Some days it's easy to forget that we're living in times worthy of a postmodern novel. If you need a reminder, I've got 20 quirky novels to show you how weird life is, and you're going to want to add them to your TBR.
I love quirky fiction, all the way from magical realism to the new weird. For this list, I've tried to keep things on the lighter side of quirk — think Matilda over Carrie — but please bear in mind that some of the stories below may veer off into unexpectedly grim or horrific territory. Most are genuinely hilarious, however, so I hope you'll forgive any dark dabblings.
It should also be noted that I may have played fast and loose with the "novel" concept here. The list below contains a short graphic novel, a play, two short-story collections, and a folding book that defies categorization. All are fiction, but many may not be the kind of fiction you imagine when you think of novels.
As always, this is not a comprehensive list. There are thousands of quirky novels out there, which means that the chances I included your favorite are slim to none. Please be sure to share your most beloved, odd reads with me on Twitter!
Here are the 20 quirky novels I think you should read to show you how weird life is:
1'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn
This is not a book about nerds in love. The title of Katherine Dunn's 1989 novel refers to Al and Lil Binewski, ringmaster and geek — read: oral chicken decapitator extraordinaire — of a circus called Binewski's Fabulon, which is kept afloat by sideshow acts performed by their — ahem — strategically bred children.
2'The Insides' by Jeremy P. Bushnell
Ollie Krueger is a punk magician-turned-butcher who dreams of returning home to the husband and son she lost. Maja is a psychic mercenary hired to track down a very special knife that happens to be in the possession of Ollie's rival and co-worker. As the intrigue ramps up, it becomes clear that the story's minor players are willing to put any number of lives at risk for one magical artifact.
3'The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
Ordinary Englishman Arthur Dent becomes one of the last Earthlings alive when his secretly alien friend, Ford Prefect, rescues him from Earth's demolition just in the nick of time. Aboard the Heart of Gold, a ship driven by an Infinite Improbability Drive, Arthur spends his time bouncing around the Universe in search of the perfect cuppa.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five books of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy.
4'The Heart Goes Last' by Margaret Atwood
When economic and environmental catastrophes devastate the world as we know it, a social experiment arises to provide for those willing to abide by its strange rules: couples must spend every other month in prison, and never, ever meet the alternates who live in their homes while they are away.
5'Agony' by Mark Beyer
Amy and Jordan are just trying to improve their lives, but with all the ghosts, sharks, and bears roaming about, what are a couple of Gen-Xers supposed to do?
6'Midnight Robber' by Nalo Hopkinson
When Tan-Tan's father commits a heinous crime, he absconds with his daughter to New Half-Way Tree: an underground reality where only criminals and outcasts dwell.
7'The Color of Magic' by Terry Pratchett
After a naïve tourist named Twoflower hires a not-very-good wizard named Rincewind to be his guide, the two men hop from frying pan to fire in this comedic fantasy novel by the late Terry Pratchett.
8'The Portable Veblen' by Elizabeth McKenzie
Facing down a marriage she isn't sure she wants, 30-year-old Veblen takes off on a roadtrip with a squirrel in Elizabeth McKenzie's screwball second novel, The Portable Veblen.
9'Lake Wobegon Days' by Garrison Keillor
Based on the author's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days surveys the history of a fictional Minnesota town and its present day inhabitants.
10'Flea Circus' by Mandy Keifetz
After her lover commits suicide, the bereaved Izzy employs a variety of methods for recovering from her grief, including carrying the dead man's cremains around in her vagina.
11'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett
In this classic absurdist play, friends Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree for a third man, the eponymous Godot, who never shows up.
12'The Wallcreeper' by Nell Zink
When Tiffany miscarries after her husband causes a minor auto collision during a birding trip, the newlyweds bring home their rare sighting, the titular wallcreeper, instead of a baby.
13'The Family Fang' by Kevin Wilson
The semi-successful adult children of performance artists return home to investigate their parents' disappearance in Kevin Wilson's 2011 bestseller, The Family Fang.
14'The Strange Library' by Haruki Murakami
This odd, unfoldable novella centers on a young student who, in his pursuit to learn all there is to know about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire, becomes imprisoned by the library staff.
15'White Is for Witching' by Helen Oyeyemi
Miri Silver's mother is dead, and her father is now in charge of his late wife's ancestral home. But the house has other ideas...
16'Choke' by Chuck Palahniuk
A sex addict fakes choking incidents in restaurants to con do-gooders into "rescuing" him, and uses the monetary contributions they send to fund his unfit mother's nursing-home care.
17'A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories' by Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor's Southern Gothic short stories will show you that the world hasn't gotten that much weirder since they were written in the mid-20th century. For a real treat, check out "Good Country People" and "The Displaced Person."
18'Ella Minnow Pea' by Mark Dunn
Set on a fictional island off the South Carolina coast, this epistolary novel follows its eponymous, 18-year-old heroine as she fights back against an off-the-rails council that wants to ban particular letters of the alphabet from communication.
19'Bellweather Rhapsody' by Kate Racculia
During a high-school music festival at a Catskills hotel, the wounds of a 15-year-old murder case rip open, and a quirky cast of characters must band together to solve a new mystery.
20'The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories,' edited by John L. Apostolou and Martin H. Greenberg
In this English-language collection of Japanese sci-fi, anything can happen, from the cute to the bizarre. Sakyo Komatsu's "The Savage Mouth" and Shinichi Hoshi's "He-y, Come On Ou-t" are particularly intriguing.