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Some of our all-time favorite book characters are those who are a bit quirky in a way that sets them apart, like Eleanor Oliphant. These traits can make them misunderstood to the other characters around them, but as a reader, we’re given more insight into their thoughts and motivations.
Before we get in further, it’s important to say that we think their quirkiness is a very positive thing. Our favorite moments are when the characters are accepted and loved by those around them WITHOUT hiding the quirky characteristics that make them special.
One question that comes up in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine reviews is whether Eleanor is on the Autism Spectrum. The author, Gail Honeyman, has clarified that Eleanor is not autistic, but instead has developed protective behaviors after trauma.
This book list includes characters with a really wide range of different quirks, from moms and grandmas with eccentric flair, to characters that have deeper emotional, or even neurological and developmental, reasons for their quirky behaviors. All these books take a humorous and respectful approach, and none are heavy reads, even when they deal with some heavier issues.
For example, Helen Hoang is an “own voices” author, meaning that both she and the main characters in her books have Asperger’s syndrome. Part of what makes the characters in her rom com books so great is that they help us see the world from an authentic point of view.
Whatever the origin of their quirky traits, we think the characters on the list extra loveable, each in different ways. Sometimes you’ll like the leads from the first page, and in others, your initial opinions may change as you learn more of their backstory – just like real life.
While we wait for another Gail Honeyman book to be released, let’s dig into some of our favorite quirky book characters similar to Eleanor Oliphant.
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Books Like Eleanor Oliphant
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
by Abbi Waxman
Nina Hill adores her life as an introvert. She's a single child, raised by a nanny, and finds comfort in life with a good book and her cat. She works at a bookshop, leads several book clubs, and is devoted to her trivia league. Life is good and she doesn't need or want any additional contact with people.
Then, Nina finds out about her complicated family on her father's side and the book shop she works at has major financial struggles. On top of that, she develops an inconvenient crush on a trivia competitor.
Should she take the safe route and continue relying on her books, or is it worth the risk to explore her new family and potential relationship?
The Books Girls Say...We both rated this cute read a solid 4 stars and found it to be a great break between heavy books.
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
Looking for a romance book with quirky characters? Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient series might be for you. The books were written as the author began her own journey of Asperger's diagnosis.
In The Kiss Quotient, Stella is a math wizard and fantastic at her job writing algorithms to predict customer behavior. However, her parents are pressuring her to find love outside of spreadsheets.
She decides that before she can find true love, she needs practice with the physical aspects of relationships. Cue up the steamy-scenes as Stella recruits a professional to up her bedroom skills.
There are two additional books in this series, The Bride Test is available now and Heart Principle can be pre-ordered.
by Rainbow Rowell
While you may associate Rainbow Rowell with YA, Attachments is set in an office with emails playing an important role, similar to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
In this case, friends Beth and Jennifer work in a newsroom and know that every email they send is monitored. That knowledge just encourages them to send each other all the ridiculous and hilarious details of their personal lives even more.
When Lincoln is hired as an "internet security officer," he doesn't realize that the fancy title just means reading other people's emails all day. As the days go on, each story between Beth and Jennifer makes him fall for Beth, even though they've never met.
How do you introduce yourself when you already feel like you know someone so well?
by Sarah Haywood
Susan Green thrives on order, routine, and predictability. Even her romance is scheduled with a regimented weekly relationship that fulfills her physical and cultural needs without emotions or strings.
Her ability to control every aspect of her life is lost when she finds out she is pregnant. Through this big moment combined with her mother's passing, Susan has to learn how to live and love, even in circumstances she can't direct.
The Book Girls Say... Some reviews find Susan entirely unlikeable, but Melissa disagreed and found herself rooting for Susan's happiness.
The Rosie Project: A Novel
by Graeme Simsion
This best-seller is the first in the Don Tillman trilogy. Don is a charming, but awkward, genetics professor trying to find love.
True to his scientific roots, he creates a 16-page survey designed to find his perfect match called "The Wife Project". Will anyone be his perfect match?
