Hello and welcome. I've been writing and submitting short stories
since 1992, but long before I ever thought of writing my own stories,
I loved to read other people's. This page contains book
recommendations, some for old favorites of mine, and some for books I
just met recently. If you would like to know more about me, visit my home page.
Growing up, I read more than my fair share of science fiction
and fantasy. Now that I am writing it, my reading is skewed
even more heavily in this direction. It's a wonderful feeling
to be able to say to myself that reading (one of my favorite
pastimes) is also useful research, keeping me up to date with
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. If I had to name
my favorite book in the world, then 9 days out of 10, I would pick
The Lord of the Rings, an epic fantasy trilogy set in an
imaginary world of great depth and beauty.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. I first read The
Sparrow in September 1997, and I found it absolutely riveting.
The novel centers around the history of Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit
linguist who is part of a first contact expedition. I was
particularly impressed by the thoughtful, undogmatic, portrayal of
religion; both the characters who believed in God and those who did
not were treated with equal consideration.
The Dazzle of Day, by Molly Gloss (who also wrote
"The Jump-Off Creek"). A beautifully written and thoughtful
portrayal of the first generations-long voyage to try to settle
another planet. The science fiction backdrop is realistic, but the
focus is always on the individuals, descendants of the Quakers who
set out on the voyage to another world, people who still attach as
much importance to listening and silence as they do to speaking.
Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner.
There is little or no magic in this novel, and yet the setting and
the atmosphere are those of a fantasy milieu, where a swordsman's
skill is a matter of life and death, where elegance and mannered
replies define a society, and where the narrative prose is smooth
perfection. A delight.
Three Californias, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
This trilogy ("The Wild Shore" + "The Gold Coast" + "Pacific Edge")
portrays three possible futures of Orange County,
California, with many of the same characters -- shaped by their
different circumstances -- recurring in each book. "The Wild Shore"
shows a post-nuclear-holocaust world, "The Gold Coast" a future
dominated by greed and urban development, and "Pacific Edge" a much
more hopeful future where people try to live in harmony with the
environment and each other. Through the course of the trilogy, Kim
Stanley Robinson speaks with brilliant detail and obvious love about
the landscape, the plants, the geology, and the wild life, while
never failing to create believable characters whose lives mattered to
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. An excellent
novel, one of the best I've ever read. The book is
both the story of an individual, Shevek, and the story of two
societies: Anarres -- the anarchist, poor, utopian society he grew up
in, and Urras -- the rich, complex, power-dealing, money-using society
he travels to. The book shows strengths and weaknesses of both
civilizations, including the ecological beauty of Urras and the
sometime-meanness and rigidity of the Odonians on Annares.
Four Ways to Forgiveness. Another excellent book by Ursula
K. Le Guin. The prose is as beautifully crafted as one expects from
Ursula Le Guin; the world-building is fantastic, showing cultures in
turbulent flux, yet the stories focus on individual, believable,
fallible characters. I found one section -- which showed how
important seemingly small things can be to an individual --
Although I read a preponderance of science fiction and fantasy, there
are many other books that I enjoy, and indeed my favorite author is
The Lord of the Rings is probably my
favorite book, but Jane Austen is my single favorite author. My
personal favorites out of her half-a-dozen novels are Pride and
Prejudice,Emma, and Northanger Abbey, but they are
all excellent, beautifully, wittily, written tales portraying the
world Jane Austen grew up in, that of a middle class English woman
The Jump-Off Creek, by Molly Gloss.
Sparsely but beautifully written, The Jump-Off Creek shows a
small group of characters settling the Western frontier. At the
center of the cast of characters is Lydia Sanderson, a widow working
to set up a homestead on her own. Though never falsely sentimental,
the author's compassion for the characters is clear. For me, the
historical detail gave the book the same sense of wonder as
Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell.
I have read and enjoyed Elizabeth Gaskell's lengthier and more
serious novels, but I prefer Cranford. In this short
novel, we are welcomed into an English country village
in the early 1800s. This is a gentle story, told with humor
and affection, of women struggling to maintain the standards
of propriety despite impoverished circumstances.
The twenty-book Aubrey/Maturin series of historical naval
adventures by Patrick O'Brian, starting with "Master and Commander."
By times funny, moving, riveting, harrowing, beautiful, these books
have many strengths, including the developing friendship between
Aubrey and Maturin, and the description of life at sea.
I could tell you that these books were my childhood favorites -- and
indeed some of them were -- but they also include books which I
only discovered in the past couple of years. I continue to
enjoy reading children's books, and I hope I always will.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams. This is one of my
all-time favorite children's books. In describing the heroic adventures
of a band of rabbits, Richard Adams endows the animals with
their own language, personalities, and a rich rabbit mythology.
Aimed at younger children than Watership Down, my favorite
character in a children's book -- perhaps in any book -- is Mary
Plain, an unusual bear-cub from the bear pits at Berne. Gwynedd Rae
wrote at least ten books about Mary Plain and her friend the Owl Man,
but I only know of two that are still in print: All Mary and
Mostly Mary. They can be ordered from
www.amazon.co.uk. The Mary Plain
books are refreshingly free from didactic messages teaching children
how to behave -- Mary Plain is greedy and rather conceited,
enthusiastic and trouble-prone, but the affection between Mary Plain
and the Owl Man, and between Gwynedd Rae and her characters, shines
through each book.
The Earthsea books by Ursula Le Guin. When I was
growing up, I loved each of the first three Earthsea books ("A Wizard
of Earthsea" + "The Tombs of Atuan" + "The Farthest Shore"), with my
favorite being The Tombs of Atuan, perhaps because it centers
around a young girl, perhaps because of the haunting imagery of an
underground labyrinth. The books stand alone, but are linked by the
character of Ged, and by the setting: an archipelago where wizards
learn the power of words, and dragons can still be found in remote
reaches. Then, years later, Ursula Le Guin returned to Earthsea to
write a fourth book, "Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea." Some
readers were disappointed by Tehanu, perhaps because it
doesn't have the brightness of the other books. Instead it deals
with matters previously left in the background, such as the limited
options open to women, and the losing of power. To me, Tehanu
is every bit as evocative and imaginative and wonderful as the
earlier books. Since writing "Tehanu," Ursula K. Le Guin has
returned to Earthsea again with the superb collection of
stories, "Tales from Earthsea," and another novel, "The Other Wind."
Little Sister, by Kara Dalkey.
A charming fantasy story about a young girl in Japan circa 1100.
The characters are engaging, the setting a refreshing change
from standard fantasy backdrops, the story sweet.