Look, I love the classics as much as any other nerd. I'm a huge dork for any story about cranky people falling in love on a windswept moor. And I'm a big sucker for our modern day popular fiction, too (anyone who's ever heard my lengthy Game of Thrones theories can attest to that). But so many great authors, both then and now, are falling through the cracks. If you're looking to venture beyond the New York Times Bestseller list, then you might want to check out these brilliant books from relatively unknown authors.
There's something so weirdly thrilling about getting really into an author that pretty much no one around you has heard of. It's like you've uncovered some great secret. It's like this author is speaking directly to you across time and space. And it's incredibly frustrating, because all you want to do is talk to your friends about this great book that they've never even heard of (I mean... where is all the fan art for Larry Niven's Ringworld, huh?).
So here are just a few books by authors who deserve a lot more recognition. Give them a read, and then pass them along, because we've all been missing out on these books:
1'Grayson' by Lynne Cox
You may know Lynne Cox from her record-breaking swimming career, but have you read the book about how she met a whale that one time? In Grayson, Cox recounts the morning that she came across a baby whale while out for her daily swim. The teenaged Cox decided to risk her own life to save the baby. The result is this slim but powerful book about kindness, endurance, and the wild beauty of the ocean.
2'From These Ashes' by Fredric Brown
My mission in life is to make at least one other person fall in love with Fredric Brown. From These Ashes is a collection of Brown's short science fiction, with the shortest stories clocking in at barely a paragraph long. But Brown can do more in one paragraph than some authors can do in a whole novel, and his smart, wickedly inventive stories are a must read for sci-fi fans everywhere.
3'Staggerwing' by Alice Kaltman
Staggerwing, Alice Kaltman's debut collection of short stories, is described as a send up of the "close-to-rich and not-so-famous." Through delightful humor and poignant moments of reality, Kaltman takes on bored trophy wives, heroic security guards, would-be sculptors, and much more in this heartfelt, sharp new book.
4'The Motion of Light in Water' by Samuel R. Delany
Samuel R. Delany is certainly not an unknown author in old school sci-fi circles... but the average reader has probably never picked up The Motion of Light in Water, his electric memoir on his life as a gay, black writer in New York of the 1960's. Love, art, race, sci-fi, and sex are all intertwined in this vivid portrait of one man's identity (and yes, Bob Dylan and James Baldwin both make cameos).
5'Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus' by Allison Hawn
I mean... with a title like that, what more is there to say? Allison Hawn has an off-kilter sense of humor, to say the least, and Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus is a wonderfully weird collection of true stories from Hawn's life. From swarms of tiny ballerinas to dancing clowns to death by furniture, Hawn has plenty of bizarre experiences to share.
6'Oreo' by Fran Ross
Oreo is finally starting to gain some recognition as an undiscovered classic, but it's still woefully under-read. This hysterically funny novel tells the story of young Oreo, the daughter of a black mother and a Jewish father, and her quest to find her dad amid the many Sam Schwartzes in New York City. A modern day retelling of the Theseus myth, Oreo is deeply funny, whip-smart, and epic in its scope.
7'Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing' by Erika Lopez
Tomato Rodriguez is off on an all-girl road trip across America in search of love, life, and the perfect post office. Author Erika Lopez mashes language together with illustrations and rubber stamp art to create this truly one of a kind, truly hilarious adventure of motorcycles and feminism and fun. Like On the Road, but this time the women have brains.
8'Seasons of Flight' by Manjushree Thapa
Prema has emigrated from Nepal to L.A., but neither place feels quite like home. Seasons of Flight is the story of Prema adjusting to life in a new country, finding love, and then realizing that love is not nearly as fulfilling as the scientific study of butterflies. It's a refreshing story of finding oneself through lepidopterology, for anyone who's ever felt adrift.