Lord of the Rings - Boxed Set - by J.R.R. Tolkein. Possibly the best books ever written, now popularized by an excellent movie.
The Hobbit - by J.R.R. Tolkein. Establishes the story for The Lord of the Rings, and in an easier-to-read format since it was written for a younger audience.
Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation - by Michael Moore. A humourous yet frightening book that everyone should read.
Tigana - by Guy Gavriel Kay. A superb tale by one of my favourite authors.
Wyrd Sisters - by Terry Pratchett. One of the Discworld series as described below. An utterly hilarious parody of Shakespeare.
For information on my novel to be released in October, 2003, please see the Sorrows of Adoration page.
I love reading. My tastes range many genres, although I'm particularly fond of well-written fantasy. I do not enjoy fantasy that is predictable, with the same hero going after the same nasty person or monster every time. I like science fiction, but find too much of it to be cold, drab, and frankly, boring. Both of these genres also far too often delve into the male juvenile mindset that sets female characters in chain mail bikinis or glorifies sexual violence. I certainly don't read that crap.
I also enjoy nonfiction, although those books have to be particularly well-written to hold my interest when there's a good story waiting to be read. I like children's stories that are meaningful in ways that only adults can understand and appreciate. I love well-done humour, whether it's intellectual or silly, so long as it's actually funny.
Unless otherwise noted, the links here go to Amazon.com's page for the book. Why Amazon? Because I'm a happy customer of theirs. They've never screwed up an order and have always been good about sending things quickly, keeping me informed of backorders, giving coupons and deals, and other good e-commerce habits. Basically, they've never pissed me off, and that's saying something for an online store. Furthermore, if you go to the Amazon page for the book, many times you'll see reviews by other readers. I've found this quite helpful in deciding what to buy for myself. Also, Amazon has an associate program. If you purchase the book after clicking on it here, I get a very tiny amount of credit. Since the summer of 2001, I've earned a total of about US$164.
I had heard of Discworld for years, but confused it with Niven's Ringworld, which I found quite boring. Discworld is completely different. It is comedic fantasy and I highly recommend it. I'm partway through the series right now, so I've only listed the books I've actually read, and the order in which I read them. There are, however, many more.
The best things about the Discworld series are: the silly but very clever humour; the refreshingly fair attitude towards the place of women in fantasy (i.e. the book Equal Rites is entirely about a girl trying to get into the all-male wizards' university); the inclusion of parody of things such as standard fantasy, Shakespeare, and more; and the way all of this actually enhances some very good stories instead of interrupting them. Some of the books are better than others, some are funnier, some are more thought-provoking, but I'd definitely recommend each one thusfar.
Kay is a very gifted Canadian author whose books combine great storytelling with deep emotion and thought. Every one of his books that I have read has had me thinking about the world he created, the characters, and the events of the story long after I have finished. In fact, the Fionavar Tapestry (the first three books on the list) inspired me as a teenager to write fantasy fiction myself. I give partial credit to Kay for the fact that I am now trying to publish a fantasy love story of my own right now (more information on that here).
Kay has that quality which eludes so many fantasy writers: to deal with sex and sexuality in a mature manner. Sex in Kay's books isn't always pretty and nice, but it's always important to the story and sexual violence is never glorified.
Rowling's Harry Potter series is excellent light reading for adults, and great reading for kids as well. The plots are nicely twisted to keep you guessing and addicted all the way through. The movie of the first book, while good, doesn't do the book justice. I read the UK/Australian versions of the books which as far as I know are not available in the US. The real name of the first book and movie is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but for some reason they changed it to Sorcerer's Stone in the US. I guess they figured the North American audience is too dumb to know about the Philosopher's Stone?
The only other differences between editions are linguistic alterations, according to the publisher. I suspect words like "loo" in the UK version become "bathroom" in the US version.
Regardless, it's an excellent series. Here's a link to an inexpensive boxed set of the four books currently out (more are expected someday):
Douglas Adams is to science fiction what Pratchett is to fantasy, although far less prolific. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a classic that should not be missed.
The Pern books are wonderful stories of dragonriders and the society around them. Well, mostly wonderful. Some of the later books are a bit weaker, and there are some parts of the stories that have been greatly criticized for sort of ruining the setting of Pern. I can't say what without spoilers, but you'll know if you read them. Others really like these elements. I'm ambivalent; I wish they hadn't been there, but what happened was interesting.
The other main debate regarding Pern is the order that the books should be read. I read them by publication date instead of chronologically within the world. I believe that's the best way to read them, because part of the mystique is not knowing all of Pern's past, just like the characters didn't. I think reading them chronologically would employ too many spoilers. So my list is in the order that I read them: mostly by publication, but with the two trilogies grouped together.
I'm not really into Anne Rice much, but I did enjoy these two books. However, The Witching Hour does have two sequels. The second book was mediocre, and the third book was one of the worst pieces of garbage I ever forced myself to read. I certainly don't recommend those sequels, but the first one is really quite good. She should have just left it there.
These books are fairly light and interesting. Somewhat predictable plots, but very nice characterization. I know there's another one out, but I haven't read it and it's not something I plan to read right now as I have so many other things I want to read first.
As a teenager, I couldn't get enough of Stephen King. I devoured all of his books, I delighted in every television interview, I watched the movies based on the books, etc. For a ninth grade project called Night of Notables where we had to research a person and portray them to an audience of teachers and parents, including answering questions as the person, I was the only kid to go cross-gender in order to "be" Stephen King.
Later, though, I found that his fame was overriding his talent. Books that should have been edited were no longer cut back, so the books got longer but more redundant. Earlier books were re-released with all the edited crap shoved back in, weakening the stories. The fact is, all writers need an editor. It's too hard for a writer to cut their own stuff; it's like performing surgery on your own child. Even if you know it's for the best, it's difficult to do. I reached my breaking point with "It," which featured young children having sex to unite them. Please. King's books grew increasingly lame, and I have not read any of his recent works.
Still, the older books are really cool. If you can find the early editions of ones like The Stand, get them instead of the new unedited versions. The list below are the King books I would read again.
I've only read two series, the Belgariad and the Mallorean. The second one was a little too close to the first one, only with some details changed. But the Belgariad was a great series! Typical fantasy stuff with magic, swordfights, monsters, etc., but a really good story behind it with wonderful characters.
Arguably one of the only sensible, truthful speakers these days. Moore manages somehow to combine horrific facts (such as stuff about Enron and Bush that he knew of months BEFORE the Enron collapse!) with humour. Sometimes it's hard to tell when he's serious, but the unfortunate truth is, he's usually serious about these awful things. Hence the name of one of his TV shows, "The Awful Truth."
Moore's latest book, Stupid White Men, was almost pulped in post-September 11 insanity. Luckily for all of us, the publisher was convinced to go ahead with the printing. Before the book was even available, it shot to number 1 on Amazon. It was also number 1 in Canada and Britain before those countries even had editions printed there. I can't recommend that book highly enough! In my activist circles, I've taken to calling it the "Book of Moore," as in, "We will now hear a reading from the Book of Moore."
These fascinating little books delve into history to find some amazing stories of women around the world. The Ancient Times one was my favourite because its stories were the most detailed. The Medieval Times one was okay, but by the third book, Shakespearean Times, it felt as though Leon was scraping the bottom of the barrel and lumping in many one-sentence stories together. The latest in the series, New World, is also okay but still not as good as the first. Still, the whole set is a great thing to have around for a brief, easy, interesting read.
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