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What is worth reading?

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:20 am
by Fiona
Some time ago a member asked for recommendations for books (and other things). I found it quite difficult to do that on the spot. But I do know that I read a lot of dross to find good stuff. It occurs to me that it might be useful to have a thread where people can record books they have particularly enjoyed. If a person enjoys some books you have already read, then they might be a good guide to other things you might like but have not yet come across. It's just a thought.

Things that I have particularly liked include:

Everything I have read by Robin Hobb. She has written 3 linked fantasy trilogies, and has recently published a new book called Shaman's Crossing which is not yet in paper back here. Her world is quite an interesting place. The first trilogy deals with a royal dynasty through the eyes of an illegitimate son. He has talent in the two kinds of magic common in the realm. The ability to bond with beasts is seen as an abomination, and those who have it are oppressed and form an underground body. The realm is under threat.Our hero needs to bridge the gap for the greater good (obviously) The second trilogy deals with the origin of the Liveships and has a lot about dragons but also about relations between a central government and its colonies. I have not yet finished the third set.

The characters seemed to me to be well drawn,and the situations believable (within the context of the fantasy)

Edit. I have pinched Kipi's idea of putting in a link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hobb#The_Farseer_Trilogy

The other thing I have mentioned before in another thread. I really liked the Patrick O'Brian books about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. This is a series of 20 books. It is very well researched and the historical detail is said by historians to be accurate. Again the characters have depth. There is quite a lot about naval battles (again accurate) which does not appeal to me. Nevertheless the social history and the information about the politics of the time over-rode my distaste for war stories. And I was well-impressed by how much these people ate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey%E2%80%93Maturin_series

A third series I found worth reading was the one about Lanny Budd, by Upton Sinclair. I confess I do not know if these are in print, because I bought the first couple second hand from a library which was having a clear out, and completed the series from second hand book shops. These books are of very broad sweep starting more or less at the conference of Versailles and continuing through the second world war. They were written in a hurry I think, and the characters are not detailed; they are rather stereotypes. The books have a socialist bias. They do recount a lot of the history of the period in a fairly accessible form, and although you can see the strings I think there is enough there for the non-historian to learn something.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair#The_Lanny_Budd_Series

I would be glad to hear about other books. As you can see I'm not that good at reviews, but some of you probably are. A flavour would help others to know if they might like the book, IMO

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:32 am
by Kipi
Well, you could try the serie I mentioned in the [url="http://www.gamebanshee.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71220"]thread[/url] just under this one, The Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Very good, the author has really concentrated on describing situations, world and characters. It is a bit hard to read at first, but when you get inside the story, it's very good and well written.
And [url="http://www.malazanempire.com/site/index.shtml"]here[/url] you can find more info about the serie

Also, have you read any Jeff Long's books? Especially "Year Zero" (is it correct?) and "The Reckoning" are very good ones.

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:39 am
by Fiona
Thanks Kipi. I saw your post after I made this thread. I will look out for those.

Do you think it would be a good idea to merge these, or was your idea so different that would be daft?

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:44 am
by Kipi
[QUOTE=Fiona]Thanks Kipi. I saw your post after I made this thread. I will look out for those.

Do you think it would be a good idea to merge these, or was your idea so different that would be daft?[/QUOTE]
I wouldn't combine these, since my topic handles only that one serie, yuor thread is asking what other recomend for reading. I would keep them separate thus.

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:45 am
by Fiona
Ok :) . Would you like to edit your first post here to mention the series and include the link again?

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 11:58 am
by dragon wench
For anyone who likes crime fiction, I'd highly recommend Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series. The books are extremely well written and atmospheric, and delve into criminal psychology in some interesting ways. I am lousy at reviews myself, but here is a link that provides more information:

http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth28

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:27 pm
by Fiona
That looks interesting, DW. I don't read a lot of crime fiction but I will perhaps sample that. The only crime fiction I have really liked is Patricia Highsmith, and this sounds as if it might have something in common with her. If you have read Highsmith, would you say that is true?

