Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recommend A Good Book To Read

I've recently taken to reading more books that are not comic books or graphic novels. Part of this is because they are a relatively cheap way to pass the time; everywhere I turn, I can find free or really cheap books to read. And part of this is that I was an English Lit major in college and I've found that I've really missed reading books. In the past, it has been hard to justify spending two or three weeks reading a very long/involved book. But it's also really kind of worth it, if it's the right book.

Anybody have suggestions of good fiction or non-fiction books (not comics or GNs) to read?


  1. I've been reading "The Name of the Wind," and I'd have to recommend it. It's an epic fantasy that was raved a year or so ago, and is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It has a very witty narrator, a good set-up, and it's one of the best developed fantasy worlds I've ever read from without drowning you in unnecessary details. All in all he's a great author and it's a great book.

  2. Read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    Also the new Best of Michael Moorcock collection is quite good.

  3. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Gene Wolfe is probably the greatest living writer. Yeah, I know! There's no way that couldn't be absurd hyperbole! But there is!

    Neil Gaiman cites him as a primary influence.

    I'd start with The Book Of The New Sun, which is probably most readily available in the first of two omnibus editions, Shadow & Claw.

    I've got a pretty big mad-on for the weird, cyberpunk noir that Haruki Murakami does. Check out Hard-Boiled Wonderland & The End Of The World, maybe?

    I sometimes find myself strapped for non-genre picks, but a few months ago I really enjoyed A Madman Dreams Of Turing Machines, which is a novel about the parallel (but never intersecting) lives of Kurt Godel and Alan Turing. It's especially noteworthy, what with the latter's recent headline-making apology from the PM.

  4. "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury

    "Hearts in Atlantis" by Stephen King

    "Misery" by Stephen King

    "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

    I'm working to read more too, so if I come across something good I'll let you know.

  5. My favourite recently is Christopher Moore's "Fool". One of all-time favourites is "Crow Road" by Iain Banks, although is sci-fi book "The Player of Games" is pretty good as well.

  6. Just a few random suggestions:

    Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont

    The Prestige, by Christopher Priest

    Black & White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

  7. I really enjoyed Frank Beddor's "Looking Glass Wars" trilogy. The basic premise is that Wonderland is a very real place that is the locus of all imagination. Alice's aunt killed her parents and exiled her to earth, where she met Lewis Carroll and told him her story. (Which he completely botched when he published it.) Alice returns to Wonderland to gather her chessmen and card soldiers and depose of her aunt's vicious rule. Also ties in with two Hatter M graphic novels, if you want to read even more about it. Highly recommend the whole series.

  8. Ender's Game. I can't stress it enough. You'll love it. It's one of those books that sticks with you and latches onto your brain long after it's finished.

    Love the blog!

  9. The best ones I've read in recent years:

    The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Relevant in light of the ongoing financial collapse (what, you think it's OVER?).

    Baudolino by Umberto Eco. Makes Munchausen unimaginative in comparison.

    The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. Because we should all aspire for our feet to never touch the ground.

    Red Thunder by John Varley. Because John Varley is awesome. Seriously. Read all his books. Start here.

    That should keep you busy for a bit.

  10. Anonymous9:34 PM

    If you're a fan of science fiction, quirky humor or strangely moving moments sneaking up on you, "Agent to the Stars" by John Scalzi is a definite option. All of his work is phenomenal, so if you're looking for a more serious story I'll recommend "Old Man's War" as well.

    Good luck on your quest for literature!

  11. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy. Especially if you haven't seen the movie. Given some of your experiences, it might strike a chord.

  12. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie King. One of the best Sherlock Holmes pastiches ever written. Set in the days of World War I, it shows the retired Holmes meeting a genius of equal brilliance... a teenaged girl named Mary Russell. He takes her under his wing and adventures ensue.

    If you enjoy that, there are about a half-dozen more novels starring Holmes and Mary Russell. But it's best to start with the first.

  13. LeVentNoir10:19 PM

    I would try Ramond E Fiests Rift war series. Of if you prefer something more upbeat, try "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocolypse" by Robert Rankin

  14. Good Fiction: No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July

  15. The Big Sleep. The movie was interesting as well, but the book had a lot more going for it. Also, The Three Musketeers, if you haven't read it already. If fantasy is more your thing, than Allon by Shawn Lamb.

  16. Anonymous11:16 PM


  17. King Leopold's Ghost is a good non-fiction read, and if you're in the mood for fiction, Still Alice is also really good, but pretty emotional at the same time.

