Unique and quirky books to add to your reading list

Discover unique and quirky books across both fiction and non-fiction, featuring mind-bending narratives, eccentric formats, and experimental structures.

In a world brimming with countless books, there are some hidden gems that defy conventional storytelling and challenge the boundaries of imagination. These books include world-expanding, time-travelling and jaw-dropping fiction, as well as non-fiction that is full of surprises – and the essentials for making yuzu marmalade. 

Whether you're an avid reader seeking new adventures or a curious soul yearning for unconventional tales, here we unveil a collection that celebrates the extraordinary, the unexpected, and the delightfully peculiar. 

Open Throat

by Henry Hoke

Book cover for Open Throat

A queer mountain lion lives in the drought-devastated land under the Hollywood sign. The lion spends their days protecting a nearby homeless encampment, observing hikers complain about their trauma and grappling with the complexities of their own identity. When a man-made fire engulfs the encampment, the lion is forced from the hills down into the city. As they confront a carousel of temptations and threats, the lion takes us on a tour that spans the cruel inequalities of Los Angeles. Feral and vulnerable, profound and playful, Open Throat is a marvel of storytelling that brings the mythic to life.

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

by Maddie Mortimer

Book cover for Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maddie Mortimer’s unique voice, typographical experimentation and resonant themes make Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies a truly original book. We follow Lia, her husband Harry and their daughter Iris after a sudden diagnosis derails their family life. But the most distinctive character is the first-person voice of a malignant force within Lia as it explores the interior contours of her body. Based on her own experience of growing up with a mother with breast cancer, Mortimer explores how the illness is not something to fight, but an abstract idea to live alongside, told through words that dance and weave across the page.

Sea Change

by Gina Chung

Book cover for Sea Change

The content of this book is as brilliantly unusual as the cover. Stuck in a rut, Ro faces the challenges of her thirties: a strained relationship with her mother and a boyfriend who left for a Mars mission. Her days are mundane at the aquarium, and her nights involve consuming sharktinis. With her best friend drifting away and Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus, as her sole connection to her vanished marine biologist father, Ro's world unravels when Dolores is sold to a wealthy investor. On the verge of self-destruction, Ro must confront her past, rediscover her purpose, and embrace the evolving world to heal her childhood scars and rebuild her life.

Once a Monster

by Robert Dinsdale

Book cover for Once a Monster

Robert Dinsdale brings Victorian London to life in this unusual blend of historical fiction with ancient myth. Ten-year-old orphan Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames. She spends her days searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone. That is until she finds a body on the shore – a seven-foot matted creature with horns. As she ventures closer the figure draws breath and Nell is forced to make a decision which will change her life forever. 

Deep Wheel Orcadia

by Harry Josephine Giles

Book cover for Deep Wheel Orcadia

Deep Wheel Orcadia is a remote and failing space station that is struggling for survival as the pace of change threatens to leave the community behind. It is here that Astrid and Darling first meet – Astrid on her way home from art school on Mars and searching for inspiration, and Darling, fleeing a life that never fit, searching for somewhere to hide. The strikingly unusual sci-fi setting is mirrored in the unique form of this verse novel, which is written in the dialect of the Orkney islands, with a parallel English translation. 

Under the Whispering Door

by TJ Klune

Book cover for Under the Whispering Door

This is a queer romance with a difference, beginning with protagonist Wallace being collected for his journey to the afterlife from his own threadbare funeral. Having spent a life obsessed with work and hectoring his colleagues, Wallace is reluctant to admit to the reaper that he may have missed out. But as he drinks tea and shares jokes and scones at tea shop Charon’s Crossing with proprietor Hugo, he begins to think he may have made some mistakes. With just seven more days given to live his life before he passes to the other side, Wallace determines to cram a lifetime of lost love into just one week.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

by TJ Klune

Book cover for The House in the Cerulean Sea

Linus Baker is a forty-year-old with a small house, a devious cat and a distinctly dull job at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. One day that all changes, when he is invited by Extremely Upper Management to take on a dangerous assignment. He is to make a journey to an orphanage where six exceptionally difficult children live. Could the six bring on the end of days? And is their mysterious guardian Arthur Parnassus to be a help or a hindrance? This endearing fantasy tale has become a New York TimesUSA Today and Washington Post bestseller.

The Cat Who Saved Books

by Sosuke Natsukawa

Book cover for The Cat Who Saved Books

Rintaro Natsuki loved finding refuge in tiny secondhand Natsuki Books as an insular child. His grandfather's bookstore with its teetering volumes was a home from home. When his grandfather dies, Rintaro is in despair, thinking he must close the beloved shop. Then a talking tabby cat appears, and asks Rintaro for help. The two go on a book lovers mission to rescue abandoned books. But there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt on his own.

The Black Locomotive

by Rian Hughes

Book cover for The Black Locomotive

You know you’re in for a different kind of read when a book’s opening pages feature quotes from both Winston Churchill and New Wave band Ultravox. Created by Rian Hughes, graphic designer, illustrator and author of the equally original XX, this novel takes you deep beneath London’s streets, as a puzzling anomaly is discovered in the hush-hush Crossrail extension being built under Buckingham Palace. Hughes cranks up the creativity on every page, as the future itself is under threat and old technology might just have to step in to save it. 