Edit.For crime fiction I forgot about Raymond Chandler but that is not the same sort of thing at all. Good though

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:38 pm
by dragon wench
[QUOTE=Fiona]That looks interesting, DW. I don't read a lot of crime fiction but I will perhaps sample that. The only crime fiction I have really liked is Patricia Highsmith, and this sounds as if it might have something in common with her. If you have read Highsmith, would you say that is true?[/QUOTE]

What I like about Dibdin is that he is very stylish and subtle. His writing is superb and almost falls into the category of literature. I view him as being akin a fine wine.

Here is an excerpt from his novel A Long Finish
http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385259484&view=excerpt

I haven't read Highsmith, but I will definitely look her up. I was planning on going to the library soon anyway, so I'll put her on my list. Thanks for the tip! :cool:

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 6:44 pm
by Lestat
An author a like a lot, is Stephen Donaldson.

He did two linked fantasy trilogies "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" and "The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" and is working on a follow-up on these. It's not your average Swords and Sorcery fantasy but very touching and unique.

[url="http://theland.antgear.com/overview.html"]Here[/url] is a nice short introduction to them, with links to more expansive description of each book.

His other works are also worthwile but I'm short on time to find adequat links to them now. I will do so later.

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 12:46 pm
by Fiona
@Lestat. I agree the Thomas Covenant Chronicles are very well worth reading, and I second this recommendation. I did start another series by the same author, called Mordant's Need, but could not get into it. That might just be me, though. There is this link, though there might be better ones
http://www.sfsite.com/10a/mn161.htm

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:32 pm
by Aramant
[QUOTE=dragon wench]For anyone who likes crime fiction...[/QUOTE]
... I'd also suggest Caleb Carr's [url="http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/626/Alienist.htm"]The Alienist[/url] and [url="http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/01/03/211453.php"]Angel of Darkess[/url]. Both involve significant criminal psychology, and are set in 19th century New York City for quite a bit of flavour.

For some interesting fantasy, I suggest Neil Gaiman's [url="http://www.januarymagazine.com/SFF/americangods.html"]American Gods[/url], and [url="http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/0380789019.asp"]Neverwhere[/url]. The former is a really clever take on mythology, and includes a number of different cultural influences. The review of the latter is a bit lacking, but the description of it being "Alice in Wonderland Hitchhiking the Galaxy on the London Underground" is fairly accurate. With dark-skinned monks at Blackfriar's and an Earl at Earl's Court, it's pretty weird.

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 3:22 pm
by Lestat
@ Aramant: if you liked American Gods, you should try his latest, Anansi boys. It borrows heavily from African mythology and is really nice. I can also recommend his collection of short stories, Smoke & Mirrors. All can be found on his website [url="http://www.neilgaiman.com"]www.neilgaiman.com[/url]. And Stardust is a nice take on the lost in elvenland type of fairy tale.

@ Fiona: try his Gap Series. It's gritty SF. And he has also two good collections of short stories, Daughter of Regals and Other Tales & Reave the Just and Other Tales
He also has his [url="http://www.stephendonaldson.com"]own site[/url].

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:45 am
by dj_venom
A great genre is action/thriller books. I don't normally read them, but I found a great author, by the name Matthew Reilly. One thing I like about his books compared to all other action books, is that the action never stops. There are no boring rest bits, just one fight to another, and great scenes. I suggest reading his second book Ice Station, as his first wasn't that great.

[url="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312971230/sr=1-1/qid=1139312581/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-8656487-5402209?%5Fencoding=UTF8"]Here's a review/price.[/url]

As for Fantasy, I recently read a great one, except I have a mental block as to the name. Hopefully I'll remember it later.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:43 am
by Ravager
I can recommend a couple...

I think I mentioned this one to Fiona before, though I'm not sure if she got it...this Inheritance trilogy (so far Eragon and Eldest) - http://www.alagaesia.com/
It's about a boy who finds a dragon egg in a land ruled by an evil tyrant. The opposition is very weak and the boy - Eragon - gradually finds out more about the dragon that hatches and more about the evil emperor. And my description doesn't sdo it any kind of justice. It's a very good series.

The Hatchet series (http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/library/briansaga.html#hatchet) is about a normal boy whose plane crashes in the wilderness and he's forced to adapt to his surroundings.

