14 books with thought-provoking structures

14 books with thought-provoking structures

My love for page-turning literary fiction is well-documented. I also adore a quiet, character-driven novel and the escape of feel-good fiction. But there’s a special—and particularly nerdy—place on my shelf for books where the author has done something unusual with the narrative structure.

Books with interesting structures give the reader an extra layer to unravel and appreciate. They deepen the experience of reading a good book, and salvage the experience of reading a mediocre one. And they make me want to immediately reread the book to figure out how did the author DO that?

Today I’m sharing 14 books with well-crafted structures that enhance their underlying themes. Unique structures aren’t reserved for experimental fiction. This list includes memoir, biography, YA fiction, and more.

14 books with thought-provoking structures

This fall in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, we’re ALL leaning into our nerdiness by going back to Book School! Our theme is “Reading with a Literary Lens,” and we’ll be celebrating elements of fiction, like story structure, that lead to deeper reading and great book club discussions.

We’re kicking Book School off on Thursday September 10th, and we’d love to see you there. Click here to see the full calendar.

14 well-crafted books with unique narrative structures

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Einstein’s Dreams

Einstein’s Dreams

Author:
Science writer Lightman's premise is as follows: in 1905, young Albert Einstein dreamed repeatedly about time as he worked on his paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" and made creeping progress on his special theory of relativity. Each dream reveals "one of the many possible natures of time." Lightman presents these (entirely fictional) dreams as a collection of poetic vignettes. Small enough to read in an afternoon, but easy to wander in and out of. Unusual and utterly delightful. If you need more convincing, listen to Beth Wallen and I discuss this little book on a past episode of WSIRN. More info →
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The Engagements: A Novel

The Engagements: A Novel

An easy read with emotional depth and a unique structure. This novel traces the path of a diamond engagement ring from 1901 to 2012, and the four couples it links. The ring is lost, found, and stolen; it becomes a symbol of lasting love, and of betrayal. Woven throughout is the story of Mary Frances Gerety, the copywriter responsible for De Beer’s iconic slogan "a diamond is forever." Each couple's story is engaging on its own, but I appreciated the common thread connecting them. More info →
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Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life

Author:
In this biography-of-sorts, Gretchen Rubin argues that the larger-than-life Churchill's portrait could be drawn in many ways, all "true." She presents 40 different angles on Churchill, as child, man, politician, leader, husband, etc. All are interesting; many contradict each other. Readers who enjoy traditional biographies might enjoy this fascinating, multi-faceted approach, or they might find that it clashes with their love of a traditional nonfiction structure. I personally enjoyed the various takes on one of history's most prominent figures. More info →
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Life After Life: A Novel

Life After Life: A Novel

Author:
I began this book knowing nothing about it, and it took me a while to get my bearings. Atkinson's creative (and sometimes, mind-bending) structure shows clearly how tiny choices in her protagonist's life (and the lives of those around her) lead to vastly different outcomes. Vastly. Ursula Todd dies before taking her first breath, while another Ursula Todd is born with a piercing wail. The rest of the book follows Ursula's unique life cycle from death to life and back again, as WWII approaches. Bonus: in addition to a creative structure, Atkinson's novel is packed with literary references that serious literary types will appreciate. More info →
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When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

What do you do when your mom dies and leaves you her old journals? And then you discover that her journals are blank? In 54 separate meditations, Williams unfolds the mystery of her mother's life, and of her empty journals, and explores the power of words—and withholding them. I'm still wondering what her mother might have meant by leaving all those journals blank. What message was she trying to send? In the midst of her speculating, Williams crafts passages worthy of book darts and highlighting. More info →
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Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow

