Time for me to fill my library hold requests again and you good people get to help me with it.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to list three awesome books and why they're awesome.
These can be three books you're reading, three books you would like to read, three books that are currently supporting the bum leg of your coffee table, three books you've read 100 times each, whatever.
But - do me a favor. List only three books. Ideally they're all SF/F - but whatever. Don't use this as a list to impress me. I love Brothers Karamazov as much as the next guy, but if fourteen other posters listed it, list something else. My husband is reading Camus right now (he's on The Plague) and I keep pestering his brother to help me get him enticed into reading some genre fiction and leave that existential angst stuff behind for a little while. Depressing!
Ideally this can serve as a "go-to" list for people looking to find some great reading ideas.
If not, well, at least maybe I'll get a couple ideas for what to put on my library hold list...
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein - this book was life-altering for me, reading it first in mid-college. Loved it then. Recently re-read it and realized I love it even more.
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L'Engle - I wish I had had the opportunity to meet her before she died so I could tell her how much it meant to me as a young teen to read a book about an awkward young teen who had fantastic adventures and somehow became less awkward over the course of it all. I have recently re-read the book and find it as fascinating now (long beyond the awkward teen years) as it was to me then.
Argh, to choose a third is like trying to pick which kid I love best...hmmmm...
I'll go with
Ender's Game - This story had a profound impact on me, it's what got me writing. Can't pass it on the recommend list for this reason alone. It is a powerful, interesting story.
Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett (There is a follow-up to this book, too if you like it) I think Pratchett is fantasy. If you're looking for something that isn't depressing but is deep, Terry Pratchett is your guy. This is about a con-man hired to bring a government function from the brink of destruction. Go figure --- conman working for the government.
Reagan's Game, by R. Safley (Okay, you mentioned tables, and I still have a box-full of copies sitting on mine, so I figured, why not?)I'm not sure how awesome this is, but the writing style has been called dark humor. Not a fantasy, not sci-fi.
12 Monkeys, by Elizabeth Hand. It's got it all, time-travel, conspiracy, drooly folks in a nut house and someone trying to destroy the world. (oh, and Brad Pitt in the movie version. even as a loon...yum.)
(Edit, forgot to tell you why I'd recommend these)
[This message has been edited by Reagansgame (edited September 21, 2008).]
Here are some books from the YA section of my bookshelf:
Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce. Tamora Pierce writes YA fantasy with strong female characters. She sets all of her books on the same world, but each set of books has a different heroine.
Spindle's End by Robin McKinley. Robin McKinley takes fairy tales and turns them into novels. This one is the story of Sleeping Beauty, but the heroine is absolutely nothing like the Disney version of her.
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. I don't know what this was doing on the YA shelf, but I think I might have to reread it now...
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C.J. Cheyrryh's Gates of Ivrel/Well of Shiuan/Fires of Azeroth trilogy. It's in omnibus form now so I am counting it as one book. Actually there's a fourth too but it was written much later and is not nearly as good in my opinion. I've read these many times. Good sword and sorcery fantasy romp that does not require much intellectual activity, a la Conan or Michael Moorcock. The books do have problems mainly due to them being some of the author's earlier works (you can watch her grow as a writer as she progresses through the series though -very inspiring).
Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles (at least the first series of 5 books in the omnibus). Love the psychological intriques, creative use of mythology as background. and Corwin is truly Maciavelli's Prince in a "comtemporary" fantasy setting.
Lynn Bonfield, Roxanna's Children: The Biography of a Vermont Farm Family (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).
Ok, non-fiction but one of my favorites littered with lots of excerpts from primary sources, mainly letters. If you want to know how ordinary people lived in America, what they worried about while they lived, and how they died, over 100 years ago in New England and on the frontier, this is good grist for the mill. Good luck finding it!
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"The Demolished Man" by Alfred Bester - tough choice, "Extro" pushing it close, and "Tyger, Tyger" containing some great ideas in a rather dubious framework. Bester was cyberpunk before anyone knew what cyber or punk were, and is an absolute master of the genre.
"The Goblin Reservation" by Clifford Simak - many decry his rather gentle, folksy approach to (very borderline, in this case) SF, but his ability to make you love the supporting cast of characters he creates remains unparalleled (and which is why "Destiny Doll" very nearly pushes this one off the list).
"The King Beyond The Gate" by David Gemmell - a writer who trod the same path too many times, and whose attempt to tread a different one rarely worked for me, but the two core stories he wrote ("Legend" being the first, this being the sequel) remain unmatched in their unstinting approach to what war means, and what it does to people, in bringing out their bast and worst, all rolled into one.
