Newsletter 1

Are These the 13 Most Underrated Books?

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

In our latest reader poll, we asked you to share your picks for the most underrated books. We know it’s a tough question, so we allowed space for three responses each. 576 Riot readers answered the call, listing 1154 unique titles. (That’s after we cleaned up a few entries that were just authors’ names and some that were obvious attempts to game the system. NB: If your book isn’t available for sale anywhere online and has zero Goodreads ratings but magically appears two dozen times in our survey, we’re onto you.)

Usually, responses to our reader polls cluster around a few super-popular titles that get tons of votes and then a handful of less-well-known but still popular titles, and then it gets really diffuse and diverse as the list goes on. That…is not what happened this time around. Maybe it’s because “underrated” can be defined so many different ways. Maybe it’s because, by its very nature, being an underrated book means fewer people know about it.

Here are the top 13 underrated books. What patterns do you see here? Any theories? Want to nerd out on the full data set and get back to us? Go for it.

  1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (9 votes)
  2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (6)
  3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (6)
  4. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (5)
  5. Stoner by John Williams (5)
  6. The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay (4)
  7. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (4)
  8. Lamb by Christopher Moore (4)
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (4)
  10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (4)
  11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (4)
  12. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (4)
  13. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (4)

After these, 30 titles got three votes, 133 titles got two votes, and the remaining titles received one vote each. What do you make of the results? How many have you read?

Check out other Riot polls:

The 25 Most-Hated Books (by Book Riot Readers)

19 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read FOREVER

20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

Top 10 Books You’re Embarrassed to Admit You’ve Read

20 Most-Loved Literary Characters

Did you know that Book Riot has a YouTube channel? We do. It’s new and we are having fun with it. Check it out here.