Believe you’ve experienced most genres, or can easily identify what type of book you think you’d like to read next? Think again, as we’ve got some surprising and unconventional perspectives ready for you. Want to read a fiction novel with an incredibly creative narrator? A painting, for instance, or a chorus of murdered women. How about a story within a story, or wisdom from a 109-year-old man? Read on and discover a wide variety of perspectives in nine tales that cross traditional styles and interweave impactful voices for a memorable reading experience.
9 Original Books That’ll Shift Your Perspective
Fiction about writing fiction is exactly the kind of turning-a-story-on-its-head achievement that I’m drawn to. A narrator, Yu, who is a graphic novelist also crafting characters for his own work throws us deep into a troubling tale that’s a double-layered odyssey exploring trauma and connection. In Yu’s creation, 12-year-old Benny lives in a housing project in Chinatown. Following his mother’s and eventually his grandmother’s death, Benny finds himself living with a neighbor, Constantine, whose ways of looking at the world and his belief that he’s a reincarnated Samurai are eccentric at best. As young Benny evaluates and eventually tries to process events, Yu must also work to confront his own darkness.
“A nuanced, complex, and highly original novel.” —Charles Yu, National Book Award–winning author of Interior Chinatown
This fresh and unique work of metafiction follows Benson Yu, a writer, who loses control of his own narrative when he attempts to write the story of his fraught upbringing in 1980s Chinatown.
In a Chinatown housing project lives twelve-year-old Benny, his ailing grandmother, and his strange neighbor Constantine, a man who believes he’s a reincarnated medieval samurai. When his grandmother is hospitalized, Benny manages to survive on his own until a social worker comes snooping. With no other family, he is reluctantly taken in by Constantine and soon, an unlikely bond forms between the two.
At least, that’s what Yu, the narrator of the story, wants to write.
The creator of a bestselling comic book, Yu is struggling with continuing the poignant tale of Benny and Constantine and can’t help but interject from the present day, slowly revealing a darker backstory. Can Yu confront the demons he’s spent his adult life avoiding or risk his own life...and Benny’s?
What a beautiful cover for a fascinating ghost story following teenage Blanca almost four hundred years after her death. The arrival of George Sand and her lover Frederic Chopin quickly moves from intrigue to fixation to a reminder of Blanca’s own experiences and untimely passing—if only she could talk with them and really connect. If these names seem familiar, you’re not imagining things; Chopin, the composer, and Sand, the writer, really did travel to Mallorca together (where Stevens’s novel is set) and they did not fit in well with the locals. With elements of historical fiction and the supernatural, BRIEFLY, A DELICIOUS LIFE is a compelling combination of unusual perspectives and unexpected parallels.
An unforgettable debut novel from an award-winning writer: a lively, daring ghost story about a teenage ghost who falls in love with a writer who doesn’t know she exists.
In 1473, fourteen-year-old Blanca dies in a hilltop monastery in Mallorca. Nearly four hundred years later, when George Sand, her two children, and her lover Frederic Chopin arrive in the village, Blanca is still there: a spirited, funny, righteous ghost, she’s been hanging around the monastery since her accidental death, spying on the monks and the townspeople and keeping track of her descendants.
Blanca is enchanted the moment she sees George, and the magical novel unfolds as a story of deeply felt, unrequited longing—the impossible love of a teenage ghost for a woman who can’t see her and doesn’t know she exists. As George and Chopin, who wear their unconventionality, in George’s case, literally on their sleeves, find themselves in deepening trouble with the provincial, 19th-century villagers, Blanca watches helplessly and reflects on the circumstances of her own death (which involves an ill-advised love affair with a monk-in-training).
Charming, original, and emotionally moving, this is a surprisingly touching story about romantic fixation and a powerful meditation on creativity.
Paintings as narrators? If that isn’t enough to hook you, then what about priceless lost paintings that unknowingly show up at thrift shops for cheap? Imagine that once you realize what it is you have in your hands, that’s when the story reveals itself. The Improbability of Love is the painting in question, the object of many influential people’s (and countries’) desires once its location becomes known. If you were Annie, the woman inadvertently holding the painting, what more is there to do than to dig into the artwork’s history, study the series of owners, and perhaps unravel the reason for the desperate race for ownership today.