A Shock

by Keith Ridgway

Book cover for A Shock

‘When they walked through the front door they had everything on the right that she had on the left.’ From this line in the opening scene onwards, this novel of intertwined stories explores the closeness and uncanny quality of city life. A Shock is unlike any other book, and yet its characters, dialogue and cityscapes will feel as familiar as your bus route home. 

Black Water Sister

by Zen Cho

Book cover for Black Water Sister

Jessamyn has recently graduated from college, and is trying to answer the big question of what to do next. After a tough few years for her family, she travels back to Malaysia and is bombarded by pushy aunties, one particularly scathing uncle – and her late grandmother. The ghost of Ah Ma starts to haunt Jessamyn, interrupting her thoughts and blackmailing her. Zen Cho draws you into the warm bustle of this family’s life, into Ah Ma’s mission, and Jessamyn’s ordinary, and not-so-ordinary, challenges. It’s a story about finding your own direction, while feeling the strong pull of family. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Can time travel really be possible? As one character in Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s book acknowledges, there are films showing it, books written about it, and urban legends that whisper it. In Tokyo, in an old café with three clocks all telling different times, time travel is indeed possible, though there are some limits. One being that, no matter what you tweak in the past, the present won’t change. This book makes you think about what you would do if you really could order a trip to the past along with your coffee.

Mother for Dinner

by Shalom Auslander

Book cover for Mother for Dinner

The unexpected names in this book help set its tone right from the start, as we meet our protagonist, Seven, and his mother, Mudd. Auslander’s unswerving style hooks you into the story straight away, even as your brain is processing that, yes, it is a book about eating your mother. Seven is from a family of Cannibal-Americans, and eating his mother after her death is expected of him. Mother for Dinner is funny and surreal, as well as being genuine and revealing about families, heritage and the many things we stomach on the way to being ourselves.

The Strays of Paris

by Jane Smiley

Book cover for The Strays of Paris

Most authors wouldn’t attempt a story where a curious racehorse, a watchful dog, two ducks and a crow are among the main characters. In Jane Smiley’s hands these characters are real, and their stories are a testimony to the joy and relief that friendship can bring. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Smiley is brilliant at imagining how animals might experience society, conjuring the snobbery of well-travelled racehorses, and the aloof nature of well-kept Parisian dogs on leashes. There is so much that is special about this unusual, gentle and powerful story.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book cover for My Sister, the Serial Killer

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s incredible debut novel is a pacey, Man Booker Prize-longlisted thriller which puts to the test the bond between sisters Ayoola and Korede. Korede knows she must support her younger sister Ayoola, even if that means bringing the bleach and rolling up her sleeves to clean up after she murders (another) boyfriend. Korede finds an unlikely confidante, and the tension increases as Ayoola also forms a new attachment. Braithwaite shares more of the siblings’ childhood as the death toll rises, and the book asks what we would all do for those we love.

Rental Person Who Does Nothing

by Shoji Morimoto

Book cover for Rental Person Who Does Nothing

Translated by Don Knotting

Have you ever met someone who does 'nothing' for a living? Introducing Shoji Morimoto. After being told by his boss that he contributed nothing to the company he worked for and that it made no difference whether he showed up or not, Shoji started to wonder whether a person who 'does nothing' could still have value in the world. Perhaps he could turn ‘doing nothing’ into a service? With one tweet, Rental Person was born. In Rental Person Who Does Nothing, Morimoto chronicles his extraordinary experiences in his unique line of work and reflects on how we consider relationships, jobs and family in our search for meaningful connection.

The Utopians

Book cover for The Utopians

Following the unprecedented destruction of the First World War, individuals around the world attempted to answer the question: how might we live differently? Out of this desire to reinvent society, radical ways of living were born. Anna Neima looks at six of these experimental societies that sprang up around the world, describing the often charismatic, complex and fallible people behind these new ideas, and what happened when they attempted to put them into practice. These intriguing stories have a Louis Theroux-esque quality, and historian Anna Neiman’s writing captures them with sensitivity and compassion, in all their depth and colour.

The Book of Difficult Fruit

by Kate Lebo

Book cover for The Book of Difficult Fruit

This book feels a bit like reading a rediscovered book of spells or potions – intriguing, powerful and capable of conjuring the unfamiliar from familiar ingredients. It combines personal essays with recipes for fruits including juniper berries, pomegranates and aronia. Kate Lebo draws out all of these fruits’ complexities, mixing their layers of meaning together, and shares much of herself along the way. The subtitle for this book is Arguments for the Tart, Tender and Unruly, and it is a celebration of the complex, and a manifesto for sprinkling our lives with a bit more wildness and understanding. 


by Jackie Polzin

Book cover for Brood

Brood is a story about chickens. Gloria, Gam Gam, Darkness and Miss Hennepin County, to be specific, and how they survive bleak, frosty winters and the indignity of eggs that don’t quite want to be laid. The genius of this book is that it is also about how to take care of others, and yourself; about motherhood, and grief, and how to deal with life’s unexpected turns. Polzin’s writing tickles at these themes with a featherlight touch that ultimately leaves you floored with emotion. ‘A chicken’s life is full of magic,’ says our narrator. This book is full of a special kind of magic too. 

For more one-of-a-kind books that will take you out of your reading comfort zone, check out this episode of Book Break where Emma shares 13 books that are a little bit different. . .