10 Weird Books That Are Difficult To Explain But Totally Worth Reading

Has this ever happened to you, book-lovers? You're sitting there, minding your own business, reading a book. A well-meaning friend or loved one walks over and asks you what your book is about (although honestly they can't be that much of a loved one, because if they loved you they'd let you read in peace). You start trying to explain, but by the time you've told them that, "The structure is kind of a... non-linear, post modern thing?" or that, "The main character has a dog that's nonexistent, but ontologically valid," they're backing away slowly. Some books are just plain weird. So here are a few utterly, deeply weird books that are totally worth reading, anyway.

I find that most of my favorite books, in fact, are a little difficult to explain. They are, for lack of a better word, "weird." And I don't just mean "one of the characters is an alien!" kind of weird. I mean weird like a character walks through her subconscious mind to find only penguins. Or weird like the book has only first chapters, and never second chapters. Or weird like each successive page of the book uses fewer and fewer letters. 

If you like a story that makes you reconsider your general stance on the laws of reality, check out some of these oh-so-weird but worth it books:

1. If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino

If on a winter's night a traveler begins with you, the reader, sitting down to reader Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. You start reading, only to discover that you have the wrong book! What ensues is a brilliantly surreal quest to find the right book, filled with wildly different "first chapters" of many different novels along the way.

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2. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is the unquestioned king of the absurd. The Hitchhiker's Guide series is a masterpiece of bizarre, comedic fiction, but don't miss out of Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, either. It begins with the Norse god Thor trying to catch a plane at an airport, and only gets stranger from there, as holistic detective Dirk Gently tries haphazardly to get to the bottom of things.

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3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Thursday Next books are an absolute must read for literary nerds of every kind. Thursday Next herself is a literary detective in a world much like our own, except she has a pet dodo and a time-traveling father, and people drop through the center of the earth on a regular basis. But when Thursday discovers her ability to jump into works of fiction, her life only gets stranger...

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4. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

The children of wolves attend boarding school. A Minotaur pulls his family's covered wagon across the prairie. Something's killing the sheep at a sleep-away camp for children with sleep disorders. Karen Russell spins wonderfully odd, heartfelt tales, each one more creative than the last, and many of them ending abruptly at the most climactic moment.

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5. Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Beetle-headed women, multidimensional spiders, a decaying city that sits beneath the ribs of an ancient, dead behemothPerdido Street Station is pretty weird. Set in China Miéville's world of Bas-Lag, it's the story of an eccentric scientist who takes advice from a bird, with the fate of his world hanging in the balance.

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6. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

A son searches for his father through the wilds of quantum space-time. Charles Yu is a time travel technician inhabiting a strange, meta-fictional world, in which all the old sci-fi tropes have converged. Failed protagonists wander the streets, paradoxes flourish, and Charles must be careful that traveling through time doesn't end up erasing himself from existence entirely.

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7. What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi calls strange new worlds into existence with each of her stories. She melds the everyday with the fantastic. What is Not Yours is Not Yours is a sort of collection of modern fairy tales, taking the reader from forbidden libraries to magical realms to puppetry schools, complete with gifted orphans and living puppets, blurring the boundaries between different realities as it goes.

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8. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

On the island of Nollop, the alphabet is beloved. But as each letter falls from the great memorial statue, the island Council bans that letter's use. As the book goes on, those letters disappear from the page, too, leaving both reader and character fewer and fewer letters to fight back with as they struggle for freedom from the Council's laws.

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9. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Note: only read House of Leaves if you like your books to be both weird and terrifyingBecause House of Leaves is the story of a young family who discover that their new house is bigger on the inside than on the outside... and so begins a mind-bending account, filtered through various narrators, of a house that continues expanding into a labyrinth until it drives its occupants mad.

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10. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's Sandman series features some of the most glorious, bizarre storytelling in all of comics. With characters like Death and Lucifer and Merv Pumpkinhead, you probably won't be surprised to hear that Sandman goes far beyond the ordinary. Gaiman weaves together dreams and reality, myth and history, to come up with a wholly original epic.  

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