Fiction Uncovered… Where To Find The Hidden Gems?

I am tempted not to do another post, remember most of these posts are scheduled, and to leave my review of  Catherine Hall’s The Proof of Love’ as as the latest post for ages because I am so desperate to get you all to read the book, but at the same time it has brought up a question that I thought I would ask as a smallish post, before reminding you again that really you need to read ‘The Proof of Love’. Are any of you picking up any subliminal messages yet?

Anyway, I was thinking about this book and the ‘Fiction Uncovered’ initiative and wondered where you all find those books that take you by surprise, those hidden gem books? I am talking about those books you randomly find or hear about that don’t feature in the broadsheets or in TV/radio book clubs etc. Not to be confused with forgotten classics by the way. In fact that puts it best, where do you find lost/under the radar modern fiction?

I include myself in the above rather naughtily. I know I am likely to stick to certain genres and well known (to me) authors, and am more likely to try other well known (to bloggers and broadsheets) authors – I have an Ali Smith review scheduled for tomorrow and you can see I am reading both Alan Hollinghurst and Edward St Aubyn at the moment there ——-> the first an author I know I like a lot, the second I have heard lots about from bloggers et al. Neither of these need further publicity do they? Or should that not be the point, aren’t they well known for writing so well? Should I not be trying to discover more unknown modern novels to share with you all? I’m not getting all naval gazing, but its making me think a lot.

‘The Proof of Love’ has highlighted all those authors, on their second, third, fifth or tenth books yet not household names, that I am sure I am missing out on (it can lead to a headache thinking like that) and how I could find more? So I thought I would ask all of you where you hear of yours, and even better share the books that have been brilliant reads and yet have fallen somewhat under the radar. What can you suggest, both the books that I should have read but might not have and where you find these delights?

30 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Fiction Uncovered

30 responses to “Fiction Uncovered… Where To Find The Hidden Gems?

  1. gaskella

    I have four of the 8 books in my TBR – I was already a fan of Lindsay Clarke and Ray Robinson, and read Sarah Moss’ first through Amazon Vine; Chris Paling – just spotted the book on the table in my local bookshop. I will have to add Catherine Hall to the list too. I would particularly recommend Ray Robinson’s first book ‘Electricity’ which I heard of through Scott Pack’s blog, and many years ago a friend gave me Lindsay Clarke’s ‘The Chymical Wedding’ with its themes of alchemy and hermeticism tied up with a historical investigation was right up my street (if you liked Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, you’d like the chymical wedding).

    • Well as you may have seen Annabel I have now read, and weirdly met, a Ray Robinson and am a fan of the books – he’s a jolly nice chap too. I am planning on picking up Electricity in the not too distant future.

      Have you gotten to the Catherine Hall (I am being as rubbish at commenting as I am visiting blogs at the moment) yet! I’m still thinking about that book!

  2. I find gems from recommendations by family and friends who don’t necessarily read newspaper reviews or book blogs. And by looking through shelves in bookshops and libraries. It’s quite different from searching online. One of my favourite authors is Iain M. Banks who was recommended by a friend. Many people have read his mainstream novels published under Iain Banks, but I much prefer his sf stuff.

    • I’ve been much much much better at mooching through the library in the last few months I have to say. I’ve also decided, I wrote about it yesterday, how I am going to use the library to get more novellas to try out famous authors I’ve missed. Not quite fiction uncovered though I know.

  3. While this is probably the last thing my TBR pile actually needs, I adore visiting second-hand bookshops/bookstalls and charity shops. There are several books that I’ve picked up there that I would never have heard of if I just went to high street shops, and a lot of them warrant repeat readings that I never have time for. I also end up reading a lot of obscure books (often in translation) due to my university course, but enrolling in university might be a tad extreme if all you want is some hidden gems.

  4. ‘Overlooked’ is often a difficult term to quantify. Iain M. Banks’ SF writing may not be as widely known as his work as Iain Banks, but it’s still pretty mainstream and shifts lots of copies, depending on who you ask. In fact, I’d say most industry people would see all Mr Banks’ work as mainstream with strong sales.

    ‘Overlooked’ and ‘under the radar’, in book terms, would really mean a title that’s sold less than 1,000 copies (4,000 copies is the midlist authors’ average). More specifically, it might mean a book that’s only sold a few hundred copies and that probably comes from a small press.

    Fiction Uncovered is still pretty much a marketing tool for the big-hitters in publishing, dressing up midlist novels as ‘overlooked’ and ‘little guy’ titles, when in fact they’re not. (I know, I’m so cynical, but it’s a very clever idea of theirs.)

