…I’ve read in the past year or so. It’s Top Ten Tuesday! Hosted by The Broke and Bookish. Much thanks to them, as always!
In attempting to quantify what might pass as a hidden gem, I decided to turn to Goodreads. Looking at the last year(ish) of reading, I ordered them by number of ratings to determine what books I really enjoyed that had a comparatively low number of ratings (not low ratings, just fewer of them, implying fewer readers, implying an increase of hiddenness.)
Naturally, I went off on a tangent and geeked out on some numbers, which I’ve included below, past the underrated/hidden gems I hand-picked, based on nothing but my own biased perspective of the world:
- The Elementals by Michael McDowell
I happened upon this creepy little novel during a 2-for-1 credit sale at Audible. I had never heard of McDowell beforehand. Turns out he published quite a few novels in the Southern Gothic genre in the 80’s. I think the excellent narration aided my enjoyment of this book. Instant characterization and an original, haunted setting on an isolated spit of sand along the Gulf of Mexico give the slim story depth and lingering horror. Big Barbara is sure to be one of my favorite characters of the year!
2. The Angola Horror by Charity Vogel
I read a lot of non-fiction disaster books. I can tell the good from the god-awful. This is one of the good ones. While the subtitle of this book claims that the wreck “shocked the nation,” it’s been a minute since 1867 and this little known disaster makes for a little-known book. With only 44 ratings on Goodreads, I’m surprised, given the quality of the work (and the excellent title). Everything you wanted to know about old-timey train traveling is here, as well as a compelling and horrific description of a train tumbling into an abyss. Those not killed in the fall were consumed by the flames.
3. On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Perry Bundles
Talks are in the works to make a limited TV series about Madam C.J. Walker, a badass entrepreneur running her own business in a time before women could even vote. As the success of Hidden Figures demonstrates, it’s about time we start widening our understanding of history beyond the limited perspective of white men.
It looks like we’ll get to see Rosalind Franklin hit the big screen sometime in the near future as well!
4. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
While this one isn’t necessarily a hidden gem, it received a lot of mixed reviews. I wasn’t too crazy about the ending, but the ride was a blast. It had such a clever premise and original twist on the dystopic genre that I couldn’t help but love it.
Well, I only felt like writing about four books.
Now. Here is a digression on some of the interesting (or not) things I learned while analyzing ratings numbers on Goodreads.
My past year of reading has been pretty evenly split between Fiction (47) and Non-Fiction (44). There is a huge disparity between the number of ratings in these categories. Keep in mind I’m looking number of ratings on a quantitative basis.
Average Number of Ratings – Fiction: 93,882
Average Number of Raitings – Non-Fiction: 10,766
Top 5 Highest Number of Ratings – Fiction:
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: 3,166,565
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: 295,492
- The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey: 96,049
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: 74, 363
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: 65, 928
Top 5 Highest Number of Ratings – Non-Fiction
- The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins: 94,969
- Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi: 89,849
- The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: 68,957
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis: 67,409
- The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: 30,769
There’s a lot of baseless conclusions I could draw from this list. These are only from the books I’ve read in the past year (and also, only books that I have read, in no way representing readers as a whole).
It might be fair to say that books that have been out longer have more of an opportunity to be read. Hence, Helter Skelter, The Selfish Gene, and To Kill a Mockingbird have been around a long time. But it’s a mix with other books published in the past few years: The Girl with all the Gifts, Fates and Furies, and The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo are all newer books. Obviously movies and pop culture have a heavy influence on readership. The most popular books in all of Goodreads are composed of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Lord of the Rings franchises.
I do have a suspicion about The Origin of Species being so high on the list. I truly don’t think that many people have read it. It’s one of those books that you might wholeheartedly believe you’ve read, and maybe created a nice memory around it.
The books with the lowest number of ratings, however:
- Cascadia by H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard
- Certain Dark Things by M.J. Pack
- Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman
- Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson
- Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates
- Bliss and Tragedy by Thomas E. Corts
- Fire and Rain by Jerome Greer Chandler
- The Angola Horror by Charity Vogel
- The Lost History of the Canine Race by Mary Elizabeth Thurston
- The Dream World of H.P. Lovecraft by Donald Tyson
Well. Short stories don’t fare so well, do they? It follows the idea that the novel is the most celebrated form of fiction in the U.S. Numbers 1 and 5 on the fiction list deserve what they get. Same goes for numbers 1 and 2 on the NF list. I learned quite a bit reading The Dream World of H.P. Lovecraft, and I appreciated that the book didn’t shy away from his overt racism and xenophobia, but it would periodically dip into theories about Lovecraft’s psychic abilities. The author truly believed he had some kind of telepathic connection with another plane. Kind of destroys the credibility of the whole book.
Well, what did I learn? I think I read a lot more mainstream fiction last year, thanks to Litsy and being more in tune with contemporary fiction, but my non-fiction continues to follow my interests. Sweet!