2020 Recap: Beyond the Bestsellers

It’s time to get into some 2020 reading recaps! I have a couple posts planned as I look back on my reading and blogging journey over the past year, and I’m really excited about today’s topic!

Before I get into my top reads from last year (coming this Friday!), I wanted to join the Beyond the Bestsellers initiative started by Suzy @ Suzy Reads Books. She’s encouraging bookish folks to share some books we’ve read that are underhyped, especially those with under 500 ratings on Goodreads.

I love this project as it’s a great way to use our “book influencer” status to help amazing books reach a larger audience. In looking through my reads this past year, I found a bunch that haven’t received much attention but are still more than deserving of it.

Beyond the Bestsellers

Some of these were published just last year but they’re still ones I want to get on others’ radars. So here are some books I really enjoyed last year that have less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads!

Under 100 Ratings

Graphic of 4 book covers over photo of Sam sitting in lawnchair. Graphic is titled "Beyond the Bestsellers:

Fortune of Wolves by Ryan Griffith
Published: 2019 | GR Ratings: 6

A choose-your-own adventure play that works perfectly as a novel. Each chapter is an interview transcript with individuals trying to make sense of mysterious disappearances and events occurring across Canada.

The Year Mrs. Montague Cried by Susan White
Published: 2012 | GR Ratings: 62

A book on handling grief and terminal illness aimed at middle grade readers. I found it a really powerful and emotional read, and it tackles these tough topics in a way that does justice to the fear and pain they cause without alienating its intended audience.

Little Boy by Marina Perezagua
Published: 2016 | GR Ratings: 6

This is actually a short story but it was a really powerful read for me and inspired my intention to seek out more Japanese-authored works and books on WWII from a Japanese perspective in 2021. The story involves a young Japanese-American woman who visits Japan and learns of the devastation of the atomic attacks through meetings with a survivor.

Trace by Jeff Ho
Published: 2020 | GR Ratings: 1

Another beautiful play, this time an auto-biographical, multigenerational story that follows the matriarchs in a Chinese family and their disagreements on how best to provide for their children, with a piano playing the part of the men in the family (it works, trust me).

Under 500 Ratings

Graphic of 4 book covers over photo of Sam sitting in lawnchair. Graphic is titled "Beyond the Bestsellers:

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro
2020 | GR Ratings: 480

I’m gonna yell (in a nice way) about this one for a long time. A beautiful coming-of-age and romance with such moving discoveries along the way, and an ending that almost made me cry.

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Published: 2020 | GR Ratings: 420

This book was one of the most unique I read in 2020, for the world-building and characters. The MC is an assassin in a world of witches, built from plants and random objects to travel to Earth and kill ghosts on assignments. I’ve never encountered a character quite like her and with the subtle romance and exploration of self as she tries to understand which world she wants to live in, I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series so I can experience more of this author’s writing.

Tiny Infinities by J.H. Diehl
Published: 2018 | GR Ratings: 290

This is a middle grade that’s perfectly contained within its genre, but that doesn’t mean adult readers won’t enjoy it. With increasing family drama caused by a separation, an upcoming swim meet, a strange new friend, and a neighbour who won’t speak, Alice has a lot on her plate for the summer. It’s certainly not a book that avoids big topics but it feels cozy and welcoming in a way that only middle grade can.

This is Not the End of Me by Dakshana Bascaramurty
Published: 2020 | GR Ratings: 130

Content warnings for terminal illness (cancer) and treatments. This isn’t a light read by any means but the journalist describes the life of her friend as he battles his illness with care and compassion while incorporating his sarcasm and humour in dealing with it, as well as his despair.

Under 1000 Ratings

Graphic of 4 book covers over photo of Sam sitting in lawnchair. Graphic is titled "Beyond the Bestsellers:

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Published: 2020 | GR Ratings: 959

An impressive retelling of Les Mis with magic, a Thai-inspired setting, and younger characters, this middle grade works well for any audience.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds
Published: 2020 | GR Ratings: 655

Another book that almost made me cry and will make you want to squeeze your friends tight (or send them a message in covid times). This YA tackles friendship and grief but offers the characters the unique opportunity of working through that grief while the individual is still alive.

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald
2015 | GR Ratings: 586

One of the graphic novels I really enjoyed this year, an autobiographical account of the author’s journey in understanding her sexuality. Though it’s her personal experiences, I loved the openness of this journey that allowed for questioning and re-evaluating and all the book recs she shares throughout.

Love Beyond Body, Space & Time edited by Hope Nicholson
2016 | GR Ratings: 841

A short story collection of LGBTQ+ sci-fi fiction by Indigenous authors. I’m not usually a huge SFF fan but there were many stories here I really enjoyed and a number of authors I’m happy to have been introduced to.

I hope you find some titles here that interest you and if you end up reading any of them, let me know!

What are some of your favourite underhyped books?

8 thoughts on “2020 Recap: Beyond the Bestsellers

  1. There really can be a difference between what gets buzz in my/our corner of the blogosphere and what’s popular on Goodreads, hey? I feel like I’ve heard a lot about Each of Us a Desert – I’m surprised to see it has under 500 ratings! I wish I could say I’m also surprised about A Wish in the Dark, but I think that’s a solid number of ratings for a less-than-year-old MG book -.- Anyway, this is a neat way to recap some of your 2020 reading, thanks for sharing! Might try it out for myself later.

    Liked by 1 person

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