    But then I guess the problem with trying to find real ‘overlooked’ novels is that, by definition, you’re unlikely to stumble across them.

    Once such gem I absolutely adored was Rhys Hughes’ The Percolated Stars. It was such a polished, yet satirical and whimsically beautiful novel, but is only available in a handful of places (you probably can get it on Amazon now, but 8 years ago when I first bought it, you couldn’t).

  5. Although, it’s worth mentioning, Fiction Uncovered, while it ostensibly seems to position itself as uncovering great writing, doesn’t actually state anywhere in their manifesto that they will or should focus only on overlooked writing. So they also can’t really be blamed for not seeking out those overlooked books (which, as I mentioned above, would be pretty hard, although would also be, I think, a very worthy project if it could be done).

  6. I like browsing the shelves in other shops or clicking through recommendations in Amazon, and I love stores that sell a random selection of books (independent bookshops rather than supermarkets etc). My favourite is a non-fiction by Lisa See, she’s famous so I’m not sure if it counts, but I rarely see this book mentioned, On Gold Mountain about her Chinese family moving to America.

    • I think I have heard of Lisa See’s fiction novels, I think, but I hadn’t heard of this non fiction one. It sounds interesting and if it’s gone under the radar might be one to look out for.

  7. Bet

    Since I am an American and follow mostly British book bloggers, I find most of my gems right here and on dovegreyreader and Random Jottings. I have to call the books you all recommend “hidden gems” because they are not much talked about over here and often I can’t even get them here until long after they’ve become well known on your side of the pond. So thank you, Simon!

    • Thats a pleasure Bet. Thanks so much for the compliment and for putting me in the same league as Dovegreyreader and Random Jottings. Though apologies I have been really, really rubbish at commenting.

      I forget that not all books come out in the USA that are out here. I must check if people can get The Proof of Love or not! I’m obsessed.

  8. Jo

    I think I find them from all sorts of places, randomly clicking on Amazon through links. Or catching my eye in Waterstones, even just a colour on the cover I can be intrigued and invariably hooked. Since I have been blogging, I have been picking up lots of gems!

    Not sure I can think of any that you should go and read, I just know there are more out there waiting to be discovered by us all, and then shared by us! See I am off to loo up The Proof of Love now.

    • I have to say that like you since I have started blogging I have picked up more and more and more books I wouldn’t have. What’s lovely is that I never feel pressured by bloggers. The enthusiasm is just contagious.

  9. The fiction uncovered idea is a ok ones I seen mention I knew I tend to buy from personnell knowledge and some chance buys ,all the best stu

    • I like the idea. However I thought of you with this initiative. There’s no translations, but then we have the wonderful Peirene for those I guess, and your blog of course.

  10. Eva

    I like to follow ‘category’ tags in my library catalogue; sometimes they lead to some fascinating discoveries. Or I’ll search by publisher/imprint. And of course, I subscribe to bloggers who read outside the mainstream!

  11. Must read The Proof of Love, must read The Proof of Love….message received! I find some of my hidden gems in literary histories and reader’s guides I find in the library such as A Jury of Her Peers and 100 Great Books by Women. One of my hidden gems is Coventry by Helen Humphreys. It is a wonderful book, but I don’t hear much about her. Her book The Lost Garden is also marvelous.

    • I feel like I have heard of Helen Humphries… Goes off to check… Yes I thought I had… I have her knew book, how random. I shall put that higher up the TBR! Thanks Anbolyn. Oh and glad you got The Proof of Love message.

  12. There are no books you “should have read”! Two that are not well known, that perhaps you have not read, that I enjoyed are:

    Ismail Kadere; The General of the Dead Army (http://morganas-cat.tumblr.com/post/405569573/a-holiday-in-albania)

    Salvatore Niffoi; The Legend of Redenta Tiria (http://morganas-cat.tumblr.com/post/304117369/the-legend-of-redenta-tiria).

  13. Stumbling across gems in charity shops when you have time to peruse is just great. Alternatively, when I used to work in a hotel the cleaning lady used to squirrel away the books clients left behind and give them to me at the end of the day (!) Brought me a lot of books I otherwise wouldn’t have read but am so glad I did…

    • That hotel story is brilliant! What gems did you get through that? Bet there were some random weird ones too! You should, if you haven’t already, do a post on it. Let me know if you do it!

  14. Jen

    One of my favorite gems is Amos, To Ride A Dead Horse, by Stanley Gordon West. Wonderful book!

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