The best literary novels that immerse readers through poetic prose

The Books I Picked & Why

The Bone Clocks

By David Mitchell

Book cover of The Bone Clocks

Why this book?

It’s difficult to choose a single book by David Mitchell, since everything he writes is painfully poetic, but The Bone Clocks is a favorite. The title is a derogatory term immortals in the story use for humans flawed with mortality because of natural aging. Six unique first-person perspectives; six timelines spanning past, present, and future. If underlining inspiring passages, in awe of their creation, most of the book would need underlining. Nearly every sentence is breathtaking for readers and writers alike. Mitchell is as literary as they get, but this novel dips into science fiction the way his novel Slade House dips into horror. All his works are connected by threads, including Ghostwritten, his debut that first made me want to become a writer.


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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Book cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Why this book?

The structure of this incredibly emotional post-9/11 novel is unique, featuring photography, pen scribbles, red-lined and circled words, and pages wherein the words of the anxious narrator close in on each other until ultimately creating a jumbled block of unreadable text; some of the pages when flipped even animate a body falling upward into one of the buildings. It’s a lesson on experimental form. Beautiful prose and an incredible story make this novel special. After finding a key in a vase a year after his father’s death from the terrorist attacks, a nine-year-old boy named Oskar sets out on a journey to find the matching lock in New York City. He struggles with depression, insomnia, and panic attacks, which are expertly represented based on my own experiences.


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The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Why this book?

Tata Jesus is bängala,” a father of four says while reading a self-created misprint of The Bible, instead of “Jesus is most precious,” and so the hurried mispronunciation becomes “Jesus is poisonwood,” hence the title of the novel. The Price family move from the south (Georgia, United States) to Africa on a missionary expedition. The intricately structured narrative, broken up into seven sections, alternates between the points of view of four daughters as they adapt and try to survive their harsh new village lifestyle, all during the dangerous political turmoil overtaking the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. This culturally rich novel explores how all life is connected, or muntu, the concept of unity. One of the girls is fascinated by palindromes, which was also the focus of my first novel.


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Middlesex

By Jeffrey Eugenides

Book cover of Middlesex

Why this book?

In this coming-of-age story, praised by some as the next Great American Novel, Eugenides creates an in-depth discussion of intersex anatomy and emotions while exploring gender identity. The story of Calliope (her feminine identity) transitioning to Cal (his masculine identity) follows the effects of a 5-alpha-reductase gene deficiency over several generations. Themes include rebirth, nature vs. nurture, and differing views of society’s concept of polar opposites between men and women. A lot of research went into this book, which I feel is important. Mythology is also intertwined, with symbolic references to the Chimera and Minotaur. The writing is beautiful and the medical research eye-opening from the point of view of an audacious narrator. It’s a modern-day Greek comedy/tragedy. As an author, he never flinches, and I admire him for that.


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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman, Elise Hurst

Book cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Why this book?

Neil Gaiman is one of the most unique wordsmiths of our time and a truly imaginative storyteller. This short novel, like all his work, takes the reader down a dark, fantastical path, painting each page with immersive imagery. Every word is meaningful and essential, and this is my own philosophy on what’s required of poetic prose. Adults are content walking the same path, hundreds of times, thousands, as the story intones, but there is so much beauty and joy to be found on this particular journey, both melancholy and magical. It is perhaps the perfect story and full of life lessons. His words say it best: “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and rolling. And people change as much as oceans.”


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