Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays publishers from the swift publication of books. Each and every week, hundreds of books are released, and even if you keep up with the major sources of book reviews and follow the bestsellers list like the lottery numbers, some titles are going to fall through the cracks of your awareness. Maybe they didn’t get the marketing push they needed, maybe there was a bigger book being released that week; whatever the reason – we all miss some gems.
But never fear! Here is a list of twenty-five books for you to discover; wonderful reads that just haven’t had as wide a readership as they deserve. There is no unifying genre; there are coming-of-age stories, magical realism and slipstream, family stories, historical realism, crime fiction written by authors both contemporary and from a hundred years ago, hailing from the U.S., Zimbabwe, England, Canada, Ireland, Brazil, Norway, Scotland, Jamaica, Ukraine, etc.
It’s time to shine a light into the forgotten corners of the book world.
Donald Harington himself is an overlooked gem and the reason lists like this are valuable. Over the course of his career, he wrote thirteen books set in the fictional small town of Stay More, situated deep in the Ozarks. The books comprise a loose series, into which characters and events reappear, but the books can be read in any order. Harington is the perfect example of the American storyteller, and his books display his mastery of voice, description and the lovingly-rendered quirkiness of his characters. His style varies ; one book is composed largely in verse, one is told from the perspective of cockroaches, one is a reversal of Lolita, and his themes cover the map from war, politics, crime, love, to nothing less than the entirety of the human condition. He has been called “America’s greatest unknown writer,” but it’s time to change that. Architecture of the Arizona Ozarks is his fourth book, and it is an overview of the town of Stay More and its inhabitants. This is a good starting point for his work because it will introduce the major characters, and teasingly hint at situations that will be fleshed out in later novels. Read one, stay more.
The Seducer is the first part of a Norwegian trilogy whose structure is twisty and Proustian, but never fear – it is much more accessible and fun than Proust. In its most basic description, it is a story about a famous man whose wife dies mysteriously, and he becomes a suspect in her murder, but the story spirals out in endless digressions into biography, erotic relationships, a dusting of magical realism, and it even involves polar bears. The plot revolves around two basic and oft-repeated questions: “How do the pieces of a life fit together?” and “When do we become who we are??” The Seducer, ostensibly posing as a murder-plot-driven book, seeks to explore these ideas. Every segment builds to the brink of release and answers and closure, only to loop back again as though the plot itself were reminded of another bit of minutiae that applies to the story at hand and then weaves back and forth in time and splits its tales up into wanting and wanting and wanting more. You will have to read all three books (each with a different narrator and tone) to find out the answer to the mystery, but trust me – you will want to.
Every reader his/her book and every book its reader – never have Ranganathan’s laws been more applicable. Explore the list, discover a new favorite book, impress your friends with your familiarity with obscure tomes and prove that the best books aren’t always the bestsellers.