Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Pirates of Venus
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Some authors, such as To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, are legitimately literary one-hit wonders, in the truest sense of the word, and never publish another book. But even in the case of successful and prolific authors, it's generally true that one or two of their books get most of the attention, while others fade into comparative obscurity. In some cases, that may be for good reason - perhaps a writer blows his whole stake on one excellent book, and spends the rest of his career chasing the dream of another like the first. But oftentimes, word of mouth and bestseller lists help to fan the flames for one title, while others, still deserving of attention, languish.

This is for those lesser-known titles, dwarfed by the magnum opus from the same author, waiting patiently, forever in shadow, for their turn in the sun. An excellent example is J.D. Salinger. Salinger’s famed reclusiveness and only novel The Catcher in the Rye steal the vast majority of Salinger-themed headlines, but many readers feel that Salinger’s other works, including Franny and Zooey, were actually literarily stronger than Catcher. To stop one's Salinger education before encountering the Glass family would be a travesty and a shame. And the same is true of so many authors, whose best book may not always be their bestselling book.

Read on for a list of titles you may not have heard of, from authors you definitely have, and get to know the writers behind the blockbusters a little bit better.

 

Lesser-known But Worthwhile

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home by William Peter Blatty
John Goldfarb, Please Come Home
by William Peter Blatty

A far cry from the terror and dry-mouth inducing chills of The Exorcist, this comedic Cold War spoof has some of William Peter Blatty’s finest writing and was adapted to a film starring Shirley MacLaine.
The Story of Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll
The Story of Sylvie and Bruno
by Lewis Carroll

One Miss Alice undoubtedly hogs the Lewis Carroll limelight, but for those who liked Carroll’s style of eloquent nonsense, riddle, rhyme and strange character, Sylvie and Bruno is a further treat not to be missed.
The Island by Peter Benchley
The Island
by Peter Benchley

If you loved the spine-tingling, campy, edge-of-your-seat horror of Jaws, then The Island, Benchley’s novel about the Bermuda Triangle and pirates, is sure to be right up your alley. It’s a lot of fun.
The Dragon in the Sea by Frank Herbert
The Dragon in the Sea
by Frank Herbert

Many fans of the Dune books have never ventured beyond them into Herbert’s other work, but they’re missing out. Start with this futuristic tale of oil, psychology and religion from 1956.
A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe
A Man of the People
by Chinua Achebe

Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, is the best-known book of African literature in the world. His fourth novel, A Man of the People is equally powerful, and a first-person account of a school teacher in a fictional African country.
The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams
The Girl in a Swing
by Richard Adams

While extremely different from Watership Down, (ghosts, no rabbits) Adams’ The Girl in a Swing is a riveting and affecting story the reader won’t soon forget, reminding us that Adams' talent was widely varied.
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
The Trumpet of the Swan
by E.B. White

White is most famous for his fictional tale of farmyard courage and his exploration of language with William Strunk. But fans of excellent kids' literature would be remiss to not read The Trumpet of the Swan, about a mute cygnet.
Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
Jailbird
by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut was lucky and talented enough to have several well-known novels: Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and more. But lesser-known titles like 1979’s Jailbird should not be overlooked.
Coming Up for Air by George Orwell
Coming Up for Air
by George Orwell

While some were put off by its negativity and bitter, weary tone, many Orwell fans consider Coming Up For Air among his finest literary works – nearly on par with 1984 or Animal Farm.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
by Douglas Adams

This won’t be news to true connoisseurs of Adams, but in case you’ve only delved into the Hitchhiker books, Adams also wrote a mean detective novel, chock full of the silly, clever wit that makes his readers happy.
The Diamond Smugglers by Ian Fleming
The Diamond Smugglers
by Ian Fleming

Fleming. Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming, the creator of 007 himself. But Fleming was a talented and versatile writer.  This is his first non-fiction book, a detailed and expertly-outlined account of the diamond smuggling trade in South Africa.
Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien
Farmer Giles of Ham
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Best known by far for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien’s creative and imaginative writing extended far beyond Middle-earth. Farmer Giles of Ham is the delightful story of a most unlikely would-be dragonslayer.
The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame
The Golden Age
by Kenneth Grahame

Before there was Badger, Ratty or Toad, Kenneth Grahame wrote The Golden Age, a loose, Ancient Greece-themed compilation of his childhood memories. Excellently creative and an adventure for children.
A Case of Need by Michael Crichton
A Case of Need
by Michael Crichton (as Jeffrey Hudson)

While it’s tough to beat the concept of genetic meddling resulting in a dinosaur theme park, there was much more to Crichton. His earlier works such as A Case of Need may show less polish than Jurassic Park, but the creative genius is alive and well.
Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov
Bend Sinister
by Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s magnum opus was certainly his third English-language novel Lolita. But Bend Sinister, his grueling dystopian novel written eight years earlier is beautiful, worthy prose.
The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo
The Fortunate Pilgrim
by Mario Puzo

Clearly the exploits of the Corleone family captured the public’s interest more than any other of Puzo’s works, but Puzo fervently believed that The Fortunate Pilgrim was his finest work and far outshone The Godfather.
That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton
That Was Then, This is Now
by S.E. Hinton

Most famous for The Outsiders, Hinton set several of her books in Oklahoma, in the same universe as that first novel. That Was Then This is Now, published four years after The Outsiders, retains the same dramatic teen style.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
by Richard Bach

People remember Bach's feel-good 1970 fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull, whose messages of self-acceptance and perseverance were well worth celebrating. But  thirsty souls looking for inspiration and affirmation should explore Bach’s other works, such as Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.
The Shoulder of Shasta by Bram Stoker
The Shoulder of Shasta
by Bram Stoker

By far most famous for his eponymous fanged fiend Dracula, Bram Stoker was actually quite prolific. The Shoulder of Shasta, published two years before Dracula, is a gripping and well-written romance, which arguably never received the acclaim it deserved.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Host
by Stephenie Meyer

Most people either love or hate Meyer’s staggeringly popular Twilight series. But The Host, her 2008 novel, was aimed at a more adult audience, and the writing shows it – it’s more sophisticated, less angsty, and even has a hefty dose of good science fiction. Well worth a read.
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
In the Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak

Max and his wild rumpus are hard to top. But fans of Where the Wild Things Are may find their best bet for more Sendak is In the Night Kitchen, another magical story about a little boy’s night-time adventure.
Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell
Lost Laysen
by Margaret Mitchell

Many people aren’t even aware that Margaret Mitchell wrote anything besides Gone with the Wind, but her earlier romantic novella Lost Laysen, written when she was only a teenager, is worth exploring especially for Mitchell fans.
Good as Gold by Joseph Heller
Good as Gold
by Joseph Heller

Most famous for his darkly funny debut novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller was extremely talented at satirical writing.  Good As Gold was his third novel, and adored by fans as being among his best and most engaging works.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches
by Roald Dahl

While Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may be Roald Dahl’s best-known book, it is not necessarily his best. The Witches, about a little boy, his dear grandmamma with the missing thumb, and their fight against evil is fantastic.
Franny and Zooey by J.D . Salinger
Franny and Zooey
by J.D . Salinger

Salinger’s famed reclusiveness and only novel The Catcher in the Rye steal the vast majority of Salinger-themed headlines, but many readers feel that Salinger’s other works, including Franny and Zooey, were actually literarily stronger than Catcher.

What did we miss? Tell us your favorite lesser-known book.


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