Author:
Opening line: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." In her third novel, Jones writes about the link between two African-American half sisters, one legitimate and one secret, only one of whom knows the other exists. That is, until the secret of their father's second marriage starts to force its way into the open. Rather than writing back-and-forth between two perspectives, the reader encounters almost all of one sister's point of view in the first half, followed by the other's. The result is an absorbing coming-of-age narrative wrapped in a complicated family novel. More info →
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Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Author:
Readers call this 500-page tome "unique," "interesting," and often, "indescribable." Told in interweaving, expansive stories, this novel truly is a structural feat. Mitchell composed six narratives, and each one breaks off somewhere in the middle to begin the next, resulting in a dizzying and urgent effect. This isn't a series of cliffhangers; rather, the stories pick back up and connect to each other throughout the novel. Apparently, Mitchell wrote each narrative separately, keeping them in folders and then wove them together later. More info →
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How It Went Down

How It Went Down

Author:
After Tariq Johnson's death, his community grapples with what happened—speculating, mourning, and wrestling with the tragedy. Tariq, a sixteen-year-old Black boy, was shot by a white man as he left a convenience store. Everyone has an opinion on "how it went down," but no two stories align. Told in the alternating perspectives of Tariq's friends, neighbors, family members, and strangers, the structure shows how perception creates reality, and how our biases influence larger narratives. More info →
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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Books with thought-provoking structures don't always make for great audiobooks—sometimes you need to see the structure on the page. In this case, Wilkerson's stunning combination of thorough research and storytelling works in any format. An essential read about a slice of forgotten American history, this historical nonfiction narrative details the decades-long migration of almost six million Black people from the South to the North and West, hoping for a better life. Wilkerson focuses on the stories of three individuals, giving us both an intimate portrayal and Big Picture view of what they experienced and how this changed the country. More info →
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This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

O'Farrell tells this story in interlocking scenes from different viewpoints, occurring between 1944 and 2016. After I turned the last page, I had to read it again to pay closer attention to the structure. I've reread it many times since. This is the story of an unlikely but successful marriage between a floundering American professor and a British film star who hated the limelight so much she faked her own death and disappeared ... until an unexpected bit of news, twenty years old but newly discovered, threatens to unravel everything they've built together. Family stories are commonplace in fiction, but this one stands out. I love its intricate plotting, nuanced characters, true-to-life feel, and ultimate hopefulness. More info →
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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author:
This is the moving story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi family, set in the present day. Ward's evocative prose imbues even the family's most painful moments with tenderness and beauty. She based the novel's structure on As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, saying, "I am in awe of how Faulkner volleys back and forth between multiple first-person POVs and still tells a coherent, moving story. I thought I could try to mimic that in the structure of Sing, Unburied, Sing." She did indeed, and the result is a moving, haunting novel that's sure to be considered a classic for years to come. More info →
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Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story

Author:
In this unusual memoir, "matrilinear love story," Bess Kalb tells the story of her grandmother Bobby Bell's life, and their special relationship, in her deceased grandmother's voice. (On the second page of the book Bobby, speaking from her own funeral, is telling the readers, "It's a terrible thing to be dead.") I enjoyed this story so much: Bobby is spry and spunky, fiercely opinionated, a force of nature—and firmly invested in (or committed to meddling in, depending on how Bess is feeling at the moment) her granddaughter's life. Bobby's fierce and sometimes persnickety devotion to Bess shines on every page, from Bess's birth to Bobby's dying days at age 90. For most of Bess's life, the two spoke on the phone every day, and my favorite parts of the book were these phone conversations. More info →
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The Yellow House: A Memoir

The Yellow House: A Memoir

Author:
I've been meaning to read this National Book Award winner for a while. In her unique memoir, Broom writes about family, race, and class by noting the intersections of her family's history and the history of New Orleans. After reading about her process, this thoughtfully-structured book moved to the top of my To Be Read list. Broom says, “I knew when I started collecting evidence, so to speak, that I was trying to find the architecture of the book...I needed to know where the beams were and what was the supporting wall. I literally thought of it as a house because I knew that I was trying to put a lot in it.” More info →
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Long Way Down

