6 Inspiring Underrated Books You Should Be Reading Now

6 Inspiring Underrated Books You Should Be Reading Now

Part of the magic of reading is discovering new cultures, new perspectives, exploring fictional places, and connecting to characters who inspire us and motivate us.

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Among the hype around fan-favorite authors and books, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and only focus on the currently popular titles sold on the shelves of your local Target or Barnes and Noble. Here are six underrated books that you should take note of that definitely deserve more hype!

Here, I have chosen six books from a vast array of genres: memoir, graphic novel, young adult fiction, and historical fiction, so there is an option out there for you to enjoy out of this list! Even though these books might not be at the top of every Goodreads list, the outstanding reviews speak for themselves.

1. "Night" by Elie Wiesel 

"Night" is the poignant, true story of Elie Wiesel himself and his experiences surviving in Nazi-enforced concentration camps during the Holocaust. He experiences the height of the systematic genocide and lives in an inhumane environment in which the sight and smell of death are frequent. Young 15-year-old Wiesel experiences the loss of everything he loves: home, friends, and family; he loses not only his loved ones but also his innocence, his hope, and even his faith in God As powerful and moving as "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Night" reminds us that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

2. "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe

Published in 1958. "Things Fall Apart" follows precolonial life in southeastern Nigeria and the devastating effects colonization of Europeans in the late 19th century. Filled with plot twists and engaging plot, it is critically-acclaimed for good reason.

"A true classic of world literature . . . A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world." —Barack Obama

Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read

3. "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi

This one is one of my all-time favorite books, and I recently read it for my college English class. It is an autobiographical graphic novel about Marjane Satrapi herself, nicknamed Marji. Marji is forced to grow up in a country in which a strict regime asserts control over nearly everything, from dress code to public communication. She mainly experiences unequal treatment of Iranian women by fundamentalist authority. At a young age, she is ultimately determined to fight for her rights as a woman at the expense of her own safety. During the Islamic Revolution, surrounded by degrading new laws, rules, and bombings, Marji not only struggles against the patriarchal regime but also with oppression and her identity as a woman.

4. "Ashes In The Snow" by Ruta Sepetys

Formerly titled "Between Shades of Gray," "Ashes In The Snow" follows 15-year-old Lina and her family as they are forced out of their homes by Soviet guards and deported to Siberia to work in the grueling conditions of Stalin's labor camps in 1941.

5. "Salt To The Sea" by Ruta Sepetys

What can I say? Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors ever, and I think so many of her books deserve more attention. They're so beautifully written. "Salt To The Sea," tells the story of four individuals in WWII making the long journey towards safety and salvation. It is based on a real-life maritime disaster: the ship onto which they flee is the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was sunk by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Of the estimated 10,500 people on board, more than 9,000 died.

Here's a brief synopsis, according to rutasepetys.com:

"In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival."

6. "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published in 1999, "Speak is a young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that tells the story of high school freshman Melinda Sordino. After accidentally ending of summer party due to an unnamed incident, Melinda is ostracized by her peers because she will not say why she called the police. It is revealed that she was raped by senior Andy Evans and she dialed 911 after the incident, but she hung up, not knowing what to say, and runs home. Unable to verbalize what happened, Melinda nearly stops speaking altogether, expressing her voice through the art she produces for Mr. Freeman's class. This expression slowly helps Melinda acknowledge what happened, confront her problems, and freely express her bravery and individuality.

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My Freckles Are Not A Beauty Trend For You To Appropriate And Immitate

Those with faces full of freckles can't wipe them off like you can after a photo shoot.

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While it is fun to use makeup to express yourself, one can argue unless you are in costume, it should be used to enhance your features, not create new ones. The trend of artificial freckles puts a nasty taste in my mouth reminiscent to the feeling I get when I see a Caucasian woman apply such dark foundation to her face that she appears to be donning blackface.

To someone who has a face full of freckles, it is offensive to see you paint on freckles as if they were not permanent features of other people's skin that they cannot remove with a makeup wipe. I remember asking my cousin at 5 years old if I could surgically remove my freckles and crying when she broke to me that I'd be stuck with what she called giraffe spots my whole life.

I'm not alone in feeling self-conscious about my freckles. The face is the fulcrum of the identity, and it can feel like my facial identity is like a haphazard splash of orange/brown debris. Another against the fake freckles movement retorts: "you'll soon regret them when people begin to describe you as a polka-dot-skinned troll or a cinnamon-toast-faced goblin. Also, when your eyebags start to sag in middle-age, that 'cute' skin art will probably deteriorate into something more closely resembling oblong blackheads. Sincerely, A Freckled Person"

One woman recalls her struggle with accepting the patterns of her skin from a very young age:

“When I was a young girl, I remember staring at myself in my bathroom mirror and imagining my face without the scattered brown dots that littered my face and body. I dreamed of having the small imperfections removed from my face and obtaining the smooth porcelain skin that I envied. I looked at my bare-faced friends in awe because they had what I wanted and would never know. For some odd reason, I had made myself believe that my freckles made me ugly."

I've come to appreciate the beauty of these sun kisses, and many nowadays have too. However, freckles haven't always been considered cute. There is a history of contempt toward red reader freckled people, just ask Anne Shirley! The dramatic young heroine laments: "Yes, it's red," she said resignedly. "Now you see why I can't be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair. I don't mind the other things so much — the freckles and the green eyes and my skinniness. I can imagine them away. I can imagine that I have a beautiful rose-leaf complexion and lovely starry violet eyes. But I cannot imagine that red hair away. I do my best. I think to myself, "Now my hair is a glorious black, black as the raven's wing." But all the time I know it is just plain red, and it breaks my heart. It will be my lifelong sorrow." (Montgomery).

