Top Ten Unique Books

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1. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers A detective story, a romance, a psychological novel, or something else entirely? I’ve never been able to make up my mind, but never have I read something so utterly unique and intriguing. I love this book.

2. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein This one seems an obvious choice. A book one can’t even discuss without giving away crucial parts? Totally unique.

3. Jinx, Jinx’s Magic, Sage Blackwood At first glance, these seem like typical MG fantasies, with shades of Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, CS Lewis, (even Doctor Who!), and many others. But Jinx himself is such an unusual protagonist, a quiet, self-contained boy, enormously observant, often rude without realizing it, responsible yet frequently impulsive … I like to call these books quiet fantasy, which in no way takes away from their intensity. In fact, it might just increase it.

4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie It’s not entirely unique, because after she wrote this many others have copied the same trick – even Christie herself managed to recreate it a few times – but she was the first to attempt such blatant trickery of the reader, and to do it in a way no one could even justifiably resent afterward. Genius.

5. The Rope Trick, Lloyd Alexander All of Alexander’s books are faintly reminiscent of each other, with similar character types popping up in all. The Rope Trick stands out, though, in that Lidi, the main protag, is not like most of his heroines. And I’ve certainly never read any other fantasy of this type that ends with (Spoiler!) all of them dead.

6. Emily of Deep Valley, Maud Hart Lovelace Oh, Emily. I’ve talked before about how much I love her. What makes this book truly unique, though, as well as contributing to its beauty and strength, are three things: (Spoilers ahead) Emily doesn’t marry her first crush; she doesn’t get to finally achieve her dream of going to college at the end; she is a quietly strong character, without a hint of feistiness. All three so very rare.

7. Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, AA Milne OK, random yes (although not if you know my household – we either listen to the audio books or have the hard copy lying around for anyone to browse through almost all the time, and Carl just finished reading them to the girls for bedtime stories AGAIN), but still. Have you ever read any other children’s book that is even remotely similar to these? That has humor for both adults and kids, that can suck you in whatever your age, that makes stuffed toys come so vividly alive? Good old Winnie-ther-Pooh.

8. Queen’s Thief series, Megan Whalen Turner Another obvious choice. I love these books, and even more do I love how MWT writes the books she wants to write, without worrying about conventions or expectations of the genre. These books are their own books, and they aren’t ashamed of that. (Because they’re AWESOME.)

9. Dark Lord of Derkholm, Diana Wynne Jones A rollicking, wickedly funny tear on traditional fantasy, this book, as with most DWJ, also manages to slide in some pretty sharp truths amidst the humor and nonsense. A book that both makes you laugh hysterically and catch your breath with its poignancy.

10. Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell I include this mainly because of my husband. He’s not a fan of most Jane Austen movies, because he can tell right off the bat what’s going to happen, who is going to end up with who and why, and he finds the progression boring. W&D, however, he started out confidently predicting how it was going to end up, and then found himself confounded at every turn, and ended up truly loving it. So I say that makes it pretty unique in its genre! It also happens to be one of the only unfinished books I love and adore and don’t even care that it’s unfinished, so there’s also that.

And there you have my top ten! I am realizing there’s a great deal of overlap between all of my top ten books. Either that means I have a very narrow selection of books to choose between (possible, since although I read a lot, most books I forget about almost as soon as I finish), or that my favorite books are my favorites for good reason: they all share a lot of great qualities.

Head over to The Broke and the Bookish for more lists!

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12 thoughts on “Top Ten Unique Books

  1. I’m completely with you on Gaudy Night and Winnie-the-Pooh. Gaudy Night is my favourite of all of Sayers’, for all the reasons you mentioned – in fact, it’s probably one of my favourites of any author, period. And as for Pooh, I just had a very profound theological discussion with a friend based on a “House at Pooh Corner” story (it was all about Heffalumps, and Small) – that’s right, theological. And it’s been years since we had a small child in this house, but we’re still quoting Pooh on an almost daily basis.

  2. There are several books here that I haven’t read. Hmm. I think I’ll be adding to my TBR list. A book that I love that wasn’t at all what I expected was Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It starts a little slow, but give it a chance.

  3. Wow– I thought, “This topic would be great for me to get book suggestions from, I always appreciate DIFFERENT books,” but then I clicked through and saw how MANY posts had been linked– I’ll try to get through that list when I’m feeling more like sitting at the computer!

    <3 your titles. If I was doing this, I'd definitely include some Libba Bray, but I'll have to do some more thinking to come up with the rest.

    • I’ve only ever read Going Bovine by Bray, and I really didn’t care for it, and it sort of turned me off even trying her other books.

      And yes, definitely lots of lists! I’ve been seeing a lot of overlap, though (CNV shows up on almost EVERYONE’S list.).

  4. This is a great list! The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was actually the first Agatha Christie book I ever read and it shocked me!

    I completely agree with Winnie-the-Pooh. There is a reason it is a classic! Mo Willems is one of my contemporary favorites. He has such a distinct style.

    I need to read Jinx and Jinx’s Magic I am always looking for great middle grade!

    • I love the Jinx books so much. They are excellent.

      I got to Roger Ackroyd later in my Christie journey, but it was still shocking, even after getting familiar with her style. I defy anyone to have seen that twist coming!

  5. Great list :) I have only read Code Name Verity out of all of these and must admit that I didn’t like it. I feel like the only person who didn’t enjoy that one, but it just didn’t work for me for some reason. I didn’t find it very believable :( My TTT.

    • One of my friends disliked CNV as well, so you’re not the only one! I don’t know that I enjoyed reading it per se – it’s certainly not one I’d want to pick up for light entertainment, and I don’t know that I could ever bring myself to read it again – but I did find it hugely, powerfully moving.

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