The books you love that no one else seems to know or care about are equal parts maddening and invigorating. On one side, you’re shaking your friends by the shoulders, begging them to please finally read this book that you feel has rebuilt you from the inside out. On the other, you’re a little proud of yourself for stumbling on a gem that you didn’t find on Instagram or the New York Times Book Review.
Books that make up this list and stay on this list, and the ones that aren’t lost to a sudden surge of cultural recognition like, say, the thing that went down with Eve Babitz, tend to feel more personal, unbruised by others’ hands. After a while you almost stop recommending them, a la Rachel Cusk in the Outline. You don’t want to hear about what other people think about these books because you know what they mean to you.
The notion of under the radar books, at least for me, seem to be partially a thing of the past. Relics of a time before I was aware of the literary world and the pressure to keep up, when I would just pick something up because it looked good to me (I still do this, of course, but it’s different). They’re especially relics of a time when we weren’t all sharing everything we read, when we didn’t have the constant awareness of what books we have and haven’t read that our peers have. I’m less likely than ever to pick up a book I’ve never heard anything about, which isn’t all bad, but it definitely means less under the radar books.
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Rivka Galchen£11.99 £11.15
Rivka Galchen is SLEPT ON and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. This book is witty and sharp. It embodies the first person while indulging in the author’s pet interests like The Idiot or The Last Samurai. It has the voice-inside-your-head perspective of Lydia Davis. It has the spunk of Shelia Heti. It has a beautiful orange cover and it’s published by New Directions. It’s truly all there.
Lauren Collins£8.99 £8.36
This is a memoir about life in France and with a husband who comes from a different language and culture that quickly becomes a textbook about French and English and a joyful venture into the world of linguistics. Lauren Collins is a writer for The New Yorker and she has a knack for weaving disparate parts into a compelling narrative. I loved it.
Warsan Shire£4.00 £3.72
Another poetry collection, my favorite in all the world. Warsan Shire is the poet behind the spoken parts of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and this collection is just as powerful and raw as those poems are. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it.
Lydia Davis£8.99 £8.36
I’ve heard a lot about Lydia Davis’s short stories (which I love), but absolute radio silence about her novel The End of the Story. It’s not for everyone, none of her writing is, but if you love her voice and the feeling of being inside her wonderful, intelligent, relatable mind, you’ll love this novel too.
Chia-Chia Lin£12.99 £12.08
This is a beautiful novel about a family living in Alaska that almost seems to transcend? reading? The eloquence of emotion and raw feeling of a text that doesn’t have any sharp edges is honestly beyond me. Read this and tell your friends because I want to read 1,000 books by this author.