  18. I'm currently reading Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman, which is a fascinating look at the Bible from a perspective that there's a lot of history, culture, and contradictions that the average person is not aware of, and that there's more of a human element in the Bible than many people acknowledge.

    It's been reasonably objective so far, so whether or not it strengthens or weakens the reader's faith is really up to how the reader responds to it. Another equally intriguing religion-based book is The Shack by William P. Young, which is a great conversation-starter but pretty depressing for the first few chapters.

    If you're in the mood for a powerful love story with a hint of sci-fi, I recommend The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It'll drag you through the extremes of almost every human emotion there is, but I feel it's incredibly written and is genuinely engaging.

    Of course, there's my all-time favorite, Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton is probably my favorite author, and after the movie captured my imagination when I was younger, I found an even bigger and equally exciting world in the book (and its sequel, which is way better than the second movie was).

    But, if you need a laugh, anything by Dave Barry is a riot.

  19. The Godfather, any novel by Robert B. Parker or Clive Cussler, any Star Trek novel.

  20. Anonymous12:23 AM

    Let's see. I don't know if you've read Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, but that I would recommend. I actually think that his book The Yiddish Policeman's Union is better and I love it, so there's that. I just finished (and loved) the book Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard. It's basically Tiny Tim all grown up and solving a heinous murders. Any book by Donald Westlake (the Dortmunder series for hilarity, the "Richard Stark" Parker series for no-nonsense crime/caper stuff). You can't go wrong with Philip K. Dick. Just a few things off the stop of my head.

    Kris C.

  21. Anything by Jasper Fforde

  22. Anonymous12:54 AM


    Guys and Dolls and Other Stories (Damon Runyon)
    Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
    Watership Down (Richard Adams)
    The Quiet American (Graham Greene)
    The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
    Witness For the Prosecution (Agatha Christie)
    Murder On the Orient Express (Christie)
    The Robot Novels [I, Robot, Robot Dreams, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn] (Isaac Asimov)
    The Foundation Novels [Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation*, Forward the Foundation] (Asimov)

    *If you read nothing else from this list, the chapter of this novel (originally a serial) which follows the one titled "One Man and the Mule" is very much worth the necessary minutes in your local bookstore.

    Non-Fiction is more difficult. What do you like to read?

    - Orion

  23. Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

    Under The Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

    Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace

  24. i can't endorse "alphabet versus the goddess" enough, by leonard shlain. a neurologist by day, this non-fiction delves into the origins of literacy, exploring the impact of alphabets and alphabetic literacy on Western and eventually global society. it's a must-read for any bibliophile who wonders just why he or she is interested in books in the first place.

  25. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.

    It's a fantasy novel with complex characters, political manoeuvring, and an entire armoury of Chekov's guns of which I only saw about half before they were used; it's pretty awesome.

  26. "I've recently taken to reading more books that are not comic books or graphic novels."

    Sorry, run that past me again? Books that are not comics? So is this some kind of Kindle thing, but on paper? Give me a moment to consider this concept...

    and while I'm thinking about it, can I recommend 'If Chin's Could Kill - Confessions of a B movie actor' by Bruce Campbell. It's from a good few years ago now, but it's an easy read, it's hugely entertaining and Bruce's personality really comes across on the page.

  27. Oldies but goodies:

    Microserfs and Jpod, by Douglas Coupland.

  28. Don't know what tupes of fiction or nonfiction you are interested in reading. Here are a few ideas.

    In Science Fiction and Fantasy - Orson Scott Card's Ender Wiggin and Alvin Maker series, American Gods, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Julian May's Pliocene Exile series, Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series, It, Sirens of Titan, Dune,

    Other fiction
    The Illuminatus Trilogy. The Big Sleep, The Quiet American, Ciderhouse Rules, Foucalt's Pendulum, Lullabye and Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, American Tabloid, Pattern Recognition, The Crying of Lot 49.

    Anything by David Sedaris or John Hodgman or Hunter Thompson, Chaos by Jmaes Gleick, When Corporations Rule the World, by David Korten, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

  29. I'm not going to mention the obvious candates here, but try to give some ideas for writers you've likely not heard of.

    Ricardo Pinto - Stone Dance of the Chameleon (3 parts, the last came out in March)
    It's Fantasy, but not as you know it...

    If you're more into YA - Maggie Stiefvater's books might be something to try.

  30. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - the best book I've read in years!