I’m sure I don’t have to convince you to pick up a book by Jason Reynolds, but in case you’re new to the scene, I’ll try my best to convey how essential it is that you add him to your to-read list (that’s right: all of his books—not just this one!). While many of his books are technically written for young adults, they easily cross all ages and walks of life. Plus, he’s always playing around with style, voice, and perspective in incredibly creative ways, and AIN’T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT is no different. About ten sentences long with 300 pages of art, this jaw-dropping book about breathing and engaging with the world as a Black family in America may be the most memorable thing you read all year.
A Caldecott Honor winner!
Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.
Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.
And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.
The premise is this: an older man checks out of his life and enters the body of a younger man thanks to a team of underground doctors. By all accounts, the brain surgery is a success; Adam is rejuvenated, free in a way his previous body—one of an aging father and playwright—was not. That is until his own mind catches up to all the physical newness, thinking about his family and his responsibilities, how it felt to have lived and worked for a certain life. And what would a series of critical revelations be without some high stakes, including the finality of choice and what might happen when you cross paths with someone from your previous world.
"After a bit you realize there's only one invaluable commodity. Not gold or love, but time."
How far are we willing to go to stay young? Hanif Kureishi -- acclaimed author of The Buddha of Suburbia and Intimacy -- explores the possibilities in this provocative story of an older man whose brain is surgically placed in a younger man's body by a network of underground doctors.
Adam is offered the chance to trade in his sagging flesh for a much younger and more pleasing model. He tells his wife and son that he is going on an extended vacation. He immediately embarks on an odyssey of hedonism, but soon finds himself regretting what he left behind and feeling guilt over the responsibilities he has ignored. Sinister forces pursue him, wanting possession of "his" body, and he soon finds himself with nowhere to turn.
"A fluent, socially observant writer whose sentences move with intelligence and wit" (The New York Times Book Review), Kureishi presents us with both a fantastically vivid tale and hard-hitting questions about our own relationships with our minds and bodies -- and with time that is running out.
When he was younger, Arlo met someone at a boarding school for the deaf. Not just anyone, but a girl who may have been the one person he could love forever. The connection could have sent his life down a very different path had it not been for an untimely series of events, including the appointment of his controlling uncle as his guardian. Cue his new translator, Cyril, who helps Arlo navigate the world as a DeafBlind man and who finally has his best interests at heart. Together they initiate a journey to find what happened to the girl who had given Arlo the life-changing experience of young love, told from both characters’ points of view.
When a young DeafBlind man learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he embarks on a life-changing journey to find her—and his freedom.
Arlo Dilly is young, handsome, and eager to meet the right girl. He also happens to be DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and under the strict guardianship of his controlling uncle and unscrupulous Tactile ASL interpreter. His chances of finding someone to love seem slim to none.
And yet, it happened once before: many years ago, at a boarding school for the Deaf. Arlo met the love of his life—a mysterious girl with onyx eyes and beautifully expressive hands which told him the most amazing stories. But tragedy struck, and their love was lost forever. Or so Arlo thought.
After years spent nursing his broken heart, Arlo attends a writing class where a new unfiltered interpreter is assigned to him. Against the wishes of his guardians, the new interpreter provides Arlo with access to a world he had no idea existed. Memories from his past are unlocked. Soon he wonders if the hearing people he was supposed to trust have been lying to him all along, and if his lost love might be found again.
No longer willing to accept what others tell him, Arlo convinces his new best friends (his gay interpreter and a rebellious Belgian barista) to set off on a journey to learn the truth. Despite the many forces working against him, Arlo will stop at nothing to find the girl who got away and experience all of life’s joyful possibilities.
“Tender, hilarious and decidedly uplifting,” (BookPage), The Sign for Home is a “poignant…riveting” (Los Angeles Times), fresh and charming romance that you won’t soon forget.
Murdered women speaking together as a chorus is a hard point of view to shake, and the choice certainly has its impact: a discovery of fate, a personal plea, a beckoning of memory. They breathe their own life into a terrible tale that otherwise would have been taken from them too, instead narrated by those who may never have known them alive nor cared enough for them when dead. Leading other chapters are women still out and about in the world: Clara, a psychic, afraid of what she can now see; and Lily, unexpectedly back in her hometown and caught up in her own problems. Behind them all is a killer, intent on racking up victims and tossing them where they may not be found.
In this sophisticated, suspenseful debut reminiscent of Laura Lippman and Megan Miranda, two young women become unlikely friends during one fateful summer in Atlantic City as mysterious disappearances hit dangerously close to home.
Summer has come to Atlantic City but the boardwalk is empty of tourists, the casino lights have dimmed, and two Jane Does are laid out in the marshland behind the Sunset Motel, just west of town. Only one person even knows they’re there.
