The best books for expanding the mind through pleasure and strangeness

David Quantick Author Of All My Colors
By David Quantick

The Books I Picked & Why

Don't, Mr. Disraeli!

By Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon

Book cover of Don't, Mr. Disraeli!

Why this book?

A comic novel from 1940, ostensibly a reworking of Romeo and Juliet set in the 19th century. Don’t Mister Disraeli is in fact a wild rampage through Victorian fiction and history. The only book I know of that’s influenced by both the Marx Brothers and JW Dunne’s An Experiment In Time, this is Alice In Wonderland as a history lesson and it’s brilliant.

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Walking on Glass

By Iain M. Banks

Book cover of Walking on Glass

Why this book?

I love Iain Banks’ work and this book seems to encapsulate the best of his early work: epic sci-fi, mental breakdown, and fantastic comedy. Switching between three storylines, one of which contains the best imagery in all SF and fantasy, Walking On Glass mixes reality with insanity and imagination with the every day to superb effect.

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Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry

By B.S. Johnson

Book cover of Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry

Why this book?

Probably my favourite book, this is BS Johnson’s most fun novel. It’s about a man who decides the world is in debt to him, and sets out to redress the balance, often murderously. Johnson doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as grind it up for pudding. Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry is very dark, very funny, and a small masterpiece.

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The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

By Leonora Carrington

Book cover of The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

Why this book?

Best known as a surrealist painter, Carrington is one of my favourite artists for her strange, half-dreamy figures and other-worldly paintings. Her written work is similarly disturbing: animals that tear their own faces off, monsters, and the dead populate these short but memorable stories. Surrealism can often be wearing in print, but Carrington is a writer who balances the bizarre with the unsettling perfectly.

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Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien

Book cover of Third Policeman

Why this book?

An incredible book, disturbing, harsh, and – of course – really, really funny, The Third Policeman is the great dark surreal novel. A simple story of a man who visits a police station, it soon roots itself in a Tristram Shandy-esque mire of absurdity and confusion with its own sense of seeping dread. All Flann O’Brien is superb, but this is the fiercest of all pancakes.

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