thinking out loud

Ten Underrated Gems I’ve Read in the Past Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s theme is “Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So”. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve read many underrated titles this year. Most of the books I read were pretty popular among those who like the kinds of books they were.

So instead, I’m going to go strictly by what is deemed unpopular in my specific geographical location. Based on what I’ve observed daily at the bookstore where I work. Going by this definition, about two-thirds of my Marvel comics could make the top ten, because the readership here is still pretty stuck on “Deadpool, Spider-Man, Iron Man”. (And only Batman for DC; even Superman and Wonder Woman don’t get much love here.) But I’m going to try to have some fiction/prose titles in my list, too, you know, for balance.

batgirl bluescreen crosstalk hildamidnightgiant necessity

Batgirl Vol.2: Family Business by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher & Babs Tarr
I’m not much of a DC fan, but I am so in love with the Batgirl of Burnside comics. I guess the first volume made me start seeing Barbara Gordon as DC’s answer to Kamala Khan. Reading this made me get into Gotham Academy, and Grayson, and Black Canary. I’d recommend this (or Gotham Academy) happily to any YA readers looking to get into (mainstream superhero) comics; no previous comic reading experience required!

Bluescreen by Dan Wells
Or really, everything I’ve read by Dan Wells. Why aren’t his books more popular here? I don’t know, because I love everything by him I’ve read since I Am Not A Serial Killer, and the Partials Sequence is probably my favourite post-apocalyptic YA series. Granted, Bluescreen is probably my least favourite Dan Wells, but I still enjoy it a lot, and can’t wait to read more Mirador books.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
I know Connie Willis is well loved in SF communities, but here, most haven’t heard of her. And that’s a shame, because Crosstalk was such a joy to read, and I really really want a movie to be made out of it.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
Children’s comics are still catching on here, and while Raina Telgemeier is gaining popularity, I don’t know anyone else who reads Hilda. While it isn’t really like Tove Jansson’s Moomin books, it’s the closest thing I can compare it to.

Necessity by Jo Walton
Like Connie Willis, Jo Walton is an amazing writer, and that’s a fact that most who read SFF know. And while she did make waves with Among Others, her Thessaly books aren’t as popular. And Necessity in particular isn’t the most highly rated among her books. But… it was one of my favourite books from last year. And I wish I could live in her City (the one in this book, at least!) – even if that means I’d have to give up on a lot of excellent music and art. (Also: this book is about GREEK GODS IN SPACE, why would anyone not love this?)

patsywalker scarletwitch sorcererofthewilddeeps spiderwoman toolikethelightning

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol.1: Hooked On A Feline by Kate Leth Brittney Williams
This is another series I’d happily recommend to readers wanting to get into comics. Patsy Walker is such a delight. She doesn’t really fight aliens or save the world (so far in this series), but she makes good as a street-level superhero. Plus, like with Batgirl, I really love all the other characters in this series, and it takes a look at superpowered individuals who may not want to be heroes.

Scarlet Witch Vol.1: Witches’ Road, by James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, et al
This is one series that I picked up solely because of the cover art by David Aja, and then took me completely by surprise in a good way. In this run, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) discovers that witchcraft is broken, and tries to figure out why and how to fix it, with the help of the ghost of Agatha Harkness. This first volume has her traveling around the world, meeting and working with superheroes from other countries along the way. Each issue is illustrated by a different artist, which gives the series a Sandman-ish vibe that I love. This series gets no love where I live, and I don’t really get why.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
This novella is a exquisitely written, and it’s action-packed, and it’s utterly heartbreaking. It left me a wreck, and wanting to read more from this world. Luckily, there is a companion novella.

Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol.1: Baby Talk by Dennis Hopeless & Javier Rodriguez
Jessica Drew had quit the Avengers in order to lead a normal life as a private investigator (which seems to be the day job of so many other superheroes!) She is also heavily pregnant. And that’s basically the key selling point to me, so you can guess that this isn’t exactly popular with the “Deadpool, Spider-Man, Iron Man” crowd here. Seeing Jess juggle her life/friendships with the fact that she’s anything but normal is what I love, and the issue where she’s trapped fighting Skrulls in an alien hospital with pregnant extraterrestials is the best.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
My favourite read from last year, I think. I love the language, I love the worldbuilding, I love the characters, I love the way it completely blew my mind. So far this isn’t a big hit among local SF fans, but I recommended it to a couple of people who enjoyed Jo Walton and/or Ann Leckie, and they loved it just as much as I did, so I hope Seven Surrenders will do better here when it comes out.

So, these are ten of the titles I loved from last year that aren’t very popular where I live. Many of these are among my very favourites from last year, so here’s to more “hidden” gems in 2017!

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7 thoughts on “Ten Underrated Gems I’ve Read in the Past Year

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