NonHuman Narrators

The Best Books with Non-Human Narrators

NonHuman Narrators

Miracle on MonheganIn Elizabeth Kelly’s new novel, The Miracle on Monhegan Island, our narrator is kidnapped from the backseat of his wealthy mother’s car and taken to live on a remote island in Maine. He is also a Shih Tzu. From a line of champion show dogs, Lupine learns to adjust to a more simple life as Ned while watching the dynamics of his new family play out.

Reading (and enjoying!) The Miracle on Monhegan Island pushed the idea of non-human narrators into my brainspace. Barring a few exceptions, I tend to love the quirky use of an “other” to tell a story, but had a hard time thinking of more than three or four examples. So I took to Twitter! And, as usual, Twitter delivered.

 

By far the most common response was Watership Down, but there were a ton of other suggestions, too.

DogsbodyJenny from Reading the End started by mentioning Dogsbody by Dianna Wynne Jones, which is narrated by a Dog Star reborn as a pup on Earth.

 

 

 

Jacob's FollyNaomi from The Writes of Woman suggested Rebecca Miller’s Jacob’s Folly, a book narrated by a man reincarnated as a fly (!!!).

 

 

 

Rats of NIMHI was reminded of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and it’s mouse narrator, by Wesley from Library Educated.

 

 

 

The Book ThiefJenna from JMill Wanders suggested The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, with its memorable narration from Death.

 

 

 

White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi is narrated in part by a house and was suggested by Teresa from Shelf Love.

 

 

 

Cassie from Nose Stuck in a BookMorte pointed out the cat assassin who narrates Mort(e) by Robert Repino.

 

 

 

Delicious FoodsAlso one of my favorites, Jen from The Relentless Reader suggested Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, which is narrated in part by crack cocaine.

 

 

 

Sad Robot Stories Both Katie from Words for Worms and Monika from Lovely Bookshelf sent their love for the robot narrator of Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson.

 

 

 

Improbability of LoveCatherine from the Gilmore Guide to Books recommends The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild, which is narrated in part by a painting.

 

 

 

There are several other suggestions if you want to take a peek at the replies on my original tweet!

What are your favorite books with non-human narrators?

 

  • I glanced at the sample for Monhegan Island, but ended up not reading it. I would like to give Kelly a shot at some point, though. I’m not sure how I feel about non-human narrators…I haven’t encountered them much in my reading. Really only The Improbability of Love and the painting as narrator did not work for me in that case. I think it’s a fine line between something like this working or inducing eye rolls (at least for me).
    Also – this just came to me – wasn’t one of the stories in Spoiled Brats narrated by a hamster or gerbil or something?!

    • I think you’d really, really like The Last Summer of the Camperdowns!
      And you’re totally right about Spoiled Brats – narrated by a hamster :)

  • Oh gosh I forgot about Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM! I think I read a lot of mouse-centered books as a kid. I remember Abel’s Island, Stuart Little, and the Ralph S. Mouse books. Why are so many kids books about rodents?!?

  • What a fun topic! Well done, all.

    As a child, I liked BEN & ME, about a mouse that helped Ben Franklin with his inventions.

  • Elena

    I would suggest Three Bags Full in which a group of Irish sheep investigate the killing of their shepherd. SO good and so funny! Perfect for crime fiction fans.

  • I loved The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, a novel about a musician/pop star, narrated by Music.

  • I wish I’d seen this on Twitter! Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is narrated from multiple perspectives, several of them non-human, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  • Great topic, and some interesting picks. Mort(e) was one weirdass book, but it was a fun narration. Am I remembering correctly that The Art of Racing in the Rain was from the POV of the dog?

  • Great topic! I’ve just added a bunch of new books to my list. Also, I really want to read the book about the man who comes back as a fly, because who doesn’t want to be the fly on the wall?
    The only one I can thing of right now is another dog – The Art of Racing in the Rain.

    • Doesn’t the book about the fly sound awesome? I think that was one of my favorite discoveries in all of this.

      • And Fifteen Dogs, of course! I think there are a lot of dog narrators.

  • suzinrva

    The Bees by Laline Paull comes to mind…is that narrated by the bee?

  • Rebecca Foster

    I have had mixed success with books with animal narrators, though I love the concept. The latest Jonathan Evison was also narrated by Death. Bookmarks magazine did a whole article on “unusual narrators” back in 2014. They included The Book of Chameleons (Agualusa), narrated by a gecko, and The Collector Collector (Fischer), told by an ancient bowl.

    • Ohhh, I think I remember hearing that about Jonathan Evison (that’s the Harriet Chance one, yes?).

      • Rebecca Foster

        Yep, that’s the one. I really enjoyed it.

  • This is great! I really loved The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe, narrated by a farm rabbit who learns the secrets behind the Battle of Waterloo from his grandmother rabbit. It’s one the most quote worthy books I’ve ever read!

  • Debbie Rodgers

    I agree that Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain is book worth reading; in fact, it’s a 5 star read!
    I also love the Chet & Bernie detective series by Spencer Quinn, narrated by the dog Chedt, whose zest for life is simply irrepressible.

  • HOW did I forget White Is for Witching? WHO EVEN AM I SHANNON. I am absolutely wild about that book, and I describe it to everyone as a book about a xenophobic house. Man. I am mad at myself. Good thing you had Teresa there to pick up the slack.

  • I LOVED Delicious Foods and would add The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom to the list. The narrator is music, and Frankie is my third 5-star book of this year.

  • Wow. I think I need to read more non-human narrators. You missed the dog from The Art of Racing in the Rain though. That I did read and absolutely adored.

  • Kailana

    Oh, Dogsbody! I loved that book!

  • I enjoyed Jacob’s Folly but for the most part, I don’t get the non-human narrators, and I feel that they’re often just a ruse. Jacob’s Folly was a little different because before he was a fly, he was a human, so at least there’s that to redeem it.

  • Did anyone mention Garth Stein’s book The Art of Racing in the Rain? Narrated by a dog. It’s pretty charming and I was already to hate the book, but nope I didn’t or couldn’t. Dogs get me, almost every time.

  • Pingback: 16 Things This Week – Girlxoxo.com()

  • I can’t think of any book I’ve read by unusual narrators other than The Book Thief. Interesting list!