5 Wacky Books That Intentionally Make No Sense

Other jobs have a no-nonsense policy. At Bookstr, we love nonsense! Discover the world of literary nonsense to elevate your TBR.

Fantasy Recommendations
Blue spiral with three book covers

Are you bored of the same romances, mysteries, and sci-fi’s? It’s time to try out a new genre: literary nonsense. From smiling cats to webbed feet, this subgenre will have you blissfully lost in a new world.

There are endless crazy book genres out there. Luckily for you, our team at Bookstr has made it our mission to unravel each and every one of them so that you can diversify your TBR. Do you want to learn about spooky horror romance or whimsical mermaid romance? We got it all here at Bookstr. Explore the wonderful subgenre of literary nonsense as we take a look at its history and themes.

What Is Literary Nonsense?

A nonsense book bends reasoning and manipulates language to create a unique world that defies common sense. Oftentimes, they incorporate fantastical elements to build distinctive settings and unusual characters. This subgenre first rose in the mid 19th-century Victorian era with Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Beginning as poems, illustrations, and children’s books, literary nonsense has since taken various forms ranging from magic realism to tangled sequences. By obstructing logic, the author is able to take the reader into a state of surrealism, bringing out a child-like imagination that has once been buried under mature rationale.

Common motifs you can expect to find in literary nonsense include anthropomorphism, peculiar characters who serve as guides through exotic settings, and distorted consciousness. Authors typically use humor, puns, and irony to maneuver these motifs and create double meanings in their theme. Want to take a swing at this confusing subgenre? Here are five nonsensical books that will make your head spin.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

You may have already read this wacky book, but I will list it so that you can get an idea of what literary nonsense is. If you haven’t read it, let me explain what’s waiting for you. Alice, a young girl, falls into a rabbit hole and is met with a world full of distorted, human-like creatures.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll book cover

There are characters such as the Cheshire Cat, who grins very creepily and can disappear at will, and a caterpillar who smokes a hookah. Totally normal. With these crazy scenes and animals, you will start to feel more lost than Alice.

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

Set during the Napoleonic Wars, a very short French soldier, Henri, and a web-footed daughter of a boatman, Villanelle, cross paths. Winterson tells the story of their romance in a way that simply doesn’t make sense. For starters, Villanelle’s husband gambled away her heart. No, not figuratively. He gambled away her physical heart.

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson book cover

Don’t get me started on Winterson’s depiction of Venice. Every day, the city’s canals and paths rearrange themselves, making it easy to get lost when walking through the city. Why? There’s absolutely no reason. While there are underlying messages throughout the book, be assured that you will be confused no matter what.

House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy by B. S. Johnson

During a single day in a nursing home, Johnson presents eight different patients and lets us take a peek into their minds. While a few of the patients are able-bodied and mentally healthy, many of them have physical and cognitive issues making it difficult to understand their narratives.

House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy by B. S. Johnson book cover

Within twenty pages of the book, you will have no idea what is going on. Their thoughts are all over the place and they cannot form coherent memories or sentences. While the purpose of the novel is to examine the minds of patients with deteriorating brain functions, it reads as complete and utter nonsense.

The Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear

Edward Lear is known as the king of nonsense literature. I mean, he does have a book literally called The Book of Nonsense. This classic is a collection of poetry and illustrations that focus on fantastical animals and humans, creating a whimsical experience. Imagine humans with green heads and blue hands. Yep, that’s literary nonsense for you.

The Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear book cover

The poems aren’t supposed to be anything other than nonsensical fun. It falls into the children’s category, like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but adults often enjoy it for themselves. It’s like a nostalgic Disney movie that doesn’t make any lick of sense.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

When an unnamed man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral, he thinks back on his memories. Said memories include friendships and nostalgia. They also include magic, fantastical beasts, and other weird things that aren’t usually in our memories.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman book cover

This novel is a coming-of-age tale that completely bends reality. It is equal parts heartwarming and frightening. I would highly suggest this book if you are looking for something that is both meaningful and meaningless. It is truly literary nonsense through and through.

Literary nonsense is a very niche genre. However, if you are looking to add a little strangeness to your TBR, you can’t go wrong with these novels. After all, there is no book genre that is too crazy.

To learn about other crazy book genres, click here.

Browse these books and more in our A Young Reader’s Escape into Fantasy and Sci-Fi bookshelf on Bookshop.org.