Recommend Me Books For A Change

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

It’s no secret that I feel, in order to be well-rounded both as a human being and as a writer, one must read books (and a lot of them). I get a sense and deeper appreciation of culture when I read works set in locations only seen on. . .well, it used to be Encyclopedia Britannica or National Geographic. I suppose it’s now Google Maps?

Anyhoo. My feeling is that there’s always one book that you feel defined “X” for you. For example, it’s no secret I feel American Gods defined urban fantasy. Published in 2001, I feel it was a landmark novel and extraordinarily influential on the genre. For other examples, I feel that Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice set the stage for paranormal romance and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster offered an exemplary take on tie-in fiction in a way that influenced other books in the Star Wars extended universe for years to come. Another one comes to mind, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series was a powerful one and I feel a shining example of historical romance and time travel. Humor? Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, sure, but even before that, anything written by Erma Bombeck.

For modern horror with supernatural elements, there’s a scale of books that begins with the unabridged version of Stephen King’s The Stand, followed by the co-authored Peter Straub/Stephen King The Talisman, and winds up ever-so-neatly with The Great And Secret Show series by Clive Barker. (What’s he up to, now-a-days. Anyone know? And yes, I realize that the trilogy I just mentioned is billed as “fantasy,” but to me, it’ll always be dark fantasy teetering on the fringes of horror.)

For fantasy? Oh, there’s also a scale given how well-read I am in that genre, too. Where to begin? The Death Gate Cycle series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, The Dragonbone Chair series by Tad Williams, and pretty much anything by Tad, because he writes about characters that are more diverse than the traditional Anglo-Saxon Protestant living in a world where magic exists. (Sorry, folks. . .that’s a button for me. I like diversity in my fiction, especially in fantasy, because my world is diverse. Though, there is a lot to be gleaned from stories where the characters are homogeneous, too.) My list, which goes into never-never land, goes on and on and on.

Because of how I read (and when) no doubt my take on the cultural zeitgeist is a personal one — but there are gaping holes in my library at the moment, reading I lack either because I have no idea where to begin, I’ve forgotten what I had read, or because I fallen out of reading experimentation due to laziness and default to whatever’s lurking about on my shelves. Mind you, my walls are quite literally bleeding books, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And reading experimentation, my friends, is what this post is all about.

Today, I am asking for your recommendations on a single tome, a work of fiction, that YOU feel is the best indicative of one of the following categories, cultures, professions, genres, etc. It does not have to be a best-seller or a modern work, mind you. It just has to mean something profound to you and available via Ye Olde Library. Now that I think about it, try to limit works published since the 1950s, unless I noted the word “literature.”

* Feminism
* Modern Romance
* Gay/Bi-sexual/Lesbian
* Transhumanism
* Post-Apocalyptic
* Werewolves
* Fairies
* Arthurian legend
* Modern conspiracy
* Ghosts
* Middle-Eastern literature (Please, not Arabian Nights.)
* Italian science fiction or fantasy (can be written in Italian)
* Norse mythology
* Mexican literature
* Steampunk
* Virtual reality
* Hard (no floofy hand-waving, please) science fiction
* Speculative (e.g. something that has its own category and doesn’t fit anyplace else)
* Pick a culture, any culture I haven’t mentioned here, and recommend a work I absolutely have to read. For example, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is one I highly recommend.

Please comment below and share your recommendations!

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4 Responses to Recommend Me Books For A Change
  1. Josh Albritton

    I’m not sure how widely influential it is, but S M Stirling’s Emberverse series changed how I think about (mostly) non-supernatural post-apocalyptic stories. It starts with Dies the Fire, in which all modern technology just suddenly stops working & modern people have to rebuild society from the ashes. Stirling focuses less on why the lights went out & more on how people react in this new world. I absolutely loved it & the rest of the series.

  2. Eric Crabtree


    Murcheston: The Wolf’s Tale by David Holland
    ISBN: 0-312-87213-5

    The Sticks by Andy Deane (singer of Bella Morte)
    ISBN: 978-1-934546-14-7


    Strangeness in the Proportions by Joshua Alan Doestch
    ISBN: 2-370004-171005

    Lilith by George MacDonald
    ISBN: 978-0802860613

  3. Beth

    Clive Barker is up to no good, as always. He’s working on the Abarat series, well worth a read, it’s his fantastical take on a YA series. 3rd book has just been released in glorious hardback. Highly recommended.

    For Norse mythology you can do no better than the Prose Edda, the original collection of myths, legends etc.

    Steampunk – The Glass Books of the Dream-Eaters series (includes the aforementioned, plus The Dark Volume and The Chemickal Marriage). It might not be traditional steampunk but it’s set in an alternative Victorian world with lots of alchemy, corrupt politicians and red-coated mercenaries, and has a wonderfully evil character called Contessa de Lacquer-Sforza. She rocks. Also has LGBT elements.

    LGBT – Tipping the Velvet & Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.

    Erm, can’t think of anymore right now.

  4. Zachary Ricks

    For Arthurian Legend… sheesh, just one book? Don’t you have to, at that point, go with T.H. White’s The Once and Future King? Or maybe the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, to get that story from the female perspective?
    Actually, what I’m leaning towards is a more recent version by Maurice Broaddus – King Maker, where the Arthurian Legend is told in the context of street gangs in Indianapolis.

    For Steampunk – The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Phoenix Rising, by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris. Or Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest.

    For VR / Transhumanism, a lot of people will point at William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, but I prefer the follow-up, Count Zero. Or Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” – neuro-linguistic programming of the human brain, lots of great VR, a little dystopian, and pizza delivery. (Hey, it’s two categories, so I get two picks, right?)

    And for Hard SF… lemme check the bookshelves here… it’s been so long since I’ve read something that I’d consider “hard” SF… I suppose, Vernor Vinge’s “A Fire Upon the Deep”.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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