Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Great Books That Need More Love

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Have you ever finished a book and thought, More people need to read this right now! I have. That's what we're talking about today. Here are 10 brilliant books that have fewer than 3,000 ratings on Goodreads. Why are bookworms sleeping on these books? They're great! They need more love.

Books That Need More Love


Adult Technology / Politics Nonfiction

In an era of increasing social isolation, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are among the most important tools we have to understand each other. We use social media as a mirror to decipher our place in society but, as Chris Bail explains, it functions more like a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. Breaking the Social Media Prism challenges common myths about echo chambers, foreign misinformation campaigns, and radicalizing algorithms, revealing that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.

Drawing on innovative online experiments and in-depth interviews with social media users from across the political spectrum, this book explains why stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less. Bail takes you inside the minds of online extremists through vivid narratives that trace their lives on the platforms and off, detailing how they dominate public discourse at the expense of the moderate majority. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of user behavior and political opinion, he offers fresh solutions to counter political tribalism from the bottom up and the top down. He introduces new apps and bots to help readers avoid misperceptions and engage in better conversations with the other side. Finally, he explores what the virtual public square might look like if we could hit reset and redesign social media from scratch through a first-of-its-kind experiment on a new social media platform built for scientific research.

Providing data-driven recommendations for strengthening our social media connections, Breaking the Social Media Prism shows how to combat online polarization without deleting our accounts.

Why I recommend it: It's hard to review this book because it was a weirdly personal reading experience for me. I can't explain my thoughts without telling my whole life story, which exactly 0 people want to hear because it's boring. Basically, I found this book comforting. It confirmed some of my suspicions and helped me realize that I'm not going insane. (It's always a good day when you realize you're not going insane.) A team of researchers discovered that Americans aren't actually as politically polarized as we believe. Our political conversations have just been hijacked by extremists who attack moderates and discourage them from participating in political discussions. Americans think we're polarized because moderates aren't talking. We only see the incessant yammering of extremists. The author isn't optimistic that our current social media platforms can fix the problem, but he has ideas for new platforms that will encourage moderates without rewarding trolls. I hope he gets funding to test his ideas. If you're interested in how social media shapes our perceptions, you need to read this book. It's thoughtful and well-researched.

Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

Why I recommend it: I had tons of fun reading this book. It’s hilarious, relevant, and timely. It’ll make you smile, and then it’ll make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment. The author tackles a bunch of difficult topics related to sex education. The world needs this book. It talks openly about sex, and I wish every teenager had the opportunity to read it. I think it will encourage young people to have conversations about consent and honesty in their relationships.


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Medical Nonfiction

A true-life scientific thriller no reader will forget, Surviving the Extremes takes us to the farthest reaches of the earth as well as into the uncharted territory within the human body, spirit, and brain. A vice president of the legendary Explorers Club, as well as surgeon, explorer, and masterful storyteller, Dr. Kenneth Kamler has spent years discovering what happens to the human body in extreme environmental conditions. Divided into six sections—jungle, high seas, desert, underwater, high altitude, and outer space—this book uses firsthand testimony and documented accounts to investigate the science of what a body goes through and explains why people survive—and why they sometimes don’t.

Why I recommend it: If you’re interested in medical nonfiction, this book is completely captivating. And completely horrifying. It kept me awake for several nights because I couldn’t stop reading. The author is an “extreme medicine” doctor who works with astronauts, deep ocean divers, and mountain climbers. The book is about what happens to the human body in environments that are not human friendly. The stories the author tells are simultaneously terrifying and amazing. That’s why I couldn’t stop reading them. I like every chapter, but I think my favorite is the one about Everest. I’m never going to climb that mountain. Nope, nope, not worth the potentially horrific side effects . . . .


Buy it on Amazon

The Optician Of Lampedusa by Emma-Jane Kirby

Adult Literary Fiction

The only optician on the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean is an ordinary man in his fifties, who used to be indifferent to the fate of the thousands of refugees landing on the coast of the Italian island. One day in the fall of 2013, the unimaginable scale of the tragedy became clear to him, and it changed him forever: as he was out boating with some friends, he encountered hundreds of men, women and children drowning in the aftermath of a shipwreck. The Optician and his seven friends managed to save 47 people (his boat was designed to hold ten people). All the others died. This is a poignant and unforgettable account about the awakening of conscience: more than that, it brings home the reality of an ongoing refugee crisis that has resulted in one of the most massive migrations in human history.

Why I recommend it: It's a tiny book about a huge problem. Every year, thousands of refugees fleeing Africa wash up on the shore of an island called Lampedusa. The main "character"—the Optician—is frustratingly relatable. He sees refugees every day, but he doesn’t know much about their issues. They don’t impact his life, so he ignores them. This book is a reminder that most of us ignore the world’s problems until they show up on our doorstep. We don’t truly care about something until it impacts us. Unfortunately, by the time we start paying attention to problems, it may be too late to solve them.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Young Adult Mystery

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

Why I recommend it: This book is nearly 500 pages, but I read the majority of it in one sitting because it's full of compelling mysteries and hilarious characters. The author tackles heavy issues, which could have been depressing, but the lively characters keep the issues from becoming overwhelming. For a book about arson and murder, it's very funny. I appreciate that.

Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Middle Grade Memoir

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls—all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.

In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Why I recommend it: This is a children's book, but it's not just for kids! It has beautiful illustrations and historical photos. You will fall in love with Margaret. She's tenacious, imaginative, and won't let anyone bring her down. As someone who was bullied in school, I could relate to a few of her experiences. I'll be passing this book on to my niece when she's old enough to appreciate it.


Adult Biography / History / Wilderness Survival Nonfiction

In September 1921, four young men and Ada Blackjack, a diminutive 25-year-old Eskimo woman, ventured deep into the Arctic in a secret attempt to colonize desolate Wrangel Island for Great Britain. Two years later, Ada Blackjack emerged as the sole survivor of this ambitious polar expedition. This young, unskilled woman—who had headed to the Arctic in search of money and a husband—conquered the seemingly unconquerable north and survived all alone after her male companions had perished.

Following her triumphant return to civilization, the international press proclaimed her the female Robinson Crusoe. But whatever stories the press turned out came from the imaginations of reporters: Ada Blackjack refused to speak to anyone about her horrific two years in the Arctic. Only on one occasion—after charges were published falsely accusing her of causing the death of one of her companions—did she speak up for herself.


Why I recommend it: I have massive respect for Ada. She needed money, so she agreed to be a cook / seamstress / housekeeper for an Arctic expedition. She didn’t know how to hunt or build shelters, but she figured it out real quick when she got trapped on a freezing island for two years. I wish more people knew about Ada. I’d never heard of her before reading this book. I'm glad her story is being told.


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Historical Fiction
(The book calls itself young adult, but I disagree)

Bicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 is the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild sister; his former war protester aunt; and his tough yet troubled best friend, Edie, the only person with whom he can be himself. As tempers flare and his father’s nightmares rage, Eli watches from the sidelines, but soon even he cannot escape the current of conflict.

Why I recommend it: The main character, Eli, is an observant and relatable child who’s trying to make sense of his complicated family. Drama is sparked by a July 4 bicentennial celebration that drags his family’s problems to the surface. This historical fiction novel really brings the time period and the Kentucky setting to life. I read it years ago, but a few of the scenes are so vivid that they're stuck in my mind forever.

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

Adult Historical Horror

Georgian London. Summer 1763.

Anne Jaccob is coming of age, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor—a great friend of her father’s—and is set up to marry a squeamish snob named Simeon Onions, she begins to realize just how powerless she is in Georgian society. Anne is watchful, cunning, and bored.

Her savior appears in the form of Fub, the butcher’s boy. Their romance is both a great spur and an excitement. Anne knows she is doomed to a loveless marriage to Onions and she is determined to escape with Fub and be his mistress. But will Fub ultimately be her salvation or damnation? And how far will she go to get what she wants?

Why I recommend it: If you like disgusting horror, then this book is for you. It's graphic. It's gory. It's crude. It will hook you (pun totally intended) immediately. You won't be able to look away as Anne manipulates and murders everyone who gets in her way. The book has depth, though. It's not all murder! It's an examination of upper-class women who have never been told "No," but who are still mostly powerless in male-dominated Georgian society. Anne’s only purpose in life is to marry a wealthy gentleman, but she has her own plans . . . .

Buy it on Amazon

The Science Of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction

How do you grow a miracle?

For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids—flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?

Why I recommend it: I laughed. I know you can't tell from the synopsis, but this book is hilarious. Twig is one of my all-time-favorite fictional characters. I love her energy and lack of impulse control. The author gets an A+ for creating charismatic, realistic twelve-year-old characters. I would have wanted to be friends with these kids when I was twelve.

Have you read a book that needs love? Tell me about it!

Do you need more book recommendations? Here are 10 more underhyped books.


  1. A few of these caught my eye. I will check them out and give them love.

  2. I really liked Surviving the Extremes, except it reminded me why I'm never ever going to the Amazon. But hey, who am I kidding? I'm never going to the desert or the Arctic either! Except in a book!

    Here's my list this week: https://speedyreadercom.wordpress.com/2022/02/28/8-books-i-enjoyed-but-havent-mentioned-on-my-blog/

  3. I have not heard of any of these books, but they all sound amazing!! What a great list of important books.

  4. I am glad you keep talking about Giles' book because it was so good! I liked The Science of Breakable Things too. I also remember Twig fondly

  5. You always seem to find the most interesting books! I am really drawn the social media book because I think it might make me feel better about the state of the world. Maybe.

  6. All of these are new to me, so you're right. They definitely need more love. :)

  7. I like how you bypass the popular and seek out books that are interesting but different. Eli the Good sounds up my alley-- I like coming of age stories set in the '60s and '70s, when I myself was coming of age.

  8. Fun post! I would like to read The Arsonist.

    Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net

  9. Proof of the pudding, I haven't read any of these, thanks for your post!

  10. Ada and the Optician look especially good to me. I like finding under-valued gems like these. great list.

  11. 'For a book about arson and murder, it's very funny. I appreciate that.' - I mean, why wouldn't you? ;)