These books have fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads, meaning they are, well, underrated. Here are ten that fall into this category that I’ve really enjoyed.
Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris
An absolutely stunning and amazing book. There were many overnight hours spent with a little light, awake and reading. Hustvedt demonstrates such thorough knowledge and ease about her topic that her academic precision never overpowers the compelling story of Charcot, Salpetriere and the “star” hysterics. MORE
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste
What’s significant about the Mary Celeste is that she reappeared. She was found near the Azores completely abandoned and sailing under her own power. Her cargo was untouched, no damage was found and no one ever heard from anyone who was aboard ever again. All of this is true. Martin has carefully constructed a novel around this strange occurrence. MORE
Stories for Nighttime and Some For the Day
It’s a deceptive little book. Not too thick; it’s compact and fits easily into your bag. Just pull it out while you wait at the car wash or in the subway. Something to pass the time. But that’s what it wants you to think. Soon you will be swept away into dimensions where a TV set can write an opera, a man and a moose are good friends, and an octopus is named Harley. Also, Harley likes to drink tea. MORE
The Diviner’s Tale
To be blunt, I couldn’t put this book down. I was up until the wee hours of the night/morning, determined to finish it, lest my dreams be infiltrated by the specters of this book. A little bit Shirley Jackson, a bit Joyce Carol Oates, a touch of Du Maurier (all females, ironically), and a great deal of original vision, The Diviner’s Tale deserves a place on any well-wrought mystery lover’s shelf. MORE
For All The Tea In China
The fortuitously-named Robert Fortune took on a great adventure in the name of tea and Queen. The East India Company was losing money, so they decided to steal the secrets of Chinese tea and transplant them to India, where they still had power. They tapped Fortune to be their spy. This debut book by Sarah Rose, follows Fortune on his journey. MORE
She Who Was No More
In a reversal of roles, Fernand Ravinel is a weary, boring salesman, desperate to start a new life with his mistress, Lucienne. Except for he is already married to Mireille. Fernand and Lucienne devise a plan to kill Mireille, making it look like she accidentally drowned. Lucienne is a brash and bossy doctor and convinces her lover she can make it look real — she knows what doctors look for in autopsies. The book was made into the film Les Diaboliques. MORE
This book is incredibly fresh and exciting, yet nostalgic and wise. The narrative centers around Mina, a newlywed whose husband is hospitalized during their honeymoon. She mysteriously receives cans of film reels, a lost movie made by her grandfather, a German director. Intrigued, she takes them to Germany to find someone who can run the celluloid, and someone who might know their importance. Underpinning all of this is the story of her grandfather, Klaus Koblitz. Rather like Germany’s Orson Welles Koblitz finds himself touted as a genius of the silent cinema in the heady days of the Weimar Republic. MORE
De Potter’s Grand Tour
The sun had not yet set on the Gilded Age when Armand De Potter disappeared. In 1905, Europe was still, officially, at peace and the best families still considered a grand tour part of every civilised life. De Potter set up a thriving tour company. Relying on his amateur historical knowledge to provide unique itineraries, he also bought curios and antiquities along the way. He was a collector — of things, memories, histories, experiences.
So far, all of this is true. MORE
The Strangler Vine
Without glorifying the colonial days of India, Carter has sketched an enjoyable adventure within these pages. India in 1837, the heydey of the British East India Company is the backdrop for two exceedingly unlikely heros. Both are Company men, and neither is happy about it. The Company pairs the two and are told to find a wayward Company man turned radical poet, Xavier Mountstuart, somewhere in the northern provinces. MORE
A Secret Gift
An absolutely fascinating snapshot of a town hit hard by the Great Depression. As one who never lived through anything so terrifying, I was always intrigued by how emotions — particularly fear and doubt — can affect something so math-based like the economy. And how the (over)reactions of a few can drastically ruin the lives of so many. MORE
Do you have a favorite book that no one has heard of and you keep insisting people read it?