Although we love discussing those timeless classics and bestsellers that everyone has their hands on, sometimes the best part about being a bookworm is shocking another fellow booklover with a rare, hidden diamond-of-a-book that nobody seems to have heard of. These glorious gems may have been lost to time, but today we’re digging them up, dusting them off, and placing them here on display in all their brilliance.
Bookish Treasure: 6 Hidden Gems We Proudly Display on Our Shelves
THE ACCIDENTAL BEAUTY QUEEN by Teri Wilson is a fantastic rom-com of a novel that I happily push on anyone who is looking for book recommendations. It’s the perfect heartwarming escape read, and I best describe it as Miss Congeniality for book nerds by way of The Parent Trap! When Charlotte the librarian’s identical twin sister, Ginny, has a horrible allergic reaction the night before her big pageant, Charlotte has to step in to help her sister. Throw in a little romance, mistaken identities, and Harry Potter quotes and you have an utterly charming novel.
In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize.
Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.
She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.
Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.
Sharon’s Pick #1
If you’re looking for an uplifting, inspiring YA romance, this book is it. LOVE FROM A TO Z features two memorable protagonists in Adam, an artist who is hiding his multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his father, and Zayneb, an activist and the only Muslim in her class who gets suspended from school after confronting her Islamophobic teacher. On the way to Doha, Qatar, the two meet on the plane and think they will never see each other again . . . until they are reconnected by chance. I loved witnessing Adam’s and Zayneb’s character arcs, as well as seeing their relationship unfold. Also, both of them kept journals, which, as a regular journal-keeper, I greatly appreciated.
“The bighearted, wildly charming, painfully real love story I’ve been waiting for.” —Becky Albertalli, New York Times bestselling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
“Heartfelt and powerful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is The Sun Is Also a Star meets Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Sharon’s Pick #2
I read this memoir at the beginning of quarantine and it actually made me laugh out loud (which few books succeed in doing!). Arceneaux immediately drew me in with his first essay, where he hilariously discusses his fraught relationship with the Catholic church and his status as a “recovering Catholic.” From there, in essays equally humorous and insightful, Arceneaux discusses growing up black in a working-class neighborhood in Houston, his dating misadventures, and his passion for Beyoncé. I am so excited to read Arceneaux’s second book, I DON’T WANT TO DIE POOR!
If you’re looking for a book so heartfelt, achingly beautiful, and a delightful Baymax-like android in the sci-fi space, then this is the book for you. Does anyone else remember the Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man? With a protagonist on a similar journey of self-discovery, this story is about an android whose purpose is to be a companion for someone with Alzheimer’s by becoming a copy of whoever they need most. But eventually, that job is no longer needed and the android is now part of the family and searching for a new purpose. You will love every minute of watching Carey become their own person and evolve with the family around them
REMARKABLE DEBUT NOVEL FROM CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR MARTIN L. SHOEMAKER. Shoemaker proves why he has consistently been praised as one of the best story writers in SF today with this touching, thoughtful, action-packed debut novel, based on his award-winning short story Today I Am Paul.
Mildred has Alzheimer's. As memories fade, she acquires the aid of a full-time android to assist her in everyday life. Carey. Carey takes care of Mildred, but its true mission is to fill in the gaps in Mildred’s past. To bring yesterday into today by becoming a copy. But not merely a copy of a physical person. A copy from the inside out.
After Mildred passes, Carey must find a new purpose. For a time, that purpose is Mildred’s family. To keep them safe from harm. To be of service. There is Paul Owens, the overworked scientist and business leader. Susan Owens, the dedicated teacher. And Millie, a curious little girl who will grow up alongside her android best friend. And Carey will grow up with her. Carey cannot age. But Carey can change.
Carey struggles. Carey seeks to understand life’s challenges. Carey makes its own path. Carey must learn to live. To grow. To care. To survive. To be.
