How do you find “under-the-radar” books?

A while ago, a couple of book podcasts that I listen to both featured this question. Readers are frustrated that everywhere they turn, the same books are being promoted. It’s hard to get beyond the hype of the season’s “hot reads” and find other books that may be equally good, but just haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. How do you find these lesser-known gems?

I think this is a great question. I’m not sure about how to find up-to-the-moment reads that have been unjustly passed over; it seems a bit easier after some years or even decades have passed (although that does not help the starving author much). Here are a few of my ideas, at any rate.

I’ve found some wonderful books and authors that I had never heard of before solely because they were championed by bloggers — one recent example being the fiction of Margery Sharp which got a day of celebration at Fleur in Her World. The Century of Reading project that many bloggers are participating in has also turned up some very interesting finds. And right now a “Remember Mary Hocking” event is going on at Heavenali.

Award Lists
Not necessarily the major ones (Booker, Pulitzer) but some of the more obscure lists that have a specialist focus. Through the blog She Reads Novels, for example, I learned of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction which seems to have some fascinating lesser-known titles on its list along with the big names. Then there’s the Phoenix Award, which goes to a children’s book published twenty years earlier that didn’t win a major award at the time. And I just learned about Fiction Uncovered, a British award with the avowed purpose of “uncovering” outstanding works of fiction.

I love books that are basically book lists. Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust series has dozens of suggestions from a master librarian, and I also recommend A Reader’s Delight and A Child’s Delight by Noel Perrin. These originated in a column that Perrin wrote featuring forgotten or neglected books that he particularly loved, and I was sorry when he ran out of suggestions.

Do you know of particular blogs, award lists, books, or other sources that point you to “under-the-radar” books?

Posted for the 2015 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.  

26 thoughts on “How do you find “under-the-radar” books?

  1. This post is so helpful! Definitely bookmarking for future use. I read a Book Lust book and loved it, so I might have to re-read. I can have trouble actively seeking out under-the-radar books. I tend to just stumble across them! The Captive Reader often has under-the-radar books, the only problem being that they're often hard to find!


    1. Oh, The Captive Reader is great, but it's so frustrating when I can't find one of the books she talks about that sound so intriguing. That's the other side of this question — how to actually get a hold of the books!


  2. A lot of the bloggers I follow read books that aren't the current "it" books, and I find a lot of things through reading their blog posts. Often I'll dash out and put a hold on it at the library and then when the book arrives, I'll have no clue why I put it on hold in the first place! But more often then not, they turn out to be good reads. I also get a lot of great reads from essays about reading that are written by my favourite authors. Neil Gaiman, for example, has turned me on to a lot of authors I had never heard of before.


    1. Ha ha, yes sometimes I think I should keep track of where I heard of a book. Good point about recommendations from authors — that's how I heard of Diana Wynne Jones.


  3. This is a great topic.I too love and recommend browsing book lists. There are so many good ones for both new and old books. Thank you for the links as I think that I will find them helpful.For non fiction books I like to watch a little bit of CSpan's Book TV. It is a great source for in formation on new non – fiction.


  4. I know it's not SO under the radar (I really depend on bloggers for this, mostly), but the YALSA Alex Awards, which are for adult books that would appeal to YA audiences, is a big source of recommendations for me, and they're often books I haven't otherwise heard of.


  5. I think I find my under-the-radar books through used bookstores the most. I come across a book that seems interesting and I read it. It can be an old book or a new book that isn't super popular. I've found a lot of good books that way. I also find books on blogs but it is hard to find the outlying books that aren't on every single blog. I like to read older books and books that I've gotten from my mom. I have 300 books sitting upstairs that I haven't read yet, so I've got those to go through. And I'm in a couple book clubs so I find books there too.Looking at smaller award lists is a great idea! I'll have to try that out!Cayt @ Vicarious Caytastrophe


    1. Hooray for used bookstores and libraries, which keep under-the-radar books alive. I have had some great finds from just randomly browsing.


  6. The deals section in amazon! free and $0.99 books are usually under-the-radar books. Because my limited budget ARCs and book deals is almost all I read 🙂
    Great Post!
    My first time here. Cute blog! 🙂


  7. I actually have a shelf on GoodReads where I keep track of some under the radar reads I’ve come across! My favorite way to find them is by literally browsing the shelves of bookstores. Used bookshops are the best for this – they typically have older, more lesser known titles than big box stores that tend to sell current releases.


  8. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t often go looking for under-the-radar books – although I do read some, particularly older authors like Elizabeth Goudge. When I do find under-the-radar books I want to read, it’s often by stumbling across a copy and being intrigued by the back cover or inner-jacket text, or through recommendations from friends or family. I have found some through blogs – The Book Smugglers seem to cover both books I’ve heard of and books I haven’t, and the Midnight Garden does as well. (So do you, for that matter!)


    1. I’ve found so many overlooked gems since I started paying attention to blogs. It’s really a great thing to have this network of enthusiastic readers. (Well, my bookshelves might not agree.)


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