With over a million books published worldwide each year, more than a few slip through the cracks. Liberty Hardy of Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s RiverRun Bookstore shares her favorite overlooked reads plus a couple recently reprinted classics.
“Baker Street nerds rejoice! The Sherlockian tells two tales, both based on fact: The mysterious death of a Sherlock fanatic, and a murder case that Arthur Conan Doyle himself investigated. David Grann wrote a fantastic essay on the death of the Sherlock fanatic for The New Yorker called “Mysterious Circumstances,” which was included in his book of essays The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and somehow from there I discovered The Sherlockian. (Both books were published in 2010.) Totally sleuthy.”
“This book is so deliciously naughty. Even though Marie is bad, you can’t help but root for her. And it’s wicked funny. (Yes, I said ‘wicked’—I’m from Maine.) Bad Marie was one of the first books I read by an author I discovered through Twitter. So many of the bookish Twitter people I follow were raving about it that I just HAD to read it. (Her first book, 2005’s Twins, is also criminally overlooked.)”
“The first in the City Trilogy, a suspenseful tale of missing files and missing people. A fantastic noir debut. Really, it’s a fantastic debut, period. We received a galley of this from his publisher, and upon inspection we learned Toby lived near RiverRun. And after reading it, and discovering how good it was, we invited him to hold his launch at the store. It was a huge success!”
John Edward Williams
“William Stoner attends college to study agriculture but feels a strong pull to study literature instead. An amazingly powerful novel—first published in 1965—about the quiet life of a quiet man. The first time Steve Almond read at RiverRun, someone asked him what his favorite book was, and he said Stoner. Of course, we immediately scrambled to get it. Unfortunately, it was out of print at the time, but NYRB Classics released an edition just a few months later. Thank goodness.”
A High Wind in Jamaica
“Another resurrected title from NYRB Classics. The children in this 1929 book may have been kidnapped by pirates, but it’s the pirates who are in for a hellish time. A fantastic telling of the cruel. unsentimental ways of children. Andrew Sean Greer did a bit about this book for NPR a few years ago, which he first heard about from Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket. A book about evil children and pirates recommended by Lemony Snicket??? YES PLEASE.”
“A writer hired to write the introduction to a poetry anthology reflects on his life as he fights writer’s block. Baker gives voice to thoughts you realize you’ve had but have never been able to make come out of your brain in comprehensive sentences. We’re die-hard Nicholson Baker fans at RiverRun, and we’re very, very fortunate to be able to call him a local author.”
Kings of the Earth
“A story of three brothers who live in seclusion and their little piece of the world. The adjectives ‘astounding’ and ‘haunting’ were invented for this novel. I don’t remember where I first heard about this book—I like to pretend he wrote it just for me. DIDN’T YOU, JON? I’ve just read his new book, The Thief of Auschwitz, which comes out in January, and it also delivers some serious sock knock-offery.”
“In the not-so-distant future, wars are raging across America, there is political upheaval, and people are leaving the country. Staying behind is a young woman, waiting tables at a vegan restaurant and trying to find her way among all the chaos. I lurve this book sooooooo much! This was the first book released by Richard Nash’s Red Lemonade imprint—I know this because I stalk him on Twitter. Richard is a literary rock star with a capital ‘rock.’ ”
“One hundred and twenty pages of gorgeously written, deeply, deeply disturbed behavior. This is one of those fast, nasty little books that gives you a delicious punch in the mouth. Er, that’s a good thing. I don’t recall where I heard about this book, but it led me to also read her first novel, 1999’s The Hunter, which is also seriously twisted and seriously wonderful.”
What Was Lost
“A young girl, who fancies herself a bit of an amateur detective, skulks about town, taking notes on all her neighbors. But when a girl from her village goes missing, it shakes the foundation of her fantasy world. Lovely, sad and surprisingly humorous. I first heard about this when it won the 2007 Costa First Novel award, and fell madly in love with O’Flynn’s writing. Her second book, 2010’s The News Where You Are, is equally as good. I know we’re not supposed to whine about an author’s writing pace, but CATHERINE O’FLYNN PLEASE WRITE ANOTHER BOOK SOON.”
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.