Not to mention Lazarus Long having sex with his mom, which despite all attempts to normalize it is still pretty damn squicky. To that end, I think Lazarus Long might recognize John Perry as a distant relation: Competent and sentimental, to be sure. Maybe a little less crankily judgmental. You can argue with me about that if you like. I will just smile and nod politely and ignore you. This is one of the few books of fantasy or science fiction where I literally do not care whether the book pays attention to its plot, because the writing is so lovely that it is its own reward.
This is also, incidentally, one of those books that some people will tell you is not actually a fantasy book, because Helprin is otherwise known as a literary writer, and the book itself is highly regarded by people who care about serious literature and blah blah blah. My response to this: Whatever. Palmer, both of which have the light hand with dialogue and exposition that I love to read and very definitely cribbed from when I became a writer. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and The Watchmen by Alan Moore, which broke me of my totally unconscious snobbery regarding visual storytelling.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, which hit me sideways with its gentle humor and inspired me to learn more about a culture unknown to me. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, which offered empathy and anger, and showed that single stories could add up to a larger whole. Which ultimately turned out to be a good thing for me, I would say.
Interesting choices. Nice to se LeGuin, who had a huge impact on me too though it was the better know Left Hand of Darkness for me. Doing the Iliad and the Tempest as a scifi story without seeming so pretentious you disappear up your own rear end is a pretty huge achievement. TEFL is interesting, i liked it too but felt a bit sour as a result of the later Long books, which go off into old-man-wish-fulfillment a little too much.
Still it also had a big impact on me as a youth. The only one I can;t get behind is Perdido Street Station. Thanks for the list John — mine would, obviously, differ but I have to agree completely with two of your choices. However, this is neither here nor there to the fact these works were significant to me on my way to being a published science fiction author. Thanks, John! So, it guides me to new reading, and that is always a good thing. It warms my heart just to be remembered of reading it. I think this is an excellent list simply because it has such a clear and in theory!
I could carry on working my way through my list, but this is not my blog!
- Fresco (Diamond City #1) by Patti Larsen?
- Annabelle, the Reluctant Fart Fairy.
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But will give him another go. Read in two days flat when I was 11, it still echoes now, despite multiple re-reads. I recall that you discovered Iain M. Banks late, per an earlier post, perhaps after you became a pro SFF author. If you had encountered him earlier, do you suppose he might have made the list? A failing I often observe in SFF is that scarcity-era problems and norms show up in essentially post-scarcity worlds, often without explanation.
I get why; difficult to propel a plot or describe experiences meaningful to contemporary humans otherwise. Yet Banks tackled that problem head on. The Dark is Rising! I too was disappointed not to become an Old One. You can hardly read the titles on the spines of my copies, I read those books so many times. That, and A Wizard of Earthsea were the only fantasy books in my elementary school library.
I was just pondering the question of what to read next. I need to go pull put my copy of The Dark is Rising and revisit. I had all six verses of that prophecy memorized for years. I love lists like this and thanks for sharing a word I find overused but there you go. And stupid me for trying to do even the most basic coding first thing in the morning. Great list John. About half of these had the same sort of influence on me as they seem to have on you. No Prydain Chronicles, too?!?!
There are few experiences as disorienting as jumping in to cold-read a chapter of Perdido Street Station or Fall of Hyperion without having read any of the previous chapters or the prequel, in the case of Fall. I still have the cassette tape and The Dark is Rising.
And not enough people have read Bridge of Birds. You put your finger on the really different thing about these books when you mention the motivation the author gives for characters aligning themselves with the Dark. Emergence looked interesting to me, but it seems to be out of print and copies on amazon are 40 dollars!
What a shame :. A solid list. Fall of Hyperion. Man, that book started it all for me. The scope of that book was eye-opening. Just reread Snowcrash for the umpteenth time, and have enjoyed many others on this list. Also, tsking me for not having a particular book on the list comes across not as amusingly as I know you were attempting to have it be. I agree with your frustration at the lack of recognition for Sheri S.
To me, she is far superior to the much lauded Margaret Atwood. The Dark is Rising. My Mum worked in a library for several years, that helped my reading a lot. When she stopped working there and I changed schools so that the library was no longer on my way home, my reading suffered. I love lists like these; a lot more personal and real then seeing the same few books on what people consider best-of.
Some books just inhabit a particular time and place in my psyche that hardly anything can ever ruin them Orson Scott Card, notwithstanding…. It definitely explained a couple things when I did! I read Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion together, in a two-in-one book where they were only separated by a title page. I remember putting down the book after having read the last page and wondering what it must have been like for people who read only the first book, maybe before the second one had even been published. I was and still am convinced that it was only separated into two books for binding purposes.
In my eyes, one book does not work without the other; together, I found them magnificent. The other memory I connect with this book was the time I was reading it while riding on a train. A group of teenage girls came in, all wrapped up in their teenage talk — who was doing what with whom -, and one of them shot me a glance. The idea certainly runs through the rest of his work, once you know to look for it. Yay for Emergence! It is a serious blow to me that Threshold sucks so badly.
I would have picked Crytonomicon for his early work or Anathem for his more recent work. At my reading speed, my reading list as it stands now is about 8 to 10 years long. In those 8 years I expect to add another 15 years worth of books. I loved the shorter novels of that era. The ones you could read in a couple hours on a rainy afternoon. Too many people these days seem to think they have to write doorstop novels. TIme Enough For Love. Yeah, problematic. Loved it when I was Come to appreciate Starship Troopers more, however.
The later sequels were, well, interesting to read once. Wow, lots of love for The Dark is Rising. Me too. John, thanks for this list.. Which is a pretty nebulous way to influence, but, eh. It still works. I devoured the first half of Perdido Street Station a couple of years ago. I then had to go back to work and set it down for far too long. I regret not finishing it because it had been so very good up until the point that I set it down.
