This was much easier than expected. The Broke and The Bookish picked an excellent topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I love finding underrated and not-so-well-known books and I love telling others about all the underrated books that I know. Now, I’m not sure I interpreted the Goodreads ratings correctly because I only checked the number of ratings on whichever edition of a book I own (or whichever came up first). I’m sure if one adds the ratings on all available editions, all these books have more ratings but, honestly, I don’t know if Goodreads gives you that number and I was way too lazy to add the ratings up myself.
So I’ve included the number of ratings (of my edition) in brackets next to each title to show you just how unloved these gems are. I also linked to my review if I wrote one. Seriously though, pick these books up, they’re all excellent!
My Top Ten Books With Less than 2000 Ratings on Goodreads
Oh my god, you don’t know what you’re missing! Angela Slatter is an Australian author who weaves the most beautiful fairytale-esque stories you can imagine. Her two short story collections are much more than just some short stories put together. They actually tell a much larger story. In Sourdough every story gives you a new puzzle piece about the history of a place and its inhabitants. The Bitterwood Bible spins this further (although it is a sort of prequel), with recurring characters, intertwining stories, and lots of fantastic female characters. I love these books to bits and urge you to get yourself an ebook copy – they’re affordable and available worldwide. Yay for the internet!
Régis Loisel – Peter Pan(434 ratings)
I suppose French comics aren’t read very widely and my own interest in them comes from having lived in France for a while. But if you like Peter Pan and comics, this is for you. Loisel gives J. M. Barrie’s story a new spin and although there are many recognisable characters and plot points, this is not the children’s story you remember. It is brutal, devastating, not for kids, and absolutely heartbreaking. The six-part series is completed so you won’t have to wait for sequels either. So pick it up.
Theodora Goss – In the Forest of Forgetting (615 ratings)
Another short story collection that deserves to be better known. Theodora Goss has a distinctly lyrical, fairy tale style that makes the most mundane things seem magical. The titular story is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, and some of her other tales stuck in my mind, refusing to let go.
Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira (Leo) – Aldebaran (161 ratings)
Another comic book series, yippie! Aldebaran is a science fiction comic and I’ll be honest with you – I’m not a huge fan of the artwork. But the story, now that’s quite brilliant. A village on Aldebaran is devastated by some sort of natural (or not so natural?) catastrophe, so the survivors set out to find what happened and to make a new home for themselves. They discover way more than they thought was possible. This is a story that spans years and many miles, and while I may not love the art, Leo came up with some incredible flora and fauna for his planet. It is well worth checking out.
Anyone who loves fairy tales and retellings should pick up these three short novels. The titles tell you which fairy tale they’re about (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty respectively), but these are twisted, more adult versions of the stories you know. They are connected and you only get the full ending if you read them all, but you can also pick up each book on its own and enjoy it. With covers like these, I honestly don’t understand why they don’t have more ratings.
The first book in the adorable, original, quirky Flora series has more than 2000 ratings on Goodreads but for some reason (I think I know which) people don’t continue reading. The first book is very childish, although it already shows the greatness that is Ysabeau Wilce and her imagination. House ghosts, magical boots, an Aztec-inspired Empire, and in the middle of it a young girl who just doesn’t want to join the military like her parents, but wants to be a ranger. I adore Flora and Flora’s Dare is by far the best book in the series. If you’re unconvinced, try the short story collection set in the same world – algthough featuring other characters. I am still hoping for sequels.
Okay, so Radiance is still pretty new and has been getting nothing but rave reviews. I know reading a Valente book can be a big leap. Her language is demanding and beautiful, her subject matter varies from whimsical fairy tales to deeply difficult themes. In Speak Easy, a novella, it is the language that makes the book so great. That is, until the ending. That ending destroyed me.
Six-Gun Snow White was hard to read simply because the main character is put into such a horrible position and her stepmother mistreats her, all under the guise of love and care. But it is also an amazing twist on the Snow White story, seven “dwarves” and all.
Radiance is perfect. That’s all I have to say.
Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber (1274 ratings)
Another book that gains a part of its appeal through language. Written in patois, it isn’t easy to get into if (like me) you were unfamiliar with that way of speaking. But I love discovering new languages and this felt like such an organic way to speak English, it took me a couple of chapters and I was all in. The story itself is breathtaking, a mix of science fiction and coming of age story with Caribbean influences. It was the first Hopkinson book I read and I can promise you that although this is my favorite so far, she is a fantastic writer to follow.
Karin Lowachee – Warchild (1459 ratings)
Any book that can pull off even a single chapter written in second person singular deserves a chance. In the best cases, you don’t even notice that the book is written in second person. This was the case in Warchild – and don’t worry, only the beginning is written about “you” – and it made the life-defining things that happen to the protagonist all the more immediate and touching. The title keeps its promise and Lowachee does tell the story of a Warchild. Someone born in war, swept up in it, fighting in it, and suffering everything that comes with it. This was a deeply moving, closely drawn portrait of a young boy growing up. It also has cool aliens and space battles.
Genevieve Valentine – Mechanique (2002 ratings)
Ok, so I’m cheating a bit because this book actually has ever so slightly more than 2000 ratings, BUT it doesn’t have nearly as many ratings as it deserves. I think Genevieve Valentine’s genius is slowly becoming more appreciated but I suppose few people go back to her novel Méchanique, a book that broke my heart so many ways I stopped counting. The premise is the story of a strange travelling circus – so far, so ordinary. Except everyone in this circus seems to have secrets, carry emotional baggage, or fight silent feuds against other circus members. Finding these secrets in a steampunky world was just amazing. Plus, Valentine throws in sentences that say so much more than an entire other novel would. She knows excatly what she’s doing with language and for that Méchanique is still my favorite of her stories.
Also, yes, these are a bit more than ten books, but I’ve grouped them all nicely for you so I’m sure you’ll let it slide. Plus, that just means more great reading for you guys. Now I can’t wait to discover all the books I’ve never heard about that others are recommending. There’s still room on my wishlist, after all.