And last but not least... http://www.randomhouse.com/features/pullman/
The 'His Dark Materials' trilogy by Pullman. Also very good though it can be a bit complicated at times.

I'm in the middle of the Farseer trilogy, that is a good series, eventually I'll buy the last book in that trilogy and go onto the books that follow it in the same setting. :)

Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 4:45 pm
by Yshania
@Lestat/Fiona, I have read the Covenant books, I have the seventh yet to start.

As a complete departure to what has been discussed so far, one book I have read recently and would recommend is The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Album. It is a short book, only 200 pages, but for me it has as much to do with the "book" you end up writing around the concept yourself.

The book starts with Eddie's death, this is not a spoiler, it is in the first few pages. It suggests each ending is just a beginning, only we don't know it yet.

"On his eighty-third birthday, Eddie, a lonely war veteran, dies in a tragic accident trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his - and then nothing. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever."

This is not a religious journey, more a spiritual one. And it does leave you wondering, what if? And what of? It is a short novel that has as much impact as you allow it. For me, I couldn't put it down, I wanted to be there with him, I wanted to know about the child whose hands he held...and who had gifted him that moment in the first place...

and then who has gifted me my time?

It might not be the book for everyone, but you won't forget it :)

Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 11:36 am
by Fiona
@ Aramant. On your recommendation, and Lestat's, I have just finished American Gods. I really liked it and will look for more by this author :D

The other thing I have been reading is the series called " A Song of Ice and Fire". When I say I have been reading it, what happened is that I read the first three books, "A Game of Thrones", "A Clash of Kings" and "A Storm of Swords" quite some time ago and loved them. However the next in the series just didn't appear here and so I forgot about it for a while. The 4th book, "A Feast for Crows" is now out in hardback and I have bought it. Before I start it I am re-reading the first three and I find they are good enough to do that.

http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/Books/Martin01a.html

Posted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:13 am
by Grimar
i have to add..

the riftwar trilogy by Raymond E. Feist is great! the first book is called "the magician", and i recommend it a lot!

and "the inheritance" is good as well. first book is called "eragon". Rav recomended those as well :)

and have you read the wheel of time? i dont personally like them THAT good, but they are ok :)

and btw.. there is a serie called "the war of light and shadow". the first book is called "the curse of the mistwraith", and it sucked. really boring, so dont try those! (the other books may be good thoug)

Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 7:18 am
by Vicsun
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond - a physiologist and an evolutionary biologist - offers a great look into why the world is the way it is today - i.e. why European societies have become the dominant ones, as opposed to, say, African or Native American ones. It's non-fiction, and I've heard some people describe it as dryish, but I've personally found it quite engrossing so far.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, who's probably best known for Brave New World, is absolutely fascinating account of mescaline use for anyone even remotely interested in psychedelics. The title comes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru' narrow chinks of his cavern.". Huxley believes that the 'doors of perception' can be opened through meditation or drug use. An interesting side-note is that Jim Morrison's The Doors got the name from this book.
It reads kind of crackpotty at times, but as long as you keep a dose of skepticism handy, it's a very interesting read if not for Huxley's ideas for the effect psychedelic drugs have on people.

I wasn't about to recommend any "classics" since I'm sure that anyone who hasn't read them has at least heard enough about them so that a forum post wouldn't really change anything. That said, everyone should read Joseph Heller's Catch 22 because it's hilarious.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 4:36 pm
by Ashen
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. Very, very good, I loved it. It's a cross of SF/fantasy/drama. Very original, great read. I've heard nothing bad about The Scar as well, on the contrary, it was nominated for the Hugo in 2003. Haven't read it yet but it is in my to do list but I did read the last one Looking for Jake and other stories and I thought it was also excellent.

Oh and about Eragon, well I would certainly not rec it to anyone.

Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 3:01 pm
by shana
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/102-0020275-9286502?%5Fencoding=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=stripbooks%3Arelevance-above&field-keywords=gregory%20mcguire

Has anyone read anything by Gregory Mcquire? Wicked (the "true" story of Oz) is the most well known, but I enjoyed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister(the "true" story of Cinderella) much more.