  31. Anonymous8:10 AM

    Good books to read, tough one. As they say, one man's paradise, another's hell. It would help to know yours taste for books. Anyway, I can suggest Glen Cook's Black Company series (low fantasy, gray and dark morality), Garth Nix' Abhorsen Trilogy (high fantasy, black&white morality), Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire (about the battle of Thermopylae) or Timothy Erenberger's Grandfather's Tale: The Tale of a German Sniper (WWW II). As you're an English major, no need to cite the English classics, but you may want try others classics, they're usually quite cheap. Flaubert and Maupassant are favourites of mine.
    I'd stay away from CS Lewis and Philip Pullman, they became kind of a hip because of the respectives movies, but IMHO, they're quite preachy, and bad at it. Hope it helps.

  32. Hey all,

    thanks so much for these suggestions!

  33. I vote for THE STRAIN by Del Toro and Hogan. Very nice play on the vampire with a hint of 'SALEMS LOT thrown in for good measure. Good, creepy fun that'll have you craving the next book in the trilogy posthaste.

  34. Oh, and "Crow Road" by Iain Banks (and actually, most books by Iain Banks and Iain M Banks).

  35. Lots of good suggestions. Let me add a few:

    True Grit by Charles Portis
    Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto
    Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    Hard Boiled/Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto (world's BEST name)
    October Country by Ray Bradbury

  36. I just want to second whoever posted the Chinatown Deathcloud Peril - great read.

    Other authors - William Gibson, Neal Stephenson.

    Also The Simpsons and Philosophy was entertaining (as I am sure other books in the pop culture and philosophy series are)

  37. Pygmy is excellent.

  38. I've been enjoying Kat Richardson's Greywalker books, about a private investigator who finds she can perceive and interact with the magical world after a near-death experience. Greywalker, Poltergeist and Underground are out so far. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Codex Alera books are also faves. Anthology wise, Shadows Over Baker Street is a couple years old, but brilliant, especially if you like Sherlock Holmes to begin with.

  39. I'm a big fan of Zadie Smith, and I highly recommend her first (multiple award-winning) book White Teeth. Very literary, but very readable - compelling even. And of course, if you want to stick to the comics vibe, there's Kavalier and Klay, by Michael Chabon.

    In prep for the upcoming movie, also try Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Short, and truly beautiful. Not nearly as visual as the movie will undoubtedly be, but sweet and haunting, filled with a great deal of tenderness.

  40. I wrote my recommendations prior to reading others, but I have to strongly second anything by David Sedaris. And for fuck's sake people, get out of the genre ghetto once in a while...

  41. Generation X by Douglas Coupland

    Changed my attitude for the better, and I'm not even Gen-X ( I think you are though)

  42. Huge loud second on both Shadows Over Baker Street and The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril.

    Also, The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman is enormous fun.

  43. Stuff Not Mentioned Yet:

    Duma Key - Stephen King

    The Long Walk - Stephen King

    World War Z - Max Brooks

    Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

    Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

    Fall of Reach - Eric Nylund (yes it's a Halo book, but it's actually very well written)

    Any of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher

    Into Thin Air - John Krakauer

    Plucker - Brom (It's a weird storybook type of tale but more meant for an older audience)

    The Gunslinger - Stephen King

    I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (not that Film Adapated piece of crap version, the original depressing version)

    Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

    Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions - Ben Mezrich

    Night - Elie Wiesel

    The Lost Slayer - Christopher Golden (yes it's a Buffy book but it's still pretty darn good)

    Ones mentioned already but recommending again:

    Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

    Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk

    Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

    Abhorsen Trilogy - If you don't have time for the books, the audiobooks are great
    with Tim Curry doing the narration of all the characters surprisingly well

    'Salems Lot

    Dirk Pitt series of novels by Clive Cussler (the earlier stuff is the best, Cyclops. especially)

    If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor - Bruce Campbell

    Pretty fiction heavy there, sorry.

  44. For fiction, I'll second the recommendation of American Gods. Unless you are not a Sandman fan, in which case avoid at all costs since the underlying ideas and tone are basically the same.

    For non-fiction - check out "A Man on the Moon". It's the story of the Apollo program. If you want to see a really well-crafted account of a true innovative pursuit, look no further.

  45. Please listen to J above, who said exactly what I came to say: read Gene Wolfe. He is the greatest living writer. Absolutely yes. Book of the New Sun is haunting & beautiful.

  46. I recommend "Good Omens" as well. It is my favorite book of all time.

    As for others, I'd recommend anything by Terry Pratchett and anything by Christopher Moore. Especially if you like a lot of humor with your writing.

