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Quiz: Get a Rec for an Under-the-Radar Novel by a Popular Author

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Anne Mai Yee Jansen


Anne Mai Yee Jansen is a literature and ethnic studies professor and a lifelong story addict. She exists on a steady diet of books and hot chocolate, with a heaping side of travel whenever possible. Originally hailing from the sun and sandstone of southern California, she currently resides with her partner, offspring, and feline companion in the sleepy mountains of western North Carolina.

You know how a lot of authors have the book they’re known for? For example, Toni Morrison is most well-known for Beloved and Amy Tan for The Joy Luck Club. But these authors, like so many others, also have under-the-radar books few have heard of and even fewer have read.

This quiz is designed to match you up with just such a book. There’s nothing quite as fun as embarking on a literary adventure into the unknown. But when you’re reading a book by an author you love, there’s a minimal kind of safety net there.

Of course, there are no guarantees in this territory, either. I’ve selected books I think are amazing despite the lack of attention, but the question remains: why didn’t these books get noticed in the same way as other books in the author’s ouvre?

One answer is that fame is fickle. So are book critics. Another answer is that, sometimes, writers become known for one thing…and if they deviate from that, fans can get disappointed or even confused. Still another answer is that there are so many amazing books coming out at any given time that it’s easy for one amazing book to overshadow others, with unfortunately long-lasting effects.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that authors are versatile. Their works can vary dramatically, and sometimes the result is something incredible. I relish that feeling of discovering an under-the-radar book that’s absolutely fantastic. It’s such a treat to stumble upon those overlooked literary gems. Take this quiz to help you find one that’s right for you!

Quiz Results

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Want more ideas for books that didn’t exactly make the bestseller lists?

Check out this recent list of the best books you’ve never heard of. Feeling whimsical? Pour over this list of the under-the-radar fantasy books instead. Of course, you can also take a gander at this list of off-the-radar picture books for the kiddos (or yourself!).