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Are you always trying to keep up to date with the latest trending books and new releases? There’s an undeniable appeal to reading what everyone is talking about, but it also helps to deliberately choose books that don’t get the same attention. When it seems like “everyone” online and offline is talking about a certain book, it usually means it’s gotten a lot of advertising money. So, if all we pick up are “trendy” books, all we read are the books the publisher told us to read.
That’s why every few months we like to shine the spotlight on books we’ve read and loved that aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Although BookTok and Bookstagram can tell you that a New York Times The top seller or a title often awarded in high schools is “underrated”, we are more interested in readings that are really under the radar. These are books that have less than 250 ratings (not reviews) on Goodreads. For context, The hunger Games has over 7 million ratings on Goodreads, and With watermelon sugar at 17,000.
Get ready to discover some of your new favorite books that deserve way more buzz than they get!
An illuminated life: the journey of Belle da Costa Greene, from prejudice to privilege by Heidi Ardizzone
When The personal librarian, a historical novel about JP Morgan’s librarian Belle da Costa Greene was released in 2021, I was surprised how few people read the non-fiction book about her. This deeply researched book paints a portrait of Greene that is as real as it is puzzling. How did the daughter of the first black Harvard graduate decide to pass herself off as white? How were his personal and political views so fractured? More than any bio I’ve ever read, this one shows just how much people really do contain multitudes. Instead of making her a neat and coherent character, this book shows the true complexity of her amazing and fascinating life. —Isabelle Pop
Thirty Strange Love Talks by Alessandra Narvaez Varela
This YA verse novel follows a teenage girl from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, who meets her future self. Adult Anamaría keeps giving her corny advice about being kind to herself and saving a girl that teenage Anamaría has no interest in. She doesn’t need to be saved; she is a hardworking perfectionist who does very well. Until she realizes that might not be the case, and suddenly the advice her future self gave her starts to make more sense. The novel was inspired by the author’s experiences as a teacher and deals with weighty – but important – topics that are sure to encourage thought-provoking discussions. —Rachel Brittain
The language we were never taught to speak by Grace Lau
Whether you are new to poetry or a regular poetry reader, The language we were never taught to speak sure to delight, surprise and make you think. This first collection of poetry knocked me all in from the first page with a poem about RuPaul’s Drag Raceand by the time I reached a poem on Kill Eve, I was an eternal fan. It’s a wonderfully weird, fresh, and rebellious collection steeped in pop culture, politics, and family history. Lau’s poetry is so smart and full of life, and I can’t wait to read her next collection. —Susie Dumond
Queers dig time lords edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas
Now stay with me, because I know this is a niche topic, and it’s also been out of date for almost ten years now, but if I told you that it includes an essay by Amal El-Mohtar (of This is how you lose the time war celebrity) still bouncing around in my brain nearly a decade after reading it?
“Consuming movies, television and books [as a queer woman of color] it’s often like receiving beautiful, painstakingly carved meals with cockroach bits poking out the antennae and shell of sauces and soufflés. You try to eat around the insects, try to remove them surgically, but you can’t quite escape the fact that they’ve flavored the dish and will probably make you sick. But you must eat or be hungry.
Of course, it also lives up to the title and explores the queer history of Doctor Who which I was not aware of. If you’re a fan of the show, this is a must-read, but honestly, I think Amal El-Mohtar’s essay alone is worth the price of admission. —Danika Ellis
The big reveal by Jen Larsen
I loved this candid and funny YA novel about a girl who just wants to dance. It was like Moxiebut set in a theater boarding school and combined with some modern day hair spray. It was a lot of fun while touching on incredibly relevant and heavy topics. Addie is an extremely talented dancer who is also fat. She is proud of herself and her journey and works hard to participate in an exclusive dance program. Only problem: she realizes that she does not have enough money to leave. With the help of her friends from her acting school, they put on a top-secret speakeasy-style burlesque show to help raise money for Addie’s program. But as soon as the show is revealed, bitch shaming and body shaming come out of the woodwork, and Addie is once again scared and confused about what’s going on. The show forces Addie and her friends to confront feminism and what it really means to everything people, how they can support others and how to fight against those who want to put them down. It was a glowing book where a fat girl succeeds, shines, and performs at her best while learning from her mistakes and growing as a person – just like anyone else! I was so excited to see Addie become the main character in her own story and really take center stage. —Cassie Gutman
Palestine +100: Stories from a century after the Nakba edited by Basma Ghalayini
In this collection, 12 Palestinian writers present short stories imagining the future – taking their uncertainty, generational trauma, memories and terrors and creating possible future worlds for the Palestinian people and nation. The stories are unified by their common themes – walls, parallel words, various forms of apartheid; collective memory and forced oblivion; virtual reality; fierce government surveillance, drones and spies. These stories were well worth the investment — from Saleem Haddad’s bizarre fake utopia in “Song of the Birds” to Mazen Maarouf’s surreal and often absurd “The Curse of the Mud Ball Kid,” translated by Jonathan Wright. It’s an amazing collection, first published by Comma Press in the UK and later by Deep Vellum in the US, and it deserves a wide readership. Any sci-fi fan will love this collection, but as a bonus, it provides space on the page for often marginalized voices. —Leah Rachel von Essen
A girl called Rumi by Ari Honarvar
Based on the author’s own experience of emigrating to the United States from Iran as a child refugee, this story begins in Iran.
The main character, a 9-year-old child, is given the task of buying naan. But as she prepares to fulfill her obligation, she is drawn to the magical and mysterious power of a storytelling session taking place in the town square.
She forgets the bread, but the stories stay with her, even as the conflict spreads across the land.
In America, older and independent, she has built a life, but as she returns to Iran with her sick mother and brother, stories from the past resurface.
Moving from the past to the present, and vice versa, we learn to understand the power of stories, and especially poetry. —Carina Pereira
Sensible point by Naomi Shihab Nye
This is a collection of selected poems from various collections as well as some new poems. Naomi Shihab Nye is a Palestinian poet who writes about her Arab heritage and the wonder of small things. The tenderness of his poetry pushes us to slow down. It’s quite an experience to let his words invade us with their gentle strength. I have read this collection of poetry over the months and it has given me peace, insight and comfort throughout. —Yashvi Peeti
This is a graphic history book that covers the colonization of the Americas and the indigenous resistance to it, which is obviously a huge subject to try to tackle in one volume, but these brief overviews offer an excellent entry point. It was originally released in 2010, and this version is not only in color, but also updates it so that it works until today. This history taught in white spaces often robs Indigenous peoples of their agency. These stories are therefore a much-needed counterpoint, showing how Indigenous peoples across continents and centuries have fought back against colonialism. It’s a fantastic entry point to learn more about the history of colonialism in North America, in particular (although it also includes Central and South America). —Danika Ellis
Can’t find enough hidden treasures in the world of books? Try our previous editions of the best books you’ve never heard of!