Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by The Broke and the Bookish for list addicts. The only catch (and it’s a biggie) is that you are supposed to stick to ten things. This week’s list is…
Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Ever Read
I really struggled with this one as there are so many books I’ve read that could be classed as ‘unique’. I decided to split it into two categories – those books that we often take for granted as we have absorbed them into our popular culture and books that are less canonical but still quite special.
I’m actually proud of myself for resisting the urge to put in To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice but feel free to add them in as #11 and #12 because they rock.
Books We Often Take for Granted
1. The Odyssey by Homer
When it comes to unique books, this has it all from vengeful gods and goddesses, a petulant hero, a patient wife and epic battles. Sure it gets a little repetitive with some phrasing but let’s look on the plus side, if you have a drink every time ‘rosy fingered Dawn’ and ‘swift-footed Achilles’ were used, you’d be completely smashed by the end of the first quarter. The sheer scale of this book and the history wrapped up in it makes it a winner.
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker essentially created the modern vampire as we know it (sparkles not included). Prior to this book, the biggest things in vampire literature were Polidori’s The Vampyre and Carmilla by Le Fanu. Stoker gave us sex, addiction, death and wrapped it up in a pseudo-Christian mythology with a kick-ass vampire hunter and post-colonialist vamp anti-hero.
3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Rowling liberated the ‘boy away at boarding school’ trope from its Victorian roots and created a world that enticed boys in particular to read. Harry Potter is so immersed in popular culture that even if you haven’t read the books, the odds are that you have heard of it. What makes the series unique is the relationship it had with the media. The frenzy that was created paved the way for Edward and Bella and Katniss to dominate in turn.
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This series is so stuffed with droll wit that even looking at the cover is enough to make me start giggling. The satirical machinations of bureaucracy in all its forms (Earth based and interplanetary) are so close to reality that you can’t help but champion the hapless Arthur Dent as he tries to survive in a world without a decent cup of tea.
5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The plot of this one is simply sublime and has been copied so many times it isn’t funny.
Less Canonical Books
6. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This has to be one of the most achingly beautiful picture books I have ever encountered. Our protagonist bids farewell to his family and sets off on a difficult journey where he encounters many strange things. The images bring the book to life so successfully that no words are needed.
7. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
This fascinating book is really a commentary on great Western philosophy. The weakest part of the book is Sophie’s own life while the history lessons from her own pet philosopher bring it to life. I love how Gaarder tried to make philosophy accessible for a younger generation by asking seemingly basic questions such as ‘who are you?’ and then explaining how different philosopher’s tackled the problem.
8. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next can jump into books and inadvertently ends up messing around with the characters and the plot. If this isn’t a unique premise, I don’t know what is. Fforde’s skill comes from reworking classics and repositioning famous characters such as Miss Haversham. Also, Thursday has a pet dodo called Pickwick. Q.E.D.
9. Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This novel weaves magical realism around the doomed relationship of Tita and her beloved Pedro. She is forbidden to marry so he decides to marry her sister just so he can be close to her. For 22 years these two are forced apart until a series of unfortunate events brings them closer. Two scenes that stick in my mind after all these years are the wedding feast where everyone starts vomiting because they are tasting Tita’s emotions and the sex on a horse scene which is memorable for entirely different reasons.
10. Rivers of London aka Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Aaronovitch lovingly recreates London in this urban fantasy series with a magical twist. If I had to recommend one urban fantasy novel, this would be it because of the unique character voice, layered plot and vivid setting.