Literature is notoriously picky when it comes to choosing its classics, but these lesser-known books certainly deserve greater recognition because they're just as interesting and well-written as those Jane Austin novels your high school English teacher jammed down your throat.
Granted, they may not have the same intellectual appeal, but good literature isn't always about symbols and hard-boiled motifs. Sometimes, good literature simply means a well-written page-turner so with that said, here are 10 great novels that don't get the credit they deserve.
1. Ask the Dust by John Fante
Before the louche prose of Charles Bukowski entered mainstream literary circles, it was John Fante's prose that best described a side of Los Angeles the movies didn't want you knowing about it.
In Ask the Dust, for instance, Fante's most distinguished work, the Italian-American writes of a passionate love affair between a wild writer and a Mexican waitress in a city full of seedy motels and broken dreams. But Arturo Bandini, the novel's protagonist, is determined to make a fortune writing the greatest love story ever told, and being a hopeless romantic helps him on his career path. Echoing many a writer, one of the best lines reads, "My plight drew me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with grief."
2. Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
If ever there was an original idea for a novel, Garth Stein's Racing in the Rain achieves that by brilliantly telling the story of a family crisis through the eyes of the family dog.
Chosen by Nicholas Sparks as one of his favourite novels, Stein's prose won't just appeal to dog lovers as the prose is gorgeous throughout and though quite depressing Racing in the Rain chronicles the human experience in a way few other contemporary novels have.
3. Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
Coming of age novels are all the rage at the moment, but few have managed to capture the brutality of adolescence and childhood the way Bukowski did in his most-loved novel, Ham on Rye.
Lurid in its detail, Bukowski's autobiographical novel recites his experiences growing up with severe acne, the misery inflicted on him by a strict father and the copious beatings he got at school, giving the reader a clear picture of how such a tumultuous childhood shaped Bukowski's writings.
4. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Famed for his worldwide bestseller The Book Thief, Markus Zusak's career has since been defined by one book, but that shouldn't deter you from his earlier writings. In fact, in my opinion, at least, his best novel is I Am the Messenger.
Aimed at young people feeling lost and disillusioned with their futures, the 19-year-old protagonist will be one many teens and twentysomethings relate to, but most importantly, Zusak's message is that you don't have to be rich or famous to be successful. You just need to be happy, a message that has long been ignored by millennials in recent years.
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness has a God-given talent for writing pathos-driven stories for teenagers, but while A Monster Calls is the book that catapulted him into the big leagues, The Knife of Never Letting Go, is arguably his best.
Not only is it a bit of a tearjerker, but it also offers the reader an insight into a not-too distant world where everyone can hear your thoughts, leaving the reader in a perpetual malaise with each page turned.
6. Stoner by John Williams
Republished after years of going unnoticed, John Williams' main message in this novel is that love is an act rather than a privilege or state of being while also being a story of being content in our work and finding the meaning in our lives by just doing.
Following John Stoner's undistinguished career and workplace politics, his marriage to Edith, his affair with his colleague Katherine, and his love and pursuit of literature, it shows how the pursuit of small things, of an ordinary life, is no less important or valid than a grand and heroic lifestyle. If you only read one book from this list, please make it this one!
7. Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates
Richard Yates tends to depress us with his soul-destroying prose about the mundanity and constant disappointment that comes from relationships, but in Disturbing the Peace, we're given a vivid account of one man's struggle against his very own demise.
But despite the difficult subject matter, Yates writes with verve and ease that lets the reader believe they're going through the everyday stresses with him, and in many ways, it's a novel that draws similar parallels to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
8. Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates
Richard Yates appears again because he has been grossly overlooked in literary circles, and Young Hearts Crying is another example of why his books about the downside of the human experience deserve more readers.
Centred around a fiercely ambitious writer and his hopes of making it big and spurning the aid of his wife's family fortune, Yates has a canny ability to write depressing books that are almost impossible to put down.
9. The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell
President Obama recently included Daniel Woodrell's terrific trilogy on his summer reading list, and it's about time Woodrell got that kind of recognition because, before the breakout success of the film adaptation of his novel, Winter's Bome, Woodrell remained one of America's best-kept secrets.
Set in a fictional Lousiana town, the trilogy sees a boxer-turned-detective solve a series puzzling murders that might have influenced the writing of Nic Pizzolatto, the writer and creator of the critically-acclaimed HBO series, True Detective.
10. The Backpacker by John Harris
Okay, so it may not be as good as Alex Garland's Thailand-centric novel, The Beach, but John Harris' book was not as bad as the critics said it was, and in actuality, the novel is a rip-roaring ride that sees you turn the pages with ease.
Unlike Garland's famous book, The Backpacker also spans various countries, and while the storylines involving the Thai mafia can at time feel absurd, it's a fun read, and one very traveller should take with them.