Julian May is rarely mentioned in fantastical genre circles for reasons I don't know. Her stories are a little above the age curve in subject matter and writing mannerisms. Best known for The Pliocene Exile series, continued in The Galactic Milieu series. She also began a collobaration on the Trillium series with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton with Black Trillium. May's work generally melds fantasy motifs with science fiction ones in believable ways. Multiple story lines and point of view characters are also in her repertoire of skillful methods.
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I recently read several of the books already mentioned. However, I thought I'd suggest three more novels that have come on the market within the last couple of years:
1 - The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon - a modern gumshoe alternate history of what if the Jewish nation had been relocated to Alaska (apparently a real consideration) after WWII.
2 - The Road by Cormac McCarthy - a father and son try to survive after civilization has fallen and bandits rule the road. He also abandons the rules of punctuation to exemplify the chaos.
3 - The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - A girl discovers that her father once battled Dracula and has now disappeared. She goes to find him using old letters, sending the story back in time twice over.
Hmmm...my 3. I picked the books that, when I am sick and the the amazon delivery man has disappointed me, I re-read.
"Doomsday" by Connie Willis. A future time-travelling historian is lost in the past just as the plague sweeps through England while her own time struggles against a virulent strain of influenza. Really amazing descriptions and a compelling story.
"The Handmaids Tale" Margaret Atwood. Just amazing. I get mad thinking about this book.
"Starship Troopers" Robert Heinlein. It was a sad and horrific day, when I saw what the hacks in Hollywood did to one of my very favorite books.
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Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. My favourite thing that either writer has ever come up with. An angel and a demon struggling to hold back the tide of Armageddon. If you haven't read it, you should.
The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody. After nuclear weapons devastate the world, some of the survivors develop strange powers that place them into conflict with their totalitarian government. The first fantasy series I ever read - if you can call it that - and still one of my favourites.
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. The 'diary' of a fourteen-year-old girl in medieval England. Not only is the period evoked really well, but it's so funny - and it's just the right length to read over a long, empty evening.
Okay, it's too much pressure for me to boil it down to my three most favorite books ever, or whatever, so I'll just go with three great books I've read recently that I'd recommend and that I'm looking forward to rereading.
Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree Jr. Sci Fi --This book taught me a lot about suspense. The first part of the book just builds and builds and builds, and you're clawing the armrest in anxiety 'cause you know something terrible is going to happen... Also, this book has a great deal of grace and delicacy. It unfolds like a crane would its wings.
A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving. Literary--Okay, I read this book a while ago but I've been thinking about it recently. This book is all about construction and structure. Irving is a master of telling you just enough, but not too much. Also, he weaves through time, taking you twenty years in the past and back again, without ever leaving you confused. This is also a great example of how story telling trumps everything. We know the end result--I mean, you can infer it from the title, right? And yet all the way there you're just gripped by the story.
The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault. Historical Fiction. This is the sequel to The King Must Die, a retelling of Theseus's life. I liked the second book better. The character's voice is so compelling and authoritative, you can't help but believe in everything he says. Also, here again, I know the myth of Theseus. And yet, the retelling of it is so rich and suspenseful. I was biting my nails to the end, knowing what would happen, wanting to avoid it, and yet being drawn in against my will. I cried at the end, not just because it was sad but because I didn't ever want the book to be finished. Anyway, I admire how Renault creates a sense of place and culture seemingly effortlessly. A word here, a turn of phrase there is enough to evoke the era.
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"Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have re-read that several times and love it for the fact that it took the King Arthur story and re-examined it from a totally different perspective, that of Morgaine. It showed the conflict of the emerging Christian religion into an area seeped in the worship of the Goddess.
All books, starting with "Daggerspell" by Katherine Kerr. She has a whole series of books out about the land of Deverry. She writes authentic sounding dialog with a dialect that isn't intrusive to read, marvelous characters, handles various challenges with great skill such as flashbacks, and weaving multiple timelines together, and portrays the "fey" creatures in a believable way. I love her writing.
Kathleen mentioned LoTR and Dune, so I won't re-list them here, although I regularly re-read both. While Heinlein was one of my early introductions into sci-fi, I couldn't choke down Stranger in a Strange Land last time I tried to re-read it... too sexist and dated. I think Arthur C. Clarke deserves mention, although I liked Rendezvous with Rama better than 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Every must-read list should include Brave New World and Animal Farm, even if we WERE forced to read them in high school lit classes.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a Philip K. Dick title popularized in the neo-noir movie Blade Runner. The Bladerunner is a 1974 science fiction novel by Alan E. Nourse. Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs also published a science fiction novella under the name Blade Runner (A Movie) (1979), which is a film treatment of Nourse's novel that wasn't made into a movie. Ridley Scott purchased the title for the 1982 Harrison Ford Blade Runner movie.