Long Way Down

Author:
This tense and tautly-written novel-in-verse takes place in the short span of sixty seconds. Fifteen-year-old Will gets on the elevator with his brother's gun tucked into his waistband. His brother Shawn is dead, and he wants revenge. The elevator stops on the sixth floor, and Buck enters. He tells Will to check the gun; one bullet is missing. Did Shawn ever use his gun? And then Will remembers: Buck is dead. Another figure from Will's past enters a few floors later, and then another, all connected to Shawn. Each one reveals pieces of Shawn's story, and Will has a decision to make as the elevator reaches the ground floor. More info →
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Do you have a favorite book with a unique structure OR a literary element that you look for while reading? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

P.S. Here are 4 authors that take you to plot school and 8 novels that are delightfully self-aware about the writing process.

14 books with thought-provoking structures

113 comments | Comment

113 comments

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  1. Isabelle says:

    The God of Small Things is my go-to as perfect example of a complex structure serving the story magnificently (I LOATHE a literary device used as a gimmick).

  2. Callie says:

    This made me think of The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett, which tells three different versions of the same characters’ lives.

  3. Joan Callahan says:

    Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller. A mother disappears but leaves a series of letters to her author husband in various books to with her narrative of the marriage and family story. The letters alternate with a third person narrative of the youngest daughter’s experience since her mother disappeared. It made for a lively book group discussion.

  4. Louise says:

    Time’s Arrow, by Martin Amis, was the first book I read where the main character’s life was written from present to past. At the time (so long ago!!) I read it, I thought it was fascinating, and the structure served the plot/ theme well. I was less impressed with Jodi Picoult’s use of backwards time in A Spark of Light, perhaps because the ‘twists’ were so well foreshadowed that they weren’t surprises, or perhaps simply because I’ve now read many backwards-chronology novels.

    • Courtney says:

      Oh, my goodness, I came here to specifically comment on Time’s Arrow! I read it for a lit class in college 20 years ago and it has stuck with me as one of the most unique plot structures I’ve ever read. I don’t encounter many others who have read it though.

  5. Anna Kraft says:

    A recent book I read that fits this discussion so well is The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It jumps time as well as point of view of the narrator, and it’s such an excellent and compelling story!

  6. Cecilia says:

    I just finished Lincoln in the Bardo and was struck with the strange narrative. It took awhile to get used to it, but it made sense. I wouldn’t listen to it though because I can’t image how distracting the voice changes must be.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The audio was actually amazing! There was a star-studded cast whose rich performances made it much more accessible to me. To anyone who started Lincoln in the Bardo, but just couldn’t get going, I would highly recommend the audiobook!

    • Kelly Petersen says:

      The audio was fantastic and not distracting, but I did find it tricky to follow at times. This is the only book where I’ve ever really wanted both audio and paper copies – each format brought something vital to the experience!

  7. Kristin says:

    I love A Gentleman in Moscow’s diamond-shaped structure, going from shorter spurts of time to longer timespans and back again.

    • Suzanne says:

      I was so enthralled by AGIM as I read it that I hadn’t noticed it’s structure, but you’re completely right, Kristin! That’s so interesting.

      • Carla Dawn Bynum says:

        I loved A Gentleman in Moscow, but didn’t notice the structure at all. This is one of the best stories I’ve read this year, and I’ve read many.

        • Mariah Hanley says:

          I read it over 3 days in 2018 and still think about it, 2.5 years later. I hadn’t noticed the structure, but I want to reread it soon so I’ll watch out for it!

  8. Brenda says:

    A favorite of mine is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. It’s written in letters between the characters, and as letter tiles fall off a statue honoring the fictional island’s namesake, the letter is removed from use by decree of the High Island Council, and therefore from the book entirely. It’s a fun, yet thought-provoking read.

    • Amy Massengill says:

      This was one of my favorite reads last year! I love epistolary novels, and this one took it a step further. I can’t imagine the work that went into writing this!

    • Terry says:

      I am so glad I read these comments. I remember hearing about this book when it came out in 2002, but couldn’t recall the title to add to my TBR on Goodreads. Thank you for bringing this one back to me!

