I'm breaking with tradition today and actually doing another Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish before, like, a month or two has passed since the last one. Today we're singing the praises of the books we think are underrated or underloved.
1. The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen - This is the book that I always use to answer this question. Mullen's other book, The Last Town on Earth, seems like it was huge compared to this one which I repeatedly moan and groan that more people haven't read. It's about Great Depression bank robbers. It's action-packed, there's an interesting love story, and plus, the protagonists keep, well, not dying, at least not for good. You can read my further ravings both here and here.
2. Black & White by Dani Shapiro - I read this a few summers ago, I think, and it sticks in my head. It's about a daughter who has continually been the subject of her mother's art and the very considerable strain that has put on their relationship. When the mother falls ill, the daughter has to confront the past. I recall it being well-told in flashbacks and asking interesting questions about whether the mother really loved the daughter or loved the inspiration her daughter provided.
3. City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell - I read this story of a missionary couple in early 20th century China last summer, and I was totally blown away. It's an incredible portrait of a marriage, a penetrating look into historical China, and and a beautiful picture of faith in action. I cried repeatedly. I loved it. Why haven't you (and you and you) read it?
4. The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque - This is All Quiet on the Western Front's unloved step-child, or something like that. I bet you didn't even know Remarque had written another great book, unless you've read about it here where I'm always shoving it in people's faces. It's a really excellent read about post-World War I Germany and the soldiers trying to fit back into civilian life after many years at brutal war.
5. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - Nevil Shute's other books (e.g. On the Beach) are much more popular than this one seems to be, but Pied Piper is fantastic. It's the story of an elderly man on holiday at just the wrong time who unwittingly ends up helping a bunch of children escape World War II occupied France. The juxtaposition of the danger of occupied France with the innocence of the children while the old man tries to account for the two is pitch perfect. I get the impression that both this and the previous book aren't widely available, but they should be because they still could find a great many appreciative readers, in my humble opinion.
6. The Cactus Eaters by Dan White - The author's memoir of his adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is hilarious, but also informative in a way that is not clunky and awkward. He also does a fine job with portraying the kooky trail regulars without judging them, because, hey, the trail makes him kind of kooky, too.
7. Ellington Boulevard by Adam Langer - This book captures the spirit of New York City and the draw it has for dreamers who are sure it's the place to make something of themselves, all this against the New York City that's a little crueler and tempts the dreamers to sell out to the highest bidder just to get by. Plus, there's this quote. That I love. A lot.
He still loves the sense of possiblity that permeates every building and block. He loves the view of the Hudson from Riverside Park, loves watching the ducks paddle in the Central Park pond, loves the almost-too-pungent scent of gingkos on Manhattan Avenue in the summer. He loves watching his dog's tail wag when he pulls Ike toward Strangers' Gate. He loves the sounds of baseball games in Morningside, mah-jongg tiles on 107th Street, playing cards outside the Frederick Douglass Apartments, the subway underfoot, the flutter and clang of the flags atop the Blockhouse -- every bit of it is music.
8. The Reluctant God by Pamela F. Service - This is a leftover from my middle school years. There is Egypt and Egyptian princes and Egyptian artifacts and time travel and a race against time, and I could read it again and again (and again!)
9. The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers - A story with so many compelling layers that I (the non-re-reader) kept it to re-read. It's about a psychotherapist and his suicidal patient and how they help each other uncover their tragic pasts. Plus, it totally gave me a thing for Carravagio paintings.
10. Open Wounds by Joseph Lunievicz - The, um, 4 of us who rated this on LibraryThing all really loved this book. I met the author at BEA. He is super nice so I'm so happy that I loved his book which is historical YA set in New York City. There are lots of fascinating, unusual characters, great friendships, Shakespeare, sword-fighting, and coming of age. If you want to read some YA that is next to nothing like all that other YA you've been reading but is still incredibly awesome, read this. If you're looking for some YA for the slightly older teenage boys in your life, look no further, and rest assured that if you happen to be a not so YA girl, you will certainly like it, too, of course!