As book-lovers, we all have our faves: those novels we read over and over again, the memoirs that never fail us, thrillers that leave us lingering in suspense no matter how many times we read them, those poetry collections that teach us something new every time we crack their spines. Readers can be fairly vocal about the books we love — sharing the same recommendations, reading all the same reviews, comparing TBR piles and Goodreads lists, stocking up on yearly award-winners — which sometimes means that great but lesser-known books get lost in the shuffle. And yeah, while it can be totally overwhelming to consider all those books that aren’t on your radar, when your TBR pile is already ceiling-high, there are definitely some lesser-known books that every book lover should read, at least once.
Plus (you book-lovin’ skeptics listen up here) the not-as-buzzed-about books on this list are written by authors you already know and love. Think: Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, Haruki Murakami, and others — folks you’ve already carved out space for on your shelves. Sounds a tad more manageable now, right? Great! Then check out these 12 lesser-known books by famous authors that every true book lover should read at least once.
1'The Edible Woman' by Margaret Atwood
By now you're definitely familiar with Margaret Atwood’s most-celebrated novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, but did you also know that Atwood has written and published 15 other novels, including her 1969 debut, The Edible Woman? The Edible Woman is just as viscerally feminist as you’d expect from Atwood, transporting readers to a cannibalistic world where women are eaten — both literally and metaphorically — and where one, Marian, is struggling with her innate rebellion against marriage and patriarchal tradition.
2'Her Fearful Symmetry' by Audrey Niffenegger
From the writer who gave you the much obsessed-over novel The Time Traveler’s Wife comes a second beautifully crafted and emotionally haunting read, Her Fearful Symmetry. Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of 21-year-old twin sisters Julia and Valentina Noblin, who move into their aunt’s London flat after her death and are suddenly awakened to an onslaught of secrets — including the fact that their aunt (not insignificantly, their mother’s own twin) may not be as far from her old home as death might suggest.
3'The Algebra of Infinite Justice' by Arundhati Roy
If you already love Indian writer Arundhati Roy, it’s probably for her fiction: specifically, her 1997 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things and her most-recent (and recently-named Amazon Best Book of the Year — so far) The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. But did you know that the writer has an exceptional body of nonfiction behind her as well? The Algebra of Infinite Justice is a collection of essays, begun in 1998, a few weeks after India detonated a thermonuclear device, and written as a criticism of abuses of nuclear power. The collection expands to take on a number of local and global humanitarian concerns — and Roy just might become your new favorite essayist.
4'Here I Am' by Jonathan Safran Foer
If you’ve read (and loved) writer Jonathan Safran Foer’s heartbreaking 9/11-novel that takes readers through the young Oskar Schell’s relationship with his late father, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, then you should definitely consider his latest work, Here I Am. The 2016 novel takes on the oft-dysfunctional dynamics of the Bloch family: Jacob, Julia, and their three sons, living in Washington D.C. and suddenly finding themselves on the verge of imploding inside a nation at risk of doing the same — both literally and figuratively.
5'The High Mountains of Portugal' by Yann Martel
You know him for Life of Pi, but novelist Yann Martel has more than one imagery-filled novel on his resume. Filled with the same vivid, brilliant descriptions that captivated you in Life of Pi, The High Mountains of Portugal tells the interwoven stories of three men: Tomás, Eusebio, and Peter, and an old journal that leads to a quest filled with treasure, ghosts, politics, and mystery.
6'Tar Baby' by Toni Morrison
Chances are there are more than a few Toni Morrison novels on your bookshelves — including her best-known and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, and her most recent title God Help the Child. But Morrison’s lesser-known novels are definitely worth a read as well. One of those (11 in total) novels is Tar Baby, a story that uses the love affair between two Americans from very different backgrounds to take on issues of race and womanhood in America.
7'Romola' by George Eliot
While the 1871 novel, Middlemarch, likely made your high school required reading list, George Eliot’s lesser-known (but arguably far greater) novel Romola probably hasn’t made your TBR pile yet. Set in Florence, circa 1942, the novel tells the story of a young woman named Romola, the custodian of her father’s library and wife of a duplicitous man named Tito — whom she will be forced to intellectually, artistically, and spiritually break away from in order to forge her own path and preserve the things she holds dear.
8'The Invisible Circus' by Jennifer Egan
You probably know novelist Jennifer Egan from her 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad. What you might be less familiar with are Egan’s six other books (four novels and two short story collections) including her debut novel The Invisible Circus. Made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, The Invisible Circus tells the story of once-daredevil Faith O’Connor and her surviving sister Phoebe, who is retracing her sister’s fateful trip through Europe in order to understand not only why and how her sister died, but how she lived as well.
9'This Side of Paradise' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
As familiar as you surely are with classic novel The Great Gatsby, far fewer book lovers have ventured into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise. Written when the author was only 23-years-old himself, This Side of Paradise is a semi-autobiographical story about privileged Ivy League student Amory Blaine, member of the "Lost Generation." Though hardly Fitzgerald’s best writing (depending on who you ask) observing the evolution of the writer’s style is a worthy undertaking for any book-lover.
10'A Wild Sheep Chase' by Haruki Murakami
You know Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but if you haven’t yet read the novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase, be sure to add it to your TBR list soon. A Wild Sheep Chase is the novel that catapulted Murakami from national author to global sensation, a mythical literary thriller about a mutant sheep, a deadly threat, and a wildly imaginative ‘round-the-world adventure that will blow readers minds.
11'Chronicle of a Death Foretold' by Gabriel García Márquez
As lengthy, winding, and layered as One Hundred Years of Solitude is, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is brief and spare. This 1981 novella is inspired by true events and takes readers through the murder of (fictional) Santiago Nasar by twin brothers, Pablo and Pedro Vicario, in vengeance for an affair Nasar allegedly conducted with their soon-to-be-married sister, Angela — a death that literally everyone in town, including Nasar’s fiancée, knew about and neglected to prevent.
12'Jonah's Gourd Vine' by Zora Neale Hurston
Known for her groundbreaking 1937 title Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston is the author of dozens of other works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and script. While you’ve probably read Their Eyes Were Watching God more than a few times, you may not have yet encountered Hurston’s lesser-known and debut novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine. Another semi-autobiographical novel, this one describes one couple’s move from Alabama to Florida and the struggles of marriage and race relations in the lives of African Americans of Hurston’s parents’ generation.