One of the easiest ways to talk about books is by genre. We say, do you like mysteries? What about fantasy, or sci-fi? It’s a great way to find common ground and to seek out, or give, recommendations.
Did you know that genres follow a formula? It’s true! If you read enough mysteries or romance books, you’ll begin to see patterns. Some people really dig this for their reading, as familiarity can be comforting. Often people return to the same author over and over again because they know just what to expect.
Of course, there are times when you crave something out of the ordinary. And when that happens, books that break the mold are the most satisfying. When you want to expect the unexpected, here are a few books that blur the lines of categorization in interesting ways:
Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The year is 2065, Adri has been preparing her whole life to be an astronaut who will help colonize Mars, and she is elated when she is chosen for the mission. When she moves from Miami to Kansas for training, she discovers a journal written by someone who lived in her house over one hundred years ago. Adri becomes increasingly absorbed in the fates of the people contained within the journal.
Since the book is told in multiple timelines, and across vast geographies, it is a satisfying blend of science fiction and historical fiction, complete with secrets, betrayals, and heartbreak.
Romance, history, and wartime, but with a mythological kick.
When Hephaestus finds his wife Aphrodite cheating on him with his brother Ares, he convenes a trial in which Aphrodite must defend herself and her actions. To do so, she relays a harrowing story about interracial love, music, and friendship during World War I.
Beautifully written and captivating, while not shying away from historically accurate portrayals of racism and sexism, this soaring book makes a compelling case for the enduring human spirit as told by the goddess of love herself.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
If you think you know all about books where teenagers go to magical schools, think again.
When the obnoxious and unloved Eliot winds up in a magical realm called the Borderlands (protected by an invisible wall), he meets elves, mermaids, and other magical people. It seems like his dreams will be realized, but this is a place where expectations, stereotypes, and other prejudices are thrown out in place of the unpredictable. Eliot will fall in love and make an unexpected friend, but can he save the world while doing it?
This funny novel plays with fantasy tropes, but more than that, it turns preconceived notions of gender, colonialism, and sexism upside down and inside out.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A classic work of literature by an author whose work has produced a rabid and devoted fanbase.
In this book the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, has become “unstuck in time” so the story does not follow a linear timeline. It jumps around all over the place featuring different moments of Billy’s life.
Vonnegut’s unique writing style is at times humorous, sometimes derisive, but always memorable and moving.
When the story begins, Travis is a 16-year-old suffering from cancer. Once he realizes that he will not survive the illness he agrees to participate in an experimental procedure in which, after he dies, his head will be removed from his body and cryogenically frozen, to then be attached to a new body if and when the technology allows…
…It doesn’t take long and Travis is born again 5 years later, albeit with a new body. He would like, and expects, to pick up his life where he left it, but that won’t be so simple. Some of the most important people in his life, namely his girlfriend and his best friend, have been living, loving, and changing in the time that he was gone and Travis must figure out where he fits in.
This strange tale raises both philosophical and existential questions about life, wrapped up in a funny and heartfelt story about love and the nature of being.
Have you read any other books that defy genres? Share them in the comments!