Switch up your reading habits with these three unusual books

When it comes to books, the world is your oyster. If you can think of it, there's probably a book written about it. At least, that's what I thought until I picked up these three books that left me wondering how someone could possibly concoct a plot as bewildering. If you need a boost to get out of a reading slump, need to change up genres in the new year, or you're a connoisseur of odd fiction, these books might be right up your alley.

PIRANESI
BY SUSANNA CLARKE

This book is truly a journey. If you're a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, Piranesi is like the grown-up version of that classic tale with a bit of a twist. Almost the entirety of the story takes place in The House, a mysterious system of tunnels and hallways in which Piranesi (our titular character and protagonist) and a few other curious beings reside. Piranesi is confined to a world filled with nothing but statues, which represent a greater reality of which he is simultaneously ignorant. (Ring ring! The Allegory of the Cave is calling!) This entire novel is a lesson in identity. Piranesi begins to piece together a life he once had, and his only friend in The House, named The Other, tries to suppress those memories and keep Piranesi under his control. By the end of this tale, I felt like Piranesi was my friend and became filled with warm fuzzies that only a good book can provide.

THE ARCHIVE OF ALTERNATE ENDINGS
BY LINDSEY DRAGER

First off, this book is hard to find, which makes the ending even more magical and satisfying. I searched local bookstores with haste for months before an East Coast friend finally found a copy at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan and snail-mailed it to me. This tale follows Hansel and Gretel through time. Drager examines how stories during incredibly significant moments in history often go untold. Touching on the AIDS crisis as well as the climate crisis, the book is split up into short, succinct chapters, making it great for binging. It highlights how stories are disseminated, censored and shared in a completely unique way: in 75-year intervals that correspond with appearances of Halley's Comet over Earth. The celestial phenomenon ties all of the storylines together into a tale that will tug on heartstrings and maybe make you cry over twin space probes in the end. Warning: If you have a sibling, this story will likely cause you to text them a long, sappy paragraph about how much you love and cherish them.

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION
BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH

On the surface, this book is simply ridiculous. The narrator just decides to take a year off from life in the hope that her outlook and perspective will change. Readers are plopped in the middle of New York City only to be guided by an unnamed, unreliable narrator through her heartbreak-induced bender. The unnamed narrator uses pills like Ambien, Xanax and Seroquel, prescribed to her by a quack of a psychiatrist, to knock herself out and "recuperate" much to the chagrin of her friends and family. Plot-wise, it's hard to explain what actually happens in this metamorphic tale because of its twisting alleyways and the dreamlike state that the narrator inhabits. I hate to say you have to read in order to find out, but that's the only way to go into Rest and Relaxation — knowing absolutely nothing. The final page of this book has not left my mind in the three years since I finished it for the first time. I'm offering a money-back guarantee if you're not completely blindsided by the ending. ♦

Rafael Soldi: Mother Tongue @ EWU Gallery of Art

Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Continues through March 3
  • or

About The Author

Madison Pearson

Madison Pearson is the Inlander's Listings Editor, managing the calendar of events and regularly contributing to the Arts & Culture section of the paper. She joined the staff in 2022 after graduating from Eastern Washington University.