The movie follows only one plot line of the Dick novel. The novel has multiple point of view characters and plot lines in an objective omniscient narration. The other Blade Runner stories are not as deep.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 22, 2008).]
I'm assuming all my physical needs, like food and shelter, are taken care of on this hypothetical desert island---so I don't need to take any books to aid in my actual survival on the island.
The first two are easy for me.
(1) The Lord of the Rings
(2) The Wind in the Willows
Since we're confining our picks to SF or fantasy, my next pick gets a little tougher. Should I bring Heinlein, but which Heinlein book? Asimov? Clarke? Piper? Swann? Farmer? De Camp? Pohl? Pangborn? Sturgeon? Blish? Vinge? One of a hundred others? Maybe an old copy of Analog in lieu of a book?
Well, for the third pick, I think I'll go for De Camp's Lest Darkness Fall, an old favorite, and SF to balance the two fantasies.
Still...I might go boldly and take a third book that's not SF or fantasy. Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury is probably my favorite history book: it would make a good choice.
Perhaps I should try something I haven't yet read, or yet finished. I've recently finished Part One of War and Peace, and enjoyed it greatly, but stalled out after that---a desert island might be just the place to settle in and finish it. (Getting to the end of Part One, and enjoying it greatly, is still better than I did when I tried War and Peace in high school.)
My inspiration to write comes from multiple sources and not just from books. I'd say it started with my love of horses. Almost all my stories I wrote in English class in junior high (That's middle school for you younger folks ) were on this subject, and my teachers tended to like my imaginative attempts. I was reading all the Walter Farley books back then among others.
Back then, I was reading lots of super hero comics. Among them were Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the Flash, Daredevil, and many, many more. This was also about the time Star Trek first came to television, and I believe My Favorite Martian was still on the air... I think.
The funny thing about all of this is that it was the badly written books that inspired me more than the ones I liked. I would start to read these terrible books and tell myself that if these books could see the light of day, then I could surely write something far better than that.
Through my junior high and high school days I got into reading series. The old Doc Savage series by Kenneth Robeson was one. I also enjoyed the Tarzan books and the Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Then as I grew older, I discovered the Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey. I also liked her Doona books and have just discovered the Powers That Be books. Somewhere along in there I started reading the Flinx & Pip novels by Alan Dean Foster. Of course this was about the time that Star Wars hit the screen along with the Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers TV series.
All these things went into the melting pot to inspire me to write my own stories, and I'm sure there was more inspiration thrown in that I just can't remember right now. Even everyday experiences can inspire me to write or come up with a possible story line to try out. It happens all the time, and is there for everyone to find if they just know where to look.
1) Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon is my all time favorite book. It has a little bit of everything: mystery, suspense, horror, fantasy, historical, and political during the upheaval of Alabama in the 50's-60s...all from a 12 year old boy's PoV. (I've literally owned four copies of this book.)
2) Ravenheart is my favorite David Gemmell book. It's a pseudo-historical novel about an alternate-highlander boy (which parallels the Braveheart era) who learns the meaning of love through his hero's self-sacrifice.
3) The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry is a short, semi-space opera that is brilliant (though it has a couple of typos, lol), and began a series of these short books. There is a core of martial arts/martial science stemming from the renowned sword master Miyamoto Musashi (who wrote The Book of Five Rings, which is very much like Sun Tzu's The Art of War), and--for the moment--culminating in the Musashi Flex, which is like the original; Highlander but without the immortality and replacing the swords with martial arts. (These books often start with the same "Death came for him" or her...)
I'm also with Chris on the Farseer Series by Robin Hobb (I wouldn't say flawless, but near), Kathleen on Dune, but if I veered away from spec-fic, it would be toward Historical (Which my choices would be just as tough):
1) Genghis: Birth of an Empire (UK title: Wolf of the Plains) by Conn Iggulden, brings the early life and tragedies of Temujin (the young Genghis) to life. It's the beginning to a great series.
2) The Archer's Tale (UK title: Harlequin) by Bernard Cornwell. It's the adventures of Thomas of hookton, bastard son of a mad priest, during the Hundred Years War. He is a reluctant questor for the Holy Grail. Again, the beginning of an addictive and well-researched trilogy.
3) Is a tie between The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell (The beginning of The Warlord trilogy, about a more historically accurate Arthur (and his only forray into fantasy) and The Lion of Macedon David Gemmell's Historical fantasy about the key general for Phillip II of Macedon, and later Alexander.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited September 23, 2008).]