I’ve read some good bizarre books this autumn, making this list very hard to compose. But after hemming and hawing and all that, I whittled the number down to five. I realize this list is a little late as we’re now in the middle of winter. My month long absence in November messed up my schedule a bit. Enjoy!
1. Jack and Mr. Grin by Andersen Prunty
This is the second book I’ve read by Prunty and it will certainly not be my last. It is the story of Jack and the increasingly bizarre odyssey he takes to find his kidnapped girlfriend. Without any clues, he has twenty-four hours to find her before the mysterious Mr. Grin ends her life. Prunty uses my favorite construction with bizarro fiction: a story that starts out relatively prosaic only to grow weirder and weirder, ending in utter insanity. A must read for any fan of the bizarre.
2. Skull Nuggets by Amy M. Vaughn
Vaughn’s novel of mental illness and trepanation connected with me on a personal and emotional level. The similarities I felt with the protagonist disturbed me at times. And though it is an amazing story and beautifully written, it was this connection that earned it the number two slot. Suffering from bipolar disorder herself, Vaughn nailed a topic that so many authors get wrong. I review it in more detail here.
3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
While not as bizarre as the others on this list, I had to include this novel. It is also the only book on here that was not published by a small press. It is the story of a woman who wants to take a break. And by break, she means drugging herself with a panoply of prescription drugs so that she can sleep for a year. Surprisingly, this book is an absolute page-turner, a story that sucks you in and holds you to the last page. It is both smart and fun, and a great gateway book to get into more bizarre fiction.
4. Polymer by Caleb Wilson
For his first book, Wilson made quite the impact on me. I love bizarro that is unlike anything else I’ve read. Sure, anthropomorphic houses are fascinating, but I love it when my mind is taken somewhere it’s never been before. A new form of music called New Synth causes a rift between our world and a world of monsters. Told from the collective perspective of his fans, this is the tale of the monster hunter Polymer. I can’t do it justice in this short paragraph, suffice to say, it is like nothing you’ve ever read before.
5. To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows by Sam Richard
I’ve been fortunate not to have many losses in my life. Sam Richard, however, has experienced one of the worst. This collection is a beautiful, powerful, at times tear-jerking ode to the memory of his wife. A mix of transgressive lit, bizarro, and splatterpunk, he explores the many facets of grief as it progresses, relying on his personal experience. It is a must-read for anyone who truly wants to know the horror of losing someone so close, so early. You can read my full review here.