Praise for Today I Am Carey:
"Kindness, love, and compassion make Carey an empathetic character through which to view Shoemaker's complex, beautiful world."—Publishers Weekly
“. . . takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, coming of age, and ultimately life itself. . . . Carey’s development as a character is fascinating. VERDICT This exploration of artificial life in the vein of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot provides fresh insight into the human experience.”—Library Journal
“Shoemaker's story of an artificial life coming to terms with its own emotional world finds its place among the long and varied tradition of explorations of robot–human relations. . . . Recommended for any reader, genre or otherwise, looking for a pleasant and engaging read.”—Booklist
"Martin Shoemaker proves conclusively that while a science fiction novel must have the trappings of science fiction, it is at its strongest when it is about people, even an artificial (but emotional) person named Carey."—Mike Resnick
“A dazzling ride through the near future. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”—Jack McDevitt
“Martin Shoemaker is a rare writer who can handle the challenges of dealing with future technology while touching the human heart. This is a must-read!"—David Farland, New York Times Best-selling Author
“Carey is one of the most delightful robots to come along in a while, and Today I Am Carey is a fine addition to science fiction’s century-long conversation about our mechanical servants.”—Analog
"Today I Am Carey is a rare thought-provoking novel"—The Daily News of Galveston County
“….this book is like an onion. As time passes, the world expands from the center, the core of the onion, moving from layer to layer, new stratum larger than the last. Each richly detailed…Recommended for fans of Asimov, classic science fiction, and anyone who just enjoys a well-told tale.”—Future Science Fiction Digest (Recommended fot book fo the Month)
Praise for the work of Martin L. Shoemaker:
"Martin Shoemaker’s ‘Black Orbit’ is a more conventional Analog adventure, and a very good example of such . . . a really solid story." — Rich Horton, Locus Online
"['Bookmark'] is an exceptional example of how to discuss deep moral and philosophical issues while maintaining a tight narrative that brings the reader along. This story will be added to the required readings for my SF classes."—Robert L. Turner III, Tangent Online
Emily’s Pick #1
Having watched The Princess Bride, I assumed that the book the movie is based on would be a similar cute, quirky fairy tale. But it blew me away and I actually liked it even more than the movie—inconceivable, as Vizzini might say. The characters had so much more depth and the structure blew me away with its ingenuity. I also loved how the author inserts a fictional version of himself as the narrator with hilarious footnotes and insists on telling the Good Parts version of the classic fairy tale. This feeling of a narrative within a narrative greatly enhanced the story’s core feeling of epicness.
If Your Favorite Character is Dustin Henderson
In the mind of “Toothless,” his best friend didn’t almost die. His comrade was captured by a monster, thus his band of merry adventurers went on a quest to rescue him. For more eccentric goofballs in perilous situations, try the book that preceded the classic movie “The Princess Bride.”
Emily’s Pick #2
I read this in high school and it deeply resonated with me. Since then I’ve been surprised to find that very few people have heard of it. It tells the story of Peekay, growing up in the 1940s during the apartheid in South Africa. Peekay is English, considered wicked by many Dutch Boers, and so is relentlessly bullied by peers at his boarding school, which kicks off the story’s many struggles of identity and power. As Peekay travels across the country, he encounters various dynamic characters for brief periods of time whose mentorships greatly affect him—Hoppie the amateur boxer, Doc the botanist, Giel Piet the criminal. He carries them all with him, building his own identity out of fragments of their own, as he follows his dream of becoming a world welterweight champion. I’ve since forced all of my friends to read this book and not one of them has been as emphatically obsessed as I am, so this is one hidden gem that seems to shine just for me, which makes it feel all the more special
In 1930s South Africa, a young boy experiences firsthand the brutality of racial hatred and comes to learn the hard way how to survive in an unforgiving environment. This fascinating and hopeful novel showcases the power of words to transform lives and the inspiring power of the individual.
Photo credit: iStock / DmitriiSimakov