TikTok and Instagram have been blowing up with book suggestions and recommendations from Fourth Wing to Rachel Cusk’s masterpieces. While some books have seen a revival from the dead, the newly launched bestsellers are getting a wider stage to market their books and urge bibliophiles to read them out of FOMO! To such an extent, we saw memes of bookstores pinning a ‘Sold Out’ sign in front of their windows to say the trending books are sold out. Moreover, various bookshops have started dedicating shelves and tables especially to feature trending books that are taking the world of social media by storm.
However, I am a person who adores reading (and buying) books out of my sheer love for the hobby. I don’t give two hoots about trending books or sensational titles. So, on my bookshelf, you will find books that are lesser-known yet powerful and not devoid of a message. If you are tired of the bookstagram frenzy and want a break to read something more meaty, then click the buy now button on Amazon and order these delicious reads that will certainly leave you spellbound.
1) The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller Booktok and Bookstagram
A modern retelling of The Iliad, this book by Madeline Miller charts the story of young Achilles who is destined to be the greatest warrior ever lived, and Patroclus, his companion and brother in arms. After sweet and introverted Patroclus gets banished from his home kingdom, he finds shelter in King Peleus’s kingdom and accompanies Achilles.
Set in the Greek era of wars, debauchery, and power, The Song of Achilles is a charismatic story of two young boys who struggle with their innermost feelings and cannot seem to name the turmoil that keeps them up at night. Until one day they cannot keep their hands off of each other and resolve to be together despite societal hindrances.
The powerful tale of queer love takes us through various incidents in the duo’s life as they run away, fight wars, and even live in a jungle to learn the way of life. Every chapter of the book flows like beautiful poetry and leaves me entranced in a world where I thought I was Patroclus, looking at Achilles masterfully handle a spear and fight off the enemy army single-handedly.
I have seen the book Circe by Miller getting much attention on Booktok and Bookstagram. But I feel her popularity should be credited to The Song of Achilles which carved her path as a strong and relatable writer.
2) Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
One of the sweetest love stories I have ever read, Eleanor & Park tugged at my heartstrings and redefined my perspective on teen love. Eleanor and Park are two outcasts who live on the edge of the high school popularity circle. They have no real friends nor do they feel like they fit in the world around them. Their mutual discomfort leads them to befriend each other and revel in their company.
Rainbow Rowell has a way of capturing the tiniest of emotions that seem benign, but end up making us feel a world of love and pain. She is an exceptional writer with the emotional intelligence to take readers on an emotional rollercoaster.
This book made me laugh, smile with joy, cry and even bawl with pain as I felt everything Eleanor and Park underwent in their respective stories. The chapters switch between the perspectives of the titular characters and hence paint a comprehensive picture of the incidents that happen and how differently both characters interpret them.
Some very crucial themes like bullying, self-harm, and loneliness are depicted in the story. It’s not just another teen drama where the characters date for a while and then break up or cheat on each other. Eleanor and Park’s story runs deeper than that and has more power to it.
3) The Forty Rules of Love - Elif Shafak
Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
If I had a megaphone to recommend books and make every bibliophile in the world read just one book for the rest of their lives, it would be this masterpiece. I have no words to describe the beauty and endless ingenuity with which Elif Shafak crafts every word, every sentence, every feeling. On my bookshelf right now, I have 4 of Elif Shafak’s masterpieces, and if you ask me what urged me to read more from her, it was The Forty Rules of Love.
Intricately written with emotions that burst out of every chapter, the book outlines the love and connection between Rumi and Shams that led to the former’s transformation from a scholar to a mystical being. On the other hand, a parallel story plays out in the modern day where Ella is undergoing a period of finding herself and navigating a newfound love. The Turkish author has since been praised and commended for her style of writing that pulls the reader into the universe of the story.
In brief intervals, you will find the titular forty rules of love that will force you to throw your personal dictionary out the window and forge new terms to guide your love and emotions. So, keep your annotation kits handy, because by the end of the book, you will have made it your own by marking all the moments that took your breath away. The way Rumi and Shams come together despite the obstacles caused by society fills your heart and then breaks it with no mercy. Reading The Forty Rules of Love has been an experience in itself and I will always cherish the way this book made me feel.
4) High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
A quick wit and self-deprecating humor made this book stand out for me. With loads of pop culture references like celebrity couples and chart-busting songs, the story of High Fidelity takes you on a mad ride where you feel sorry for Rob (the protagonist and narrator) but then switch to boiling rage over his mindless actions. At various points in the story, I also felt like he is an unreliable character because he keeps drowning in the abyss of self-hatred and petty actions.
Rob starts off great with a list of the top 5 most painful breakups, but his recent ex-girlfriend doesn’t make the list. As the plot unravels, we see him turn into a petty and arrogant man who cannot bear his partner move on and be happy. The book shows a hilariously ugly face of breakups and how people choose to cope after heartbreak.
I would suggest this book more strongly to those who feel getting over love and relationships is hard. I feel that it gives you a more realistic and lighter version of emotions that unfold after romantic hardships. Moreover, the title feels like irony at best once you understand the plot that is riddled with infidelity and its various shades.
P.S. I suggest you keep a highlighter handy and mark all the song references to create a soulful playlist that will make your connection to the book deeper.
5) The Elephant Vanishes - Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami knows people and what makes them tick. I have seldom come across a writer who understands the depths of humanity with such precision and strives to find some pizzazz in the mundane routine of life. The Elephant Vanishes is an eclectic mix of short stories and tales that question the usual and strike a curiosity in the reader.
I was highly intrigued by Murakami’s depiction of people and relationships all the while keeping his fixation on sex intact. Many readers have since pointed out that Murakami is known to write stories where sex and the connection between a man and a woman are very prominent. However, we only get to see this from a male’s perspective which is skewed at best. In Murakami’s world, sex is for men who like power and lust. Women are highly objectified and left to be pawns in a story led by men. There is no room for pleasure or love in Murakami’s sexual depictions.
Likewise, in almost every story, there is some sexual tension between characters as they go through life, whether it’s random women on the phone on Tuesday afternoons, or a quality officer who sexualizes a letter received by a woman. Nonetheless, he has a way of crafting poignant stories that leave you wondering long after you have closed the book.