If you’re tired of reading self-help all the time, this list will help!
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” — Haruki Murakami.
Lately, my Goodreads feed is filled with people reading the same three books by Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, or Nir Eyal.
These are incredible authors and I have huge respect for what they have achieved. But as a reader, it’s important to venture beyond the realm of self-help, and read other books that expand your mind’s horizons and make you introspect.
Wanting to become a better version of yourself is an amazing trait to have. Self-help isn’t the only genre that can help you do this. Reading personal essays, memoirs, and even fiction can have that effect on you.
After all, one gets tired of self-help after a while. If you’re feeling like that currently, this post is for you.
Here, I’ve listed four underrated and relatively unknown books that I picked up without expectations but ended up falling in love with. Two of them are brilliant pieces of fiction, one is a satire and the other is a collection of personal essays.
Each of these books left an impact on me. I read them more than two years ago, but I still recall bits and pieces of their sheer brilliance and marvel at how much I loved them.
If you’re wondering what book to pick up next, but don’t want to settle into self-help once again, read on. I’m sure you’ll love this motley collection of deviously brilliant books.
(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through them, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)
1. Beware of God by Shalom Auslander
Genre: Satire (Anthology)
I picked this book with zero expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by Shalom Auslander’s dark, witty humor.
This is a collection of 14 short stories centering around the theme of God. Though they raise several important questions, none of the stories seem to be written with the intention of mocking religion or those who take hope in Faith.
Rather, this is more of a debate on how religion can often be misrepresented, and if you don’t infuse your own instinct and logic with it, some parts of Faith can come and bite you in the head.
This is a delightful little book filled with surprisingly funny, heartwarming moments. I knew nothing of Jewish traditions, but this was like an eye-opener.
I enjoyed the little insights into the author’s mind. The characters are a motley bunch, and in some stories, God themselves is the protagonist. Definitely unexpected, but certainly enjoyable.
This is a great collection of short stories to read on a lazy weekend. It will make you question a lot of your beliefs, but it will also make you laugh out loud when you least expected to.
2. It’s Not About the Burqa by Mariam Khan
Genre: Non-fiction, personal essays.
This is a collection of essays written by Muslim women on several issues that plague them, including, but not limited to, the wearing of the Burqa.
I don’t usually read non-fiction, but this brilliant anthology opened up a whole new dimension for me.
The issues dealt with here are myriad — intersectional feminism, empowerment, faith, divorce, sexuality, and race.
Every essay is different, yet written brilliantly, invoking compassion in the mind of the reader. It is interesting to note that each essay touches on a topic which comes so normally to women across the globe, but is so different for Muslim women because of the restrictions placed on them by their culture and the way their religion is perceived by the society. It raises some important questions and tries to answer them to the best of the ability of the authors.
I applaud the writers for discussing such grave issues with such raw honesty. I only wish there was some representation who lived in countries like India or Pakistan, as most of the writers here had moved to the US or the UK, giving them more privileges and a different set of problems than the women living in the subcontinent.
All in all, this book is an eye-opener. Regardless of your gender or where you are from, you must read this book to gain a new perspective on how religion is such a different experience for people based on their gender and the place they are born in.
3. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Psychological thriller
Seth is a polygamist. He has three wives he visits on three different days of the week. For convenience, he calls them Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
The only caveat is — the wives don’t know each other or what their real names are. Everything including their addresses and identities is a secret.
Our narrator is Thursday — the only legally married wife — the one Seth married after divorcing his first wife (Tuesday).
Thursday lives in a condo on her own, biding her time until Seth comes to visit her. She’s a nurse, but also unhealthily obsessed with her husband’s other wives. She agreed to the polygamous relationship because she loves Seth enough to have him on the condition that she’ll have to sharehim with two other women. But as jealousy consumes her, she wonders if she can keep playing this game forever.
This precarious balance threatens to tip one day when Thursday finds a hint as to who Monday can be. Unable to stop herself, she proposes a meeting, and the two end up becoming friends. Of course, Monday has no clue as to who Thursday is or what he agenda is behind befriending her.
As our narrator gets to know the other wife, the differences in how Seth treats them become obvious. There are clear signs of domestic abuse, whereas Thursday has never known Seth as a violent man. She starts questioning if they are indeed married to the same man.
And when Monday calls her one night, terrified that her husband is hitting her and she’s afraid he might end up killing her, Thursday knows something is very, very wrong. But what she finds is so much different from what she expected.
This is wild, wild ride and one hell of a psychological thriller. Just when you think you’ve got the plot figured out, the author slams you with another twist — yet another shocking reveal — and you’re back to questioning yourself again. The buildup to that chilling finale is masterfully handled, leaving you wide-mouthed in shock at the final few lines.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this is your pick!
4. Within the Mind by Alice Winters
Genre: Supernatural thriller, Queer romance.
Set in a world where some humans are born with “gifts” — unique superpowers that set them apart from the rest — this book follows the journey of two detectives, Chevy and Seneca.
Chevy is the perfect person for the Police Force because his “gift” allows him to look into the mind of a person and access their recent memories.
Seneca, on the other hand, has the gift to mimic any other person’s gift by touching them. So, he can Chevy can travel into a perpetrator’s memories together and solve crimes.
One day, Chevy and Seneca are tasked to do something unique. A serial killer has been caught who refuses to give up the location of his surviving victims. Chevy is supposed to sort through his memories and determine the whereabouts of the victims who are still alive.
He and Seneca are terrified because neither of them has ever gotten inside the head of a criminal. As darkness threatens to consume their minds, the duo is forced to battle their innermost demons and overcome what’s been keeping them apart to solve the deadly mystery.
There’s a killer chemistry between the lead pair. The author is an expert at writing hilarious banter and a heartwarming romance to leave you with a smile. This book has some truly dark moments and the excellent narration of the audiobook makes them even more chilling. This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before but ended up among my favourite reads.
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