The best bizarrely bewildering but by and by brilliantly beautiful books

JL Civi Author Of L Extreme: A Novel Based on the Songs of Benji Hughes
By JL Civi

The Books I Picked & Why

The Hike

By Drew Magary

Book cover of The Hike

Why this book?

Unlike anything I've ever read, yet still familiar and comfortable at the same time. Starts out normal, goes off the rails absurdist crazy for one heck of a fun ride, and somehow manages to stick the landing of a perfect ending with a lot of emotional weight to it. The Hike proves anything goes in fiction. It pulls off that delicate balance between goofy and sincere so well, which was an inspirational motivator as I found the story hidden in the songs that became L Extreme.

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things

By Iain Reid

Book cover of I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Why this book?

My wife will frequently finish a book, close the cover, exhale deeply--then open it again and start over, diving straight in to a second read. For the longest time, I didn't understand it and she could never quite articulate why she did this. It was good or she wasn't ready to leave the characters behind or that classic spousal response of "just because." When I finished I'm Thinking of Ending Things it finally clicked. I closed the cover, exhaled deeply, and thought "I'm pulling a Jessica" as I dove right back in.

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

By Stuart Turton

Book cover of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Why this book?

Quantum Leap is my favorite television show of all time. I loved the time travel premise in an otherwise not very sci-fi program, the anthology format allowing for completely different stories week to week, and the way it could teach different perspectives while (mostly) avoiding a heavy hand. Why do I bring this up while recommending The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? Pretend Quantum Leap is back as a limited 6 episode miniseries where Sam Beckett has to solve a murder and that's pretty much this book. I don't know if that was the author's intent, but it doesn't matter. An awesome read made even better if you go into it with a leaper’s mindset.

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Transformers/Back to the Future

By Cavan Scott, Juan Samu

Book cover of Transformers/Back to the Future

Why this book?

I had three reactions upon learning this very strange graphic novel crossover between two very famous (but very different) pop-culture classics existed: 1) This is ridiculous. 2) Are you telling me you built a time machine out of a Transformer? 3) I can’t wait to read it! The story collected here has no business working--but amazingly manages to pull it off using the best both franchises have to offer. I literally laughed out loud with giddy excitement when I saw the plot twist/cliffhanger at the end of part three. Amusing if you enjoy either property; must-read if you dig both.

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The Coma

By Alex Garland

Book cover of The Coma

Why this book?

A short, eerie, and mysterious fever dream of a novella with a secret you may not realize your first time through--hidden messages in the text! I won't spoil what they are or how to find them here, but I will say that ever since reading this book I may or may not try to crack similar codes in nearly every book I pick up. (I may or may not have also done something similar in my own writing; hat tip to Mr. Garland for the inspiration.)

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