By now it might be obvious I am enthusiastic about books, a bibliophile, if you will. As such I have a respectable collection of books. But it became a bit of a burden when I had to move my small office/studio to a slightly bigger room. I had to downsize my collection, even though I was moving to a bigger office. I wasn’t looking forward to the task, because like for many booklovers, each book was like a snapshot of my life. But I knew it I had to do it. I had dozens of novels I’d read in my late teens and early twenties (which was too long for me to even remember some of them that well). They were brown and tattered and I knew I would never read them again. So that became the rule for discarding – unless it had sentimental value, or I could refer to it again, it had to go in the donation box or handed off to friends and family. Let someone else love them.
It wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined it would be and I became less discriminating as I filled box after box. I thanked the books and set them free, liberating them and myself (and a great deal of bookshelf space). Now most of the printed books I own are nonfiction, but I also have a penchant for collecting works of fiction with a difference, especially when they’re illustrated, so I still allow myself the luxury of keeping these. I don’t only mean graphic novels, which are lovely and every bit as worthy as other books on my shelves; I have a passion for genre-bending and hybrid books, those books which go beyond the standard layouts and formats of fiction, illustrated or otherwise. These books are often heavy with illustrations, photos, maps, typography and other images that contribute to the narrative. They might also contain marginalia, footnotes and other documents, sometimes in the form of extra bits of media, which can be removed and read separately. Consider Nick Bantock’s epistolary novels, The Griffin and Sabine Saga, or Dubious Documents. Or Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.
Here is a very short list of similar books you might (or might not) have heard of that I have in my humble collection of fiction with a twist:
- S, Doug Dorst and J.J Abrams,
- The Republic of Dreams, G. Garfield Crimmins,
- The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Reif Larsen
- The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel, Mark Frost.
- The Strange Library, Huruki Murakami
The only thing these books have in common is their unique format. Though some of them can be defined as ergodic books (in the simplest terms, books that are not designed to be read line after line in the order they were written), none of them fit that comfortably in to any one genre. These books are more than a printed story line and usually require more effort and participation from the reader. They don’t satisfy the reader’s expectations in quite the same way as a linear story in a standard novel. In fact, expectations aren’t that helpful when it comes to reading these types of books, which is why I enjoy them so much. They don’t always obey the fundamentals of narrative fiction and can be a challenge to read. Still, I marvel at the minds that create such books. Such creativity deserves the time it takes to experience them.
For more similar books check out this list of ergodic fiction on Goodreads.