This Chicago Tribune quote is enough to make me order The Rosie Project today: “Filled with humor and plenty of heart, The Rosie Project is a delightful reminder that all of us, no matter how we’re wired, just want to fit in."
The other two books in the trilogy are The Rosie Effect and The Rosie Result. We can't wait to read both!
Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson
The characters in this book take quirky to a whole new level. In fact, the concept just sounds crazy if you're not into science-fiction. However, it doesn't feel sci-fi at all as you read. Instead, you'll get a wonderful look at what would happen if we couldn't stop our emotions from showing on the outside.
Lillian needs money, and her boarding school friend Madison needs a caretaker she can trust for her step-kids. The twins randomly burst into flames, creating chaos around them. Lillian is startled, but can see beyond this quirk and becomes determined to help them experience a more normal life.
The Book Girls Say...The book is funny, intelligent, and totally unique. We both rated it four stars and we were both so glad we read it. That said, there is adult language, so if you avoid that, skip this one.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
If you're drawn to eccentric characters, you might love Bernadette. She's a renowned architect in hiding, who doesn't fit in with her husband's fancy tech career or with the other moms at her daughter's school. In fact, she barely leaves the house, relying on a virtual assistant in India for all her family's needs.
This becomes a real problem when her daughter's stellar report card earns her a family trip to Antarctica.
When Bernadette disappears before the trip, her daughter Bee is determined to track her down.
The Book Girls Say...Maria Semple managed to create an enjoyable novel that's both witty and emotional. In addition to the main story, it's a good look at someone refusing to fit into the stereotypical 2010's mom mold expected at her child's private school.
by Alexis Hall
Looking for a hilarious rom-com reminiscent of The Flatshare? Bitter Luc O’Donnell has excess emotional baggage after growing up in the shadow of a distant B-list celeb father and eccentric mom.
When his job at a charity is endangered after incriminating photos of him are posted online, Luc has to re-make his image from party boy to “the right kind of gay” by coming up with a stable boyfriend. He knows he’s not ready for a real relationship, but could he sustain normalcy and a fake relationship long enough to get through a fundraiser?
The Books Girls Say...Melissa listed to the audio of Boyfriend Material and it quickly became one of her surprise favorites. If you like snarky British characters, she thinks you'll love Luc as much as she did.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
by Lori Nelson Spielman
Aunt Poppy is an eccentric and endearing 79-year old who was separated from the love of her life over 50 years earlier. As a second-born daughter, a 200-year old family curse said she would never be able to find lasting love.
Some family members, like second-born Lucy, fully believe the hex, despite her wishes for a husband and family. Others, like Emilia, say it's not real, but she also says she's content with her current life in the family bakery.
When Aunt Poppy invites Lucy and Emilia to travel to Italy with her for her 80th birthday, she insists if they go, the curse will be broken once and for all.
This book will transport you into the family's lives and make you feel like you've been to Italy. It's the perfect balance of great characters, a great plot, and a great setting.
Oona Out of Order
by Margarita Montimore
The night before Oona's 19th birthday, on New Years' Eve 1982, she's struggling with a big decision.
Should she go all-inn on her commitment to her band and boyfriend, or follow-through with a long-time plan to study economics in London with her best friend?
Before she can go down either path, she wakes up on New Year's Day, in the year 2014. Instead of being 19, she's suddenly 51.
She continues to live her life out of order, traveling backward or forward each New Year, but never knowing what age she'll be when she wakes up.
Melissa enjoyed this original book, especially how well it highlighted all the differences between daily life in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, + 2010s.
The Book of Polly
by Kathy Hepinstall
Cantankerous Polly had Willow in her late 50s, after her other children were already grown. Not only was she a surprise, Polly's husband passed away before Willow was born. Polly is not only an old mom compared to others, she's also a single mom for the first time.
Ten-year-old Willow is very aware of how much older her mom is, and has a constant fear of Polly dying. She is also bothered by how little she knows about Polly's childhood and is determined to learn why her mom left her hometown and never returned.
From Polly's margarita obsession and lively feuds with neighbors to Willow's fear becoming more real as Polly has to fight a devastating disease, you'll laugh and cry with this completely quirky mother-daughter duo.
