5 Books with Unique Narratives That Play with Format

Anne Jaconette
April 9 2021
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Sometimes when I don’t know exactly what to read next, I like to jump into something completely different. Narratives told as an oral history, or a screenplay, or multiple timelines, or through illustrations often act as a welcome break from my typical TBR pile. Here are just a few books with unique narratives that will grab your attention from the first page!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
by Dawnie Walton

This book has been on my list since I overheard a colleague discussing it, and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll feel like you joined the tour bus in Almost Famous as music journalist S. Sunny Shelton shares an oral history of her favorite 1970s rock idols, Opal & Nev. A chorus of voices narrate the story of Opal’s protesting when another band from their same record label uses the Confederate flag. Opal’s bold objection and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves but will also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially Black women, who dare to speak their truth. As Sunny unearths secrets, the final revival tour is threatened. You’ll be captivated by the fierce legacy of Opal.

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Dawnie Walton

A kaleidoscopic fictional oral history of the beloved rock ’n’ roll duo who shot to fame in 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

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Only Plane in the Sky
by Garrett M. Graff

Everyone who was alive during 2001 has a memory of 9/11, a day when time stood still as America watched the attacks and/or saw them replayed over and over on TV. This book is an oral history of the day, including never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, and original interviews and stories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members. It is a book that will make you reflect on the day, and the way our shared memories keep history alive.

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Only Plane in the Sky
Garrett M. Graff

Now with a new afterword, Garrett M. Graff’s instant New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky, the comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001 called “history as its most immediate and moving” (Jon Meacham) and “remarkable…a priceless civic gift” (The Wall Street Journal).

Hailed as “remarkable…incredibly evocative and compelling” (The Washington Post) and “oral history at its finest” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Garrett M. Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky is the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet, comprised of never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, and original interviews and stories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members. Here is a vivid, profound, and searing portrait of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.

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MENTIONED IN:

5 Books with Unique Narratives That Play with Format

By Anne Jaconette | April 9, 2021

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Solutions and Other Problems
by Allie Brosh

Not a graphic novel, not a memoir. The format of this half-illustrated, half-written book of essays is as unique as the stories inside. Allie Brosh, creator of the popular blog and book HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, is back with new content after seven years. Her new book is every bit as funny as her first, but with a harder edge. She explores grief, loneliness, and the absurdities of modern life, all through her signature MS-paint created avatar, as featured on the cover.

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Solutions and Other Problems
Allie Brosh

INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art. Solutions and Other Problems marks the return of a beloved American humorist who has “the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian” (Bill Gates).

Praise for Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half:
“Imagine if David Sedaris could draw….Enchanting.” —People
“One of the best things I’ve ever read in my life.” Marc Maron
“Will make you laugh until you sob, even when Brosh describes her struggle with depression.” —Entertainment Weekly
“I would gladly pay to sit in a room full of people reading this book, merely to share the laughter.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“In a culture that encourages people to carry mental illness as a secret burden….Brosh’s bracing honesty is a gift.” —Chicago Tribune

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The Roxy Letters
by Mary Pauline Lowry

Meet Roxy and the friends in her story told entirely through her letters to her ex-boyfriend (and current roommate), Everett. What begins as a series of letters to try to get him to pay past-due rent slowly evolves into Roxy’s own story of her mission to team up with her two best friends to save Austin, Texas, from corporatization and chain stores.

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The Roxy Letters
Mary Pauline Lowry

Meet Roxy. For fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary comes “just the kind of comic novel we need right now” (The Washington Post) about an Austin artist trying to figure out her life one letter to her ex-boyfriend at a time.

Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.

As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process?

With timely themes and hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments, Roxy Letters is a smart and clever story that is “bursting with originality, quirky wit, and delightful charm” (Hannah Orenstein, author of Playing with Matches).

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Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I am absolutely obsessed with the way Taylor Jenkins-Reid tells this story. It almost feels like a rock-and-roll documentary, the way you hear from different members of the band, almost as if they’re reading from a script. Dive into the world of the 1970s band Daisy Jones & the Six and uncover the mysterious reason why the band broke up.

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Daisy Jones & The Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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By Anne Jaconette | April 9, 2021

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Photo Credit: iStock / Müge Ayma

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