Quirky: A Top Ten List

Quirk·y (kwərkē) adjective

1. characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits. As in “her sense of humor was decidedly quirky”.

Synonyms: eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional, unorthodox, unusual, strange, bizarre, peculiar, odd, outlandish, zany, offbeat.


This week’s list (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is books that I would recommend to “x” people. In this case, x is equal to quirky (see above definition*). Blogging is inherently dishonest. We present our best selves (mostly, I should think). The life and opinions we put forth tend to be very curated. And honestly, if you think about it, it’s strange to be known online only (i.e. you know what my home library looks like, my coworkers don’t even know that, and I spend 40 odd hours a week with them). I do intentionally try to be forthright and true (to myself), so that should I be lucky enough to meet you in real life (which might happen soon with a few of you – so excited!), my odd personality won’t come as a shock. That being said, I can’t imagine it is surprising that I like books that can also be identified as quirky/unconventional/offbeat/odd/peculiar. So, here are ten of those** books:

10. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Bauman. “A historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what ‘isotope’ means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.”

9. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle. The main character lives with the ghost of Hank Williams (whom he may or may not have killed). Literally.

8. The Rathbones by Janice Clark. If Tim Burton collaborated with Charles Addams to rewrite and combine The Odyssey and Moby-Dick, you would get ‘The Rathbones’. Janice Clark’s singular debut, a gothic adventure novel set in New England, is one of the most intriguing new novels this year (for the imagery and originality, if nothing else).

7. Ablutions by Patrick deWitt. A deadpan, darkly funny (if you can get past the heartbreak) novel told in the second person. The novel is only 164 pages long, but any longer and the bleak bar vignettes might get too depressing to handle. It is a novel about addiction that does not judge. It has more than a hint of Bukowski and the dry humor and malicious pleasure required to earn such a comparison.

6. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. A darkly imaginative, mildly horrific tale from what must be a curious imagination. If you like the sparse post-apocalyptic landscape of Zone One, the monochromatic feel of Let the Right One In, and the compelling horror of Pontypool Changes Everything, read The Flame Alphabet. If you haven’t heard of at least two of those, skip this one and save yourself the aggravation.

5. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville. (In rereading this review, I was terribly, unforgivably punny. Sorry.). Did you know that Albert Einstein originally used Gedanken experiments to explore his illegal sexual fantasies? No? Neither did I. Read this book.

4. Donnybrook by Frank Bill. A novel about a fight’s large grand prize that attracts deviants, psychopaths, the desperate, and the vengeful from miles around. This list of attractive attendees draws those who would like to tend to their needs – mainly as suppliers of illegal substances to be used and abused in the name of killing pain and creating courage. The result is, indeed, a fracas.

3. Festival Man by Geoff Berner. “In this satirical send-up of the Canadian music scene, maverick band manager Campbell Ouiniette makes a final, flailing, and destructive bid for glory as he attempts to pull the ultimate scam on the Calgary Folk Festival.”

2. In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. Because I cannot say it better, I’m borrowing from The Daily Beast, “Bell has crafted a terrifying and entirely spell-binding story about what it means to be a husband, a father, and, more simply, a man”. But more importantly, there is a bear, a squid, a fingerling, and a foundling. 

1. Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. These (to borrow from NYRB) are fantastic and blackly comic philosophical fables, which abound in nested narratives and wild paradoxes. This is actually my current read and it is…highly unusual.

Do you like reading books outside of mainstream fiction? Will you give any of these quirky books a try? I hope you do.

*I don’t identify myself as quirky as I feel quirky has become synonymous with hipster (which is a term that now describes a sub-culture that was initially intended to value independent thought and progressive politics, but instead describes intentional mainstream obscurism), I’m just well aware that I’m a very particular person with a very particular sense of humor.

**Those as in good books by good writers that can be enjoyed by anyone whose interest is piqued.


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  • Turn the Page Reviews

    Still waiting to read your # 2- it’s sitting on the kindle-great list

    • Rory

      Thanks! I hope you like it.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    Okay, so after finding out you love Donald Ray Pollock (can handle the craziness of DRP? I don’t know anyone else who does), I definitely think we have the same quirk. There are a bunch of books here I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t, so now I know I need to (like DONNYBROOK).

    • Rory

      If you like DRP, you’ll love Frank Bill. They have they same crazy hillbilly noir thing going.

      I’m so happy to find another fan, you’re one of only two I know and his writing is SO, SO GOOD.

      (And bonus, you’re one of the people I’m excited to potentially meet!)

  • kristinshafel

    Wow! I love your topic. I’m going to have to check out some of these—I liked your review of House Upon the Dirt a little while ago, it intrigued me.

    • Rory

      Thanks! I’d recommend all of them and most of them without reservation. I think only #1 and #6 have qualifiers.

      Matt Bell’s book is odd, but I thought it was beautiful (and very dark).

  • Monika

    Ohhhhh I love quirky books and I haven’t read any of these. Yippee!! GREAT list!

