7 Books I Rated 5* That I’ve Never Seen Recommended

Published on 5/4/2022

I think it’s great that many readers and non-readers alike are being guided to new titles on platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram. But it must be said that a lot of the same novels come up on these review accounts, whilst other incredible reads are slipping through the cracks. There isn’t much to be done about it, except personally taking the time to recommend the books that we think matter as well.

I am genuinely surprised not to have had these seven books recommended to me before. They are books that stuck with me. They crawl into my mind when I’m trying to fall asleep, and are the first things I think of when asked for a reading suggestion.

I rated all of these books with 5 stars, and I’m genuinely curious whether you would do the same. So here are my top non-recommended reads, let’s see if at least one is new for you!

1. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes - Elissa R. Sloan

Have you ever read a book and then thought… why is no one talking about this? The fact that no one has recommended ‘The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes’ to me is astounding. It covers everything I love in a book: glamour, LA, mental illness, a mysterious death and more. I cannot, and will not, stop talking about this book. Since reading it, I have given it to two friends as a birthday gift, just to do my part in spreading this incredible book further in the world.

The book opens with the remaining members of the girl band, Gloss, finding out that former member Cassidy Holmes has committed suicide. The book switches between Cassidy’s experiences in the band and the current members coming to terms with her death. You get to be right there for the rise and fall of this band.

Why should you read it?

If you like books about the darker side of fame, you’ll love this novel. It’s one of those books where you start with the ending, but it all makes far more sense later in the story. It has a bit of everything and I genuinely wished it could be longer. Fun fact: it’s also the only book I’ve read to start with a trigger warning.

2. Maybe in Another Life - Taylor Jenkins Reid

Is this choice cheating since Taylor’s other novels are always mentioned on Booktok? I don’t think so, as everyone only focuses on her latest three novels. Her earlier novels may be different, but they’re great in their own right.

This book starts with a choice, where Hannah can either go home or stay at the bar. From that point, we follow how her life would have gone with each option. It explores the idea of parallel universes, all of the options that emerge as a butterfly effect of one decision. How much do we determine our own future? Does fate exist, and what about soulmates?

This novel stayed with me long after it ended, and I started thinking about the concept in terms of my own life. I think that’s a marker of an amazing story. The two storylines alternate between chapters, and yet Taylor is a talented enough writer to ensure this isn’t disconcerting for the reader.

Why should you read it?

This is a rare format for a novel, and what’s even rarer is to have it carried out so skillfully. You’ll constantly switch between which reality is your preferred one, and it leaves you with a heartwarming sense of comfort in the world. It’s a twist on a classic romance novel and much more about identity than anything else.

3. Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby

You may know Nick Hornby for ‘High Fidelity’, ‘About a Boy’ or even ‘A Long Way Down’. And whilst those are all great novels, I have such a fondness for ‘Juliet, Naked’. I’m not sure why I seem to be so attracted to books involving music, especially given my complete lack of musical skill, but I seem to always find them.

I bought this book second hand in a bundle of Nick Hornby titles, so I knew nothing going in. And honestly, I love that, I love blind reading something so that I’m not waiting for a storyline or going in with a bias.

‘Juliet, Naked’ focuses on three characters. There’s Annie, who is in love with Duncan and has revolved her life around him. Duncan only really cares about Tucker Crowe, an elusive singer that stopped making music ten years ago. And Tucker Crowe is finally reentering the world to release an acoustic version of his most famous album, Juliet, which is entitled Juliet, Naked. Annie finally calls it quits with Duncan, and through chance starts up an email correspondence with Tucker. The story that follows is anything but what you’d expect.

As with Nick’s other novels, this is a book led by flawed characters, some of which are aware of their many shortcomings, and others who remain ignorantly unaware (*cough* Duncan). It’s a novel about connecting in loneliness, and realising that your life wasn’t what you thought it would be.

Why should you read it?

You get to explore the fictional life of Tucker Crowe and unravel the mystery along with the characters. For a novel focused on wasted potential and regrets, it’s unnervingly heartwarming, a story about life much more than death. Plus there is a film you can watch afterwards!

4. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking - Susan Cain

If there was a mandatory reading list for introverts, this book would be top of the list. It has been the biggest gift in my journey toward accepting my introversion. In what is essentially an introvert’s bible, Susan Cain discusses how the world favours extroverts and doesn't recognise the potential of introverts.  She not only discusses the strengths and weaknesses of being an introvert, but also how to use the tools you are given. A large section is devoted to how introverts and extroverts can come together for the best results.

I have never seen this book recommended and yet I think I see so many people that could benefit from it. Particularly during the pandemic, a lot of us had the time and space to recognise that we are introverts at heart, or simply extroverted introverts, and now we are trying to come to terms with what that means for us. Well, this book will certainly help.

Why should you read it?

Whether you think you might be an introvert or simply want to understand the introverts around you better, this is the book for you. It provides so much perspective whilst also questioning almost everything we know. It explains studies and theories very clearly, making it accessible to all.

5. The Last - Hanna Jameson

I have a strange fondness for stories that involve the rebuilding of society, where a tragedy has happened and the characters have to navigate the ethics and morals of their new world. Hanna does this extremely well in ‘The Last’, making the reader also question what is right and how you’d act in the same situation.

What’s happened? Well, a group of strangers are all staying at a remote hotel in Switzerland when nuclear weapons are fired. The world basically ends. WIFI is shut down, they have no contact with the rest of the world, and no clue what to do next. To make matters worse, a body is found and it was killed recently enough that the killer must be one of the remaining people in the hotel.

Why should you read it?

This book isn’t a straightforward whodunnit, but rather an examination of how different people react to tragedy. The ‘extreme’ events aren’t that extreme after all, so it’s only too tempting for a reader to wonder what they could do in that situation. It’s a dystopian thriller that meets murder mystery with a side dish of political commentary.

6. Anxious People - Fredrik Backman

I randomly found this book on Goodreads, and as soon as I saw the synopsis, I was hooked. The title initially had me thinking this book would relate to mental health in some way, a topic I love to read about, and whilst it took a very different turn, it was an incredible read nonetheless.

This book focuses on a crime that never takes place. A group of people are held hostage by a bank robber, only for the bank robber to somehow disappear. And a bank was never actually robbed. I won't give you more details than that, because the intrigue and confusion is what makes this book so enjoyable. I know I'll have to read it at least two more times to begin making sense of it all.

I loved how well the book focused on perception, as a story is told through the eyes of each character, regardless of how inaccurate it actually is. This novel plays highly on bias, that of each character as well as the reader, and maybe even the author.

Why should you read it?

If you enjoy being an active reader and discovering the truth right alongside the characters, then give this novel a chance. It also takes place in Sweden, which adds an interesting touch. The characters are so quirky and erratic that they couldn't possibly be made up. When writing this, I discovered that there's actually a Netflix film about it as well, so I’ll certainly be watching that soon!

7. Expectation - Anna Hope

I found this book in my local bookstore and I was initially attracted to the pretty blue colour of the cover. The blurb got me hooked. It seemed like the most fitting story to read, given that I was going through my own late twenties crisis and trying to find my place in the world.

I recommended this book to fans of Sally Rooney, but I think that description doesn't do it justice. The story follows three friends: Hannah, Cate and Lisa. These women became friends in their early twenties sharing a small flat in London, and the novel switches between these early days and the present, where life is not living up to their expectations.

This novel is very thought-led, which is why it reminds me so much of Sally Rooney. We really get a prime seat inside the flawed minds of these women, where their thoughts are unfiltered and yet painfully relatable. It asks the questions that we all are afraid to say out loud.

What happened to all of my potential?

Am I wasting my life?

Am I happy, or am I incapable of it?

Why should you read it?

If these questions seem familiar, then definitely give this book a chance. You might like the challenge of seeing which of the three women reminds you the most of yourself, the answer of which might surprise you as it did me. It’s a comfortably paced read that doesn’t need to rely on plot, simply magnificent prose.

You may have heard of these books before, or seen them recommended somewhere that I missed, and so I hope this can be the push to actually give them a chance. Once in a while, a really good book somehow misses the attention it deserves. Once in a while, you randomly pick up a book and it changes you a little, for better or worse.

These seven books are ones I will keep recommending, over and over, in lieu of Booktok or other recommendation platforms.

What book did you love that you haven’t seen recommended nearly enough?

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Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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