Underrated Books

Sometimes a really good book never catches on and fails to becomes popular in the way it deserves. Northshire staff have weighed in on their top picks for underrappreciated titles. 

Conquerors' Trilogy by Timothy Zahn

A series about first contact with a new alien species gone horribly wrong, the first book is told from a human point of view, the second from the aliens', and the third an even mix, with solid world building and alien characterization. Released from 1994 to 1996, it was likely overshadowed by other works of Zahn's, including the long-running Cobra series as well as the Thrawn trilogy which kickstarted the Star Wars expanded universe shortly before Conquerors'publication. - Andrew Bugenis

For Every One by Jason Reynolds   

This book is one long poem. But then again, it is not a poem. It is a letter. A letter to Reynolds younger self. To his future self. And to his now self. It is a letter to people of all ages no matter if it is your present or future self. These 112 pages are a commencement speech. It is a book you give to a graduate of high school or college. Or given to someone who is having a hard time (due to a loss or seemed "failure" in their life or in general is struggling). It is something you read, keep and purchase copies of to give to people. For ages 14 to adult.

Why it might not have done greater things? While Northshire Bookstore sold several, and I'm sure it did well overall, it is an "out of the box" idea that people usually would not think of as a gift since it is not what is "expected" to be given. It needs to be hand-sold and pushed for someone not realizing it is what they not only want but what they need. - Jeanette Sessions

The Book of Lost Things by John Connoly

This dark fantasy book came out right around the time the movie Pan's Labyrinth was released, and shared similar concepts. I believe that, were this released in a different time, it would be as well-regarded a classic as The Princess Bride is. This is an underrated gem, and I hope eventually it will become something of a cult classic. Here’s the recommend tag I wrote at the time:

A dark, grim fairy tale of sorts. After the loss of his mother, young David is kept company only by his books. Soon, a plane crashes into his backyard, and he is drawn into the dark world that has opened in the wreckage. He must find his way back to the real world, but it might not be so easy. A coming-of-age tale wrapped in twisted fantasy. - Chris Linendoll

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

This is one of my childhood favorites. Subtitled "A Fable" in some editions, this is a surprisingly soulful and poignant story from the guy who also brought us the Hellraiser movies.

I remember reading this multiple times as a preteen, and being completely enthralled by the magical creatures and happenings of Mr. Hood's Holiday House, all of which were tinged with the dark shadow of the House's hidden greed.  I always thought this would have made a fantastic kids' movie, and I have no idea why it didn't gain more widespread acclaim. - Ashley Castle

Silence by Erling Kagge

It's a book that is hard to pigeonhole, so maybe many have not stumbled across it, those who would both appreciate it and benefit from it. As a tangible thing it is a treasure; small, beautiful, minimal, when visual, stunning. As a visceral thing it speaks to the human soul. - Becky Doherty

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Released in the late 50s and largely forgotten.  Smart, brash, rebellious, verbose, and charming à la Plath in The Bell Jar or Erica Jong in Fear of Flying.  Reads like The Sun Also Rises but from the perspective of a young Lady Brett Ashley. - Joe Michon Huneau

How the Dead Live by Derek Raymond

Raymond's series of "Factory" books dealing with the London police's Department of Unexplained Deaths are the best crime novels I've read. Take a detective who makes Mike Hammer look like Miss Marple. Throw him among feral psychotics with a Bacon-esque attitude to the human body, and you have a vision of Thatcherite Britain so powerful that one book actually made Raymond's publisher physically ill. This volume finds Raymond's unnamed Sergeant leaving the wicked city to investigate the disappearance of a woman from her crumbling mansion. The Wiltshire village is soon set on its collective ear and the Sergeant learns the hard way that love never dies. To say that Raymond wrote mysteries would be a little like saying William Blake wrote light verse. He takes the no-nonsense vernacular of crime fiction and weds it to a visionary despair that is unlike anyone else writing in the genre. Ghoulish and great. - Charles Bottomley

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

When this book debuted it got a lot of attention - it was lauded by Neil Gaiman, and Lev Grossman said he thought it would change the genre. But since then it's been treated as a flash in the pan, even after the well-received BBC miniseries. This book has an ingenious sense of humor, combining an exhaustive knowledge of English history, Austenian prose, footnotes, alternative history, and magic that feels as mysteriously logical as the discoveries of Kepler and Newton. - Katelynne Shimkus

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This came out with a horrible cover in HC in 2017; a better one in paperback. I loved this book and reading it in 3 days. It is wry and funny, bitter and hurt-felt, honest and sarcastic but with great heart in many directions. Beginning in Ireland in 1945, we follow the life and loves of Cyril Avery, who is told he is not really an "Avery" thus setting a pattern for the rest of his life. Which brings the reader to the question “who IS Cyril Avery?” - Maeve Noonan





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