  9. Julie says:

    The 7 1/2 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle was truly mind-bending. I finished and asked myself, “What in the world did I just read?” I had to sit with it a long time to decide whether I liked it or not – and ultimately I decided I loved it. But the fact I had to wrestle made it a fascinating reading experience.

  10. Amapola says:

    I don’t enjoy unusual structures much but “Apeirogon” by Colum McCann has changed my mind. Right at the beginning he tells us he is following something akin to “One Thousand and One Nights” to play with the ways in which memories and context are never linear. This novel is based on the true stories of Bassar and Rami, two parents who lost daughters due to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At first, the fragments sound like random information that eventually are shown to be connected in a way that never lets you feel lost. The result is a story deeply moving that will shake you to the core.

    • Erika says:

      I also loved “Apeirogon” which means a polygon with an infinite number of sides. I found the tangents the author wrote about equally as interesting as the main story.

  11. Lauren says:

    You’ve already picked my favorite example: Cloud Atlas. And really all of Mitchell’s books have unique narrative styles that enhance the reading experience.
    My second choice would be Alex Michaelides’ debut novel The Silent Patient. He has this amazing way of weaving all these threads together, but still managed to surprise me with the ending (not an easy feat).

  12. Kat says:

    Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor! The structure is enrapturing! The book uses rough language to portray the violence and dark underbelly of a small Mexican town and includes several perspectives on a singular incident and character. It’s not a book for everyone, but it had me wanting to flip right back to the beginning to re-read for an entirely new experience with the knowledge gained from the first reading.

  13. Jessica Crowley says:

    I just read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s one of my new favorites, it has a really interesting structure- each chapter is the perspective of the the adult child of the character two chapters back. It started with two sisters and then went from there. It was incredibly good, I highly recommend it.

  14. Heather Lawson says:

    The Luminaries plays with element you find in classic novels where each chapter is summarised at the start. As the novel progresses, the summaries get longer and longer and the chapters become shorter – the final chapter is all dialogue and only a third of the length of its ‘summary.’
    It highlights how commentary takes over from narrative.
    The whole structure of the book is fascinating – it would be a good one to study.

  15. noga says:

    The Book Thief— the narrator is the Angel of Death. Whenever he “comments” on the events taking place, it’s in bold italics. The reader looks forward to his commentary, and whatever the Angel says is either intriguing or helps push the plot along.

    • Ginny Evans says:

      Interesting. I couldn’t figure this book out until I watched the movie. Now, I see that I failed to understand the structure. Thanks!

    • Cady says:

      I came to The Book Thief as an audio book, by far the best way to approach it for me – you have to stick to the structure given rather than flicking forward to follow one thread.

    • Teresa R Gregory says:

      I was reading the comments here to see if anyone else loved The Book Thief as much as I did. What an amazing, thought-provoking book.

  16. Kacie says:

    Anne, I am so very sorry for your loss. Take all the time you need. Grieving the loss of a father (my Dad died in January) is difficult and I hope you have all the space you need to grieve how you need to, whatever that may look like on any particular day/hour. Sending my love.

  17. Maria Ontiveros says:

    Fates and Furies by Loren Goff. Story of a marriage told In two halves, by husband and wife. I think some versions start with her story and some with his.

  18. Tammie Murri says:

    I started “Cloud Altas” knowing absolutely nothing about it and was about 200 pages in before I realized I was reading science fiction 😂 “Oona Out of Order” was so unique and clever – I think that deserves to be on the list too!

    • Hildred Sullivan says:

      I had difficulty with Cloud Atlas and DNF, one of a very few. I will have to try again in the winter when there are fewer distractions.

  19. Debbie says:

    Apeirogon by Colum McCann. The math, the poetry, the art the biology, the history… the structure is perfection in both literal and literary ways. 🥰

  20. Jennifer White says:

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon was beautifully written and unusually structured. Two stories told
    In alternating chapters, one from the last moving forward and one from the present moving backward to the point where the stories intersect. Fascinating!!!

