Not every book can be as big as Jane Eyre or Lord of the Rings. Even for masters of their craft, some works just don’t catch on the same way that their hits do. Here are a few titles by major authors that never got enough traction to be name-worthy, but should still be checked out by fans looking for more reading material.
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Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R Tolkien
Love the adventure, swords, and sorcery of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings? Craving something else in that style? Well, Tolkien himself has the answer. Farmer Giles of Ham takes the lighthearted quest feel of The Hobbit and introduces us to another unlikely hero, the eponymous farmer, who is thrust into a journey when a lumbering giant pays him an unwanted visit.
Lacking the spectacle of LoTR, Father Giles failed to make as big of a splash as its predecessor, but it likely wasn’t intended to. The 50th anniversary edition of the title, though, featured an original Tolkien sketch for a sequel that never was.
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The Armageddon Rag by George R. R. Martin
A more modern and prolific writer, George R. R. Martin has been known to venture outside of the world of fantasy made famous by his Song of Ice and Fire series. Yet all of his prose carries the same mature, character-focused style that made him famous. This carries over to one of the most obscure books, 1983’s The Armageddon Rag.
This murder mystery follows novelist Sandy Blair as he tries to figure out what happened to the lead singer of a classic rock band. The book as a whole is a reflection on the 60s. Though it garnered critical praise and nominations for the Locus Awards and the World Fantasy Awards, Armageddon Rag bombed in bookstores. Even so, Martin still holds a fondness for this psychedelic detective story, even after all these years. Westeros diehards shouldn’t pass this one up.
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Professor Challenger Series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle is synonymous with his long-running Sherlock Holmes character. But did you know he wrote multiple stories about another character? In 1912, Doyle introduced Professor George Challenger to the world. Designed as the antithesis to Mr. Holmes, Challenger was a big, foulmouthed, rough-and-tumble type of guy. But he shared Sherlock’s smarts, able to think his way out of any situation he couldn’t fight.
With the Professor Challenger series, Doyle explored more campy narratives, going into science fiction and fantasy. The most famous book in the series, The Lost World (not to be confused with the Jurassic Park sequel), has been adapted into tv shows, films, and comics, yet has never caught on in the public consciousness quite like Holmes. Still, they share the Arthur Conan Doyle seal of quality.
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The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
Do Professors just not make for famous books? The earliest novel by the eldest Bronte sister. Like Jane Eyre and Bronte’s other works, it was published under Bronte’s pen name, Currer Bell. A long-spanning coming of age story, The Professor is about a young man named William Crimsworth who rejects joining the clergy to pursue a career as a teacher.
Despite being Bronte’s original novel, it lacks the name recognition or popularity of writing may have been on the wall for The Professor, as it was rejected by many publishing houses and was left unreleased until 1857, two years after Bronte’s death. It didn’t catch on after that, needless to say, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a read.
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Prom Nights From Hell by Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, and Michelle Jaffe
This macabre teen anthology went under the radar, despite being written an all-star cast of female YA fiction writers. Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer headlines the collection with “Hell on Earth,” a novella about a demon who falls in love with a half-angel. Meg Cabot, of the Princess Diaries fame, contributes “The Exterminator’s Daughter,” a horror story about Dracula’s teenage son trying to lure in a teenage girl. The list goes on, all themed around high school students and the supernatural.
Even with this who’s who of YA, the collection wasn’t big enough to match the legacies of its writers. With Halloween drawing ever closer, this lesser-known litany of modern gothic tales is timely and chilling.