Top Ten Underrated Books

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Whole Wide World by Mindy Gledhill.

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. I have to admit, I've always secretly wanted to play along, but when this week's prompt came up, I knew there was no way I could not participate. Underrated excellent books are one of the core features of this blog and for me as a reader, writer, and undercover superhero. Now my only fear is that I've missed so many books (I've been wracking my brain for far too long on this post. See my tweet to prove it) and I still feel I've missed some important ones. But here is my not-set-in-stone-because-I-know-I've-forgotten-a-million-of-them Top Ten Underrated Books, in no particular order.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

I love this story. Taking place in modern Burma (Myanmar), it is that much more potent when you read about soldiers kidnapping children to draft them into the army, and knowing it is real. The friendship between Chiko and Tai is so wonderful, as well as the growing friendship and understanding that comes from Tu Reh. Tai is now one of my favorite book characters.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

This wordless graphic novel is beyond stunning. The sepia tones and utterly fantastical creatures and buildings makes this place beautiful and foreign. We follow an unnamed immigrant father as he tries to establish his place in this new world and bring his family over. The wordless aspect is a powerful tool because we follow his confusion, fear, and every emotion every step of the way. I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the end.

Flight series, edited by Kazu Kibuishi

If you have ever been hesitant or outright skeptical of ever entering the world of "comic books" or graphic novels because of their simplicity of stories, crudeness of art, their taking away from "real" literature or another million reasons I've heard, this series will blow those arguments, and your mind, out of the water. They are beautiful. They are stunning. Each piece is a complete story--they are like short stories in graphic novel form. And the artwork is as varied and as beautiful as they come. The very last volume (#8) was just released, and that is the cover pictured here. Some of my favorites include "Message in a Bottle" by Rodolphe Guenoden, "The Maiden and the River Spirit" by Derek Kirk Kim, and "The Window Makers" by Kazu Kibuishi.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Talk about an oldie but goodie! I've reread this one several times and every time I am still swept away by the romance, dogged determination, and resourcefulness of Kate in this improvised and unique retelling/homage of Tam Lin. This is also the first historical fantasy I ever encountered and so for introducing me to a genre I did not know existed, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.

Are you starting to see a small trend with this list and some of my reviews? I didn't intend to, but these keep bubbling to the surface for a reason and this one is no exception. I read this the year Catching Fire came out and in my review I said it was the best book I'd read that year, and might even give Suzanne Collin's book a run for its money. It did, and I may even dare say it outclassed it. This story is so rich and unique in time, setting and characters. Who would have thought to combine samurai culture with baseball? Certainly not me, but I am so glad he did, because this remains one of the shining jewels in my collection and one of the most underrated. Add to this a son who is trying to prevent his father from committing suicide (seppuku) after teaching him how to be a samurai and you have one complex, beautiful story on yours hands.

Crown Duel/Court Duel (now paired as Crown Duel) by Sherwood Smith.

I've reread this story more times in Jr. High than I care to count, and I still love it to this day. If you like an awesome, spunky heroine, a swoon-worthy but misunderstood love interest that clashes with the main character more often than not (but man does that single scene pay off in the end), if you like political intrigue, and an immersive, different fantasy world, go get Crown Duel now. It has all of that and a bag of chips more.

Little Sister/The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey

This book duet is out of print and I still mourn their loss. This book takes place in a world that ignites the imagination. It follows Mitsuko, a daughter of a high nobleman in Heian (medieval) Japan as she tries to go to the underworld to save her sister's soul and of the people and immortal beings she meets, and her adventure afterwards. It has some of the most unique and wonderful mythical creatures you've never heard of before (this is why I loathe the fact that we don't learn of hardly any history/culture outside of Europe. Loathe). Read on to The Heavenward Path. The romance alone is well worth it. The language is sparse yet evocative, and it is meant to be that way, very much mimicking a haiku and other forms of poetry. And I will tell you this right now, Goranu is one of my top 20 favorite characters of all time. It is so worth the used book price you can buy them for now. This book series is a personal favorite of mine and probably the most underrated book on this list.

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

Okay, this is a fun one. What if, after some cataclysimic event, an average American town is abandoned/wiped out of human life, and some time in the future archeologists come in and try and interpret what our life was "really" like? This is that story, and it is hilarious. :)

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristen Clark Venuti

This one is far more lighthearted, but I love it all the same. A crazy family that lives in a lighthouse on a hill? The dutiful but exhausted butler who takes care of them because of a contract his ancestor wrote 200 years ago? A contract which is about to expire, after which he will write a tell-all memoir and garden in a place Far Away? The adventures that follow to show him how much he is loved and needed? Check. Yep, I love this story.

Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce.

I'm sticking this one out on a limb. I have not read it for years and honestly, I can barely remember what it is about, but all the same, it has stuck with me. I keep coming back to it, some fragment in my mind whispering the word "tanglewood" and knowing the ending was something very special, but not being able to remember exactly what it is. This is one I know I have to get my hands on again, just to find out.


The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. - Not to be confused with his earlier work "The Missing Piece" this picture book is quite unknown of his work, and it perhaps one of my favorite picture books of all time.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell. - Written in verse, this historically-based Arthurian retelling is told from the perspective of Elaine (aka The Lady of Shallott). Beautifully drawn, beautiful language and an excellent story I recommend highly.

Chime by Franny Billingly. - This one came out just this year and for the life of my I cannot understand why it has already slipped below the radar. The setting is so cool (I've only read of one other story that takes place in a swamp), the characters are vivid, the language is different and wonderful. It is utterly fantastic.

And so many more, but I have to stop.


Trish said...

Tanglewood sounds interesting. I love it when a book stays with me like that.

Michelle Santiago said...

darn, i forgot to include crown duel on my list. but, yes, it is AWESOME!! read it in high school and it got me wanting to read more fantasy.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

New follower!

What an eclectic list. I had a Shaun Tan book on my list: Tales from Outer Suburbia.

My Head is Full of Books

Sash and Em said...

i have been meaning to get around to Chime for some time now!

Check out my Top 10!

LBC said...

I am particularly interested in Leaving the Bellweathers, but I hadn't heard of any of the books on your list. Thanks for the recommendations.

Check out mine at The Scarlet Letter.

danya said...

O_O I am so surprised to see Little Sister on someone else's list! I think you must be one of the only bloggers I know who has also read that one. *high fives* Isn't Goranu such a stand-out character?? He's awesome!

Also, *love* Crown Duel (I have read that book countless times) and The Perilous Gard is excellent too - a very different offering of a faerie novel.

I haven't heard of the Flight books before but I am looking to increase the number of graphic novels I read so I'll have to check those out!