Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books

Post by Ingrid

Welcome to this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Underrated Books. "Underrated" could be defined in so many ways. I commented on a blog post once a long time ago and claimed Tao Lin was underrated. The other commenters freaked out and said he gets way too much attention. Ever since I've been more hesitant to say certain books or authors are underrated, because I've found that it really depends on who you are talking to and how you approach the topic. Different books may also be either underrated or overratted depending on the sphere you are talking about. For example, a book may be studied and respected in an academic sphere but not read as often by the general public. You could call the book underrated, but then again a book that is a bestseller but not respected in academic circles could also be called underrated. See? Complicated.

So, for this list I'm going to go the easy way and take a very broad, general approach and focus on books and authors I've loved that I feel don't as much attention from the general reading public.

1. Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. Yes, it just so happened I finished this book a few days ago and will be reviewing it within the next few days. Louise Erdrich is becoming one of my favorite authors.

2. Daughter of the Saints by Dorothy Allred Solomon. (My review.) My favorite memoir on polygamy.

3. Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson. (My review.) A great exploration of how women can create their own unique, meaningful life narratives especially when faced with trials and discontinuities.

4. A Long and Happy Life by Reynolds Price. A simple, touching love story that takes place in the American South in the 1940s.

5. Moon Palace by Paul Auster. A fast paced novel about an orphan searching for his father.

6. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown. A history of all the major tribes in the American West and how they were manipulated and mistreated by the U.S. government.

7. A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov. The adventures of a Russian antihero. Short, fast-paced, deliciously Russian.  

8. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Ok, I know this book gets enough attention as it is. The reason I put it on this list is that I've noticed that a lot of people HATE this book. I think that sometimes the reason is that people misinterpret it to be racist when Conrad is presenting very polarized characters to make a statement about colonialism.

9. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. Again, I think that this book is often misinterpreted. Werther is annoyingly emotional and sentimental ... I think Goethe is making a statement about the dangers of sentimental literature instead of setting up Werther as some sort of hero as some people seem to think.

10. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. One of Ted Hughes' last books of poetry he wrote before his death, most of them about his first wife and fellow poet, Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide several decades earlier. Very sad and beautiful.

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree that they are underrated? What books do you think are underrated?