Every year I read books I loved, but that seemed to go under-the-radar for most people. Yes, reading is a very personal endeavor and what is 5 stars for me may not be 5 stars for you, but I’ve got 7 underrated gems I read this year that I’m almost evangelical about—I loved them that much. So, I’m spreading that love in the hopes that you might discover your next great read today. Also, if you have a book nerd in your life (lucky you!), one of these could be the perfect gift.
To those of you who have been here awhile it won’t come as any surprise that all of these novels are about women—from raucous girls to wise crones. I only realized there was a progression as I started compiling this list, but all of these females brought me insight, pain, awe, laughter, and hope.
(Titles link to my full review)
A script flipping tech novel, The Startup Wife by Tamima Anam explores a husband-wife duo who create a new app to help people personalize traditional rituals (marriage, bar mitzvah, new baby, graduation). She’s the coder and designer, he’s the reluctant face of the brand. Until he’s not. Wonderful exploration of modern technology, marriage, and gender roles.
For some, it may be too soon to read this book, but I say not soon enough. This oral history of COVID in America was shocking, heartbreaking, and infuriating. Written by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Voices from the Pandemic presents the many sides to people’s responses across the country.
Songbirds was my first foray into fiction about Cyprus. When a woman’s Sri Lankan housekeeper goes missing it forces her to face truths about aspects of life on the island she’d never considered. Haunting, thought-provoking, timely.
Setting aside one of my most disliked covers in years, I loved everything else about Fight Night. The story of a scrappy 9-year-old Swiv and her ebullient grandmother it plays the difficult issues of school suspension, a long-gone father, and health issues off against determination, humor, and a gruff tenderness. Easily one of my favorite novels of the year.
If Swiv hadn’t had such strong women in her life she might have ended up like April, the 16-year-old school dropout in The People We Keep. Her life was a map to nowhere so she runs away. A piercing novel of one young woman’s search for the home she never had.
Zorrie is 21 and homeless. Unlike The People We Keep, which is set in the present day this is the Depression and millions face the same fate. Zorrie is not a dark novel, but a brief (176 pages), beautiful, quiet story of the life one young woman carves out for herself. If you love Kent Haruf’s writing (as I do) then this is a must read.
Rounding out my women’s journeys novels is Margreete’s Harbor. When the fiercely independent Margreete accidentally sets her kitchen on fire her daughter realizes she needs help. She and her family move in, bringing 3 generations together under one roof. That alone, plus the times (1970s), make for a poignant saga.
That’s it for me. How about you? Any books you loved this year that you felt were underrated?
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*I received free copies of these books from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.*