  21. Anita Leimbach says:

    I enjoyed A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris. It is the story of three Native American women told in reverse.

  22. Ivy Finkenstadt says:

    It’s a bit older, but I enjoyed the structure of Annie Proulx’s “The Accordion Crimes.” The book follows the lives of all the owners of an italian accordion from it’s creation to when it falls apart.

  23. Catherine Barrett says:

    I haven’t read it yet, but I was very intrigued when I heard Crossings by Alex Landragin could be read like a normal book (beginning to end) OR in a special “Baroness sequence” where elements of the story are revealed in a different order. Anyone read a book like that?

  24. Maggie Ostroff says:

    “Lost children archive” is one of the most unusual set ups I have ever explored. The characters have no names and there are seven archival boxes in place as the family drives from New York to Arizona.

  25. Jessie Weaver says:

    I feel like this is my jam and yet I have a hard time thinking of one. I felt like A Place for Us, where they just kind of floated back and forth thrugh time, was pretty unique, and I enjoyed that a lot. As the first commenter mentioned, The God of Small Things is so interesting and well-written (my professor BFF wrote her undergrad honors thesis on it).

  26. Diana says:

    Flights by Olga Tokarczuk weaves several character’s stories and many vignettes and thought experiments (e.g a description of drop in clinics in airports for “travel psychology“) into a meditation on bodies, motion and time. A contemporary man loses his family and mind temporarily while on holiday, an 18th century anatomist pursues his studies on and is haunted by his own amputated leg, a traveler channel surfs through time zones in an airport hotel, some of these recur, some are around for two pages, but all are most important in their moment. Oh, and the writing (in translation) is itself reason to read the book. Not for everyone, but a tour de force, I found it absolutely compelling and look forward to reading it again.

  27. Eliza says:

    I am little obsessed with Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, which I think falls into this category. It’s told from the perspective of a field hockey team–a collective “we” telling the story in first person plural. There are a lot of unique stylistic choices that make it read very much like the unedited thoughts of teenagers.

  28. Lauren says:

    I read I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawson two years ago and still think about it regularly. The writing was so good, but the unique way the book is structured took it over the top! So good!

  29. Keenon says:

    My favorite interesting structure is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. There are a lot of shells in the novel, the description of the tall, skinny house reminded me of a spiral shell, and the action moves like a spiral, back and forth in time and between narrators until you arrive at the ending. I love this one and the structure makes it even more intriguing!

  30. Courtney says:

    Some other favorites with unusual structures – The Nix by Nathan Hill, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and (recent) Apeirogon by Colum McCann. 📚

  31. Aimee says:

    Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is a five star read – so good! One of my favorite non-traditionally structured books – an oldie but a goodie – is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Another is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

  32. Cady says:

    Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill, nominally almost a crime novel, that follows an author writing a character who in some ways starts to write her back … look, it’s impossible to describe but intricate and beautifully written and crafted. Sulari Gentill has written a series of mystery novels starring the debonair and delectable Rowland Sinclair (also well worth a read) so she’s probably already thought about the relationships between author and hero.

    Also for structure, Storyland by Catherine McKinnon has 5 stories based on a geographic location and crossing hundreds of years, folded into each other like a flower.

  33. Amy Massengill says:

    Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is often considered a middle grade novel (both of my girls had it as assigned reading in middle school), but it is lovely for adults as well. We follow an object through time (a harmonica) and the weaving together of the stories was mind-blowing.

  34. C T says:

    I’ve always felt like “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was a story that wasted a truly interesting structure on a plot that wasn’t substantial enough for it.

    The thirteenth tale is the one that comes to mind where an interesting structure helped to intensify the interest of the underlying story.

  35. BarbN says:

    An obscure book I would never have found on my own- recommended by my alumni association— The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsay Drager. It’s structured like a nautilus shell so the end is in the middle, and also each chapter happens in a time when Halley’s Comet appears, so every 75-76 years. It’s fascinating and a little bit mind blowing. Also, I’ve always thought if I were going to teach structure to high schoolers, I’d use Harry Potter. Each book is structured around the school year. In some books it works, in others not so much — was there any real reason the Triwizard tournament needed to last for a school year? Only because JKR needed it to be Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts.

