8 of The Best “No Plot Just Vibes” Books To Slow Down With


Yashvi Peeti is an aspiring writer and an aspiring penguin. She has worked as an editorial intern with Penguin Random House India and HarperCollins Publishers India. She is always up for fangirling over poetry, taking a walk in a park, and painting tiny canvases. You can find her on Instagram @intangible.perception

When I first started reading, I was only recommended books with a clear plot line. I would be compelled by my curiosity to keep reading. I would want to know how the story unfolds and the events that move it along. Some books I wouldn’t be able to put down because the chapters would end with cliffhangers, and others because I was too engrossed in that world of high fantasy. After a year or two of reading this way, I found my way to books with a less compelling plot or sometimes even no plot at all. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed them just as much, if not more, than those with the plot as the center of the story. I have read a ton of “no plot, just vibes” books since, and I adore them. I like sitting with a character-driven narrative and appreciate how the story ebbs and flows along with the tides in its characters’ hearts. I like being immersed in a person’s thoughts, idiosyncrasies, irrationality, insecurity, and just their way of life. I like getting a look into quieter, more introspective perspectives as opposed to a thrilling plot that keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Here’s a list of “no plot, just vibes” books that I’ve read and enjoyed. The vibe could be anything from being a millionaire in New York to living in a one-bedroom apartment as a family of four in Mumbai to defying all concepts of time and space. It can be about teenagers figuring out their lives, or a grown man trying to see where his marriage went wrong, or a family navigating the immigrant experience.

I hope at least one of these brings you to the vibe you’re looking for!


Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors

We get on a journey with Cleo and Frank, or Cleopatra and Frankenstein to each other. She’s a young British painter, and he’s an older self-made millionaire. They end up talking 90 minutes before New Year’s Eve in 2006. By the time it’s 2007, their witty remarks have turned into full-blown flirtation. They get married impulsively, and their life is permanently alerted. Their close-knit friends and family are taken along for the ride.

The story moves through its characters, their quirks, compulsions, insecurities, successes, and downfalls. The writing is sharp, and even though most characters might not be very likable, they read very real.

Book cover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin

Murakami’s work is known for being bizarre, but this book takes that title and runs with it. Dreams spill into reality, and reality slips into a dream. It’s a story seeking truth, exploring a marriage that’s falling apart, and bringing to life some horrifying imagery from World War II. I was fascinated by the way the elements of darkness and wells were used to describe loneliness, alienation, emptiness, and more. There’s symbolism and fabulism stitched into the fabric of this book. Even though I didn’t understand quite a bit of what was happening, it was such a surreal experience.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh book cover

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

You cannot find a plot in this one, no matter how hard you look. Our protagonist is a young woman who wants to sleep for a year and emerge at the end of it, leaving all her troubles behind. So, she experiments and devises a plan to do just that. She has help from one of the worst psychiatrists you’ll ever read about, who prescribes her horrifying strong medication as our little miss hibernation continues to lie about her symptoms. We also meet Reva, who claims to be her best friend and is often envious of her and her Wall Street ex-boyfriend, who treats her like crap. This book should be read for the narrator’s thoughts that are wild, miserable, witty, and get more eccentric as her life unfolds.

Book cover of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

This novel follows the Ganguli family through their journey from Calcutta to Massachusetts. Ashoke and Ashima move to America after their arranged marriage. Ashoke adapts a lot more easily, while Ashima struggles and refuses to adjust to the American way of life. They have a child that they name after a Russian writer. Thus, Gogol Ganguli is born and navigates life with his peculiar name and cultural expectations thrust upon him by his parents.

This book captures the immigrant experience so vividly and clearly. It is driven not by its story but by the anguish, confusion, and need for belonging and self-discovery that is woven into its characters.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close cover jonathan safran foer

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Oscar’s father dies in the 9/11 attacks. A year later, the nine-year-old finds a key in a vase that belonged to his father. He is on a mission to go around New York to find the lock that will be opened by the key and the answers he will find when it does.

We follow Oscar as he feels vivid, bizarre, and very real emotions. We also have a parallel narrative where we read letters written by Oscar’s grandfather to his son and from Oscar’s grandmother to Oscar. We learn about their lives through what they choose to share. All of this is done in a super bizarre format. I really enjoyed the spectacular imagery, pockets of intimacy, and the space held for grief. I loved being lost in the lives of these characters and in the unformed thoughts of a nine-year-old.

Cover of Em And The Big Hoom

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

This book follows a family of four: Imelda and Augustine, who are also Em and the Big Hoom, as well as their son and daughter. The book is set in Mumbai and written from the son’s perspective. We never learn his name, but we learn to give a name to his innermost feelings. Em, his mother, has manic depression. We see the intricate details of how all their lives are affected by this condition.

This book takes the small and the big, the fleeting and the intrusive thoughts, and allows them to take up space on the page. Reading it felt like taking an intimate look into just how unusual familial relationships can be.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz book cover

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

You’ve probably seen this book everywhere, but it truly is worth all the hype. It is my go-to no-plot-just-vibes book, and the vibes are immaculate. It follows two boys, Aristotle and Dante, who are each wonderful in their own way. Ari is an angsty teenager who is full of care but hasn’t learned how to express it. Dante is a teen who is unrestrained with all the care and affection he feels, and boy, does he feel a lot. They meet and learn to navigate this life thing together. I have literally used this book as a test of friendship. If you don’t like this book, we might not get along. You could be so great, but I might have to pass.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone book cover

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

This is a story of love and war that occurs in limitless time and space. It’s a story where you can access any place and any time. So, what happens when there’s a raging war, you’re both on opposite sides of it, and you only communicate through letters left behind for each other? You’re rivals, and this revelation could mean death for both of you. Each of the authors writes from the perspective of one of the rivals as they slowly become something more. The plot moves forward as two people are endlessly drawn to each other.

If you liked this list, also check out these: In Praise of Plotless Books and 8 Fantasy Books with “No Rules, Just Vibes” Magic Systems.

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