Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope it’s a good one for you!
As always, Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish, and this weeks theme is:
January 17: Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So (up to you if you want it to be those published in the past year or so or just ANY underrated book you’ve read recently)
Rather than limiting my choices to the books I read in the past year (since I read quite a lot of hyped books and not that many underrated ones), I’m going to choose ten underrated books I’ve read in the last decade or so that’ll leave you wondering why you hadn’t read them sooner – if you decide to pick them up!
1. The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
Goodreads synopsis: Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.
I won this as part of a Goodreads competition last year, and my goodness I’m glad I did. This dystopian story was full of adventure and tension, and had me rooting so hard for the main character and her new found friendship with Kip. If you like series such as The Hunger Games or The Sin Eater’s Daughter then you should add this to your TBR!
2. Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigaloupi
Goodreads Synopsis: Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Paolo’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
During my MA year at university, a PhD student led a seminar about this book. She was writing about it for her thesis and talked so passionately about it that I felt compelled to pick it up. And I’ve never regretted it once. It’s a collection of short stories and each one is so steampunk, so poignant and dystopic, that I’d recommend it to almost anyone. Each story draws you in with its compelling characters, and each holds such a bold social commentary that the book will keep drifting back into your head, long after you’ve put it down.
3. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Goodreads synopsis: Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind. What they have lost – and what they find – is revealed in the fifteen interconnected stories that make up this exquisite novel from one of the premier novelists of our time.
I asked my parents for this a couple of Christmases ago because, having studied accents and dialects for my MA, the title intrigued me. I have to admit, I knocked a star off my final rating for the fact that it doesn’t cover accents as much as the title implied (and I’d hoped), but the story itself was still surprisingly enjoyable. This is an own voices novel, that explores the struggles of young children coming from one culture and attempting to assimilate into another. The cast of characters is incredibly diverse, so if you’re looking for more diverse reads then definitely pick this one up.
4. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Goodreads synopsis: All the world’s a stage – and nowhere is it that more true than at an all-girls high school, particularly one where a scandal has just erupted. When news spreads of a high school teacher’s relationship with his underage student, participants and observers alike soon take part in an elaborate show of concern and dismay. But beneath the surface of the teenage girls’ display, there simmers a new awareness of their own power. They obsessively examine the details of the affair with the curiosity, jealousy, and approbation native to any adolescent girl, under the watchful eye of their stern and enigmatic saxophone teacher, whose focus may not be as strictly on their upcoming recital as she implies.
I read this during my final year of my undergraduate degree and I could not stop talking about it for weeks. This is Eleanor Catton’s first novel, and it’s a tale of sexual awakening and shifting friendships. This book takes a close look at how young minds analyse the world around them. The writing style was what made the book for me; it was elegant, wholly imaginative and unique. While Catton’s other novel The Luminaries seems to garner more attention, The Rehearsal definitely doesn’t get enough praise and recognition and I will wave my copy from the rooftops until it does.
5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Goodreads synopsis: Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
As a community that love books and love books about books, I’m surprised there isn’t more attention give to this one. More of a ‘classic’ piece of dystopian fiction, Bradbury’s work explores the place of books in society and shows the gradual rebelling of a mind against the status quo. I think this is the kind of book that everyone should read at least once.
6. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
Goodreads synopsis: Anna Covey is a ‘Surplus’. She should not have been born. In a society in which ageing is no longer feared, and death is no longer an inevitability, children are an abomination. Like all Surpluses, Anna is living in a Surplus Hall and learning how to make amends for the selfish act her parents committed in having her. She is quietly accepting of her fate until, one day, a new inmate arrives. Anna’s life is thrown into chaos. But is she brave enough to believe this mysterious boy?
I read this book years ago (I’m talking like 10), but it has stayed with me all this time as one of the most beautifully-written pieces of prose I’ve ever picked up. Looking back, the plot may not have been incredibly original, but the narrative style was just sublime. I hope that sound I can hear is you running out to the bookstore right now to grab a copy.
8. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Goodreads synopsis: Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.
Although not the most intersectional exploration of feminism, I still think this book is an important read. It’s ideal for anyone struggling with what feminism actually is, or what it means to identify as a feminist. Some of the fundamental issues Moran discusses here were what helped open my eyes to the fact that we live in a largely sexist society and need to challenge discriminatory ideas.
9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Goodreads synopsis: Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest.
This book captured a piece of my heart one summer (about) four years ago, and never quite gave it back. Very much a character-driven novel, this story will put it’s arms around you and gentle guide you into a world of magical realism so enchanting that you won’t want to leave. If I had to pin it down, I’d say this was the novel that started my love affair with Paulo Coelho’s writing.
10. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Goodreads synopsis: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
This novel is a wonderfully-woven tale of Greek mythology and gay romance. The narrative style had me from the first page and I became so invested in the two main characters that I was hanging off Miller’s every word by the final chapters. Thankfully, the story seems to be receiving more attention recently – probably because by this point I’ve recommended it to so many people that it’s starting to get around!
So that’s my ten for this week! Let me know if any of these made your list! If not what would your top ten be? Any have you read any of these novels before? Drop me a comment down below!