Quirky books that are unlike anything you've ever read before

Here is a run-down of 10 of the best books that are unlike anything you’ve read before. Coming at you with a style that is all their own, all of these books will encourage you to see the world in new ways.

24/06/2021
2 minutes to read

These ten books include world-expanding, time-travelling and jaw-dropping fiction, as well as non-fiction that looks at the struggle to make dreams a reality – and the essentials for making yuzu marmalade. 

Each of these books contain something ever so slightly different, made from unique ingredients. They will carve out a special place in your heart, and get you jumping to talk about them with others. 

Although none of the books are quite like any other you will have read, they all reflect relatable experiences and have got the power to stick in your mind, like your most treasured, one-of-a-kind friends. These special reads are hard to put down, and even harder to forget. 

The Black Locomotive

by Rian Hughes

Book cover for 9781529074420

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 9781529064797

‘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 9781447299998

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 9781529029581

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. Discover the stories of four new customers in Tales from the Cafe.

Mother for Dinner

by Shalom Auslander

Book cover for 9781529052053

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. It is also something he dreads even as his mother starts eating a dozen Whoppers a day to fatten herself up. 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 9781529052978

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.

The Book of Difficult Fruit

by Kate Lebo

Book cover for 9781509879250

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. 

Brood

by Jackie Polzin

Book cover for 9781529055238

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. 

The Utopians

by Anna Neima

Book cover for 9781529023077

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.

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.


For more quirky 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. . .