  36. Deborah Trickett says:

    I loved the structure of Kitchens of the Great Midwest with each chapter reading like a vignette that often takes an oblique look at the overall main character. Only one chapter from the main character’s perspective. Elizabeth Strout’s book Olive Kitteridge does a bit of this as well, but is more direct overall.

    • Suzy says:

      I was going to mention Olive kItteridge–I think it’s the first book I ever read that was a collection of short stories that ultimately filled in the whole—I found it fascinating. And Monica Wood did it even earlier in Ernie’s Ark.

  37. Kate Dillingham says:

    Similar to The Engagements is a book called Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L Rosen. It speaks to the power of one LBD for 9 different women. Also very interesting structure are the Griffin and Sabine stories by Nick Bantock. Each one consists of a series of letters that you actually take out of envelopes and read the way you would a normal letter. The illustrations are gorgeous. This series of 7 books are so fun.

  38. Sharon says:

    I recently read After the End by Clare MacIntosh. The book was excellent! The first half reads in the usual manner, but the last part alternates between various scenarios in which the characters could have made different choices based on extremely difficult decisions. This book is based upon traumatic events of the authors life and will stay with me for a long time.

  39. Breon Randon says:

    I’m so glad to see Long Way Down on this list as it was the first book I thought of when seeing my email. I’ve never read a book like it!

  40. Sandy Koropp says:

    Ooh- forgot about the epistolary novels like Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (1902) and Katherine Reay’s contemporary version with a slightly more serious tone. And in celebration of Women in Translation month- my book of the year- Meet Me at the Museum. Just grand.

  41. Essie says:

    This is a great list, can’t wait to read some of these (which are on my shelf now). I especially enjoyed Life After Life (I have been searching for years for a good read-alike!) and Sing Unburied Sing. I also especially love how the structure enriches the stories in The History of Love by Nicole Kraus and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

  42. Laura Beth says:

    For SFF reads with an unusual structure that works really well, try Ann Leckie’s Ancilliary Justice and NK Jemison’s The Fifth Season

    • Mary Spencer says:

      Yes! I came to recommend N.K Jemison and the Broken Earth series. The whole second/third person narrative structure was mind bending, in a good way.

  43. Deepa says:

    Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, which traces a fictional Vermeer painting back in time through a series of owners and their stories, back to its creation by the famous artist. Vermeer only painted 34 paintings and they are all very familiar, even iconic, to most of us, so you can really picture the girl in the painting and travel back in time with her.

  44. Maura says:

    Hello,
    This is my first comment and this blog post comes at such an auspicious time! I am currently reading “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski. In fact, I started this book just last week after find a hardcover first addition at my local second hand book shop! This has been on my TBR for ages. It seems a lot more intimidating than it really is, but it is definitely a dark story, but with a incredibly unique structure.

  45. Libby says:

    I loved Cloud Atlas and Long Way Down (which I need to reread and see if I understand it better with another go-round)–and many of these sound very interesting to me!

  46. Torrie says:

    I loved ‘The Gods In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson. It was like braids of water running down a window, it was an amazing structure. The ending still takes my breath away.

  47. Kelli Roberts says:

    My first semester in college I was excited to dive into some great classic literature, and instead, my section leader chose to focus on books with a unique structure (I think that was her dissertation topic). The first that we read was If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, and I’ve never forgotten it. So intriguing!

  48. Kat says:

    My deepest sympathy to you, Anne. May you find comfort in knowing so many of us are thinking of you. My nominations for *thought-provoking style*: Mrs. Dalloway & The Shipping News.

  49. Kim says:

    “We came here to forget“ by Andrea Dunlop. Just read it and it was great, works from two timelines, until it shows the reader what happened in the past to bring the main character to why she came to Buenos Aries. Two timelines, my favorite kind of book.

