Forum Friday: Outlier Books

Have you ever read a book that did something totally different? I am thinking in terms of format specifically, but answers do not have to be limited to that context.

A few outlier books that come to mind:

  1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This book is a nesting doll of six narratives, following six characters (who are all, as an added layer, interconnected/reincarnations of one another). The really cool thing about Cloud Atlas is that it does not just go in chronological order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6); it first goes 1-6 and then goes backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. I have NEVER read anything like it. EVER.
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Composed entirely of letters. Guernsey Literary is certainly not the only book to do this, but it is still an unusual format worthy of note and accolades.
  3. Crank by Ellen Hopkins. Crank is one of several books by Hopkins whose narrative is told exclusively through poems. Again, there are probably other books that do this, too, but the format is something to marvel at.

What unusual novel formats have you encountered? Any books specifically that you would recommend?

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13 thoughts on “Forum Friday: Outlier Books

      • Yes, I did. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t think I enjoyed the “plot” so much but I did enjoy the craft behind writing such a book. I also have a biography about BS Johnson by Jonathan Coe that I’m looking forward to reading.

  1. Not that I’ve finished it yet, but If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino feels very different to me, due to every second character being in second person perspective, addressing you as the reader as if you were part of the story. Quite clever.

  2. I think Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed tells a significant chunk of the story through diary entries, or was it letters. I don’t remember which. but I found myself glossing over those portions of the story.

    • Hmm. Sounds like this may be one of the less successful outliers. Interesting that Lamb would use a significant amount of entries (or letters) but not compose the whole story of them.

  3. I just read Vicious by V.E. Schwab. It was cool structurally because it jumped around in time (though not confusingly). Each chapter had a subheading that told when it was, and it was all in relation to the day of the climax. So it starts off “last night,” goes back to “10 years ago,” jumps to “two days ago,” etc. I liked that it wasn’t told linearly.

    • AGH, yes! (I haven’t read Vicious, but) I greatly admire works that jump around chronologically and manage not to confuse the reader. Although in honesty, I have probably seen this done far more in the film/TV medium (cough cough LOST, which actually WAS confusing often enough). I would love to be able to write something like that someday.

      Adding to my to-read list! Thanks for mentioning it, Aubrey 🙂

  4. A Clockwork Orange is a great read purely because of the language – it’s challenging at first to figure out what certain words mean, but when you become used to the language, the world envelops you and you’re sucked in!

    • AHH, I have been meaning to read A Clockwork Orange forever! When you say ‘language,’ do you mean like, adapted future language? I have seen at least a couple books that do that really successfully: Cloud Atlas and Woman on the Edge of Time (some of my favorites!).

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