Books in Unusual Formats for the Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
One of our categories for the Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge this year is to "Read a Book in an Unusual Genre" (we have since realized that we should have called it an "Unusual Format" . . . live and learn, I guess?). I absolutely love this category. I'm constantly amazed by the inventiveness of authors, by the ways that shifting into a new format can lend an immediacy to a story. Last week, we released an episode with some recommendations for this category, but here are some additional books I've loved that would qualify.
Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine (Bookshop.org)
I read this book years ago, but the adventure and excitement of turning each page has stuck with me. This is a mystery told in correspondence, and on each page is an envelope with a card or letter. The book itself is absolutely gorgeous, making this a special reading experience.
Pierre Choderlos De Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons (Bookshop.org)
I read this epistolary novel after watching the film of the same name. (If you haven't see the movie, I highly recommend it! Starring John Malkovich, Glenn Close, and Michelle Pfeiffer, it is absolutely brilliant.) The book, which is filled with intrigue and subterfuge, is told through letters, which are perfectly suited to sharing small glimpses of the overall plot. Readers get only a glimpse of the story—just one person's perspective—in each letter, making it a puzzle that's a joy to put together.
Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
I first heard about this one on What Should I Read Next? (here) and couldn't wait to read it. This one is a nonfiction tale of a relationship between a bookseller (at 84, Charing Cross Road in London) and Hanff, an American author who is seeking some rare books. Over the course of the slim book, readers get the sense of their entire relationship, one centered on books and ideas and compassion.
Calvin Kasulke's Several People Are Typing (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
I read this novel for this year's Tournament of Books, and it is SO much fun. The entire story is told through Slack messages (threads and private messages both) set in a public relations firm. (If you haven't used Slack, it's kind of like Google Hangouts but with both public and private communication strands.) There are catty side conversations, ridiculous bureaucratic debates, and inevitable misunderstandings. There's also a character whose soul has disappeared into a Slack thread. I loved it!
Isabel Quintero's Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
We talked about this book back on episode 58, when Ashley and I discussed the book with a college class. It was delightful. Gabi's story is told through her diary entries and the zine that she ends up developing to share her thoughts on life and, in particular, on being a woman in her culture and her community.
Alice Walker's The Color Purple (Bookshop.org)
This one is a classic, and it's well worth reading (or revisiting!). This is the story of Celie, a young woman who is the victim of abuse on all fronts. As she navigates her situation, she tells her story, at first, in letters to God, though the letters do broaden. Told over decades, Celie's story reveals both her own journey and the lives of those around her. It's a moving, gut-wrenching, powerful novel.
Chris Ware's Building Stories (Bookshop.org)
This is another book I read because of the Tournament of Books (this time in 2013), and I've never read another book like it. In fact, it made me wonder if I needed to redefine "book." Building Stories comes in a box filled with an array of stories—most seem like versions of graphic novels or comic books—all set in one apartment building. There's one about a bee, several about the same woman, and some about relationships. They can be read in any order, though shifting that order around would definitely change how a reader perceived the story. It was a fascinating, challenging reading experience.
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