14 Indie Reads for Something Different This Summer

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You need a new beach book, and you have endless options. You can pick up a hot book from John Grisham or Stephen King, or maybe check out Gone Girl or The Midnight Library — all fantastic authors and books.

Or, you can do something a little more peculiar and different this summer and pick up an indie read, a book that’s been flying under the radar. We chose some exceptional indie reads that will leave you in awe, from nonfiction stories to absurdist realms.

Defining “Indie” Books

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The definition of indie books is just as broad and controversial as the definition of indie music. What can be categorized as indie? What does indie mean? Who decides? There are a few definitions we can consider.

Some define “indie” as being self-published or an independent author, meaning they have no publishing house behind them. Others define indie as simply out of the mainstream, meaning books that aren’t international successes and New York Times bestsellers. People can also define indie books as simply strange and individualistic.

We crafted this list using books that fit into different definitions of indie. All you need to know is that you probably haven’t heard of these, and they’ll rock your world.

“Films of Endearment” by Michael Koresky

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Films of Endearment is a book about a mother-son relationship, our connection to media, and how the things we absorb change us. In the book, Michael Koresky discusses the movies that shaped his childhood and adolescence, rewatching them with his mother as he crafts the novel.

Koresky’s honesty and insights feel realized in real-time along with the reader, connecting you to him. It’s a triumph in exploring how our memories can taint reality and vice versa and what movies can truly mean to us. This book is surprisingly empowering and grateful in a way that seems to rub off on you as you read.

“Swiped: A Novel” by L.M. Chilton

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L.M. Chilton gives us a twisted look at modern dating and loneliness in this book. The main character is hopelessly single due to her own chaotic ways and feels adrift in life.

Still looking for love among all the mess, she turns to dating apps, swipes on guy after guy, and goes on date after date. However, as her dates begin to turn up dead, she becomes entangled in the murderous spree of a serial killer. It’s gripping but also wildly funny and relatable for anyone who’s endured modern dating.

“20 km/h” by Woshibai

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As far as fitting the definition of “indie,” we think this one takes the cake. It’s weird and disturbing and eye-opening and magical and freaky and everything in between. This book is a hazy plunge into absurdism, so if you love writing that plays with illusion and perception, you’ll be head over heels for this one.

Science and cosmic magic meld together in this series of strange and surreal stories. The best part of this book is that you can read it a million times and it’ll hit you differently each time.

“Unsettled Ground” by Claire Fuller

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Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground is a beautiful and subtle story about twins who seem frozen in time. This book takes an unflinching and unpleasant look at the way humans interact with one another, guard secrets, form relationships, and more.

The story has no earth-shattering climax or sweat-inducing suspense. It’s simply a raw and grim tale of adults unprepared for the world they’re desperately trying to avoid while reconciling the family they thought they had with the truth.

“Look Alive Out There” by Sloane Crosley

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Sloane Crosley’s wit knows no bounds, as grounded logic and common decency clash with society’s inherent rudeness in this collection of short stories. From being slapped in the face with your own kindness to wrestling with your self-perception, the book is somehow existential while being acutely personal.

Intermixed with the funny tales and self-deprecating humor are gems of insight into the modern human psyche, revealing things to us that we already knew but couldn’t grasp.

“The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin

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When Rick Rubin discusses his book The Creative Act: A Way of Being, he explains that it began as a book about making art but evolved into a book about existing.

Ultimately, creating is the most beautiful and profound way of existing, making this book cleverly meta. The best way to create is to let yourself exist without judgment, something Rubin explores in this book. It’s a masterpiece and will resonate with anyone who values creativity.

“Hit Parade of Tears” by Izumi Suzuki

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Izumi Suzuki has somewhat of a cult following, as her warped imaginings feel fresh and one-of-a-kind. Hit Parade of Tears features eleven stories ripe for casual exploration or in-depth analysis. As a whole, the book has a sort of burn-the-world-to-the-ground vibe that is hard to resist in modern times.

There’s romance, space exploration, marital secrets, distorted timelines, and more. Bizarre and blurry, this book forces the reader to question the reality of every character’s story, making each page a quest for understanding the impossible things that happen to them.

“The MANIAC” by Benjamin Labutat

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The MANIAC is another mind-twisting book that will leave you psychologically exhausted (in a good way). Benjamin Labutat’s writing is enthralling without overstimulating, offering intricate paragraphs that belong in a museum beside the greatest works of art.

The book tackles poignant topics, such as artificial intelligence, game theory, and other aspects of modern science and technology. Labutat proves himself a contemporary of Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov, creating an electrifying story that gives the reader goosebumps.

