Books that Defy Genre Labels and Description

Part of my job in labeling and cataloging books includes deciding if it needs a genre label and which one(s). Some books are easy. With some books I know right away that it needs a mystery, fantasy, or science fiction sticker. Particularly if the publisher is nice enough to include that information in a subtitle or in the book description. Sometimes it takes a little more research, but the author or publisher often include the intended genre pretty clearly somewhere, if you know where to look. However, there are some books that are simply beyond categorizing. Sometimes this is because the book covers so much ground very well, sometimes it is because it simply defies description, and sometimes it is because it crosses so many genre lines that there is not enough room to defygenre1include all the relevant genre stickers.

Here are a few examples of fascinating reads that defy simple genre classifications:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Interweaves six narratives spanning the period between 1984 and the 2030s to chronicle a secret war between a cult of soul-decanters and a small group of vigilantes who would take them down. By the award-winning author of Cloud Atlas.defygenre2

Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
A century-old classic of British letters that charmed and fascinated generations of readers with its witty satire of Victorian society and its unique insights, by analogy, into the fourth dimension.

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami; translated by Alfred Birnbaumdefygenre3
Tracking one man’s descent into the Kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño; translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
An American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student interact in an urban community on the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of young factory defygenres4workers have disappeared.

The Incarnations by Susan Barker
Receiving mysterious letters from someone claiming to be his soulmate, a Beijing taxi driver learns about their shared relationships in numerous past lives before becoming increasingly certain that someone is watching him.

defygenrebtmMore suggestions for indescribably interesting reads include: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Valis by Philip K. Dick, Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Here, There be Dragons by James A. Owen, Frost in May by Antonia White, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino,Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethe,Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke,The Marvels by Brian Selznick, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Have you ever read a book that left you changed but still somehow wondering what exactly it was that you just read? What is your favorite book that left you speechless when it came down to recommending it or describing it to someone else?

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