Historically, freckles on ones face have been seen as dirty or imperfect. It's easy to forget that Irish features such as red hair and freckles have been subject to hateful discrimination for centuries. In some places, the word ginger is even used as a slur.

I am not a red-headed stepchild for you to beat — or for you to appropriate.

My facial texture is not a toy for you to play with.

It is rude and inconsiderate to pock your face for a selfie while those with randomly splashed spots get someone once a week trying to rub off the "dirt speck" on their face.

Greg Stevens has a theory to why there is anti-red prejudice

“Skin tone is another one of those well-studied features that has been shown to consistently have an impact on people's assessment of physical beauty: Those with clear, evenly-colored skin are widely regarded as being more attractive than people with patchy, blotchy, or freckled skin.
Nowhere is this more obvious than when looking at professional photos of redheaded models and celebrities. Even those "hot redheads" that flaunt the redness of their hair usually are made-up on magazine covers to have almost unnaturally even skin tones. Moreover, there is a reasonable theory to explain why the bias against freckles might be more than just a cultural prejudice. Not to be too blunt about it, but freckles are cancer factories."

By that, the author means freckles can be early indicators of sun damage or skin cancer. This illusion that freckles indicate deficiency may also play in negative connotations toward a person with freckles

While I acknowledge the intention of people with clear skin who paint freckles on their face isn't to offend — rather it is to appreciate freckles as a beauty statement — the effect is still offensive. If you are thinking about trying this freckle fad, you should put down your fine tipped brush and consider what it would be like if you couldn't wipe away the spots.

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As College Comes To A Close

I graduate college in a few days, here's a reflection on my time here.

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I graduate from college this year. It seems like only yesterday I was just graduating high school and becoming a writer for the Odyssey. I recall the end of high school is a crazy time because I was drowning in Precalculus and AP English work.

I always wonder why I waited to do all my most complex classes in my senior year. Thinking back, it was insane, but nowadays, I realize that it's proof that I can take any workload that comes my way.

It was truly the craziest time because I barely had the energy to do art or anything I wanted. I only had work on my mind because I had come so far and it was pointless to just drop out if I was so close to the finish line.

I had some of the most difficult nights just attempting to find a balance between school and leisure, but I found a way through. It was all part of the process.

So, the end of school comes. I graduate, high honors and with a SHH cord for taking Spanish for four years. The requirement is only two, but I stuck with it for the duration of high school since I always did really well with it.

The summer arrives. I start getting back into my art and spinning vinyl. I have time to finally get back to me. I have the proper time to slow down and recharge and make up for lost time.

Eventually, August is here. The first day of college. My vivid recollection of my first day was that I got right into doing the first assignments for class very easily since I did online school from 5th grade to 12th grade.

The first days were interesting because I was still finding a balance of how to complete all my work in a timely manner without ever missing a deadline. I managed to maneuver my schedule so I could work from Monday to Friday, and I could have my weekends free, so I could have time for art and spinning vinyl.

My basic theory there is that I work all week and I earn my weekends. I'm on the computer all week, so I get a little bit of free time and time away from technology since I'm on it all the time anyway.

I've had all different classes, and a lot of music has been the soundtrack to surviving the workload. I've rediscovered a lot of music and I've found a lot of new stuff as well.

The most insane college class that I'll never forget is Financial Accounting I because, I've never had to do so much work in one course. This course had so many steps to completing lessons that I still can't process how I made it through. That class was intense to the point of me working from 8 AM to 5 PM and then from 7 PM to midnight, every night.

I felt that was the time when I was spiraling out of control, because it was just insane. Then, March 2018 happened. The Nor'Easter storms which kept us out of our house for about a month and we had to relocate to a motel due to the electric being out since the power grid was down for days on end.

Things got better. We got back home eventually, and I've been doing good.

I've been staying up on my work, and getting things in order.

I started college, a few months after high school, a little uncertain of where it would take me. College was an interesting concept, but there's always a fear of if it can really be applied.

So, I'm a writer for the Odyssey Online and a college student, at the time.

Today, I'm an artist, writer, photographer, vinyl enthusiast, and I run my own music blog.

At the start of college, I didn't know what was gonna happen. Surely, I was gonna study and get a degree, but so much more happened. I found myself to another degree. I found more awesome bands on vinyl. I took another gazillion photos. I took a massive amount of portraits and I was my own model. Somehow, all of this tied together, and I graduate and I have all this awesome stuff under my belt.

My next chapter continues with another two year degree, continuing by studying Human Resources. I plan to continue writing for the Odyssey. I plan to keep taking photos and updating my photography blog. I plan to keep writing for Generation Clash, because I'm beyond proud of the fact that it's no longer an idea and officially a reality.

College is a crazy time. It's a time of growth and opportunities and I'm glad I've taken the hint.

So, here's a piece of my journey. Anything worth going for in life is never easy. You have to your strength in the hardest moments. When it gets crazy, remember all your progress, and keep moving forward. You'll never know what comes next unless you keep going. Stay motivated and everything will be okay. Everything that has happened has led to this moment.

Here's to the class of 2019!!

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