Be Frank with Me
by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Currently included with Kindle Unlimited
What happens when a reclusive legendary author loses her money in a Ponzi scheme? She's forced to write a book for the first time in decades, but her eccentric nature has the publisher concerned about their investment.
They send an assistant, Alice, to Mimi's mansion to keep an eye on the writing progress, but Alice soon ends up spending more of her time with Frank, Mimi's 9-year-old son.
Frank is witty, stylish, and not at all like the other kids in his school. Alice quickly appreciates his unique personality and becomes obsessed with finding out who Frank's dad is...and whether family friend Xander is more than a friend.
The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane
by Kelly Harms
Have you ever wanted to win the HGTV Dream House?
Now imagine you get to the house for the first time and there is a 2nd person with your same name who says THEY won the house.
The two Janine Browns both desperately need this fresh start. One is heartbroken from a loss, and the other is escaping a terrible boyfriend and needs to get lost.
While both of their stories are compelling, Aunt Midge is the real star of this book. She'll keep you laughing while the younger Janines sort through past hurts and try to find the best way forward in life.
Matchmaking for Beginners
by Maddie Dawson
Currently included with Kindle Unlimited
Matchmaking for Beginners features another eccentric great aunt - aren't they the best characters?
In this case, Marnie meets her fiance's aunt Blix, a matchmaker, and the two share an instant connection. While the marriage Marnie hoped would lead to her dream life ends after only two weeks, the separation isn't the only shock she'll face.
Marnie inherits Blix's brownstone, along with her friends. She has no idea what to do with the people or property, but she should have known that Blix had it all figured out.
Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman has a rare talent for creating lovable, realistically human characters, who learn and grow with the help of their community. Britt-Marie is no exception.
She's a socially-awkward perfectionist, who despite the best intentions comes across as constantly critical of others.
But inside, she has big dreams and a warm heart. After leaving a cheating husband, Britt-Marie begins a new life as caretaker of a rec center and inherits a variety of odd regular visitors. Can she get past her fussy nature and turn the town into a place she finally feels like she belongs?
Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata
Translated from the original Japanese, Convenience Store Woman is a heartwarming tale of Keiko. She never felt like she fit in, at home or at school. But at 18, she begins working at Smile Mart.
The store's procedure manual helps guide all her interactions and even her clothing. She loves feeling "normal" at the store, and works there for 18 years.
At age 36, she's pressured to make big changes - like finding a husband and getting a "proper" job. The book covers the pressures to conform, while also showing how unforgettable and charming Keiko's personality is, no matter what her family thinks.
How Not to Die Alone
by Richard Roper
Like Eleanor, Andrew's story is one of loneliness and love. His job involves sorting through the estates of those who die alone, so he doesn't want to be in the same situation. In fact, he wants to be normal so much that he's convinced his co-workers that he has a wife and two children at home.
This lie will soon catch up to him, and he'll realize that in the midst of trying to be normal, he forgot to truly live.
This book is often described as both tragic and heart-warming, while also being funny. Some reviewers mention some "vulgar" scenes sprinkled in, so keep that in mind if those are a no-go for you.
The Authenticity Project
by Clare Pooley
Unlike the books on this list where the main characters feel compelled to fit in, The Authenticity Project brings the opposite. Now in his 70s, Julian is an eccentric artist frustrated that more people aren't honest with each other.
He shares his feelings in a notebook and leaves it in a cafe. The owner, Monica, adds her thoughts and leaves the notebook across the street at a wine bar.
As former strangers find the notebook and share their authentic selves, they being to learn that instead of being scary, being yourself brings happiness.
Ellie and the Harpmaker
by Hazel Prior
Dan is happy in his life through his career as a harp maker in England. He finds social situations difficult, and carving in his barn is peaceful.
On a difficult anniversary, Ellie stumbles on Dan's barn during a walk. She instantly appreciates the beauty in his work and is drawn to return regularly.
She soon notices Dan's consistencies - like perfectly cut sandwiches and repeated counting of the steps in his staircase. But these things don't make Dan's world different, Ellie realizes that in many ways, his world is better.
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