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Six Strange Books to Read in These Strange Times

Dragon in Fantasy Exhibit

So by now there's a chance you've seen 200 book suggestion lists and worked yourself half way through your TBR (To Be Read) pile, but you still need something different? How about something weird, something unlike the other stories you've ingested recently? We at MoPOP are committed to helping you fight boredom in these strange and uncertain times with our top six list of strange reads.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter

This novel is a wonderful deconstruction of the the hero’s journey featured in our fantasy exhibit! It’s a weird, winding tale of the life of a changeling girl named Jane who defies fate time and time again, sometimes only out spite. Trust me, take a chance! She fights god in a fighter jet shaped like a dragon!

American Hippopotamus

Do you like cowboys? Do you like hippos? How would you feel about cowboys riding hippos? Sarah Gailey's alternate history novel, originally printed as two novellas, takes you to an alternate American west where feral hippos roam the banks of the Mississippi. If you'd like to know more about how hippos almost really roamed the Mississippi, check out American Hippopotamus, or this interview with the book's author Jon Mooallem. If weird westerns like this sound great, here’s a list of weird western movies to watch once you’re done reading.

Borne

In this bio-punk fever dream by Jeff VanderMeer, a woman named Rachel, living in an unnamed city under siege from a giant flying bear, finds a creature—the titular character Borne—who is something like a sea anemone and a flower vase that Rachel raises like her own child. If bio-punk horror is your jam, check out these others like the movie adaption of VanderMeer's Annihilation, or take a deep dive with MoPOP's 100 horror films to see before you die.

The Deep

This novella by Rivers Solomon is a beautiful piece of Afrofuturism and the novelization of the song “The Deep” by Clipping (you may recognize Daveed Diggs from the musical Hamilton!). The story follows Yetu, a mermaid born from a slave thrown overboard during the Atlantic crossing, who possess the psychic ability to hold and accumulate memories and is the literal memory keeper of her people. After a ritual where a community meeting goes awry, Yetu must come to terms with her relationship with her people’s past, her responsibility to her community, and her own identity.

The Word for World is Forest

In Ursula K. Le Guin's imagined future, the galaxy is full of humanity's cousins: intelligent apes who have built their own worlds and societies different from our own. Le Guin is a well-loved and award-winning novelist, and this novella is one of her weirdest! She is also one of MoPOP's inductees to our Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. For some bonus content, check out this interview with her.

All the Crooked Saints

This YA (young adult fiction) novel by Maggie Stiefvater is a love letter to the Latin American literary and fantasy sub-genre of magical realism and takes place in 1960's Colorado. It features miracle-seeking owls, a man who grows to be five stories tall, and a tragic woman covered in butterflies who is always followed by rain. Stiefvater's work is full of fever dreams which lend themselves to being read aloud. Her series The Raven Cycle is about to be picked up for a TV show.

Happy reading!

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About the author

Jane MacDonald

Jane MacDonald is the Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at MoPOP.

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