Ok...I have been pondering...and here are a pair of quirky ones:
I love novels that take me to a place or time I know very little about, and allow me to get a real sense of those places...now the first one is, of course, a speculative novel, so who knows how accurate the view is...but I enjoyed it immensely...especially with its unusual and very cerebral main character (reminds me a bit of Vidal's "Julian", which is one of my very favourite books).
It is set before and during and after the reign of the Pharaoh Akhnaton, and covers the main nations of that time.
Here's the cover blurb:
From the Publisher
First published in the United States in 1949 and widely condemned as obscene, The Egyptian outsold every other novel published that year, and remains a classic; readers worldwide have testified to its life-changing power. It is a full-bodied re-creation of a largely forgotten era in the world’s history: the Egypt of the 14th century B.C.E., when pharaohs and gods contended with the near-collapse of history’s greatest empire. This epic tale encompasses the whole of the then-known world, from Babylon to Crete, from Thebes to Jerusalem, while centering around one unforgettable figure: Sinuhe, a man of mysterious origins who rises from the depths of degradation to become personal physician to Pharaoh Akhnaton.
Another odd one is "Let the Right One in" by John Lindqvist.
Now...I don't usually go for horror or vampire stuff, but this is a truly interesting book, about a kid living in Sweden (I think) who has a young girl vampire move in next door.
My interest was piqued when I heard the author interviewed, and a discussion of very domestic issues like how she gets smelly and sick when she needs to feed and such....it is also one of those books where the characters develop, andit gives an interesting look at life in a different country.