Meanwhile, Clara, a young boardwalk psychic, struggles to attract clients for the tarot readings that pay her rent. When she begins to experience very real and disturbing visions, she suspects they could be related to the recent cases of women gone missing in town. When Clara meets Lily, an ex-Soho art gallery girl who is working at a desolate casino spa and reeling from a personal tragedy, she thinks Lily may be able to help her. But Lily has her own demons to face.
If they can put the pieces together in time, they may save another lost girl—so long as their efforts don’t attract perilous attention first. Can they break the ill-fated cycle, or will they join the other victims?
A “beautifully written, thoughtful page-turner” (Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists), Please See Us is an evocative and compelling psychological thriller that explores the intersection of womanhood, power, and violence.
The subtitle alone must attract your attention: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man. Where does one find a man of that age? Especially one who is willing to chat extensively about their life and the vast number of mishaps, learnings, tragedies, and experiments? Washington journalist David Von Drehle found one right next door in his new Kansas town and decided to write a nonfiction book to honor him. Charlie has truly lived, sharing his lifetime with eras pre-radio and post-iPhone, traveling across the world, and experiencing pivotal moments in American history. Author Candice Millard may say it best: “[THE BOOK OF CHARLIE] is also a shining example of the magic that can happen when a master storyteller with a deeply inquiring mind finds a subject that has hidden within it a million tantalizing opportunities to learn, to question, and to grow.”
One of our nation’s most prominent writers finds the truth about how to live a long and happy life in the centenarian next door.
When a veteran Washington journalist moved to Kansas, he met a new neighbor who was more than a century old. Little did he know that he was beginning a long friendship—and a profound lesson in the meaning of life. Charlie White was no ordinary neighbor. Born before radio, Charlie lived long enough to use a smartphone. When a shocking tragedy interrupted his idyllic boyhood, Charlie mastered survival strategies that reflect thousands of years of human wisdom. Thus armored, Charlie’s sense of adventure carried him on an epic journey across the continent, and later found him swinging across bandstands of the Jazz Age, racing aboard ambulances through Depression-era gangster wars, improvising techniques for early open-heart surgery, and cruising the Amazon as a guest of Peru’s president.
David Von Drehle came to understand that Charlie’s resilience and willingness to grow made this remarkable neighbor a master in the art of thriving through times of dramatic change. As a gift to his children, he set out to tell Charlie’s secrets. The Book of Charlie is a gospel of grit—the inspiring story of one man’s journey through a century of upheaval. The history that unfolds through Charlie’s story reminds you that the United States has always been a divided nation, a questing nation, an inventive nation—a nation of Charlies in the rollercoaster pursuit of a good and meaningful life.
The book opens with 9-year-old Elsa skiing across frozen land to get food ready to serve her family’s reindeer; she’s big now, and she wants to do things independently, surprise her family by prepping the meal. Instead, she’s in for her own surprise: a trespasser has just killed a reindeer nearly in front of her and removed the identifying marker on its ear. Flash forward to her attempt to report it, which is met with an impossibility: We can’t do anything to stop it, the local police say. Years later the killings are still happening, leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. Translated from Swedish, STOLEN is an eye-opening ride following the experiences inside a community of Sámi reindeer herders.
SOON TO BE A NETFLIX FILM
Louise Erdrich meets Jo Nesbø in this spellbinding Swedish novel that follows a young indigenous woman as she struggles to defend her family’s reindeer herd and culture amidst xenophobia, climate change, and a devious hunter whose targeted kills are considered mere theft in the eyes of the law.
On a winter day north of the Arctic Circle, nine-year-old Elsa—daughter of Sámi reindeer herders—sees a man brutally kill her beloved reindeer calf and threaten her into silence. When her father takes her to report the crime, local police tell them that there is nothing they can do about these “stolen” animals. Killings like these are classified as theft in the reports that continue to pile up, uninvestigated. But reindeer are not just the Sámi’s livelihood, they also hold spiritual significance; attacking a reindeer is an attack on the culture itself.
Ten years later, hatred and threats against the Sámi keep escalating, and more reindeer are tortured and killed in Elsa’s community. Finally, she’s had enough and decides to push back on the apathetic police force. The hunter comes after her this time, leading to a catastrophic final confrontation.
Based on real events, Ann-Helén Laestadius’s award-winning novel Stolen is part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part electrifying countdown to a dramatic resolution—a searing depiction of a forgotten part of Sweden.
Photo credit: iStock / Trifonov_Evgeniy