My Taxonomy of Weird Books: A Weirdathon Sign-up and TBR post

Julianne of Outlandish Lit is hosting a #Weirdathon during the month of March. Sign-up post is here.

As Julianne says in the sign-up post, what counts as weird is anything that is weird to you. Like most book bloggers, I love to make lists of books. I decided to trawl through my Ridiculously Long™ Goodreads to-read list and identify all the weird books.

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I quickly realized that I had a personal taxonomy of “weird” books:

Form & Style – these are the books where the form is unusual. The author has done something unconventional with the way they wrote the book.

  • I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters by Rabih Alameddine [consists of the main character’s attempts to write the first chapter of her memoir]
  • *Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau, trans. by Barbara Wright [consists of 100 retellings of the same plot, each time in a different style, e.g. sonnet, opera, etc.]
  • The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order by Joan Wickersham [the author reflects on her father’s life and death in the form of an index.

Short Stories – a lot of the “weird” books were short stories collections where fantastical, absurd and strange things happened to people. (Does anyone feel like short story collections often have the best titles?)

  • The Thing About Great White Sharks by Rebecca Adams Wright [featuring robotic dogs, futuristic flying circuses, and sharks of course]
  • 29 Ways to Drown by Niki Aguirre [stories influenced by Latin American magic realism]
  • *Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer, trans. by Ursula LeGuin [stories w/ fantasy and magical realism, all presented as the history/myths of a fictitious Empire]

Narrated by Animals – I didn’t have a lot of these, but enough to see it as a trend. It’s rare for there to be adult books with animal protagonists, and so it’s kind of weird when it happens.

  • The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy [Elephant herd sets across the African plains on a quest]
  • Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis [From the synopsis – “a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic.”]
  • Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann [A flock of sheep attempt to solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd]

Translated Fiction – An unusual preponderance of weird books on my list happen to also be translated works. The books listed above with an * are translated works.

  • There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, trans. by Keith Gessen [These are also short stories.]
  • Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, trans. by George Bird [A strange suspense novel involving a man and his pet penguin]
  • The Room by Jonas Karlsson, trans. Neil Smith [A government office worker discovers a secret room, which his co-workers do not see]

I had other weird books that didn’t fit into any of these categories but I thought these recurring themes were interesting. In general, with the exception of books from the Form & Style category, my “weird” books usually involve fantastical elements but are not quite fully in the fantasy genre. I would call it magical realism, but I’m not sure what that term means nowadays.

I have picked four books to be on my #Weirdathon TBR pile. I don’t know that I’ll read all four, though none are particularly long, so it’s possible I might. Three I’ve already mentioned in my taxonomy above: The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, and There Once Lived a Woman . . . by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. The fourth is a recommendation from Julianne, host of the #Weirdathon: Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “My Taxonomy of Weird Books: A Weirdathon Sign-up and TBR post

  1. I’m looking forward to the #weirdathon and love seeing the lists starting to roll in. I hope you enjoy your reads.

  2. The White Bone was really good! I have read other books by Gowdy and it was definitely one of my favourites!

  3. The Truth About Great White Sharks made my list as well. I’ll be posting it next week sometime, and I can’t wait to dive into this event! Definitely interested in your thoughts on The White Bone.

  4. I like this taxonomy. I’ve been thinking about the Weirdathon today, trying to see if any books on my shelves really fit that idea, and I think the ones I have in mind are similar to yours — stories set in our world, but with just enough of a fantasy/sci fi element to make them odd. I’ll have to see what I can pull…

  5. I love that “narrated by animals” was a category for you! Actually, I have a book on my TBR list that falls into that…. hmmmm…

  6. Happy Weirdathon! Enjoy the reads. 🙂

  7. I love this so much!! Also always happy to see shout outs to The Room. It’s so funny and I wish more people would read it!

  8. I am totally going to check out the books you have under Style and Format. Those are the types of weird books that I want to read! I have a few on my list now for the weirdathon.

    • Since I was keeping it to three books per category, there was another book I didn’t include on the Style and Format category that you may be interested in: Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic, which as can be surmised from the title, apparently uses a dictionary format for its narrative.

  9. I read The White Bone years ago, and although I can’t remember it really well, I’m pretty sure it was mostly sad. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on it, because it’s been a while…

  10. Three bags full is excellent. Hilarious. I hope you enjoy!

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