Most Underrated Gems of 2022

Most Underrated Gems of 2022


Quite possibly my favorite list to publish every year. Even with social media spitting books at you all the time, some still don’t get the attention they deserve.

In an effort to spread the wealth, I decided to exclude any books that will end up on my overall Best Books of 2022 list from the underrated gems category.

On to the “Most Underrated Gems of 2022 that aren’t on my Best Books of 2022 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 2022

Bad City by Paul Pringle
Bad City is investigative journalism at its page turning best! A young girl in her 20’s overdosed in a fancy LA hotel room…and Dr. Carmen Puliafito, Dean of the USC Medical School, was at the scene. LA Times reporter Paul Pringle received this tip, started digging, and found much more than he’d anticipated…including a cozy relationship between his employer and USC. This is a mind-blowing story and I think it’s the kind of story Dominick Dunne would’ve loved.

Affiliate Links: | (Audio)

Bully Market by Jamie Fiore Higgins
I was completely engrossed in Bully Market on audio! Higgins covers sexual harassment, office politics manipulation, intolerance of family and motherhood, and work / life balance…and this book is sad and maddening. It reminded me of a mash-up of Smacked by Eilene Zimmerman, From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein, and The Boys Club by Erica Katz. Warning: there is a massive trigger in this book, so please do your research or DM me if you want specifics.
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger
Corrections in Ink is a debut memoir that tells a mind-blowing personal story while also speaking to a broader issue (addiction and women in the prison system). The first chapter is a doozy and immediately pulled me into this story. Blakinger uses the Friday Night Lights pilot episode strategy of alternating chapters between her childhood as a figure skater and journey into drugs with chapters from her time in prison. Keri is self-reflective and it’s a hopeful and redemptive story despite the dark places it goes along the way.
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor
Slow Burn Crime Suspense with football? Yes, please! Don’t Know Tough totally surprised me! It’s a bit literary, but not overly so and is a lot more plot driven than I expected. The vibe of the Arkansas town is very Friday Night Lights, but darker, and the story also reminded me of a grittier version of The Bright Lands, minus the supernatural horror. It’s about abuse, poverty, and the power of sports to lift people up. Yet, it also addresses the dark side of football.

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe
This debut novel about the friendship between 4 middle school age girls in the Robert Taylor Homes (a Chicago housing project) in the summer of 1999, when the Homes are being torn down one by one gave me strong Saving Ruby King vibes with some Transcendent Kingdom and This is My America mixed in. It’s a character-driven, slice of life story, but there is action. It’s about coming of age amid a hail of gang bullets and is filled with tragedy, but it has heart and hope. 

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Someday, Maybeby Onyi Nwabineli 
This debut novel about a young woman who lost her beloved husband to suicide and her extraordinary grief is loosely based on true events. Unsurprisingly, it’s an emotional story about intense grief, but Nwabineli’s tone is sort of dryly funny (similar to Annie Hartnett) and there is healing with the support of family, which takes some of the heaviness out of the reading experience. She talks about grief A LOT, but never in the same way twice. Her writing is out of this world. 

Affiliate Links: Amazon | (Audio)

Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse
This part true crime / part memoir about a series of sexual assaults involving a major University’s (it’s clear which University this is about, yet Krouse doesn’t name it) football program is a more personal, less “reporting” version of Missoula by Jon Krakauer. This story explores big time football culture and how it plays into the tacit acceptance of sexual harassment and assault. Also, cover-ups and money. Despite the heaviness of the topic, I was engrossed and read it in 2 days.

Affiliate Links: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
I loved Kapelke-Dale’s debut novel, The Ballerinas, and she’s done it again with The Ingenue! Former piano prodigy, Saskia, returns home to Milwaukee after her mother dies, leaving the family estate (“Elf House” – based on 2 elf statues at the front door) to a complicated man from her past. Saskia has to decide if pursuing what she sees as her rightful inheritance is worth buried secrets being revealed. The Ingenue was such a pleasant surprise for me: the story went in unexpected directions and was much more layered than I anticipated. There’s a coming of age element, the family drama, and the fact that Saskia is a piano prodigy…and what that does to a young girl’s psyche (I found this element particularly fascinating). 

Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

The Local by Joey Hartstone
Patent law might sound boring, but the patent law landscape in Marshall, TX (it’s a hotbed for patent law) is not. The history behind this unlikely phenomenon gives this story the “something more” element I always crave in my thrillers. I also love when my legal thrillers give good insight into legal and trial strategy and Hartstone reminds me of Steve Cavanagh (Thirteen) in that way. A great pick if you’re looking for something fast-paced that will easily keep your attention.

Affiliate Link: Amazon | | (Audio)

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes
If you loved I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, this true crime / memoir mash-up is the perfect companion read. Paul Holes is a Detective, formerly of the Contra Costa County (CA) police, who specialized in cold cases and serial killers. AND…he’s the one who solved the Golden State Killer cases (from I’ll Be Gone in the Dark). He tells the story of this and other cases (including Laci Peterson and Jaycee Dugard) along with the impact his career choice had on his personal life. 
Affiliate Links: Amazon | | (Audio)

What are your favorite underrated gems of 2022?

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Most Underrated Gems of 2022

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  1. I read and loved several of these books since you brought them to my attention! So thank you for that!

    I am almost done with ‘All That’s Left Unsaid’ and it is a gem! It’s set in the 90s in Australia and is about a community of Vietnamese immigrants. A woman’s little brother gets murdered but none of the witnesses are talking so she takes it upon herself to find out what happened. The voice alternates between her and the witnesses. It’s sooo good! And it’s a debut!

    Posted 12.12.22 Reply

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