Post-Holiday Book Suggestions

I find that December tends to leave me with a handful of gift certificates to Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, and so on.  I know I’m not the only one.  So it occurred to me that this might be a good time for a book recommendation thread.

Of course, the temptation is to start out the recommendations with my own book Goblin Quest, which is a light, amusing quest tale from the monster’s point of view.  But that would be shameless and crass.  (Especially if I added a link to the first chapter.)

So instead, let’s start with Sword & Sorceress XXII.  Marion Zimmer Bradley started the Sword & Sorceress series decades ago, to promote sword & sorcery tales with strong female protagonists.  Norilana Press revived the series this year, bringing it back in trade paperback format.  I read volume XXII a few months back, and there are some great stories in those pages, including at least one I thought was Nebula-worthy.

Next, I’m going to push Diana Pharoah Francis’ latest book The Cipher.  I’m about 3/4 through this one, and I’m very much enjoying it.  It’s fantasy set on a coastal city, with some amazing world-building and characterization.  The magic is believable, the characters are engaging, and I’m a little bit grumpy about being online instead of back in my bedroom, finishing the book.  You can read an excerpt of this one here.

Of course, not all of us spend those gift cards right away.  For those of you holding your Amazon gift money until January, you can pick up a copy of Mike Jasper’s novel The Wannoshay Cycle, which comes out on 1/22/08.  I had the pleasure of reading an early draft of this one, and found Jasper’s portrayal of the Wannoshay — an alien race of refugees on Earth — both powerful and effectively alien.  Check out Jasper’s web site for the first three chapters, as well as some of his stories about the Wannoshay.

Finally, for those of you who enjoy Tolkienesque fantasy, might I suggest Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel The Name of the Wind?  It’s an ambitious book, and an impressive first novel that made quite the splash in 2007.  Check out this excerpt, if you’re curious.

My problem, of course, is that I’ve already read all of these books.  So now it’s your turn.  What suggestions do you have for those of us who will soon have (I hope) wads of book-cash burning holes in our wallets?

And feel free to spread the post-holiday book recommendation meme.  Some folks will tell you the Internet is for porn.  Me, I think the best thing about the Internet is finding new authors and new books to read.

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  1. 1. Martyn Drake

    I always recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A fantastic book, and one that’s worth re-reading over and over again. Ditto for her Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.

    More humourous, I can’t hesitate to recommend Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. Anything by Robert Rankin gets my vote, but especially The Witches of Chiswick and Knees Up Mother Earth (in that order) which twist Victorian London wonderfully.


  2. 2. Ryan

    Gene Wolfe’s “Pirate Freedom” is good and his “Soilder of Sidon” is out in paperback now. I would recommend anything by Wolfe.

  3. 3. Kendall

    Post-holiday? How about Troy: Fall of Kings, by David & Stella Gemmell, which claims is being released December *26th*. ;-) Just BARELY post-holiday.

    Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow was amazing: wonderful characters, good people driven to extremes, actions with dire consequences (no one gets away with anything)…overall, an awesome retelling of the lead-up to the Trojan War. I blush to mention that I’ve been reading so slowly this year that the second book’s still unopened on my shelf, but Fall of Kings is in my cart to buy the 26th. ;-)

  4. 4. Jim C. Hines

    Thanks for the reminder — Strange & Norrell is one I keep hearing good things about.

    And I believe *everyone* should have a copy of Good Omens. There should be a scholarship fund to provide copies to those who can’t afford their own :)

  5. 5. Marie Brennan

    My comment seems not to have posted the first time, so I’ll try again. Apologies if this shows up twice.

    Rather than list off a million things, I’m going to go the lazy route and just point people at the book recommendations on my website. I’m still behind by two months, but it’s almost five years’ worth of monthly pointers at good books (interspersed with discussions of primary sources I think fantasy writers should read).

    Index to the recomendations:

  6. 6. Ryan Viergutz

    Gaiman always gets the love… but I read American Gods this summer and found myself immersed in it. Mein Bog. From there, I read the Sandman (on the final volumes currently…) and aha, NOW I see his appeal.

    I also loved Spin State. I haven’t read an intense Ludlum style spy novel in a while, and that satisfied me a lot.

    Along with that, there was WebMage (agh, I might have to grab Cybermancy with the Christmas money…), Ironside and more Jim Butcher and some Laura Anne Gilman… I’ve been reading too bloody much fantasy. I need some SF in my blood.

    To keep myself sane during computer classes, I found Proejct Gutenberg, and roaming around in there is just uber /fun/. I’ve been reading Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown once in a while. It’s an insane but fun history of the hacker subculture to about 1990.

  7. 7. cstross

    Utterly different suggestions here …

    I’m a big fan of Karl Schroeder, who has a spin on hard-SF that’s pretty unusual. If you want to sample his work, you can snag his first novel, “Ventus”, from his website (where it’s available for download under a creative commons license).

    I’ve just read my way through his trilogy-in-progress, which begins with “Sun of Suns” and continues with “Queen of Candesce” (available in paperback and hardback respectively, from Tor), and concludes (as a trilogy) with “Pirate Sun” (due out in August). It’s a masterpiece of swashbuckling adventure, post-singularity speculation, world-building weirdness, and thought-provoking futurism; he’s managed to square the circle of space opera (which has never been overly concerned with scientific plausibility) and the sort of hard SF more usually associated with the likes of Greg Egan or Vernor Vinge. Really good fun, rollicking entertainment, and thought provoking too — like junk food that’s actually good for you!

  8. 8. Kate Elliott

    I want to heartily second the rec for Karl Schroeder’s Sun of Suns (I haven’t yet read Queen of Candesce), for the reasons the estimable Mr. Stross cites.

    Leaping over to secondary world fantasy, I highly recommend Sherwood Smith’s INDA and THE FOX, the first two volumes of a trilogy; these also involve swashbuckling adventure and excellent worldbuilding.

    As always, I strongly encourage people to read Katharine Kerr’s DEVERRY series (The Spirit Stone is the latest volume); start with Daggerspell (the revised edition). When people complain that high fantasy is always fixated on kings and princes and the lapdogs of power without taking into account class, economy, law, and social structure, I want to point them to this series, which deals with just about every layer of medieval life – and it’s not faux-Victorian-medieval, it’s developed with a real understanding of chieftain level social structures and how they evolve over time.

  9. 9. Andy Havens

    I’m into the fourth book in Eric Flint’s “Belisarius” series, and am really enjoying them. The first four are in the Baen Free Library, and I’m going to buy 5+ for sure.

  10. 10. Daryl Gregory

    With my B&N gift certificate I just picked up 3 books I’m really looking forward to —

    First up, Michael Chabon’s “Gentlemen of the Road”, a swashbuckler he was thinking of calling “Jews with Swords”. It’s even illustrated with those pen-and-ink drawings with a caption from the text, just like in Hardy Boys and other adventure books. Too. Much. Fun. And it’s dedicated to Michael Moorcock!

    Then the new book by Iain (no “M”) Banks “The Steep Approach to Garbadale”. This is Banks in non-genre mode — which makes me think that if Banks really cared for his readers, he would have used the initial for Mainstream and left it out for SF. Ah, too late to change now.

    And then I bought my own copy of a book I’ve read before, but need to re-read, Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.” The thing is, it’s not just about comics — it has a lot to say about all storytelling, and maybe some day I’ll blog about that. My son picked up another book in the series, “Making Comics”, and I’ll be reading that too.

    I’ll report back on how the reading goes.


Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.



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