The best genre-busting books

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ll let you into a secret. I don’t like reading most novels. Especially formulaic ones like Police Procedurals or Romance. Ugh. Why start a book if you know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen? I need something that’s going to challenge me, give me a twist on an established genre, or mash a few genres together and see what happens. It might not work, but I’ll appreciate an author who tries rather than one who methodically follows an established formula. I like writers who show off their skills with witty oneliners. They are the things I remember from books, not a writer obsessed with hitting their plot points! 

I wrote...

The Zombie Cop

By Jon Lymon,

Book cover of The Zombie Cop

What is my book about?

This is no ordinary tale of a zombie apocalypse. For starters, it erupts on the Wednesday before Christmas (inconvenient). And it seems not all those who turn zombies can be bothered to do their job and create more zombies.

Typically, PC Jake Rodwell encounters an aggressive type, and one bite leads to another. Only the intravenous intervention of a serum stops him from turning zombie, leaving him trapped in a halfway house between the living and undead. In this state, Rodwell takes to the streets, becoming the lone upholder of the law, his daughter alongside him. It’s a story that, yes, has its fair share of blood and guts, but also traces a rapidly ageing father’s challenges with single parenthood, work, and health.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Catch-22

Jon Lymon Why did I love this book?

This is a startlingly original book I remember first reading it during my A-level studies and thinking wow, what is this Joseph Heller fella doing? Where’s the beginning, middle, and end structure gone? Can you really call a character Major Major and get away with it? It’s beautifully unpredictable and harshly critical of war in its own satirical way. It’s the yardstick for all novels for me. And the source of one of my biggest regrets: not going to a presentation Heller gave in my hometown—Croydon, South London in 1999—just months before he died.

By Joseph Heller,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Catch-22 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explosive, subversive, wild and funny, 50 years on the novel's strength is undiminished. Reading Joseph Heller's classic satire is nothing less than a rite of passage.

Set in the closing months of World War II, this is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His real problem is not the enemy - it is his own army which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the…

Book cover of London Fields

Jon Lymon Why did I love this book?

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, wait a minute, no, I was working as a copywriter in a Queensway ad agency when I read London Fields on the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Rob!) The book was set in the same area of west London as the agency office (Bayswater, Westbourne Grove), a really lively area with boutique shops that seldom had more than one item in the window and eateries with super-stylish but ultimately uncomfortable stools. I love that Amis is never afraid to show the world his plentiful writing skills, and Keith Talent is an epic name for a wide-boy lead character who’s handy around an oche. There’s no obvious formula at work here and that gets a big tick from me, and the brilliance of this led me to read more of Amis’ work and indeed some of his father’s.

By Martin Amis,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked London Fields as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

London Fields is Amis's murder story for the end of the millennium—"a comic murder mystery, an apocalyptic satire, a scatological meditation on love and death" (The New York Times).

The murderee is Nicola Six, a "black hole" of sex and self-loathing intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and darts. Or is the killer the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch?

Here, Amis is "by turns lyrical and obscene, colloquial and rhapsodic." —Michiko Kakutani

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Jon Lymon Why did I love this book?

Someone said if you like Catch-22, read this. I loved Catch-22 and read this and loved it too. I’ve since read reviews in which people have said this is ‘not what I expected’ as if that’s a bad thing. I want books to confound my expectations, to deliver the unexpected, and this does precisely that. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Heller’s classic or at least on the same page. I love Vonnegut’s simple style—I don’t want to be constantly referring to a dictionary when I’m reading a novel to discover the meaning of some obscure word or other. Just tell it to me straight and simple and with unique style.

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…

Book cover of The Antipope

Jon Lymon Why did I love this book?

I was attracted to this by the blurb on the cover that said this was part 1 of the Brentford trilogy. Brentford—a place in west London that I suspect is as innocent and unexceptional as my hometown of Croydon—has a trilogy? That’s got to be worth checking out. And it was. It’s a mash-up of genres with irreverence aplenty. The focus is a pub that’s probably closed down now (this was written in 1981) but it’s somewhere that sounds like the kind of establishment I would have frequented back in the day. Impossible to pigeonhole, The Antipope’s unpredictability kept me reading from behind my prescription sunglasses in my modest garden during a fairly hot British summer.

By Robert Rankin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Antipope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Outside the sun shines. Buses rumble towards Ealing Broadway and I'm expected to do battle with the powers of darkness. It all seems a little unfair...'

You could say it all started with the red-eyed tramp with the slimy fingers who put the wind up Neville, the part-time barman, something rotten. Or when Archroy's wife swapped his trusty Morris Minor for five magic beans while he was out at the rubber factory.

On the other hand, you could say it all started a lot earlier. Like 450 years ago, when Borgias walked the earth.

Pooley and Omally, stars of the…

Book cover of The Old Man and the Sea

Jon Lymon Why did I love this book?

Well, as someone who likes unpredictability, I couldn’t resist throwing in a curveball selection. Bret Easton Ellis’ brilliant American Psycho was going to go here, but perhaps that was expected. So allow me to confound expectations a little if you please. While Hemingway is no genre buster, for fans of the use of simple language like yours truly, Hemingway’s the one to read. I remember this book sitting on the shelves at my parent's home as a kid and first reading it in my teens. I’m pretty sure I didn’t appreciate then Hemingway’s craft, the beauty, and simplicity of his words and the powerful emotions they evoke. I like brevity in stories too. Don’t overdo the description or detail. Give the reader a chance to do a little imagining of their own. Hemingway does that for me.

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Old Man and the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This powerful and dignified story about a Cuban fisherman's struggle with a great fish has the universal appeal of a struggle between man and the elements, the hunter with the hunted. It earned Hemingway the Nobel prize and has been made into an acclaimed film. Age 13+

You might also like...

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

Book cover of Thorn City

Pamela Statz

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Dressed to kill and ready to make rent, best friends Lisa and Jamie work as “paid to party” girls at the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala, a gathering of Portland's elite.

Their evening is derailed when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician and Lisa’s estranged mother. And to make matters worse, Lisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, crashes the party to meet his new boss, Portland's food cart drug kingpin. Lisa makes a fateful choice that traps her, Jamie, and Patrick in Ellen’s web. In this gripping thriller, Lisa must reconcile a painful past and perilous present.

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

What is this book about?

Suspected murder, eclectic food trucks, and artisanal cocaine: just another day in Thorn City.

It’s the night of the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala—a gathering of Portland’s elite. Dressed to kill in sparkling minidresses, best friends Lisa and Jamie attend as “paid to party” girls. They plan an evening of fake flirtations, karaoke playlists, and of course, grazing the catering.

Past and present collide when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician who also happens to be Lisa’s estranged mother. Awkward . . . When Lisa was sixteen, Ellen had her kidnapped and taken to the Lost Lake Academy—a…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Cuba, presidential biography, and World War 1?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Cuba, presidential biography, and World War 1.

Cuba Explore 84 books about Cuba
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography
World War 1 Explore 882 books about World War 1