When it comes to famous authors, there are the classics that everyone reads, and then there are the deep cuts from the back catalogs — the stuff that only the hardcore fans get to. Ready to try a few for yourself? Here are eight lesser-known books by eight writers you already know and love.
This list was originally written by Matt Staggs for Unbound Worlds.
A Song of Ice and Fire and its subsequent HBO adaptation may have brought George R. R. Martin a level of fame that few writers of fantasy and science fiction ever attain, but there’s a lot more to Martin than the scheming royal families of Westeros. Nightflyers is among the best of his pre-ASOIAF works: a psychological thriller set in outer space. Newly released in an illustrated special edition, this 1980 novella is set to premiere as a SyFy television series this fall.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote more than his fair share of classics. As a reader, it’s easy to lose yourself exploring well-known novels like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Mother Night, so much so that you might run the risk of missing out on his first novel, Player Piano. Written in 1959, Player Piano is set in a society where machine automation has eliminated the need for human labor, leaving many feeling robbed of a sense of purpose in their lives.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is as popular now as ever, maybe even more so thanks to its adaptation on Hulu and viral images of political protesters dressed as the novel’s handmaids. If you haven’t read it, you certainly should. If you have, then you might want to give Atwood’s early novel The Edible Woman a read. A symbolically dense story exploring gender roles through acts of metaphorical cannibalism, The Edible Woman established Atwood’s reputation as a writer of significance.
At this point, it’s hard to call anything of Stephen King’s books “lesser-known,” but I’m constantly surprised by the number of people — even people who identify themselves as King fans — who haven’t read Carrie, his first published novel. Adolescence is a scary time. King makes it even scarier with this tale of a shunned girl with powerful psychic abilities.
How about a fantasy novel from a guy who didn’t normally write fantasy? You may know John Steinbeck for The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row, but you might not be aware that he also wrote an adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. Steinbeck wrote his version of the stories in modern English, which may come as a relief to those who have found the original to be difficult reading.
Haruki Murakami’s well-known novels The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and 1Q84, are famous for their genre-slipping surrealism, and fans who read those will undoubtedly love A Wild Sheep Chase: a lesser known work about an advertising executive who sets out on a quest to find a magical sheep on the lam.
Netflix’s “Altered Carbon” has made Richard K. Morgan and his hero Takeshi Kovacs household names, but there’s plenty of other books in his catalogue worth reading. Market Forces is a near-future dystopian story where the power of multi-national megacorporations has eclipsed that of the traditional nation-state, and high-tech corporate mercenaries settle disputes with firearms and high-speed road duels.
Rocannon’s World is Ursula K. Le Guin’s debut novel, and the first in the Hainish Cycle. This sophisticated take on the sword and planet genre finds space travelers amid a world of high science and fantasy. Dwarves, elves, and horrifying monsters mix with telepathy and space ships. You can find Rocannon’s World and additional volumes of the Cycle packaged together in this Library of America compilation.