Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books

Okay, so, today's Top Ten Tuesday theme is the "most underrated books or authors in a genre."  I wasn't sure about doing this one, because I tend to be a bad judge of when a book is actually underrated, and also I couldn't really manage to pick a genre.  I guess these all kind of fit into some sort of historical or literary fiction mold, but generally I just went with books that I read and really liked that I guessed maybe you haven't heard of...?  Maybe?  Anyhow, here's ten good books that could use a little more loving, in my very humble opinion.

1. Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan - This is a dark read by a Canadian author about a feud between two families. Superb characterization, haunting prose, great story.

2. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - On the Beach is this author's claim to fame, but this tale of an elderly gentlemen fleeing France during the early days of its World War II occupation with a troop of children unexpectedly entrusted to his care definitely deserves sooo much more attention. 

3. The Grave of God's Daughter by Brett Ellen Block - I was surprised when I read this one that I couldn't find a single book blogger review of it on the internet.  It's a great coming of age story about a girl growing up in an impoverished Pennsylvania town that is busting at the seems with secrets.

4. Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu - Anne Ursu writes interesting books about what would be the real life reactions to fantastic events.  In The Disapparation of James, she dissected a family's psychological meltdown when their son actually disappears during a magic show.  In Spilling Clarence, a town is "poisoned" by a drug that unleashes all their memories good, bad, and ugly upon them, minus the buffer of time and healing.  It's an interesting look at memory, both how potent and how misleading it can be.

5. Falling Under by Danielle Young-Ullman - I read this one earlier this year and liked it a lot more than I expected to.  In it, troubled artist Mara has survived her parents' acrimonious divorce and her more recent troubled past to emerge to a more comfortable, if sheltered, life as an artist.  All that changes when she meets a guy in a bar and decides to take a chance on the love she stopped believing in a long time ago.  Just about every other chapter is a flashback told in the second person which is a great plot device for getting to know a character that might appear functional on the outside, but is actually deeply damaged by her history.  Great dialogue and a love triangle that I didn't hate. 

6. Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream - In keeping with the "troubled artist" tack, this one's about another troubled artist.  At the beginning of the book, Clementine is quitting therapy because she's decided she's really going to kill herself.  First she has a bunch of loose ends to tie up.  What materializes is a story filled with deliciously dark humor and a very well-drawn character with more reasons to live than she might have imagined.

7. Black & White by Dani Shapiro - This is a refugee from my pre-blogging days, which happen to be a loooong time ago now.  The story of a daughter estranged from her artist mother who saw her as more of subject for art than a daughter.  Clara fled her unwanted fame for a quiet life, but as her mother lies on her deathbed, Clara has to revisit her past, and it's a compelling story.

8. When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale - This author's English Passengers got a lot more attention than this little book that I read in the early days of my blogging that has one of the most accurate child narrators I've ever encountered that puts a unique spin on a not-so unique story.  It rates low on Good Reads and LibraryThing, which makes me kind of sad.

9. We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen - Whenever I try to summarize this book, it sounds kind of, well, soul-crushingly boring.  It's not!  It's a very thoughtful portrayal of the many children of a couple dedicated to a very fundamentalist sect of Christianity.  Some keep the faith, others turn away, but it all comes together to be a very thoughtful and balanced look at faith that makes for some good contemplating. 

10. Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith - I read this one earlier this year but haven't managed a proper review.  Smith writes beautifully and evokes both turn of the century Chicago and the islands of the South Pacific with equal skill.  Okay, I'll admit the plot isn't the most memorable, but Smith sets scenes you can really get lost in. 

Have you read any of these?  What are some books or authors that you feel are underrated?


  1. I've read When We Were Romans and the misspellings drove me crazy. I know they were supposed to reflect the narrator but sometimes I had trouble figuring out what they meant.

  2. Interesting list!! I've not heard of these books before. I'll have to check them out further.

  3. I think I need to put We Sinners on my tbr list. I haven't heard of any of these books.