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31 Underrated Foreign Novels You Should Read

Time to expand your preferences.

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3. Australia — The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Allen and Unwin

A disturbing tale that revolves around ten women who wake up from their drugged sleep to find they are abducted and locked in a compound somewhere deep in the Australian outback.


5. Brazil — The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

José Olympio Editora

A cosmopolitan narrator meets a poor, doomed 19-year-old typist who unconsciously teaches him about poverty, love, and life before misfortune strikes her in the end.


8. China — Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Random House

Pearl and May, living a carefree life in Shanghai, find their lives uprooted after the Japanese bombs their city, and force them to journey across the Pacific to the shores of America.


12. Germany — Perfume by Patrick Süskind

Penguin Books

A man, with heightened olfactory acuity, is driven by an insatiable urge to smell the scents of virgin girls and goes on a killing spree to preserve their essence as perfumes.

14. Haiti — Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat


Nozias, a poor fisherman, hopes to give his little girl a better life and decides to send her off with an acquaintance. Instead, he finds that she has gone missing on the night of her seventh birthday.


16. Iran — My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad

Modern Library

This humorous novel recounts the tale of a nameless narrator who struggles to unite with his lover while his dad and his neurotic uncle keep conspiring against each other.

17. Italy — I'm Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti


A nightmarish story of a nine-year-old who stumbles upon the terrible schemes of his fellow villagers but continues to follow the path of truth, despite being threatened by everyone.

19. Kenya — A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Heinemann Educational Books

Set during the Mau Mau rebellion and Kenya's independence from Britain, the story revolves around the group of villagers whose lives turn topsy-turvy during the 1952–1960 Emergency.


20. Korea — Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Grand Central Publishing

Sunja's unplanned pregnancy brings shame to her family, forcing her to move to Japan after a young minister offers to marry her. It retells the saga of four generations struggling to secure peaceful life in the face of wartime hardship and social discrimination.

21. Malaysia — The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng


A retired Supreme Court judge finds herself strangely falling in love with a Japanese a self-exiled gardener after he refuses to build an impressive garden for her deceased sister.