Here are mine, in roughly the order I read them:
1. Beowulf. I remember sitting in Mrs. Giltner’s English class and suddenly being aware of just how old this story was. Time shattered. I managed for a few moments to be simultaneously sitting in a 20th-century high school classroom and a 6th century medieval hall.
2. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This was another book I read in high school, but not in the classroom. It was unique in my experience because it was completely inappropriate for a high school student (well, back then, anyway — teenagers are more worldly now). The thing is, none of the adults who saw me reading it knew how inappropriate it was. They figured it was a classic book, how raunchy could it be? Mrs. Giltner, I suspect, knew exactly what I was getting away with, but she wasn’t inclined to tell on me.
3. The Bible. I took a course in college called The Bible as Literature — a unique way to read a unique book.
4. Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock. This was a sensation at the time — a book for adults that was three-dimensional and required physical interaction.
5. The Grasmere Journal by Dorothy Wordsworth. This book is apparently out-of-print, but it’s a delight if you can get your hands on it. Look for a large-format, hardcover version of the journals by William Wordsworth’s sister with an introduction by Jonathan Wordsworth. The surprise is the mix of illustrations of artwork by artists of the time period.
6. Jack the Ripper by Rick Geary. Not so unique now, but this was the first graphic-novel format book I read on a serious topic. I thought about it a lot a few weeks ago when I was reading The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.
7. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This is the history of a huge group of people braided with the history of three individuals, an amazing way to tell a story.
8. Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig. The only book I’ve read or seen on how to choose food well, from vinegar to chocolate. This book improved the meals we eat every day.
9. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. To me, this feels like the book that each coincidence we encounter asks us to write. But, in this case, someone wrote it. And, it turns out to have all the richness that those moments of coincidence promise if you take the time to dig into the depths of the story.
10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Reading this novel feels like you’re sitting in a dusty archives examining historical documents and discovering a great story in them.
What unique books have you read?