Love Weird Characters? Read These Books

by Charlotte Ahlin

We all have those fictional characters who live in our hearts. There are some readers out there who gravitate towards literary characters who they'd want to be friends with. They love reading about Lizzie Bennet or Hermione Granger. Or they like characters who are a lot like them, or who they'd want to date in real life, like Anne Shirley or Augustus Waters. And that's nice. They can have those characters. The rest of us, though, are looking to slum it with the weirdos of the literary world. Give us your bitter robots, your murderous little girls, and your ancient immortal beings disguised as cab drivers. Here are some books to read if you're a fan of weird characters.

I mean, look, my major childhood crushes from ages twelve to fifteen were Spock and the Phantom of the Opera, so I know what I'm talking about. It's great when you read a book and find someone down to earth who reminds you of your roommate, or your one cool aunt. But the characters you find yourself truly drawn to are often the ones who are, well... weird. You like to read about them, even though you wouldn't necessarily want to hang out with them in real life.

So, if you like your literary figures on the unconventional side, check out these strange books full of strange characters:


'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman

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Yes, there's a new TV adaptation of American Gods and yes, it looks awesome. But you should still give the original book a try, because Gaiman is all about odd and slightly off-kilter characters. American Gods follows ex-con Shadow Moon and his new boss, the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, on a wild road trip across America. Every chapter brings new and odder characters, both human and divine, as Wednesday and Shadow try to drag the old gods of America out of hiding.


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

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The main character of this wonderfully weird sci-fi book is actually author Charles Yu. Accompanied by TAMMY, a computer system with low self-esteem, and Ed, a "nonexistent but ontologically valid dog," Charles is off on a journey through time to reconcile himself with his father (and also occasionally visit his mother, who's trapped in a time loop, reliving the same couple of minutes of her life for all eternity).


'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson

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If you like your characters weird but not science fictional, then pick up Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It is hands down one of the creepiest novels ever written, with narrator Merricat Blackwood at its center. There's something slightly off about her from page one, and she only grows stranger as you're pulled into the claustrophobic home of Merricat and her sister.


'Saga' by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples

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The characters of Saga are weird because they have horns and wings, gills, tails, and TV monitors for heads, sure. Some of them are ghost babysitters, or giant cats who hate liars. But Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have managed to go further than that, creating a quirky universe of completely unique characters, weirdly shaped heads or not.


'Mort' by Terry Pratchett

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Discworld is all but overflowing with weirdos. Pick up any Discworld book, and you'll find yourself in a world full of witches, tiny blue people, and man-eating suitcases. But the character of Death is perhaps the best-loved weirdo of the bunch, and in Mort he gets to shine. Death is looking for an apprentice, you see, and gangly young Mort has just been picked for this most unusual job.


'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde

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Jasper Fforde writes weird characters almost exclusively (even when he's borrowing from the rest of the literary canon). Thursday Next herself is a literary detective with a pet dodo. Her father is a time traveler. Her friends and enemies range from reanimated neanderthals to talking gorillas to Hamlet. If you're looking for a whole gang of "out there" characters, the Thursday Next series should be high on your list.


'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel García Márquez

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One Hundred Years of Solitude is the classic story of the mythic town Macondo: its rise, its fall, and the generations of people who gave it life. And some of those people are just... weird. Márquez's gorgeous writing has brought to life so many lovably odd characters, including a child gifted with prophecy, a woman so beautiful she must dress in burlap, and a baby born with a pig's tail.


'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams

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The two-headed president of the galaxy. The Norse god of thunder. The most depressed android ever built. Douglas Adams knows his way around weird characters. Every hitchhiker has their own laundry list of quirks, and they all combine to create one of the funniest, most irreverent books of all time.


'What is Not Yours is Not Yours' by Helen Oyeyemi

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Looking for some bite-sized weirdness on the go? Helen Oyeyemi's book of short stories, What is Yours Is Not Yours is beautifully, transcendently weird. Her characters range from puppetry students to abandoned children to ghosts, always straddling the line between reality and pure surrealism.