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  4. I forgot about S.! I started that one when it first came out and had to set it down, and haven’t picked it back up again. (I need to start over.) It’s such an interesting premise. Great list! My TTT.

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  5. Awesome list!! I’m really keen to read arrival and s!! And I agree Martian is pretty unique in since respects (it was especially unique to me cos it was one of the first Sci fi books I read- so I don’t know if that gave me the impression that it was even more unique than it actually was!!)

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