  47. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Twilight was not a real suggestion if there was any confusion.

    My real suggestion is The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.

    Oh, and the entire Looking Glass Wars Trilogy, by Frank Beddor.

  48. Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold -- a historical fiction of a stage magician who gets mixed up in the death of Warren Harding -- at least, that's what kicks it off. Reminds me very much of Kavalier & Clay.

  49. I second The Yiddish Policemen's Union. It's what I've been recommending to everyone since I read it. Also The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (yes THAT Hugh Laurie), which is a thriller written in the style of a Wodehouse novel.

  50. George RR Martin's 'A Game of Thrones,' of course. Not only is it awesome, but it'll get you ready for the new HBO show based upon it!

  51. Have you tried "On the road", by Jack Kerouac?
    What about "Junkie" by Willia, S. Burroughs? I'm a sucker for the beats. Other than that, anything by Jose Luis Garcia Lorca is a good reading experience.

  52. Anonymous1:22 AM

    Bear V. Shark by Chris Bachelder

  53. I see you're getting a lot of fiction titles (shall I shamelessly plug my PoD short story collection?) so I'll pass on some non-fiction titles you might like:

    Queen Elizabeth I by J.E. Neale - dated, but still considered one of the definitive biographies on the queen.

    A Tragic Legacy by Glenn Greenwald

    Daniel Boorstin's The Americans series

    1001 Cookie Recipes by Gregg Gillespie

    Prose Edda: the Norse Mythology by Snorri Sturluson

  54. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Hop on Pop!

  55. My latest:

    Rendevous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

    The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp

    Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue - from National Lampoon to Saturday Night Live, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous, Dennis Perrin (hard to find outside of Amazon!)

    Moving Towards Stillness, Dave Lowry

    Visual Thinking, Rudolf Arnheim

    The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer

    Make It Your Business, Stephan Schiffman

    Design Dialogues, Steven Heller and Elinor Pettit

  56. Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts and Glen David Gold's Carter Beats The Devil are two books I can't recommend highly enough.

    Also, James Ellroy's LA Quartet, but especially White Jazz which may have the best closing line in a book ever.

  57. Cormac McCarthy for fiction
    American Dreamer (Henry Wallace bio)
    You might enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, too. silly as hell - you'd probably finish it in an afternoon.

  58. Yeah, yeah, yeah! That James Ellroy suggestion. LA Confidential is still my favorite, but White Jazz is pretty fine, too. Nice catch!

  59. Hmm. . .some novel reccomendations:

    -Gentleman of the Road by Michael Chabon.

    -Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein

    -Von Bek by Michael Moorcock

    -Kane of Old Mars by Michael Moorcock

    -Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

    -The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories by Kim Newman

    -Alabaster Caitlin R. Keirnan.

    -The Mark of Zorro Johnston McCulley(I'm reading this now so we could compare notes).

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Let me get home and rummage through my shelves and I'll see if I turn up anything else to suggest.



  60. The Brothers K by David James Duncan
    Otherland by Tad Williams
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

  61. The Neon Bible by John Kennedy O'Toole
    The Road to Mars by Eric Idle
    Is This It? by Bob Geldof

  62. Steven Brust. His books have spoiled me against pretty much every other writer ever. Check out "Phoenix Guards" or any of the "Taltos" series.

  63. Seconding The Name of the Wind. Best book I read last year. It will blow your hair back.

    Being There by jerzy kosinski (then go watch the Peter Sellers film).

    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

    'The Passion' and Weight by Jeanette Winterson. She will change your life.

    Lots of Chabon mentions, but I'll point to Wonder Boys. Always hard to put down once it is opened.

  64. Everything I've read of Dennis Lehane's work, I've enjoyed. Recommend "A Drink Before the War", and "Mystic River".

    Also, George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series ("A Game of Thrones" is the first, I believe) is well done fantasy.

  65. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Wow, had to go pretty far down to even see a mention of Cormac McCarthy.
    "The Road" is terrific. Disturbing, loving and lyrical.

  66. Wow talk about ask a silly question!

    But you did ask so the one book I'm an evangelist for "An Anthropologist on Mars" - Oliver Sacks

    And god forgive me what I'm reading now "Ulysses" - some Irish guy

  67. hoist1:05 PM

    may i recommend oryx and crake margaret atwood

  68. Anonymous11:24 AM

    emm. amazing thread