I’m a big fan of classics. There is something just so fascinating about being able to read something written decades or centuries ago and be able to see into the mind and heart of people who came before me. I love learning about different eras. However, I feel when I say the word classics, you probably think of some specific books. Pride and Prejudice. War and Peace. Crime and Punishment…that’s a lot of ‘and’s.
Anyway, my point is, there are a lot of classics you hear about a lot, but then there are other books which are so underrated that I never hear about. So today I’m going to be talking about my favorite underrated classic books.
Move aside Pirates of the Caribbean, because Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini is here! This is an amazing pirate novel published in 1922. It follows Peter Blood, a British doctor who is wrongly accused of treason and sent to the West Indies as a slave. He later escapes, taking some of the other slaves with him and stealing a ship. Together, they become pirates and he becomes the famed Captain Blood.
It’s a great book, both because it’s just a fun adventure, but it also has deeper themes of evil. Blood in the beginning is a good character, but through piracy slowly becomes that which he hates. Two evils does not make a good. While piracy is handled idealistically in this book (none of the horrible diseases and high mortality rates of pirates is mentioned), it handles human nature so well.
It’s a great book and I highly recommend it!
The next book is The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. Set during Jesus Christ’s era, it follows a wealthy Roman centurion Marcellus, the one who won Christ’s robe after his death, and the conversion he goes through.
This book might be easily dismissed as merely a Christian book, but it is so much more. The level of historical detail is exceptional, and the characters are very interesting. The two main characters, Marcellus and his ex-slave Demetrius, definitely steal the book! And the romance is subtle and well-handled. Even if you aren’t Christian, this book is great!
The next book is The Bitter Tea of General Yen by Grace Zaring Stone. I’m pretty sure this is the most unknown book on this list, which is why I talk about it so much on my blog. I mean, it has only 31 ratings on Goodreads! Though that’s probably because it’s actually really hard to get your hands on a copy of this book.
Anyway, this book follows American Megan Davis, who travels to China to meet her missionary fiancé in the 1920s. She is caught up in a mob war between the Communists and Nationalists and is rescued by the mysterious General Yen, a man caught in tradition in an everchanging world. This is not exactly a romance, but it is instead an examination between the contrasting beliefs of Megan and Yen, two people from such different worlds. It is also an examination of the conflict between progress and tradition. Is either entirely right, or is there a balance to be achieved? It’s an exceptional book, and I highly recommend it!
The next one is The Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett. This book, published in 1962, follows a black ex-G.I. soldier who returns to America after the war, wandering without place or home. He finds a group of German nuns, who are looking for someone to build them a Church. And he takes up the job.
This is such a sweet story, about friendship and hope. Homer Smith, the soldier, needs the nuns just as much as they need him. It’s a pretty short book too, being just over 100 pages. It’s something you could read in one afternoon, and feel so much more positive for reading it. It definitely touches on some darker topics like hatred and war, but for the most part it imparts positive messages.
Now we turn to fantasy. The Hour of the Horde by Gordon R. Dickson is definitely a lot different than the previous mentions on this list, but it is such an amazing book! There is a massive horde of ships traveling across the galaxy, eating up every planet it sees. The planets come together to create a massive fleet to stand against the horde. Miles Vander is an ordinary man from Earth, until he is chosen to join a fleet of all different types of aliens to fight against impossible odds.
This is an exceptional book! Yes, the fighting is great and the world is interesting, but I really adored the characters. Miles is very ordinary, but he is also brave and good. He first has to fight against other men on his ship and then finally face the horde itself. It’s a tale of friendship and bravery, and it’s such an underrated sci-fi!
The next book is Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz, the first book of the Deryni Chronicles. Honestly, I tried reading the second book and it was so much worse, so I would recommend reading this book as a stand-alone.
It follows Kelson, a young prince forced to be king, and his advisor who seeks to protect him and fight a great evil which hopes to take over the kingdom. The characters are great, and while the world isn’t incredibly complicated, it’s a very beautifully written, simplistic fantasy. It’s also a short book, not even reaching 300 pages, which is incredibly short for a fantasy book!
The next book is The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, published in 1940. Set in Hungary, it follows cousins Jancsi and Kate as they endure a war, and their lives change as they slowly grow up. It’s mostly a family drama, with strong themes of hope and courage.
The war which effects them is WWI, and while this is technically a children’s book, it has very serious themes for being for children. I haven’t read this book in years, so my memory is probably a little fuzzy about it, but I also haven’t heard anyone else even mention this book, so I figured I would mention it. I do really want to reread it someday!
The next book changes format to an epic poem. The Ballad of the White House by G.K. Chesterton is an epic poem about King Alfred’s battle to defend Britain against the Danes in the 9th century.
I’ve read quite a few epic poems, but most of them are pretty difficult to read. What I love about this poem is that it’s got very easy language to understand. I also love Chesterton, but he is a pretty difficult author to get into because of his complex ideas. But this book is a good one to start with, because it’s half battle, half tale of courage and bravery. If you like The Illiad, I’m sure you’ll love this!
The next book is I, Claudius by Robert Graves. This book follows Claudius, the ancient Roman Emperor, from his childhood all the way until he becomes emperor.
This book is more of a documentation of the immorality of the Roman society during that time. You’ve got people assassinating each other, everyone sleeping with everyone, and so much corruption and fighting for power. What is most fascinating is that this book is told in first person perspective, so we get to hear Claudius himself give the tale of his life. If you are a fan of learning about Ancient Rome, this book should be on the top of your list to read!
The next book is Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. This Russian novel, published in 1842, follows a man who goes around buying up serfs who have died from wealthy landowners. It is a highly detailed view of the classism of Russia during the time, with little class mobility and extreme hardships for lower class serfs.
But the book is also a bit funny. The main question in this book is why is this man, Chichikov, buying up all these serf names who are already dead. The characters he meets along the way are ridiculous, painted caricatures of the Russian wealthy of the time. If you like Russian history, I highly recommend this book!
And last, but not least, there is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is probably the most well-known book on this list, popularized by the BBC 2004 mini-series (which I agree was very good).
This book follows Margaret Hale, a young woman from the countryside of southern England who moves to a northern cotton factory town with her family. There she meets mill owner John Thornton, and they conflict over their very different ideals. It is a detailed picture of different English lifestyles, while also portraying possibly my favorite romance in all of literature. It’s an exceptional book and I highly recommend it!
I also recorded this list as a video, if you would prefer watching over reading!
Have you read or heard of any of these book? What are some of your favorite underrated classics? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in you life full of adventure,