  50. Wendy says:

    Witness by Karen Hesse is a middle grade novel in verse with a range of narrators. She grounds the characters with period photos of real people who represent her fictional characters. I love it far more than her award winner, Out of the Dust.

    • Wendy says:

      Oh, and Midwinter by Marcus Sedgewick covers one place over many different time periods, and two soul mates who meet again and again in different forms and relationships.

  51. Maria says:

    I may have to move out one of my kids to make room for any more books (ages 12 and 9) but they’ll understand right? Ordered 4 off this list.

  52. Cindylou says:

    I was blown away by by John Fowle’s The French Lieutenants Woman when I read it in the ‘70’s. I will never forget the author stepping in to tell us about other possible endings. What a surprise! I was only in my twenties and had never experienced that.

  53. MB says:

    (( Love, hugs, and understanding to you Anne <3 )) A fantastic YA book with interesting structure is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – interesting even for adults, mysterious, not completely epistolary, but letters are key to solving this fantastic book!

  54. Gay B says:

    I’m in the middle of Sea Wife by Amity Gage. Written in two voices, the wife’s which is current and past memory, and the husband’s which is his sea log written during the family’s escapist sailing trip with two small children. I’m not done yet, and at the start wasn’t too taken by the story, but it builds with little hints of past trauma and current grief. Can’t wait to finish it to figure out what happened!

  55. Judy Purvis says:

    The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell has two seemingly unrelated plots that move toward each other until they intersect. Beautifully written!

  56. Valerie Sugar says:

    4321 by Paul Auster is an engrossing, amazingly written novel about the 4 different way the main character’s life evolves.

    Inheritors by Asako Serizawa is a collection of short stories, but each story revolves around a member of multigenerational family, some of whom remained in Japan and others who emigrated to the US.

  57. Laura says:

    Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill has an interesting structure, following the lineage of one little girl’s ancestors for hundreds of years prior to her birth. I really liked its unique format.

  58. Hannah Christmas says:

    I think this is one of my favorite book lists–funky and confusing (to some) structures are my jam. I love seeing people’s creativity with this!

  59. ktc says:

    Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien (although I prefer his short stort collection The Things we Carried) and the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard have a really interesting structure. Mostly having RAGAD pivot around Hamlet was just incredible. The movie starts Gary Oldman is excellent, too.

  60. Casey says:

    I read a book this year called We Used to be Friends by Amy Spalding, and I can’t stop thinking about it, because of its structure and subject. It’s about two girls whose friendship unravels during their senior year of high school. We have dual POVs in the book, with each chapter alternating. James tells her side of the story starting in present day, right as she is leaving for college, and works backwards, giving us every other month (August, June, April, February, December, October, August) back to the beginning of senior year. Kat begins her side of the story at the beginning of senior year and works forward in the alternate months (September, November, January, March, May, July). It required some work to keep everything straight on the timeline, but it was fascinating!

  61. Raela Schoenherr says:

    I loved the structure of the Illuminae Files. Such an interesting format!

    I also really like oral histories like The Only Plane in the Sky, The Office, Daisy Jones & the Six, etc.

    The Lovely War has been talked about a lot on this blog, but that one also has an intriguing structure.

  62. Julie says:

    I just finished reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and had to go back to the beginning to connect all the dots that had been laid out along the way. The 1993 version includes an afterword by the author that helps illuminate the purpose of all her narrators. Highly recommend! Although I started it on the beach and took months to finish because it is pretty heavy. This is a serious book, not meant for summer reading, but essential!

  63. Gwen says:

    Milkman by Anna Burns. Set in Northern Ireland during the troubles, this stream of consciousness novel is mesmerizing. None of the characters have names and there’s no actual dialogue. Sounds strange, but it is simply brilliant. Won the Booker in 2018. (Am sending this recommendation after reading your post, Anne, about how to support good writers & their books. A bit late, but heartfelt.)

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