Most Underrated Gems of 2018

December 11, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 33

Underrated Gems of 2018


My Best Books of 2018 list is coming on Thursday, but in the meantime, I wanted to give some love to books I really enjoyed, but that didn’t get much attention from regular readers and bloggers.

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Most Underrated Gems of 2018

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (my review)
I loved how Thompson wrote about women’s roles in marriage and in the home in this book…and particularly how she talked about the differences in viewpoints between generations. Though she’s been nominated for a National Book Award in the past, this novel didn’t get much attention. But, a few other bloggers I trust did really like it (but not many even read it!). 
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All the Castles Burned by Michael Nye (my review)
I actually can’t think of a single other blogger I follow who read this book. But, it’s a campus novel about a toxic male friendship with some basketball thrown in. Easy reading, but dark. Right up my alley…I included it in my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

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Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza (my review)
This brain candy novel was one of my favorite summer books! It’s easy reading, but smart and contains astute observations on women in politics. I feel like Piazza got a lot more attention for her previous book, Fitness Junkie, but this one is not to be missed!

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Foe by Iain Reid (my review)
Reid’s sophomore novel is sort of Sci-Fi, but not quite (maybe Sci-Fi Lite?)…but, it’s also a rumination on marriage, which I love. It was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Horror category (huh?!), but it finished in the bottom third of the voting, which tells me not many people read it. But, more should because it had me on the edge of my seat in a creepy, quiet way.

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Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (my review)
I think I did see this one on one Best Books of 2018 list, but it was fairly divisive among readers I know. Some didn’t like the vignette format, some didn’t like the ending, and some didn’t like Laura’s voice (or that we didn’t hear much from Emma). But, it totally worked for me!

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The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (my review)
You’d think this book would’ve gotten more attention since Paula Saunders is George Saunders’ wife at least. But, no. The writing was gorgeous, but I only know of two other bloggers who even read it.

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The Wildlands by Abby Geni (my review)
I saw this genre mash-up around #bookstagram a little bit when it was published, but not nearly as much as I would have expected! It’s a totally unique book and doesn’t really fit into one genre…but that’s what I love about it!

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Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (my review)
This novel had the feel of a scaled down A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. I included it on my 2018 Summer Reading Guide and Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy did too…other than that, I really didn’t see it around anywhere.

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Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman (my review)
I’m pretty sure I know why this book isn’t getting widespread attention. It’s hard, emotionally gut-punching…and those types of books aren’t for everyone. But, it affected me more than any other book I read this year. It’s outstanding in a very small number of pages. I’m actually re-reading parts of it right now for a book club discussion and it’s hitting me just as hard the second time around.

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Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan (my thoughts)
Pagan is like a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen. And this book is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. I thought more people would’ve appreciated her pointed talk about marriage, divorce, and aging for women.

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What are your favorite underrated gems of 2018?

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33 Responses to “Most Underrated Gems of 2018”

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    Great list, Sarah and since I’ve read all but 2, I can completely agree. I guess I need to check out Visible Empire and All the Castles Burned again. I don’t know why I’ve passed on those two all year.

  2. Sandy

    I really loved Foe which lead me to read the author’s other books. Looking over your list, I added a few books to my list. I have to agree with you, there are a lot of great books that go under the radar and I’m always on the out,ok for them. I think The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce was another book that went under the radar. Thanks for showcasing great books that others have missed.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      You’re welcome! And glad you saw some that might interest you. I haven’t read anymore Reid, but do want to go back and read his debut.

      I remember The Music was a BOTM pick earlier this year! But, I haven’t read it.

  3. Mel

    I loved Foe! It definitely deserves more love. And I have Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties on my kindle from a daily deal but haven’t read it yet, but it sounds great. Wildlands is also on my TBR list, but I was hoping my library would get it. Adding a couple of the others!

  4. Hannah | the cozy reading nook

    Thanks for this list! Based on my personal life, I’m interested in Cloud in the Shape of a Girl and Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties. I often wonder how my life will look in 20 years, or so, after being a wife and mom and taking care of things for so long. Will I lose my sense of self? I’m interested to see what these authors have to say.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yes – those two books definitely deal with similar themes. One in a much bleaker way than the other.

      And I hear you, but almost in the reverse for me. I felt like when I became a mom, I lost my sense of self. I wasn’t Sarah anymore…just a Mom. And, honestly, that was a big reason I started the blog…and it’s really helped me regain my sense of identity.

  5. renee

    I’d include the Tiger Woods in my list, that was so good and no one talks about it. So, Visible Empire and Wildlands were DNF’s for me. Maybe it was a case of wrong time or mood, i may revisit Wildlands

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I didn’t even think to add that one since Tiger is such a big star, but you’re so right! I really didn’t see much about it in the media (and didn’t expect to in the blogging world)…except for Bill Simmons.

      I can see how Visible Empire wouldn’t be for you…not really up your alley. But, I do think you could up enjoying Wildlands.

  6. JenMcG

    Woman Last Seen just came in at my library and I requested the Jo Piazza. Great list, as always!

  7. Sarah P

    I LOVED Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win. AMAZING book that needs more women reading it. Can’t wait to check out the rest on the list!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Agreed! She writes so well about gender roles and women in the workplace and politics. Definitely top notch light, but super smart reading! One of my new favorite authors.

  8. Jan

    ach…how can it be that I’ve only read three of these: Waiting For Eden, Foe and Wildlands? I loved all three!

    I own two others: Woman Last Seen in her Thirties (bought a few months ago as a kindle deal) and A Cloud in the Shape of A Girl (NG). Now I have a lot of reading to do to catch up

  9. Resh

    I have not read any of these (I had Charlotte Walsh on the radar for a while) , so thank you for this list. Maybe I would read a few next year

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I hope you do! And especially Charlotte – she’s one of my new favorite “light, but super smart” authors!

  10. Catherine

    I love the underrated aspect! I agree completely on Foe and Waiting for Eden.

    The two books I loved this year that got no buzz are: Song of a Captive Bird and The Pasha of Cuisine. My taste may be getting odder as I get older…

  11. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I love the idea of this post! I was just thinking that there are a number of books that I’ve loved that I’d like to do more to promote and putting together a list like this seems like one good way to do that 🙂

  12. Amy @ Read a Latte

    i haven’t read a single one of these! I did just pick up Waiting For Eden though after seeing it as your best book of the year (Esp since last year was The Heart’s Invisible Furies) and I can’t wait to start it!

  13. Frederick Anthony Smith

    What about f.smith’s two novels published in 2018? (Julie and Horace: A Love Story of Sorts (I Guess) You Decide and Julie and Horace, Part II: The Johnny Mop Splashback.) Are these not underrated gems…?

  14. F.Anthony Smith

    What about f.smith’s two novels published in 2018? (Julie and Horace: A Love Story of Sorts (I Guess) You Decide and Julie and Horace, Part II: The Johnny Mop Splashback.) Are these not underrated gems…?

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