The best books for your surreal, bizarro, funny fiction fix

Who am I?

I'm a writer of humorous fiction living in Austin, Texas. I enjoy writing novels about unusual friendships and the healing power that comes when people just shut up and listen to each other. Many of my stories have the odd-couple dynamic on full display and I love to explore what would happen if people with very different backgrounds and opinions are forced to deal with each other. I do have a couple of novels that wouldn’t seem to be humorous on the surface, but there is an element of humor or comedy that runs through all of my work. My next novel, The Codger and the Sparrow, will be published by TCU Press in 2024.


I wrote...

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel

By Scott Semegran,

Book cover of To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel

What is my book about?

This novel is a story of humorous literary fiction about five under-appreciated bureaucrats who forge an unlikely bond of love and respect while trying to win a pot of cash from the government that will change their lives forever. The lowly government workers seem to be stuck in a mind-numbing routine. But when one of them discovers a bug in the mainframe system that could save the State of Texas millions of dollars, this crew of unusual friends is elevated to stardom by the governor. A snooping reporter unearths the randomness of the coworkers’ discovery and reveals the governor’s darkest secret to the world. A satirical look at the machinations of government and the healing power of friendship between unlikely cohorts.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Valleyesque: Stories

Scott Semegran Why did I love this book?

These stories are all surreal, trippy, and many are quite funny. Sort of a mashup of Márquez, Burroughs, and Bukowski, trying to pin down Flores’ actual style is difficult as it is wholly unique: the ultimate compliment for a writer. One story is about a couple who make a sculpture of a baby using their ear wax while the male partner is a writer who also is paid to be a life coach to other writers of lesser talent. Another story is about two men who are neighbors, one of which owns an extraterrestrial shape-shifting cloth, the other is a philosophizing writer prone to drink too much. This collection of short stories is top-notch as well as bizarre and humorous.

By Fernando A. Flores,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No one captures the border-its history and imagination, its danger, contradiction, and redemption-like Fernando A. Flores, whose stories reimagine and reinterpret the region's existence with peerless style. In his immersive, uncanny borderland, things are never what they seem: a world where the sun is both rising and setting, and where conniving possums efficiently take over an entire town and rewrite its history.

The stories in Valleyesque dance between the fantastical and the hyperreal with dexterous, often hilarious flair. A dying Frederic Chopin stumbles through Ciudad Juarez in the aftermath of his mother's death, attempting to recover his beloved piano that…


Book cover of Everything Is Totally Fine

Scott Semegran Why did I love this book?

Ranging from very short to very bizarre, these stories are out there. One story is about a melancholy octopus who travels to the White House. Other stories are about ants, mice, birds, dogs, sharks, and whales doing mundane things or experiencing existential crises. Weird, surreal, and whacky, Zac Smith is on a mission to have fun with his stories. This book may not be for everyone. But, if it does tickle your fancy, then you’ll be glad you immersed yourself in Zac Smith’s unique mind.

By Zac Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything Is Totally Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everything is Totally Fine is a collection of surreal and inventive stories ranging from six sentences to eight pages. Even though its main themes seem to be despair, depression, boredom, confusion, and fear, readers may find themselves smiling, laughing, excited, startled, moved, and inspired while reading it.

Animals in this book include ants, mice, birds, dogs, octopuses, sharks, whales. Settings include kitchens, bathrooms, camping grounds, gas stations, graveyards, rocket ships, golf courses. Activities include driving, converting files, setting things on fire, eating pizza, showering, planking, and visiting the White House.


Book cover of Delivering Virtue

Scott Semegran Why did I love this book?

This novel of literary fiction is a ribald and adventurous mixture of humor, magical realism, Old West historical fact, and dream-like self-reflection. Main character Didier Rain, who is a drunken yet poetic lout, is hired to deliver a baby named Virtue to a Mormon prophet, who has been chosen as his future bride. (!!!) He is accompanied by a band of talking animals. Virtue miraculously grows into a young woman during the trip. It’s hard to categorize this novel but one thing is for sure, it is delightfully bizarre and laugh-out-loud funny in parts.