“Juno Loves Legs” by Karl Geary

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Karl Geary’s book follows two teen best friends fighting to find their place in the world. Set in Dublin in the 1980s, the novel includes political and familial themes that capture the reality of the setting and era.

At one time or another, everyone wonders if they’re living the right life, if they chose the right path, if they are who they should be. Geary’s book deeply considers these questions, offering harsh answers that may wake you up. The main characters’ frustration is palpable and painfully relatable for almost every human.

“Gone to the Wolves” by John Wray

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Music and literature intertwine in John Wray’s Gone to the Wolves, which tells the story of three metal music fans who bond over their shared passion. All three characters face struggles, ranging from aging parents to career speed bumps to mortal danger.

Taking place over a few years, the book shows the characters separate and come together again, saving each other from the darkest corners of their lives. This book’s suspense, intensity, and epicness are enveloping, starting on page one.

“The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine” by Alina Bronsky

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The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is an unhinged story of a mother who manipulates, plots against, and hurts the people she loves — all out of love. It’s reminiscent of popular series like Sharp Objects or The Act, as a mother’s love turns dark and engulfs everything in its path.

The novel’s narrator and protagonist, Rosa, is furiously judgmental and controlling, giving us a glimpse into the skewed mind of someone consumed with toxic love. The book has humor, horror, and humanity that make it unforgettable.

“The Spirit Bares Its Teeth” by Andrew Joseph White

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If you need more magic in your life, The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is the perfect summer read. Set in the 1880s in London with an autistic trans protagonist, the book is unique and compelling in countless ways.

It explores themes of the veil between the dead and the living, spiritual practices, marriage, gender, illness, and more. Andrew Joseph White drags you into another world in this novel — a world that radiates dark energy and mysticism that demands attention.

“You Exist Too Much: A Novel” by Zaina Arafat

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The title of this book alone speaks volumes, and reading it reveals depths of experience and honesty that pull you in. It tells the story of a queer Palestinian-American girl navigating race, sexual orientation, family ties, love addiction, and more. Is it possible to exist too much?

The book tells her story through vignettes, showing the threads that define her throughout her complex and troubling journey. It’s inspiring without being pretentious, offering a captivating narrative that is neither righteous nor wicked.

“My Murder” by Katie Williams

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This thrilling science fiction story is about a murdered woman who attempts to solve her own murder. How can she do that? Well, she was cloned and brought back to life, so technically, the clone tries to solve her original’s murder.

The suspenseful mystery is surprisingly comical and wry, but the emotional intelligence is what shines through. Katie Williams perfectly details this impossible scenario, making it feel nonchalantly real.

16 Things Smart People Naturally Do without Saying a Word

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Ever met someone who just oozes smart without uttering a single word?

It’s not about being a know-it-all or flaunting degrees. It’s about the subtle cues, the way they carry themselves, the calm confidence that says, “I’ve got this.”

These are the folks who don’t need to shout about their smarts. They let their actions do the talking. And guess what? You can spot these cues too.

If you’ve ever wondered what sets truly smart people apart, pay attention. Here’s what they reveal about themselves without even trying.

16 Things Smart People Naturally Do Without Saying A Word

33 Thought-Provoking Existential Questions to Challenge Your Perspective

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Ever find yourself staring at the ceiling, wondering what the heck you’re doing with your life? Yeah, we’ve all been there.

Those late-night, soul-searching sessions where your brain won’t shut up about the meaning of it all. What are we really doing here? What’s the point of all the hustle, the stress, and the endless to-do lists? You start to question everything—your choices, your beliefs, and sometimes even your sanity.

These existential questions aren’t just for philosophers in ivory towers. They’re the quiet, nagging thoughts that creep in when you least expect them. And guess what? That’s okay.

Embracing these questions is part of the human experience. So let’s dive in and tackle these mind-benders head-on. Who knows? You might just find some answers—or at least learn to live with the questions.

33 Thought-Provoking Existential Questions To Challenge Your Perspective

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Veronica is a lifestyle and culture writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for entertainment, fashion, and food. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. If she's not in the kitchen trying new recipes, she's binging the latest HBO series, catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue, or falling down a research rabbit hole. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews and more.
Her byline appears in publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. She writes about what inspires her — a stylish Wes Anderson film, a clever cleaning hack, a surprising fashion trend. When she’s not writing about life's little joys, she’s keeping her dog away from rabbits and spending too much money on kitchenware.

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