Most Underrated Gems of 2020

Underrated Gems of 2020


Last year, I struggled to put this list together because a lot of the books I loved were decidedly not under the radar! This year, I struggled a bit because a lot of the 2020 releases I loved overall were under the radar…or at least didn’t get the attention I thought they deserved!

So, in an effort to avoid having my Most Underrated Gems of 2020 list be almost the same as my Best Books of 2020 list, I decided to exclude any books that will end up on my Best Books of 2020 list from the underrated gems category.

On to the “Most Underrated Gems of 2020 that aren’t on my Best Books of 2020 list”…

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Most Underrated Gems of 2020

Break the Fall by Jessica Iacopelli
I loved the behind-the-scenes of preparing for the Olympics and team dynamics in elite women’s gymnastics in this YA novel. The stakes are super high…I was on the edge of my seat every time one of the gymnasts did a routine. There’s a cute love story as a sub-plot and, though you do need to suspend disbelief on a few plot points, I flew through this in 2 days.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Eat a Peach by David Chang
Chang’s memoir about growing up Korean American in Northern Virginia, his struggle with mental illness, and how he built his Momofuko restaurant empire might be my all-time favorite food memoir, but it is much more than just a food memoir. Chang talks about what it’s like to be an Asian American who does not fit traditional Asian stereotypes (i.e. he’s not book smart and he’s a big guy), going into a non-traditional profession as the child of Korean immigrants, his childhood as a golf prodigy, and his struggle with mental illness (bipolar disorder). He’s incredibly self-deprecating and I love his philosophy on food. Excellent on audio!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner (my review)
I would’ve thought Gildiner’s (a Canadian psychologist) compilation of the stories of her five “most heroic and memorable patients” would’ve gotten more attention given the success of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (my review), but I think it didn’t because these stories are far more gut-punching, but she explicitly chose patients whose stories ended well and were inspirational. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould (my review)
This character-driven debut novel about women struggling to pursue their dreams while being mothers and wives spoke to me and I think it would’ve gotten more attention in a non-COVID environment. The story begins with a toxic relationship that reminded me of the one in Sweetbitter (my review) and turns into an exploration of motherhood and balancing time and attention to children with pursuing a dream of your own. Perfect Tunes packs a lot of themes and a long timespan into a small package, but the story and characters still feel fleshed out.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige (my review)
Sea Wife is a novel about a family, including their two young-ish daughters, that lives on a sailboat off the coast of South America. It reads like literary fiction with a suspenseful element that is very much in the background of the story. This is a story about marriage (Juliet and Michael were struggling with their marriage prior to their trip) and the commentary on marriage (and parenthood) is excellent. Another book that I think would’ve gotten more attention in a non-COVID environment (although reading a book set at sea got me as close to feeling like I’d escaped COVID as humanly possible right now).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Stray by Stephanie Danler (my review)
Danler’s memoir hit me in my core, but it’s one of those books that isn’t for everyone. It’s super dark and one of the most raw memoirs I’ve ever read, yet immersive and riveting. Danler recounts horrible things that happened with her family in a matter-of-fact tone, yet her pain still pulses through her writing. Ultimately, she’s scarred and bearing those scars for the world to see. This one was probably too dark and Danler came across as too dislikable for it to really hit in a COVID environment, but I loved it!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Golden Cage by Camilla Lackberg (my review)
Thrillers with strong female protagonists are hot right now, so I’m not sure how this one didn’t get more attention…maybe because the author is European? The Golden Cage is a bit more subtle than American thrillers, more of a slower burn, and more character driven…which I loved. The big theme is women using their brains to empower themselves over men…and to get revenge. P.S. – I just realized I completely forgot to include this book on my 2020 Summer Reading Guide (it’ll go in the 2021 Guide to make up for it).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This is My America by Kim Johnson
More than any other book on this list, it blows my mind that This is My America hasn’t gotten more attention! It’s a debut, YA novel about a black high school girl in Texas whose father is awaiting his execution for a crime he didn’t commit…and whose high school aged brother is suspected in the murder of a white classmate. It addresses a number of important themes related to race: police brutality, inequality in the justice system, and wrongful conviction, yet
the plot moves super fast and the story is incredibly compelling. I was impressed with how Johnson was able to make it feel that way while handling all these weighty topics.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are your favorite underrated gems of 2020?

Pin this post…

Underrated Gems of 2020


Get Weekly Email Updates!
Privacy Policy

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Wendy wrote:

    I also loved Perfect Tunes and Sea Wife. Will check out your other recommendations.

    Posted 12.4.20 Reply
  2. Melissa R Cushman wrote:

    I was loving Good Morning, Monster until I got to the fourth patient — that the situation the woman was in was so awful, it still disturbs me to think about it.
    Added Sea Wife to my library queue and just bought Eat a Peach on audio! Thanks for the great recommendations!

    Posted 12.4.20 Reply
  3. Linda S. wrote:

    Thank you Sarah! I am going to try Eat a Peach on audio and am adding Sea Wife to my TBR. I did enjoy Good Morning, Monster on audio.

    Posted 12.5.20 Reply
  4. Liz Dexter wrote:

    Eat A Peach is the one that appeals to me most on this list and I have just added to my wishlist, it looks fascinating.

    Posted 12.6.20 Reply

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive all new blog posts in one weekly email. Plus, news of special updates and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!