Underrated Books To Read And Love

It’s been a while since I have done a Top Ten Tuesday post. What luck that the topic for this week  – Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Goodreads Ratings – should be so fun and so different! (Also, tbh I love that I don’t have to rattle my brains to figure out what books to include. It’s all there black on white on Goodreads ) Thank you Lauren and Julia at The Broke and the Bookish!

Never be too quick to rejoice, they say. Most of the books on my ‘read’ list have hundreds of thousands of ratings. Meh. Am I really that mainstream?

There are plenty of titles with less than 2000 ratings that belong to an age when I was determined to read everything in the kid’s section, so they would let me in the grown-up library. I literally picked books in the order they were shelved. Some weird choices happened.

More surprisingly though, some real gems have under 2000 ratings. It’s a shame! So let me hurry up and recommend them to you.

Rather than by enjoy factor (I have picked only titles I have rated 4 or 5), I will order them by the level of my surprise to find out they have so few ratings (1 being OMG-OMG-OMG-OMG-ARE-YOU-KIDDING).

10. Spartacus by Raffaello Giovagnoli

(644 Ratings)

Not surprising because: The obvious reason for few ratings – no English version. I read this in mid-school, in Bulgarian, and loved it. Since it is a pretty old book, though, I can understand people not actively seeking it out. No hype, given the many recent books about everyone’s favorite gladiator.

10.2. L’Inimitable by Irène Frain

(11 Ratings)
Not surprising because: Again – no English version, I read it in Bulgarian when I was obsessed with Cleopatra. Remember that sultry Billy Zane movie in 2003? Right about then. The book, though, is more of a historical account, very far from a flick with too much too bad CGI.

9. Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

(948 Ratings)

Not surprising because: Not the most famous book by Somerset Maugham and definitely not recent. I recommend it if you cherish writing more than intensity of the plot. I hardly remember the story, but I remember it brought out the writer in me and, oh, did she revel in that prose.

8. Sisi, Ein Traum von Liebe by Gabriele Marie Cristen

(47 Ratings)
Mildly surprising because: Yet again – I could not find an English edition of this. But given the volume of tourists that pass through Sisi’s one-time homes at  Hofburg, Shoenbrunn and Achilleon (Corfu), and the popularity of the gift shops there, I can’t imagine how this, even just the German version, did not become more popular. Myself – I bought a short biography at Schoenbrunn and later on when I got back home I searched for this gem. Great account of the favorite princess and her disappointments and life tragedies.

7.The Dancer and the Raja – The True story of the Princess of Kapurthala by Javier Moro

(1,579 Ratings)
Quite surprising because: I loved this book. For historical fiction lovers it is a must. I especially loved the way Moro manages to seamlessly weave curiousities and little known facts in the narrative, like when he almost casually tells the story of the Spirit of Exstasy – Rolls Royce famous mascot.
This is also probably the only book I’ve managed to read for hours in the park – that’s how ccompelling the story is.

6. Harem by Colin Falconer

(1,361 Ratings)
Quite surprising because: This was heavily advertised around here, so I expected much more interest in it on Goodreads. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers – the riveting story of Roxelana, who conquered and ruled over Suleiman The Magnificent.

5. Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore

(2,317 Ratings – not under 2000, but still way too few for this book)

Quite surprising because: If you want to read fiction about the Romanovs, the Communist regime coming to power, about pre-WWII Russia and Stalin what do you read but this book? Its writing is superb, the story broke my heart and I learned more about all of the above than all the history books in high school managed to teach me.

4. Amphibian Man by Alexander Romanovich Belyaev

(2,038 Ratings)

Why-oh-why surprising because: I’ve read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy since I read the Amphibian Man, including LOTR, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and still Belyaev’s classic remains one of the best, most memorable, most evocative in the genre. Yes, it is not a recent book, and yes, it is a Russian author, but still… A definite must-read!

3. Life Mask by Emma Donoghue

(1,685 Ratings)

‘Why-oh-why’ surprising because: I bought this at a book shop in Provincetown, MA. How it did not occur to me it would be lesbian interest is beyond me, but it did  not bother me once that  was clear. If anything I was glad – I would not have picked it up on purpose if I knew, and what a miss that would have been. Amazing historical fiction rich in political detail. I rather think the politics might have made it unpopular on Goodreads.

2. The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing

(1,296 Ratings)

‘What???’ surprising because: Doris Lessing is the Queen of the short story for me. I absolutely love her. Her profound understanding of the human condition combined with the writing itself – it’s a feast!

1. Lady of the Eternal City (The Empress of Rome #4) by Kate Quinn

(860 Ratings)

‘What???’ surprising because: Not only is this an amazing book. Not only was it smartly marketed. It is also the best (well, for me) installment of a successful series. The other three books scored significantly more ratings (Mistress of Rome – 9,083; Daughters of Rome – 4,378; Empress of the Seven Hills – 3,203 ratings). I have no idea what was different for my poor ‘Lady’.


What I realized doing this is that some superb books stand no chance of being popular and thereby read by younger readers. Limited translations and early publication year mean oblivion. I would like to mention specifically the series by the Bulgarian author Fani-Popova Mutafova. She wrote about the rule of one of our most notable royal dynasties – the Asenevtsi. Although there is some glorification in the books, as ordered by the then ruling Communist party, the story and the characters are compelling and masterfully written, unlike many in more modern books by Bulgarian authors.

What is your top ten of underrated books? Please share the link below 🙂


2 Comments Add yours

  1. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’ve not read any of these – that seems to be something I’m saying a lot this week. I have read Room by Emma Donoghue but not Life Mask. I’ve also read a couple of books by Doris Lessing but not The Grandmothers.
    Lynn 😀

    1. That is why I liked the topic so much – it’s like a treasure hunt with pro tips 🙂 I do recommend both (with ‘disclaimers’ as written above)

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