Underrated Books I Read Last Year

Check out everyone else’s Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish.

A+E 4ever is a graphic novel about two gender-nonconforming teenagers, and it’s as physically beautiful as it is engaging. The book is a full 8 x 11″, with a sort of velvety cover and lovely illustrations that look almost like an art journal or scrapbook. I was instantly enthralled, and read it again the next day before returning it to the library.

Everyone loved The Housekeeper and the Professor (it has over 18,000 ratings on Goodreads), and though I also liked it, it’s actually my least favorite of Yoko Ogawa’s books. My favorite is The Diving Pool, a collection of three novellas with just over 2,700 ratings. There’s a subtle darkness that runs through Ogawa’s short stories, a slightly disturbing look at human nature. So far only four of her books have been translated into English, but I am really hoping there will be more someday soon.

Elektra, Vol. 1: Bloodlines is more violent than the comics I generally read, but it is a very cool book. Bloody Lips is a spectacular villain, and I love Elektra even though the wispy way they draw her legs kinda freaks me out. I know it’s on purpose because she’s a ballet dancer, but her ankles are barely one brushstroke. I still haven’t read volume two of this run but I would really like to.

I knew immediately that very few people would like The Fever as much as I did, and I suspect the same might be true of Wallace Shawn’s work in general. It’s hard for me to explain; I think Shawn feels the same kind of bleakness about the world that I do, the same combination of a compulsion to make it better and a knowledge that we never could, even if we were able (or willing) to try as hard as we know we should.

Jessica Jones: Alias is one of my absolute favorite comics, and if you’ve enjoyed the Netflix show, you should really try reading it. I’ve only watched a few episodes and I like the show a lot—I think they’ve done a really good job adapting it, and I totally came around to Krysten Ritter after going in apprehensive—but the comics are even better.

If I had to pick one of the books on this list to get a copy in everyone’s hands, it would be Juliet Takes a Breath. It’s not necessarily my favorite of the list, although I did love it; I just think it represents such an important voice for the present and future of the world. Civilization is no longer just white men stomping around while everyone else struggles to get a tiny piece for themselves; it is all of us, black and brown and white, whatever gender, whatever sexual orientation, questioning things and making space for everyone—and that’s what this book is.

The library where I work has a copy of Kojiki, so I’d had it on my radar for a while and finally picked it up last year. It’s not perfect, but it’s an intriguing fantasy—set in modern Japan—that I think a lot of people would enjoy if they came across it.

I don’t know exactly what it was about Oddly Normal that I loved so much, but I did love it and have been waiting for a long time for one of my libraries to get volume two. The protagonist is a ten-year-old girl whose mother is a witch from a place called Fignation, and on her tenth birthday, she makes a wish that has some unfortunate consequences (because those are the best kinds of stories).

Pedro and Me was published sixteen years ago, and only has about two thousand ratings on Goodreads. I picked it up this year off the banned books display at the library, and then I cried through at least half of it. It’s a graphic memoir by one of the first cast members of MTV’s Real World, about his experience living on the show with an HIV-positive AIDS activist.

I actually didn’t even have strong feelings about Rush Oh!; I gave it three stars and thought it a solid, enjoyable read. But it’s such an interesting piece of historical fiction, focusing on Australian whalers in the early twentieth century, that I think could stand to get a lot more attention.

I think Scarlet Witch is a great character, but I didn’t have any particular attachment to her before picking up Witches’ Road, so I had basically no expectations for it. Honestly, I was floored. Usually I get frustrated when there’s a different artist for each issue, but it worked for me this time, and I particularly loved Marco Rudy and Steve Dillon’s issues. The scenes in Santorini are just gorgeous! The story isn’t super cohesive, but that didn’t bother me at all; mostly I was just so intrigued by Wanda’s character. I loved the magic, and I can’t wait to see more of her story.

Shelter was actually included in the first two rounds of the Goodreads Choice Awards last year, which means it did get some notice—and it is the book I voted for as long as it was an option. But the disparity in the final tally between it and the book that won (Truly Madly Guilty, with over 30,000 votes, where Shelter received 2,303) is what makes me feel that it was never really appreciated as well as it should be.

I think the fact that Skeptic has only 125 ratings on Goodreads says a lot about why the United States is the way it is. Not that this one book is necessarily that important, although I do think it’s a great one—it’s more that the concept of skepticism is so rare in general.

Where Am I Now? is a celebrity memoir that has a lot more depth to it than celebrity memoirs usually do. Mara Wilson writes about her struggles with anxiety, the issues specific to being a child star, and the difficulty of just growing up and trying to figure things out. Reading it was a meaningful experience for me.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    I think that’s the first person I’ve seen review Kojiki – I have that one waiting to be read so it’s really encouraging to see a positive review.
    Lynn 😀


  2. Lilyn G says:

    Good list! I love the books that have a tactile element to them.


  3. Zezee says:

    Yea, I’m really interested in Kojiki too. Sounds like something I’d like.


  4. Gwen says:

    I hope you both like it! I wrote a full review of it when I read it, so you can read that if you’d like. There are no real spoilers, but the one minor one is marked so you can skip it.


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