Recommendations: Books told (at least in parts) from a you-perspective

I realized a few months ago, that I often discuss the narrative style in my reviews – and that I have distinct preferences when it comes to it. One thing I adore above most other things is a well-done second person singular narration. When this (difficult) voice is done well, I am very likely to have found a new favourite book. This is, however, not something I encounter very often in literature, so I wanted to recommend the books I have read in this style and hope to get recommendations in return (mostly this if I am being honest).

36396289Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

My favourite of last year’s Booker longlist (I didn’t read super many of the books to be fair), I adored pretty much everything about this book. Johnson’s writing is incredible and especially the parts written in second person broke my heart and made me want to read everything she ever writes. This is a myth retelling that maybe works best if you don’t know what myth it retells, although knowing did not stop me from loving it. It is dark and twisted and absolutely stunningly written. My full review is here.

39689872._sx318_A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

This book is what prompted this post. I thought everything about this book was incredible (even if I didn’t always enjoy my reading experience because it is endlessly bleak and triggering) – but what made my heart hurt the most was the fact that the narrative is addressed to her brother. I adore sibling relationships in books and one this central and tragic was bound to work for me. If you can stomach the subject matter, this is absolutely worth reading (you don’t have to take only my word for it – so far everybody I buddy read this with gave it 4 stars or more). My full review is here.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

It wouldn’t be a recommendation post if I didn’t manage to fit at least one books written by Jemisin in. She just is my all-time favourite author. I thought this book and the whole trilogy in fact in an absolute masterpiece. It will be difficult to ever top my reading experience. The second person narration is pitch perfect and Jemisin manages to skillfully pull the rug under me more times than I thought possible. Once everything slots into place it becomes obvious just how damn well this series is constructed. My review is here.

13611052The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I vividly remember my reading experience for this one. I found the atmosphere beyond all-encompassing and the imagination behind this incredible. I am unsure whether I wouldlove it as much now as I did when I read it more than seven years ago, but it has stuck with me. The first chapter already indicated how much I would adore it and the second person narration is a big part of the appeal.


Do you like second person narration? What is your favourite book featuring it? I need more!

21 thoughts on “Recommendations: Books told (at least in parts) from a you-perspective

  1. I always found a you-perspective very interesting in books. It definitely invites you to step into a book and experience what maybe the characters also experience. For a book such as The Night Circus it works splendidly because it is very important for the success of this book that the reader soaks up all the magical atmosphere. I am not sure it works well in some other books, unless the author is speaking directly to you, relating something and that is the point.

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    1. I agree that when it isn’t done well, a second person narration REALLY does not work. For me it also depends how the author uses it; often it is used to address somebody who isn’t the reader (Like in Girl where the narrator addresses her brother) or even the main character (The Fifth Season) – and I just love that so!

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  2. The Night Cirucs is over 7 years old??? I am absolutely stunned. I was LATE in the bandwagon then, omg.

    And yay to Everything Under! It’s such a wonderful book.

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    1. It definitely is that old because I read it the summer before my post-grad and I started that in 2012. I am assuming we’re just getting old.

      Everything Under is BRILLIANT indeed!


  3. I’m not a huge fan of this but I can definitely get past it if the book works for me. I loved Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. This kind of narration also makes most sense to me if the narrator is addressing another character rather than the reader, or assuming that the reader has a certain position in their world – e.g. the touches of second person in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

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    1. Oh, I absolutely agree! I most lvoe it when the narrator addresses somebody who isn’t me. I particularly adore Jemisin’s use of second person where the person addressed is the main character!

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  4. This is so interesting – I don’t tend to think of second person as something that I love, but I did love all of the books you mentioned here! I’m trying to think of others to recommend… Human Acts, obviously! But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens is a really good memoir I just read, it’s a hundred page letter from Marceline to her father who died in the Holocaust (but I know you do not love WWII lit – which, fair. It is short though). Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants has second-person chapters interspersed throughout it. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous also. Yes I am just going through all of my Goodreads shelves right now. I will let you know if I find more.

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    1. Thank you, I love it! I REALLY want to read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. My colleague said she’s sure I would love it as well. Plus, second person narration is always a plus. Next year.

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      1. I’m sure you’ll love it too! It’s a brilliant and harrowing but deeply touching book. And the style is so unconventional that it’s right up your alley.

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  5. I can only think of one book I read with second person narration (The Mapmaker’s War) and I DNF’d it after about 100 pages…I think I find it hard to connect with the story, like it’s a bit too close/personal for me so I purposefully distance myself? Anyway! 😛 Everything Under still sounds intriguing so maybe I’ll try it out.

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  6. Excellent list! I haven’t come across this very often (only a few of Lorrie Moore’s and Lydia Davis’s stories come to mind – the style seems to pair well with minimalism?). Really hoping to check out Everything Under soon.

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