You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bookshelf: 9 Under-Read Book Recommendations from Literary Agents

We asked publishing insiders to share book recommendations that they hoped more people would read, period. Here is a selection of their recommendations, beyond those of the authors profiled in print in our May/June 2018 issue in the “ROAR” roundup.

Narrative Nonfiction Book Recommendations

My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris (memoir)

A lesser-known voice from inside the 1970s New York social circle of Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison reflects on friendship and love in a bygone era of activism, groundbreaking literature and growth.

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson (memoir/self-help)

Already making strides in Australia in advance of its U.S. release in April 2018, this title confronts cultural perceptions of mental health in a way that prompted No. 1 New York Times bestseller Mark Manson to call it “probably the best book on living with anxiety that I’ve ever read.”

Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla (memoir)

A New York Times Editors’ Choice book that made 2017 “Best of” lists from The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly for its portrayal of one family’s rise out of India’s caste system, its India-born author studied physics at the Regional Engineering College of Warangal and works as a subway conductor in New York City.

Adult Fiction Book Recommendations

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly (science fiction)

The first book of this sci-fi spy series, 2017’s Amberlough, was heralded by Book Riot as “Exploring the roots of hatred, nationalism and fascism, while at the same time celebrating the diversity, love, romance, fashion and joy the world is capable of producing.” Barnes & Noble named it one of the genre’s best books of the year, and Book 2 releases in May 2018.

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen (psychological thriller)

“Rena’s thoughtful suspense fiction engages very directly with the disempowerment, violence and abuse that far too many women experience,” her agent, Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, wrote to WD. “In a time when we’re taking a new, harder look at these issues in our society, her gripping stories provide an opportunity to have important conversations in the ‘safe’ context of fiction.”

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka (mystery)

Introducing Roxane Weary, a private eye who True Crime Addict author James Renner noted has “little concern for her own safety (or the gender of her shifting sexual partners). The Last Place You Look riffs off Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane but finds a way to make detective fiction relevant again, in 2017. I have never read a more confident debut.”

Book Recommendations for Young Readers 

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (YA)

A Muslim author’s powerful fictional portrayal of a Muslim teenager who experiences Islamophobia in her small town.

[Discover everything you need to publish children’s books in Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018.]

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (MG)

A fresh take on Caribbean folklore that inspired Foreword Reviews to write of the protagonist: “This girl’s got guts.”

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (picture book)

In this emotional Canadian bestseller, a granddaughter gently helps her Cree grandfather rediscover the language that was taken from him in the name of cultural assimilation.

ROAR: Writer’s Digest Turns Up the Volume on Underrepresented Voices in the Writing World

Read more from this extended series, entitled “ROAR,” which appears in the May/June 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest. Feel the thunderous reverberations of authors and industry pros working to broaden our perspectives—as writers and readers alike. Plus, learn how underrepresented voices are rising in the writing world, all in these articles:

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