I was thinking about the topic of underrated books today and got to wondering if anyone else has a book in mind that they'd like to list here. My idea of an underrated book is something that you've read that you've found amazing, but that for some reason or another isn't considered mainstream or "popular." Virtually no one's heard of it, and for the life of you, you can't put your finger on why.
I'll go first, and I nominate "Healer" by F. Paul Wilson.
It's a short science fiction read about a guy who gets infected by a parasite that incorporates into his mind and uses its uncanny abilities to help him live and survive through generations. My dad introduced me to this book when I was very young and I've carried it around with me like a security blanket ever since. One time I lost it and cried for two days. Had to replace it, but it's pretty rare, so I had to scrounge the world over for a first edition copy like the original one I had. No one else I know has even heard of it!
Cruddy by Lynda Barry. It's been around since 1999 and I've only just read it. I'm surprised it's not more popular. It's about this tragic girl in the 70s and she steals away with her insane father on a road trip where he brutally murders several people and she drinks with him and cavorts with the scary and deformed and depraved denizens they meet along the way. Then there's a concurrent plot where she's telling that story to some hippies and thieves and drug addicts. It's violent, almost to the point of ultraviolent. It's more disturbing than most books I've read. It's grimy and visceral and disgusting. But it's also beautiful and sad and poetic.
Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan. It's hilarious. I don't even know how to describe it, but it made me laugh quite a bit.
You know what else is really good? Faraway Places by Tom Spanbauer. I wouldn't say it's underrated, in fact plenty of people have probably read it and know about Spanbauer, but not enough people have heard of him, which is a shame. His prose is so beautiful, almost lyrical. And Faraway Places is probably his easiest read. It's a novella, nice and short, and he's got this way of laying all his cards on the table from the beginning, and then building, building, building up to a very satisfying end.
The time travellers wife. One of my favorite time-travel romance novel ever. It's great. Problem is that most my friends and most Swedes I interact with doesn't read that much so no one knows any of the books I'm talking about. So to me something like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen or George Saunders feels very underrated. But I know that they're not. So thinking about underrated books is somewhat weird for me. On the other hand I would say that reading stuff that's not european or american is underrated.
I'm just going to keep posting this everywhere I can: The Short-Timers, by Gustav Hasvord It's out of print and the basis for Full Metal Jacket.
@Bryan: Woahh, what is that link you posted? It goes to a whole work? Is that a book?
Yup. Out of print, so it's online somehow. I found the link through the official website, but that post has been taken down from the site. I've read it twice now, and it reminds me of parts of "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. It's a hell of a dark book. Really sparse prose. Very effective.
I just read the first part where they're doing push-ups. Really good so far. You're right, really effective prose, no bullshit. I'm gonna save it and read it offline. Gustav Hasvord, huh? Is this new? Old?
From his wiki page:
Gustav Hasford (November 28, 1947 – January 29, 1993) was an American journalist, novelist, and poet. His semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) was the basis of the film Full Metal Jacket (1987). He was also a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served during the Vietnam War.
Very cool. I like his style.
A buddy of mine was in the army for a few years. The Short-Timers kind of reminded me of some of the stuff my friend told me, psycho drill sergeants, middle of the night fire watch, push-ups upon push-ups of all kinds all the damn time. It's amazing how many different kinds of push-ups there are. He came back with all these crazy stories. It's like a whole other world in there.
I wanted to just list all my friends' books, but …
Anything by Steve Erickson. My favorite is The Sea Came in at Midnight, but Zeroville is the "easiest" read.
Serpent Box - Vincent Louis Carrella (gorgeous southern gothic with evangelical snake handlers)
Cottonwood - Scott Phillips (if Deadwood's cancellation pissed you off, you'll dig this)
A Fuckload of Shorts - Jedidiah Ayres (noir to the core; they adapted a musical from "Scotch Tape")
… okay, so my friends infiltrated this post anyway.
In 2018 we're going to bump some worthy threads back up to the top.
I've got some:
Ugly Man by Dennis Cooper (the title story is a really fantastic piece of short fiction)
A Very Minor Prophet by James Bernard Frost
Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt
Ooo, got some more to put on my list now, thanks a lot...
Come to think of it, I think mine's pretty damn underrated, actually.
Bryan Howie. Thanks!
One of my favorite books is The Theif Lord by Cornelia Funke, she's not what I would usually consider an amazing author but the book is so underrated it's sad.
I just finished Places, Everyone, a book of poems by Jim Daniels. It's really good stuff. Very accessible without being dumb. A lot of stuff about growing up in Detroit and the collapse of industry around those parts.
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson - really damn good and never saw much fanfare over it!
Dr. Mary's Monkey: How the Unsolved Murder of a Doctor, a Secret Laboratory in New Orleans and Cancer-Causing Monkey Viruses Are Linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK Assassination and Emerging Global Epidemics
Book by Edward T. Haslam
Above is the online summary, my dad gave it to me a few years ago. The whole thing was one long "Oh Wow!" Very enjoyable and a bit terrifying..
Anything by Umberto Eco. Especially "Foucault's Pendulum".
Max Brook's awesome "World War Z". Skip the movie.
Richard K. Morgan "Altered Carbon"
John Scalzi "Old Man's War"
John Varley "Steel Beach"
Robert Littell "The Company"
Richard Kadry "Sandman Slim"
Tim Robbins "Skinny Legs And All"
ps. good call by the person who cited "anything by Steve Erickson". I definitely agree.