I Underestimated These 4 Books But They Took Me by Surprise

Fiction recommendations that are totally worth your time.

I Underestimated These 4 Books But They Took Me by Surprise
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Fiction recommendations that are totally worth your time.

When you love fiction, no matter how well-read you are, you can never have read enough.

Whenever I meet a new reader, they always have something interesting to recommend to me. I have read 800+ books in my life, but even now, my to-be-read list is so long, I worry if I’d ever have enough time to read all those amazing books.

That said, having read many books can sometimes turn you into a snob.

You start thinking you know better than the writer. You tend to underestimate books based on their blurbs or the nationality of the author.

But there are books I’ve terribly underestimated that took me by surprise.

This post is about four such books that I didn’t think would be any good, but they turned out to be so incredible, that they’re among my favorites today.

If you love fiction and are on the lookout for something interesting to read next, this list is for you.

(Note: This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase the books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount of money — at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!)

1. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Genre: Psychological thriller/Urban fantasy

Image: Goodreads

I was on the lookout for a good thriller when I stumbled upon this book. There’s a Netflix series based on it, and I thought if a book is so famous that it inspired a show, there must be something special about it. That’s why I started reading Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.

The story begins when Louise hooks up with the man she meets at a bar. The next day when she joins her new job, the man she hooked up with turns out to be her boss.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Louise stumbles upon Adele — her boss’s wife. Struck by how beautiful, innocent and fragile she is, Louise can’t say no to Adele’s offer for a coffee. Before she can make her terrible confession, the two become friends, and it’s already too late to tell her that her husband is sleeping with someone else.

Soon, Louise finds herself embroiled in a convoluted triangle of mind games, lies, cheating, and deceit.

Why I underestimated it and how it took me by surprise

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, but I felt I had anticipated the final reveal. As someone who grew up reading Sidney Sheldon novels, the climax wasn’t that interesting because I’d read other novels with similar plot lines.

I even texted my friend that this book is overhyped.

Turns out I’d spoken too soon.

What disappointed me was only the pre-final chapter. The final chapter had a twist that struck me in the face and left me speechless. No matter how many thrillers I’ve read, I could have never anticipated that twist coming.

I’m not going to reveal anything because even a small spoiler might make this book predictable for you. But, hear me out. This was one of the best thrillers I have read.

And no, I don’t say that lightly.

Once you allow the suspension of disbelief that comes with reading magical realism, this book has a climax that will satisfy all your cravings for a good thrill.

Treat yourself to this book here.

2. Blindness by Jose Saramago

Genre: Dystopian (post-apocalyptic) fiction.

Image: Goodreads

When an epidemic of “white blindness” starts infecting every person in the city, a woman pretends to be blind so she can save her husband and the people she loves.

Set in an unnamed country at an unnamed point in time, this is a book about what happens to humans when everything that holds meaning for us is taken away

Blind people have only one concern: to stay alive. All the other things that were previously important, like names, job descriptions, social status, and the color of their skin cease to hold any meaning.

In this new world, there is no order. There are no rules. There is no rich and no poor.

Only the person who can manage to stay alive to see the next morning is the true winner.

Resources are limited, and as humans are overtaken by their primal instincts, the world is plunged into a darkness the likes of which it has never seen before.

Why I underestimated it and how it took me by surprise

I was looking for thriller recommendations on Audible when I stumbled upon this one. I thought it would be a typical murder mystery, but this book was so much more than that.

This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve read. But it’s also so hooking that I couldn’t put it down. The author leaves no stone unturned in exploring the deepest, darkest sides of human psychology. There are scenes of mass murder, rape, and cannibalism. If any of these triggers you, please proceed with care.

As a reader, you’re forced to question what you’d do if you’re kept in that situation: Would you be different from all these people behaving like animals just because they lost their eyesight? Would you be more compassionate or would you only care about filling your belly? If you had the chance to save someone else at the cost of sacrificing your meals, would you do it?

This is definitely not an easy book to read and I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s liking. But to those who manage to proceed beyond the first 200 pages, this is an incredible journey.

No wonder the author is a Nobel prize winner because this book is definitely one of the most important books I’ve read in my life.

Treat yourself to this book here.

3. Neti, Neti By Anjum Hassan

Genre: Contemporary fiction.

Sophie has spent her entire life living in the beautiful hills of Shillong.

When she has to move to Bangalore for work, she feels that sense of utter loneliness that separates her from the people she spends all her time with.

This is the story of every person who has felt the homesickness of living in a place where they know no one else.

This is the story of every youngster who steps out of home in search of a new world for themselves but suddenly finds there is no place in this world that they can call their own.

This is the story of the dilemmas of youth and the confusion of suddenly being suddenly thrust into adulthood right after college.

Why I underestimated it and how it took me by surprise

The cover and blurb didn’t give me much to expect from this book.

But when I read the first page, I knew I’d be in love with it forever. The writing is so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes at the end of some chapters.

I’ve spent all my life away from home, moving from one hostel to another. I know the pang of saying goodbye to people you know you might never meet again. I know what it means to call someone your best friend and yet feel that you have nothing in common. I know what it means to love your family with all your heart, but not be able to spend more than a few weeks with them.

The author has an uncanny ability to put such delicate feelings in words and make you fall in love with her characters. If you are a fan of literary fiction, this is a book you cannot skip reading.

Treat yourself to this book here.

4. City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Genre: Medieval fantasy.

Nahri is a con woman of unsurpassed talent, hustling for a living on the streets of 18th century Cairo.

Ali is the second son of King Ghassan of Daevabad — a djinn who doesn’t hesitate to give up all he has to bring equality between the djinn and shafit (half-bloods, or children of djinn with humans).

Their paths cross when Nahri unknowingly summons Dara, a daeva who saves her from ghouls in Cairo and takes her to Daevabad.

This book has a little of everything — palace politics, ancient djinn, and their blood rivalry, a chosen-one character arc, badass female warriors/magicians, and a love triangle that is delightful and heart-breaking at the same time.

Why I underestimated it and how it took me by surprise

To be honest, the only reason I picked this book was that Vipula Gupta wrote an incredible review for it. Before that, I’d seen this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram (the community of book-obsessed Instagram users).

But I’ve had the experience of picking up books that are famous on Instagram and being terribly disappointed. I thought this would be similar — a young adult fantasy with a helpless heroine and a handsome hero who is also the evil overlord. But somehow the heroine is able to ignore all his malice just because he’s so good-looking.

The truth of this book couldn’t have been farther from that. The characters are realistic and well fleshed out. The decisions they make actually make sense and aren’t based on something as shallow as outward appearance.

The relationships in this book run much deeper than beauty, and you end up rooting for these characters. The author’s world-building is great, and so are the multiple side plots and magic system that governs this world.

All in all, this is a pretty decent medieval fantasy. If you are a fan of the genre, I’d definitely recommend this book.

Treat yourself to this book here.

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