Top Five Saturday: Underrated Books and Hidden Gems

The Top 5 series is back!

Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books in which the bookish community discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously, the meme has focused on a range of different characters (witches and werewolves), genres (thrillers, detectives and re-tellings) and thoughts about the industry and life as a bookworm, and many more. 

Please read and share, comment and discuss this week’s topic!


Okay, so a day late with this one! Never mind – I wanted to head to the beach in the heatwave seeing as we live a stone’s throw away from it so Saturday was taken up with that! A relaxing chance to read by the sea? Not so much with a wonderful but demanding seven year old!

And how do I determine whether a book is underrated or not? I am not going to pretend that I know the industry well enough to recognise how popular a book is, save for in the purely subjective sense where I haven’t heard many people talk about it. And why might a book become underrated? Usually just an unfortunate coincidence I suppose, where the publicity machine just does quite get traction – or perhaps a book overshadowed by more popular cousins.

And of course underrated does not necessarily mean obscure – even highly rated authors can at times deserve even more love! In order to inject some form of objectivity into this list, looking at Goodreads, I am looking for books that either have a rating significantly lower than I think the book deserves, or books that have received a criminally low number of ratings. Or in fact both.

Rotherweird, Andrew Caldecott

3.65 on Goodreads with only 4,835 ratings

Andrew Caldecott is a chillingly intelligent QC – involved in some of the most high profile legal cases in recent times: the Hutton Inquiry into the David Kelly affair, Leveson, amongst others. And also the author of a quirky, byzantine time-hopping multi-dimensional fantasy tragi-comic trilogy. Endearingly bumbling characters, chilling villains and a bubbling imagination resound through this and it should have reached a wider audience than 4,835!

Read this if you enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale or The Golem and the Djinni.

See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt

3.2 on Goodreads with 12,482 ratings

Intense, claustrophobic, unsettling. Schmidt’s debut novel was a chilling re-imagining of the Lizzie Borden murders: as violent and shocking as the murders were, the depiction here of the relationship between the sisters and the family is profound and the language was gloriously sensual. Oh and that pot of lamb stew!

Read this if you liked The Suspicions of Mr Wicher, or Fingersmith

The Reader on the 6.27, Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

3.74 on Goodreads with 10,416 ratings

Sweet and tender, this is the tale of a man who rescues books from being pulped and reads them aloud on his train journey home. And what happens if the book her reads is the diary of a woman with whom he falls in love?

Read this if you liked The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, or A Man Called Ove.

History of the Rain, Niall Williams

3.92 on Goodreads with only 4,562 ratings

History of the Rain is bleakly funny and wonderfully bleak – the theft of Jesus from the crib at school! Set in rural Ireland, and in Ruth Swain’s sickroom, set in the present and in generations in the past of the Swains, this is a delight! Tender, painful and beautifully judged and executed.

Read this if you liked Actress by Anne Enright, The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien, The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.

The Mercies, Kiran Millwood Hargrave

4.04 on Goodreads with only 7,262 ratings

I am including this one because it is wonderful! Be warned, it is as bleak as the island of Vardø where it is set, where a storm kills all the men and the women have to band together to survive, finding the strength of will to thrive – until the authorities arrive with an eye for witchcraft and deviance from the patriarchal norm.

This book – in my humble opinion – should have been at least long listed for the Booker or Women’s Prize and has been criminally overlooked.

Read this if you liked Fingersmith (or anything else) by Sarah Waters for FF relationships; or The Crucible by Arthur Miller for witch hunts.

So there we have it, my five underrated books for this week and reasons to get stuck into them. Let me know what hidden gems you know about so I can add them to my TBR pile.


  • August 15- Recommended Reads
  • August 22- Young Adult Books
  • August 29- Detective Books

6 thoughts on “Top Five Saturday: Underrated Books and Hidden Gems”

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