Five Underrated Books
Last time, I posted my Top 5 picks for the most Overrated books right now in the book community online but today I wanted to do the opposite and so I present to you my Top 5 picks of the books I believe to be criminally underrated.
I know I harp on about this book quite a bit (and by that I mean all the time) but that’s only because it’s currently one of my favourite books and doesn’t get nearly enough of the attention it deserves.
It is set during 1960s Kerala, India, during a time of social and political unrest. Fraternal twins; Rahel and Estha experience the tragic loss of their cousin who comes to visit them from England. As well as this, their mother’s illicit affair with a so-called ‘Untouchable’ or low-class person has equally heart-breaking consequences.
The God of Small Things is provocatively and memorably written. Arundhati Roy is so creative in her use of time jumps and structure and possesses a flair of writing that is completely and uniquely her own. I know I feature this book A LOT on my blog because it had that much of an impression on me and not enough people are talking about the god-tier nature of this book.
Bernadine Evaristo is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors and I absolutely relish her work; from the award-winning Girl, Woman, Other to the satirical artistry of Emperor’s Babe, Evaristo’s non-traditional, signature writing style is in my opinion, exceptional.
No more so than the the flavoursome masterpiece that is Mr Loverman; the story follows dapper seventy-four year old, Barrington Jedidiah Walker, who after thirty years of a loveless marriage is finally ready to pursue a romantic relationship with his true love; fellow Antiguan man, Morris.
This book was so endearing and witty and completely cognizant of South London life for Black (African & Caribbean) communities. It might be controversial to say, but I believe the obscuring of books such as Mr Loverman substantiates the prevalence of ageism within the mainstream book community, made manifest by a lack of conversation or any discussion on this book or indeed other books featuring elderly protagonists.
I chose to feature this anthology because of the overwhelming ambivalence the book community has towards reading non-fiction. Black Joy is a collection of euphoric essays written by notable African and Caribbean writers, artists and politicians as well as individuals from the Black diaspora. They all expand on how Black people can find joy in spite of the relentless racial challenges and othering that typically signifies our experiences.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own reading preferences plus there is the fact that many people read for the escapism or because of a particular penchant towards the dystopian or the macabre which is fine. I do love a good escapist fantasy novel but I also feel that reading non-fiction is a necessary means (especially if you’re a bookworm) of engaging with critical social issues that are effecting fringe groups today, learning about how we can exacerbate deep-seated social inequalities and deconstructing our lingering isms. But all the political spiel aside, books like Black Joy often get suppressed in the mainstream because the book community is so obsessed with predominantly white narratives. And that means a hidden treasure trove of Black, Brown, Indian, East Asian, Indigenous and Queer POC stories.
Truth Be Told has to be one of the best legal thriller novels I’ve ever read. Maybe its because my catalog of thrillers, legal or otherwise, is limited but I could not fault this book and it’s not just an exhilarating courtroom story but it also deals with issues that are of utmost importance in Western society today. That of patriarchal ideas about masculinity and prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.K.
It follows a seventeen-year-old senior called Kamran Hadid who attends a swanky boarding school, the kind very wealthy white boys who will someday go onto to govern the country or occupy other such powerful positions, attend. Kamran attends a party with his friends and after getting drunk and stumbling back to his dorm, he is raped by a peer and struggles over reporting the issue and even worse, telling his parents.
Truth Be Told is the second book in a series but it reads perfectly as a standalone and I loved the razor-sharp storytelling. This book is so magnetic and I desperately want more people to read it.
Whilst we’re talking about underrated books and by extension underrated genres, let’s spare a thought for the contemporary art of Chick lit (or female fiction to use a less derogatory term) which often gets blanketed with romance and is therefore susceptible to not being taken seriously by the many.
The majority of books that fall under this genre are of course overwhelmingly white-washed in nature with little to no room for diversity, especially concerning books that feature Black protagonists (Black protagonists where the main love interest isn’t white mind you) and so the clever hilarity of books like Asking For A Friend by the rapturously funny Andi Osho often falls by the wayside.
The story follows three long-time best friends, Jemima, Meagan and Simi who each lead hopeless love lives. They decide to sort out their love woes once and for all by playing a dating game, involving approaching men in bars, clubs, etc. and asking them out, not for themselves but for a friend. In that way ‘No woman gets left behind!’ If you’re looking for a light-hearted and incredibly funny pick-me-up, I’d recommend giving this a read!