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20 Fascinating Reads with Unconventional Storylines

Posted 4 months ago by April S

Welcome to our appeal series.

By highlighting a variety of books our readers are sure find something good to read.

In each post you'll find books that share similar appeal (or story elements) like pacing, tone, storyline, writing style and/or characters. The selections are perfect for folks looking for those lesser-known gems or what we also call "beyond the bestseller" reads.

The books in this blog post include novels with unconventional storylines.

What does that mean?

Expect the unexpected - these are not your average reads.

The genres range from Literary Fiction to Magical Realism to Coming of Age Stories (and many more). And the stories are thought-provoking, which means they'll leave a lasting impression.

Enjoy!

Unconventional / Thought-Provoking Reads

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy
Spring: a novel by Ali Smith
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

1. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Genres: Literary Fiction | Coming of Age Stories
Descriptors: Intricately plotted | Thought-provoking | Descriptive

Falling in love while attending a competitive 1980s performing arts high school, David and Sarah rise through the ranks before the realities of their family dynamics and economic statuses trigger a spiral that impacts their adult lives.

2. Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Genres: Literary Fiction | Metafiction | Political Fiction
Descriptors: Disturbing | Compelling | Witty

A man who was arrested for attempting to steal a suit belonging to a murdered politician from a Columbian museum sets of a series of public fixations on conspiracy theories, assassinations, and the country's historical secrets.

3. The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy

Genres: Literary Fiction | Magical Realism
Descriptors: Confronting mortality | Thought-provoking | Engaging

A poignant fable about life's journeys depicts a disadvantaged girl in a city of beautiful rose gardens whose devoted snake friend watches the impact of war, love and his own destiny on her life and their friendship.

4. Spring by Ali Smith

The Man Booker-shortlisted author of "Autumn" and "Winter" presents a highly anticipated third entry in a celebrated series of stand-alone, metaphorically interconnected novels. By the award-winning author of "How to be both."

Genres: Literary Fiction | Psychological Fiction
Descriptors: Character-driven | Leisurely paced | Well-crafted dialogue | Witty

5. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

Genres: Literary Fiction | Psychological Fiction
Descriptors: Human-animal bonds | Leisurely paced | Moving | Reflective

A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus

6. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Genres: Literary Fiction | Coming of Age Stories

Descriptors: Character-driven | Intricately plotted | Compelling | Atmospheric | Haunting

Decades after World War II, Nathaniel Williams reflects on his experiences in 1945, when his parents left him and his sister in the care of a mysterious neighbor.

7. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Genres: Literary Fiction | Magical Realism | Short Stories
Descriptors: Lyrical | Eccentrics | Voyages

A meditative collection from Poland explores themes of travel, movement and existentialism in stories that feature protagonists who question their shifting perspectives in time and space as they tackle extreme agendas.

8. The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Genres: Literary Fiction | Coming of Age Stories
Descriptors: Character-driven | Leisurely Paced | Suspenseful

A young Korean-American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea and then disappears, leading a fellow student into an obsessive search for her.

9. The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus

Genres: Experimental Fiction | Metafiction
Descriptors: Thought-provoking | Purpose in Life

An obsessive librarian, a down-at-heel writer, and a Mormon historian embark on a search for a mystical, life-changing book about the true nature of the universe, and experience weird, out-of-this world paradigm shifts when they find it.

10. The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

Genres: Literary Fiction | Psychological Fiction | Horror
Descriptors: Character-Driven | Introspective | Surreal

Attending a film festival with tickets purchased by her recently deceased husband, a grieving widow is shocked to discover her husband alive and must navigate an increasingly blurred line between reality and fantasy to uncover the truth.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Special topics in calamity physics by Marisha Pessl
The Yiddish policemen's union : a novel / Michael Chabon
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

11. Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

Genres: Adaptations | Literary Fiction | Satire | Psychological Fiction
Descriptors: Character-Driven | Moving | Compelling

A psychologically charged story inspired by Shakespeare's "The Tempest," reimagined by the award-winning author of "The Handmaid's Tale," follows the retribution plot of a deposed artistic director who teaches prison inmates while consulting with a fantasy child who has taken the place of the daughter he lost years earlier.

12. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Genres: Coming of Age Stories | Literary Fiction | Mysteries
Descriptors: Intricately Plotted | Moving | Compelling | Witty

A darkly funny coming-of-age novel and a richly plotted suspense tale told through the distinctive voice of its heroine, Blue van Meer.

13. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Genres: Alternative Histories | Hardboiled Fiction | Literary Fiction | Mysteries
Descriptors: Character-Driven | Darkly Humorous | Suspenseful | Banter-Filled

An alternate historical work based on a premise that Alaska became the Jewish homeland after World War II finds detective Meyer Landsman investigating a heroin-addicted chess prodigy's murder, a case with ties to an extremist Orthodox sect.

14. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

Genres: Coming of Age Stories | Literary Fiction | Family Sagas
Descriptors: Character-Driven | Moving | Engaging
Paul Auster’s greatest, most heartbreaking and satisfying novel—a sweeping and surprising story of birthright and possibility, of love and of life itself: a masterpiece.

15. Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Genres: Literary Fiction | Surrealist Fiction | Psychological Fiction | Magical Realism
Descriptors: Character-Driven | Haunting | Reflective | Self-Discovery

Thirty-six-year-old Tsukuru Tazaki meets a woman named Sara who raises questions about a painful incident from his youth in which his closest friends all cut off relations with him without explanation, and inspires him to find out why.

Arcadia by Iain Pears
The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee

16. Arcadia by Iain Pears

Genres: Literary Fiction | Science Fiction | Historical Fiction
Descriptors: Intricately Plotted | Spy Stories | Time Travel

Traces the fantastical intersections between a 1960s Oxford professor who dabbles in espionage, a psychomathematician from a dystopian future world, and a scholar's apprentice in a pastoral land.

17. The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

Genres: Literary Fiction | Mysteries
Descriptors: Authentic Characters | Intricately Plotted | Suspenseful

A tale inspired by the scandals, secrets and pulp fiction of H. P. Lovecraft and his literary circle follows the experiences of a psychiatrist whose husband goes missing during his obsessive investigation into the story of H. P. Lovecraft's unspoken relationship with a gay teen fan.

18. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Genres: Fantasy Fiction | Horror | Paranormal Fiction
Descriptors: Intricately Plotted | World-Building | Atmospheric | Creepy

A tale inspired by the scandals, secrets and pulp fiction of H. P. Lovecraft and his literary circle follows the experiences of a psychiatrist whose husband goes missing during his obsessive investigation into the story of H. P. Lovecraft's unspoken relationship with a gay teen fan. By the award-winning author of Luminous Airplanes.

19. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Genres: Literary Fiction | Domestic Fiction
Descriptors: Haunting | Reflective | Candid | Compelling

Raised in America, the multiracial daughter of a mother from Johannesburg struggles with her mother's terminal cancer and her own need to find love and a place to belong, quests shaped by losses, changes in her sense of identity, and unexpected motherhood.

20. A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee

Genres: Literary Fiction | Domestic Fiction
Descriptors: Heartwrenching | Compelling | Web of Connections

Five characters, in very different circumstances find out the meanings of dislocation and the desire for more. Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives—formally daring, fierce, but full of pity—delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.

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