This week sees the release of Max Barry’s latest novel Lexicon, an inventive, cerebral, and majorly twisty thriller. To celebrate, Flavorwire asked Barry to share some of his favorite novels — or more particularly, his favorite novels that can seriously screw with your head. But after all, as the author tells us: “All novels mess with your mind, of course. They feed you a string of letters and punctuation, and in your mind those somehow transform into people and plots, love and death. There is magic going on there. But some novels go beyond that, delicately toying with the way your brain makes assumptions, or interprets particular events, in order to create an emotional impact that isn’t otherwise possible.
“These five aren’t trick novels. They don’t pull the rug from under you (mostly); they won’t remind you that you’re reading a book, or break the essential deal that every reader makes with an author: If you pretend this is true, I’ll try to believe you. What they do is what all novels do, only elevated to a higher level: They make you feel things that are impossible.” Steel that mind of yours and check them out below.
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
A 14-year old girl is horribly murdered in a small rural town in 1973. The aftermath — the police investigation, the emotional disintegration of her family, the paranoia, fear, and grief of the town — may be familiar; we’ve encountered those stories before. But The Lovely Bones is narrated by the victim, whose soul watches from heaven, or someplace like it. Since we’re able to see that the victim is, essentially, safe, the tone of the story is fundamentally changed; we can process the dark subject matter against a backdrop of warmth and tenderness, while still feeling the full emotional toll on the girl’s family and community. She is simultaneously lost and saved.