    • Rory

      Thanks. A couple of these will be among my top reads of the year, so I hope you get to them (2, 4, and 8 specifically).

  • Lisa

    Ooh, I do love quirky, but have to admit that I haven’t read any of these yet (although The Flame Alphabet and The Teleportation Accident are both on my radar). Great list!

    • Rory

      Of those two, I think The Teleportation Accident is better. Actually, while I really liked both books, both can be hard to enjoy sometimes. The Teleportation Accident is appealing depending on your sense of humor (the more immature, the better, at times) and The Flame Alphabet is disturbing.

      • Lisa

        Hey, I can be immature!! 🙂

        • Rory

          So can I, so much so it’s ALMOST shameful.

  • Jennine G.

    Wow – another list of books I’ve hardly heard of! This has been a good Top Ten Tuesday around the blogs.

    • Rory

      It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a TTT prompt, I was excited to participate!

  • Words for Worms

    Quirky is one of my favorite adjectives! I haven’t read any of your quirky books, but I love looks inside your oddball brain. I find it incredibly charming. 🙂

    • Rory

      I’ve been known to use quirky from time to time.

      And charming? That’s not one I get very often. Impossible, exasperating, and difficult are all common words used to describe me. 😉

      Though seriously, so I don’t sound like I’m beating myself up or fishing for a compliment, I get told I’m adorable with an alarming rate of frequency. It makes me feel 10 years old.

  • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Blogging lives = curated. Yes, I agree (although it really is true, I am a Pollyanna).

    So, have you ever met someone IRL that you first ‘met’ online?

    • Rory

      There is no way the lives we present online could ever cover what real life is like, there just isn’t enough time or space. It’s nice to know someone who is legitimately a Pollyanna, as you know I’m know. However, I think you’re both a Pollyanna and a realist (which I applaud), because I’ve seen your use of #FFS (which, let’s face it, needs to be used from time to time).

      And I haven’t meet anyone IRL yet, but in theory I will soon. I think I’ll meet Allison (The Book Wheel) sooner rather than later, as she lives in Denver too. And if I can get my stuff together and get to New York this upcoming May, I’ll hopefully be meeting several others at the BEA conference.

  • RebeccaScaglione – Love at First Book

    I was going to say that this list would not be complete without The Flame Alphabet so I am sooooo glad you have it there already! Also to add – No One Is Here Except All of Us. It’s beautiful and weird in a super amazing way.

    • Rory

      I just looked at Goodreads and opinions are divided – I love when that happens. It very much happened with In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods and I loved that one, though I swear half of the reviews were DNF.

      • RebeccaScaglione – Love at First Book

        I get why they are DNFs but to me, they are missing out, like you said, on good weird. Because I also looooove the good weird. It’s so much more interesting that just “normal”

  • Acid Free Pulp

    I have a copy of Autobiography of a Corpse, which I am looking forward to. Although, I read another of Krzhizhanovsky’s books (The Letter Killer’s Club) and was a little bit disappointed.

    • Rory

      I have the galley for Autobiography of a Corpse. It’s…odd? I haven’t read anything else of his and I don’t know that I’m inclined to. I love reading the NYRB re-releases.

      • Acid Free Pulp

        I’m a big fan of NYRB. You should try to get your hands on their re-releases of Renata Adler. Speedboat is one of my favorites and I bought Pitch Dark when it was released. I once taught a college class and my students really enjoyed the excerpt from Speedboat they were assigned.

        • Rory

          Both look excellent, Pitch Dark sounds fascinating just from the synopsis (because now I want to know what happened and how she went back to where she began).

          • Acid Free Pulp

            I saw her recently give a reading & talk. She’s still as quick and funny as ever. I would start with speedboat first, then pitch black.

  • Leah

    Great list! The Teleportation Accident and The Flame Alphabet are on my list to read, and I’m intrigued by the others. I read In the House Upon the Dirt, and… it was too much for me. It was much more darkly/disturbingly quirky than I was expecting, and I just felt repulsed for most of the book.

    • Rory

      Matt Bell’s book is one of the few that I can think of that the word grotesque really fits, especially with the fate of one of the fetuses. Ick. I still liked it, I think he has a beautiful writing style, but I know what you mean.

  • Allison @ The Book Wheel

    Sometimes I’m amazed when I read the books on your lists because a lot of them are ones I’ve never heard of but REALLY want to read once I know about them!

    • Rory

      Hmmm…well than I am doing my job. Because that is exactly my goal.

  • Wendy @ Wensend

    I’m quirky haha! Added some of them to my TBR. Thanks for sharing. I love to read non-mainstream novels 🙂

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    I keep seeing The Teleportation Accident mentioned places- I’m going to have to check it out. Plus, I like the cover.

    • Rory

      The cover is one of my favorites. I feel like the book straddles the line of obnoxious and fabulous. Sometimes is more of one than the other, but both are definitely present.

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