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Have You Read Any of These Hidden Gem Books?


I stop by my local bookstore, on the prowl for something good to read. I see a couple newer releases by my favorite authors, and I'm tempted. But, I wander down another aisle and a cover or a title grabs my attention - it sounds intriguing, like something different. I pick up this appealing book and read the blurb and sometimes even read a page or two mid-way to see if I like the writing style. This book sounds great so I add it to the stack in my arms. I start the book that night - a book I've never heard of. And I'm transported. Has that ever happened to you?


While I certainly like to be aware of those buzzy new releases and put my name on the library waiting list, there's something to be said for the thousands of backlist titles. Those books that maybe didn't create a lot of buzz and deserve a little love. And, bye the way, are much easier to pick up at the library!


So I'm here to share a few books I've read that didn't get much attention or love on Goodreads (my admittedly skewed way of determining a book's popularity). I discovered that you can sort your Goodreads list by Number of Ratings (not reviews) or by Average Ratings (if you want to see which books on your TBR have the lowest or highest ratings). This list contains books that I rated 4 or 5 stars with less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads, which means many readers may not have discovered them. Maybe you'll discover one YOU want to read.

From the least ratings:



Mothers by Jax Peters Lowell

Genre: General Fiction

Published 1995, 326 pages


Told from the perspective of the son, it's the story of two lesbian moms raising their son in the 1960s.

(54 ratings)





Criminal Seduction by Darian North

Genre: Mystery (courtroom drama)

Published 1993, 560 pages


Part court room drama, part love story, part murder mystery, and part twisted drama. Is the accused woman playing games with the naive man falling in love with her or is she really an abused, damaged person? Is the talented artist a helping, generous person or a manipulative monster? Fast paced and intricately detailed, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.

(116 ratings)




The Alternate by John Martel

Genre: Mystery (courtroom drama)

Published 1999, 544 pages


Another great courtroom drama with not too much legalese, along with mobsters, political scheming, and some mental illness along the way.

(130 ratings)








Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World by

Wendy Smith

Genre: Nonfiction

Published 2009, 368 pages


You don't have to be rich to make a difference and this book lays out the many accomplishments already achieved (one dime at a time for polio) and how we each can help change the world, with small donations. Informative and inspiring.

(139 ratings)




Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun by Faith Adiele

Genre: Autobiography

Published 2004, 288 pages


A mixed race woman who feels torn by racism travels to Thailand in an attempt to find herself and her place in the world. She's given the opportunity to ordain as a Buddhist nun and this journal chronicles the journey and the lessons, big and small, that she learned. Review here.

(275 ratings)




Take Me With You by Brad Newsham

Genre: Nonfiction / Travel

Published 2000, 380 pages


This travelogue is well written with humor and great attention to detail, both of the area and the people he meets. He travels the Philippines, India, Egypt, Kenya, and more looking for "someone to bring home to America and enrich their lives". While the goal might be a bit presumptuous, the result is a delightful read about an extraordinary experience.

(385 ratings)




Pale Morning Light With Violet Swan by Deborah Reed

Genre: General Fiction

Published 2020, 288 pages


This story is told in flashbacks as a 93 year old looks back on her life as an artist, mom, and friend. Complete review here.

(415 ratings)






To The Elephant Graveyard by Tarquin Hall

Genre: Nonfiction

Published 2000, 272 pages


Written by a journalist but reads like fiction, this is the compelling account of the search for a killer elephant in the northeast corner of India, and a vivid portrait of the Khasi tribe, who live intimately with the elephants. I was absorbed in the culture of the area and the historic relevance of elephants and the grit of the actual hunt. A gripping story told with empathy and even a touch of humor here and there.

(424 ratings)



Incident at Twenty-Mile by Trevanian

Genre: Hmmm? Thriller?

Published 1998, 343 pages


A western thriller with a stranger with a shotgun and a violent madman escaped from prison descending on the small, remote town of Twenty-Mile. As an epic storm approaches, the town is under siege and at the end some will live, some will die, but the myth of the American west will never be the same.

(1045 ratings)




Mr. Emerson's Wife by Amy Belding Brown

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2005, 338 pages


Written from the viewpoint of Ralph Waldo Emerson's wife, this book is a well written slice of life of the mid to late 1800's. Although a novel, it seems to be very well researched from the little fact checking that I did and feels very authentic. "The book combines detailed history with a page turning illicit love story." A great writing style that embraced the era but kept it readable.

(1122 ratings)




Ok, so I cheated just a little on the last two (a little over 1000 ratings, but, it's my blog!), but I didn't want to leave them off because they were SO good!


I hope I've piqued your interest in one of these delicious stories - if so, let me know which one and why it sounds good. Try it yourself; you can sort your Goodreads List (look down at the bottom of the page; there's a drop down menu with lots of sortable categories) and see what forgotten gems are on your list. What would you recommend?



Welcome to Bookshelf Journeys.

It's my goal to provide real reviews of the books I read without totally rehashing every plot. I'll never spoil a story by giving away a plot twist! Hopefully you'll find one or two of interest and will discover a new book or author to add to YOUR TBR list.  Take a moment to explore, read a couple reviews, and let me know what you think.

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