By Brian Kindall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A magnet for trouble. A dubious destiny. His quest for true love could succeed, if only his moral compass didn’t point South.

The American West, 1850. Former French dandy Didier Rain’s weakness for saloon girls, money, and whiskey keep derailing his plan to join the pantheon of epic poets. So, when he’s approached by holy men claiming he’s part of a prophecy, he agrees to transport an infant bride for a soul-selling sum of $30,000. But to fulfill his foretold role, he’ll have to succeed at two tasks at which he's always failed: keeping the cork in the bottle and…


Book cover of The Unlounging

Scott Semegran Why did I love this book?

Named one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2018, this indie novel proposes that a beer-guzzling car enthusiast can also be a philosopher about time and Einstein’s incorrect (!!!) theory of relativity. Main character Selraybob (also the author of this fictitious novel) is left astray by his wife. When she walks out the door, he notices two clocks that are off by seven minutes. He has an epiphany: time is simply a count! Beer is consumed, the nature of time is pondered, and a picaresque adventure begins, one that will have you laughing until the end.

By Selraybob,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mark Twain meets Vonnegut in this witty and uplifting redemption romp that Kirkus Reviews (starred review) called "funny, wise and poignant”. BlueInk Review (starred review) called it “quirky and picaresque” and said “Selraybob is lovable and easy-to-root-for.”

Ne’er-do-well Selraybob is beaten down and uninspired. He spends his days on his lounger, drinking quarts of beer and talking to his buddy on the phone. Until, during his fed-up wife’s long overdue kiss-off speech, Selraybob notices two clocks. They’re seven minutes off. And he has an epiphany. Time, he decides, is a count. It’s only a count. 

Einstein was wrong!

Deep into…


Book cover of Nothing to See Here

Scott Semegran Why did I love this book?

What would happen if children with the ability to spontaneously catch on fire were placed in the care of an unsuspecting and inexperienced nanny? That’s the premise of this bizarre yet endearing novel. Main character and narrator Lillian Breaker isn’t fazed at all when she discovers that the two kids she’s been hired to watch after catch on fire whenever they lose their tempers. Can mutant children who catch on fire be loveable? In Kevin Wilson’s world, the answer is yes! Follow Lillian as she learns that she has the capacity to love such seemingly unlovable, flammable children.

By Kevin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Nothing to See Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller  •  A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, TIME, The A.V. Club, Buzzfeed, and PopSugar

“I can’t believe how good this book is.... It’s wholly original. It’s also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn’t see coming. You’re laughing so hard you…


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Bessie

By Linda Kass,

Book cover of Bessie

Linda Kass Author Of Bessie

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Bookstore owner Learner Reader Historical novelist Long distance cyclist

Linda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In the bigoted milieu of 1945, six days after the official end of World War II, Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian immigrants living in the Bronx, remarkably rises to become Miss America, the first —and to date only— Jewish woman to do so. At stake is a $5,000 scholarship for the winner.

An intimate fictional portrait of Bess Myerson’s early life, Bessie reveals the transformation of the nearly six-foot-tall, self-deprecating yet talented preteen into an exemplar of beauty, a peripheral quality in her world. It is the unfamiliar secular society of pageantry she must choose to escape her roots as she searches for love and acceptance, eager to make her mark on the world.

Bessie

By Linda Kass,

What is this book about?

Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the college-educated daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx, is competing in the Miss America pageant. At stake: a $5,000 scholarship. The tension and excitement in Atlantic City's Warner Theatre is palpable, especially for traumatized Jews rooting for one of their own. So begins Bessie.


Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson, who, in 1945 at age twenty-one, remarkably rises to become one of the most famous women in America. This intimate fictional portrait reveals the transformation of the…


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