Top Ten Tuesday

10 Books That Deserve More Attention

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is “Forgotten Backlist Titles” — books that aren’t talked about much anymore.  I’ve modified this to talk about books I’ve read that never really got the attention I think they deserve.

Links in the titles will take you to my review (where I’ve managed to write one).

An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful by J David Simons

The spirit of Japanese culture and the subtleties of its language and landscape are brought to life in this tale of a world-famous author who makes a return visit to the inn which inspired his best-known novel.

Ti Amo by Hanne Ørstavik

A short fictional account based on the author’s own experience. Ørstavik captures the complex emotions of a woman conscious that illness will soon separate her from her beloved husband.

Drift by Caryl Lewis

It would be remiss of me not to include a Welsh author in my list. Drift is the first English language novel by poet and scriptwriter Caryl Lewis. It’s a haunting tale of a reclusive girl who lives in a remote Welsh coastal village, and a Syrian mapmaker held as a prisoner at an army camp.

Mr Mac and Me by Emma Freud

A delightfully atmospheric coming of age novel set on the Suffolk coast at the start of World War 1. The real joy however comes from the insight into the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife.

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen

Not the most cheerful of the books on my list but still well worth reading because it’s based on a real event — a a horrendous famine in the 1860s in Finland. Ollikainen’s version of this is seen through the eyes of a woman who walks mile after mile through waist-high snow to prevent her children from starving to death.

West by Carys Davies

The second Welsh author to make my list, this is the debut novel by Carys Davies (she had previously written short stories). This is a touching tale of. a father who sets out on a trek across the American to find the truth behind a newspaper report of prehistoric bones.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 

From Vietnam comes this sweeping tale of one family against a background of the famine, war and idealogical conflict that mars their country’s history.

Shell by Kristina Olsson

I have my blogging friends in Australia to thank for recommending this to me a few years ago. The construction of the (then controversial) Sydney Opera House forms a background to the novel about the fragile lives of two people.

No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy by Mark Hodkinson

An honest memoir of a bibliophile, one who grew up in a working class family where there was just one book in the house. Today he owns more than 3,000. In the book Hodkinson traces the story of how he became such an avid reader he would take 12 books with him on a one-week holiday.

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach

Journalist Alice Steinbach reflects on the journey of self discovery that took her to Paris, Oxford and Milan. She wanted to understand what defined her — her family, children, job, friends. This is a wonderful memoir vastly superior to Eat, Pray, Love and beautifully illustrated with postcards Steinbach wrote home to herself to preserve her spontaneous impressions.  I read this more than 20 years ago but it had such an impression that when I lost my copy (loaned to a friend!) I bought a replacement.

Have I tempted you to try any of these lesser-known gems?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

35 thoughts on “10 Books That Deserve More Attention

    • I never realised how talented his wife was until I read this book – he gets all the attention but she was a huge contributor apparently to the Glasgow tea room that is one of his most famous projects.

    • I felt so much better about my 200 + book hoard when I discovered he has 3,000 plus.

  • How lovely to see Shell there! A magnificent book, I thought, and sadly, appreciated more internationally than in her own country.
    BTW Minor typo: It’s Olsson, with two O’s.

  • The only one of these I’ve read is Ti Amo which I thought was excellent even if a very difficult and harrowing read. The Mountains Sing is on my radar.

  • wadholloway

    I had better bookmark your post as these “lesser known” gems are all either unknown to me, or the reviews I have read have been lost in the mists of time.

    • I hope you appreciate the inclusion of at least one Aussie 🙂

  • The only one I’ve read is Mountains Sing.

  • No One Round Here… and Mr Mac and Me are books I’ve read from your list and agree that they shouldn’t be forgotten in the avalanche of new books. The J. David Simons book is the one that first catches my eye, so that will be added to the TBR and maybe I’ll sneak a couple of others on too.

    • The J. David Simons is just delightful from start to finish

  • You certainly have piqued my interest with the Japanese book, the Mark Hodkinson & the Alice Steinbeck. Thanks for the headsup.

  • Great post, Karen. Always good to see books that don’t benefit from a massive marketing campaign get an airing. Keen to read the Simons and have already read several others on your list.

  • thank you so much for sharing these titles, I’m going to seek out 3 of them immediately

    • You would most likely relate to the Mark Hodkinson one because he talks about authors that we seem to have forgotten about, especially those from the north like Barry Hines

  • Well, this won’t do. My TBR is already impossible. And now you trot along and add to it. I could unfollow you ….

  • This is such a good topic. It’s always sad that great books get shoved aside simply because they are not the next new thing. I’ve heard of some of these, but not Without Reservations — that sounds wonderful and my e-library even has it! Thanks so much for the tip.

    • I loved the way Steinbach approached her travel – she deliberately didn’t set out to see the sights of Paris for example so she just wandered her neighbourhood. And she was always open to talking to strangers – some became good friends as a result

  • Yes you have! Drift, Mt Mac And me and No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy in particular. Thank you.


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