18 Lesser-Known Books That People Utterly Adore And Need More People To Read, ASAP

    "It's strange and it's wonderful and I love it."

    There are some books that become culturally inescapable. Whether they attain classic status and get taught in schools, become the source material for a hit mini-series, or catch the notice of the folks on BookTok, there's a sense with some books that if you haven't read it, you're planning on reading it, and if you're not planning on reading it, you've at least heard of it. (Or already own a copy that you're going to start soon, you swear.)

    That kind of ubiquity is rare, but one of its benefits is that when you finish one of those books, there's a community of other readers there to talk to about it, whether that means swapping theories or commiserating over a sad ending. But sometimes, you finish a book and you ask everyone you talk to, "Holy shit, have you read this thing I loved and want to discuss further?" And the answer keeps on being, "Nope, never heard of it!" It's a discouraging experience, but an extremely common one, if you trust the thousands of responses received by Redditor u/Euthanaught, who asked the bibliophiles of r/books, "What's your favorite book of all time that no one has ever heard of?"

    Here are 18 of the books that readers adore and want more people to know about.

    Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity. 

    1. "All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. It's a beautiful short story that I picked up off the shelf and stood there until I was about to miss my train. I bought it, ran for my train, and finished it before I got home. It's a wonderful world where lots of people have a strange and unique superpower. Our main character has no such power but on his wedding to a woman who can make anything perfect her ex uses his power of suggestion to make her new husband invisible to her. The book is his desperate attempt to break this curse before she gives up on her husband and makes a new life without him 'perfect' by forgetting him completely. It's strange and it's wonderful and I love it."

    the book cover

    2. "Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence. First published in 1985, it tells the story of nuclear armageddon from the perspective of a small family in Gloucester. It splits the story into three parts a few decades apart: the first dealing with the initial holocaust, the second with the intermediary societies that emerge as nuclear winter starts to subside, and the third with the final resulting society as humans in Britain learn to adapt to the new world."

    "Now, it's not the best written book ever, with simple language, some odd themes, and some pretty on-the-nose messaging about the folly of nuclear war, modern societal ills, and religion, but it's really good at its mode of storytelling and I think about some parts of its story pretty regularly. It's short and simple, but has some surprising depth to it."


    3. "Fortunate Son by Walter Mosely. The story of two boys raised together and how their lives diverged and went down VERY different paths due to choice and the circumstances into which they were born. Not necessarily my 'favorite' book but it left a lasting impression on me. I read it once in college for a class and haven’t cracked it since but I refuse to remove it from my collection."

    book cover with a shadow of a person

    4. "Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle. A not well-known work by her, it's a beautiful, melancholic, autumnal NYC story. Very much like a feminine Catcher in the Rye."

    book cover with someone walking with an umbrella in the snow

    5. "The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. It's the incredibly moving, heart-wrenching tale of four children growing up in Tokyo through the Second World War and Japan's postwar recovery. I happened across it in a thrift shop for $0.25 and I'm so glad I did."

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    6. "Grey is the Color of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya. It's a book written about her time imprisoned as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union because of her poetry. Came out in the '80s, I believe. I found it at my local library in high school and have read it many times over the last 20-some years. It is beautifully written but so tragic to read the things she, and so many others, endured. It's not a book I'd expect anyone I meet to have found and read but it had a major impact on me when I read it and it remains one of my favorite books."

    book cover with floral graphics

    7. "The Bone Witch trilogy by Rin Chupeco. I blew through these three books in three weeks."

    book cover with graphics and a skull in the middle

    8. "My favorite book as a kid was Mail-Order Wings by Beatrice Gormley. A girl orders wings from an advertisement at the end of a comic book, and the wings actually work and make her fly! But the longer she has them, the more she loses her humanity and becomes a bird, and she has to find a way to stop it. It was a fun read at the time, and I was surprised when I reread it as an adult at how emotional and scary it is. Definitely one of my favorite books."


    9. "Momo by Michael Ende. My mom read it to me. Now I'm expecting my first, and planning to read it to him. I read that book so many times growing up that I had to have it rebound. The book binder was a Mennonite fellow who was the first and only other person I'd ever come across that had heard of it. I swear his eyes welled up when I handed it over for binding. 'Oh, Momo!' he said."

    the book cover with space-like graphics and a little girl in the middle

    10. "The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. It was the first YA book I read as a kid that I didn’t feel was talking down to me. It’s a brutally cynical novel that deals with themes of isolation, bullying, crowd mentality, burgeoning sexuality, and everything awful about high school. It’s one of the most frequently challenged books but it never gets the recognition it deserves and I’ve yet to see it in the 'challenged' section of libraries or bookstores. It was written in the '70s but still holds up today."

    book cover with empty student desks

    11. "Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff! It’s a sci-fi novel set in 2575 when humanity has colonized the universe. It follows three characters dealing with an attack on their home, becoming refugees, corporate espionage, corruption, and general teenage shenanigans. The thing I really love about it is that it isn’t written in traditional narrative style, but rather a collection of texts and emails between characters and classified documents. I’ve never seen a book like it and I highly and passionately recommend it to everyone I know."

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    12. "Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. It faced the challenge of releasing just before a very similarly named book that became a romance sensation. Shades of Grey is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi book set in a world defined by color. The higher up on the color spectrum you are, the more social cachet you have. The 'greys' are the lowest tier of society. There's a lot more to it. Fforde writes so well and creatively, creating a rich and unique world unlike any of the typical post-apocalyptic YA stuff that's everywhere."

    graphic of a man with an eye machine up to his face with spotlights of colors coming out

    13. "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders. More people may have read it now that he has won awards, but it's an earlier and very weird and interesting and very short work."

    robots and tall grass graphics on the book cover

    14. "A Royal Pain by Ellen Conford was a book I read as a kid and I loved it so much that I ended up with my teacher's copy because I kept rereading it. It’s about a teenager in Kansas who finds out she’s really a princess who was switched at birth when her American parents were vacationing in another country. Her and the other girl are forced to switch to their rightful places as teens. It was The Princess Diaries before The Princess Diaries."


    15. "Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint. It follows a group of artistic bohemian friends from the '70s into the '80s. It has magic paintings that come to life and the artist deals with what happens to the creatures when her paintings are burned."

    book cover with dancing naked silhouettes in the woods

    16. "Ron Currie Jr.’s Everything Matters! is a great read. It’s about a boy/man who, while still in the womb, is being communicated to by an omniscient being preparing him for life and his destiny to save the world, while carrying the burden of knowing the exact moment it’ll end if he doesn’t succeed. It’s poignant and super funny. Reading some mystical being explain to the main character why his brother is being a dick with both really profound insight into sibling dynamics but also flippancy because it’s, you know, some hyper-evolved being so it’s meaningless to it is really amusing."

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    17. "Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I never really heard everyone raving about this amazing trilogy. I always hear raves about the Sarah J. Maas books. (Which I also enjoy, I won’t deny it.) But Daughter of Smoke and Bone will always have a special place in my heart."

    graphic of a woman with her hands up showing eyes on her palms on the book cover

    18. And finally: "Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams. With all his popularity from Hitchhiker's Guide and television work with folks like Monty Python, Adams was hired to write a travel book where he goes and visits endangered species, talking about their plight and how they're currently doing. A lot of the humor in the book is him trying to work out exactly why they hired him of all people for the job."

    book cover with various animals crossed out