Huzzah for Tepper! Great concept for a list, John and, to be frank, I was surprised by how much our taste overlaps. I was more impressed by the first one than fond of it. Agreed on Tepper. I think one of the problems with her work is that it has always been very, very grim, and she refuses to give an unalloyed happy ending. Thanks John. I think its great when authors discuss books that influenced them. A number of people have told me ot read LeGuin. I tried one of her books about 15 years ago and never got into it.
Books that are page turners and that I devour often are not memorable to me a few years later. Books that I struggle to finish and are sometimes a little boring are often more memorable a few years down the road. Thanks for the book suggestions. I have never actually noticed several of these books and plan to add them to my reading list. My favorite book from when I was a kid was definitely The Eye of the World. However, I think my favorite book of all time was a historical novel called The Pillars of the Earth. I read the first chapter, stopped, reread it, went back to him, and told him that it was the best gift anyone had ever given me.
I was rereading it just after my wife and I started dating and she asked me what it was about. After 10 minutes of silence, I just handed her the book. Emma: On Margaret Atwood. I have read a couple of her books and I liked them. She is pretty stuck up and looks down her nose at the Sci-Fi community. They are gorgeously written and most people, even Tepper fans, appear not to have heard of them. Diamond Age is also fantastic.
I know of nothing like it. I am now requesting Grass from my llibrary since that looks completely up my alley. So glad you mentioned Always Coming Home. Le Guin was the writer-in-residence at Kenyon College when I attended, around the time the book was published. The way she talked about experimenting with non-traditional narrative elements was inspiring. This makes the words on the page have a deeper meaning. Tepper is masterful at suspense, but she seems a little too comfortable with morality plays in which eugenics is a justifiable solution.
And Grass … wow. And I own three different iterations of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox books: individual paperbacks, print omnibus beautifully illustrated by Kaja Foglio, and digital omnibus. I wish I could get more backlist books in digital omnibus format. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain. Given your oervre wait, did I spell that right? Are you a Pohl fan? Nice have some reading to do. Two points: 1.
Wonder what you and others think of this. I always thought of the Hyperion trilogy as one book, too big to hold in your hand. Your statement that Hyperion is the setup and Fall is the story supports that. I guess writers need hard stops so things can get published and they can get paid, we pure consumers get to merge things together. I kept asking myself that was an odd plot feature how is he going to explain this without buckets of stupid leaking in. But he did and did it really well.
I finished it on the subway on my way to work one morning. I got off at the stop past where I was supposed to, weeping, and getting very strange looks from the other passengers. And Keats dying for like half the book. What a fantastic description of Perdido Street Station! And that first chapter of Snow Crash is definitely amazing.
The way Neal Stephenson uses language is just…well, you know. Bless you sir for informing me of the existence of a science fiction novel about pizza delivery. The science fiction elements are well thought out, but at its core the story is really a drama about a family that has been shattered by secrets and repeated tragedies and about the man who seeks to heal himself by healing them.
I first encountered it my freshman year of college, when it was assigned in a class. It was a relatively recent novel at the time, and I fell completely in love with it. Thanks for the list, many well loved books there and a few that I need to track down. I had to work to find the narrative, and my reward for the work was all that other material scattered throughout. It made me rethink story, rules, and how we choose what to pay attention to.
I now own multiple copies, one of which was personally signed for me by the author. She did a reading from A wrinkle in time. That was my first encounter with any sort of SF aside from Marvin the Martin perhaps I won a copy of the book and made Mom read me the whole story, as was not quite ready to read it myself. I loved it so. I also read everything by Heinlein and really liked Time enough for Love.
I even went so far to bave a heyiya-if an important symbol in the book tattooed on myself. Thanks for this. I have almost all of these in dead tree format, and love them, but this post gave me the urge to get them all in digital format, and since tomorrow is my birthday, I popped over to Amazon and bought everything I could get in ebook. Happy birthday to me! Great list. I agree wholeheartedly about the observation that Snow Crash has the best first chapter in modern SF. For several years, the tradition in my house was: Order pizza, begin reading Snow Crash chapter one out loud to all assembled.
I could usually bust it out in under the 30 minute window, but if the delivery guy got there before I finished, he got double tipped. As it was my finishing of The Human Division that had triggered my interest in re-reading the Foundation series.. I realized that in truth, sir, I am in a Scalzi vacuum. Lacking the supernatural powers to instantaneously squeeze another book from your head, I decided this very morning to ask the internet what SF books were most influential to you.
The 10 SF/F Works That Meant the Most to Me – Whatever
You clearly have anticipated my query by a few hours, no doubt due to your impressive precognitive abilities. Thank you for this insight into your mind and an enticing book list, half of which I have not read, to pluck from. As an author, Le Guin bridges the generational gap; The Left Hand of Darkness influenced me most, but she wrote so much good stuff afterward that anyone could find something specific to their age.
Anyway, thanks for your thought-provoking post, and for adding some more titles to my to-read list. My local bookstore thanks you in advance. Get a fresh start. Lorien Kite. Report a mispronounced word. Publishers have their faults but they do not forget anniversaries. This year in books, accordingly, was always going to have an elegiac tone, so dominated by the centenary of the first world war that it often felt like we were commemorating its early stages in real time — as indeed we were. Other milestones competed for our attention. The upheavals of — above all, Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall — were the subject of numerous well-received books.
Likewise the Napoleonic wars, with the looming bicentenary of Waterloo prompting publishers with an eye to the paperback to get their accounts of the battle out early. Occasionally, I did wonder whether some of the anniversaries might, in another time, have been allowed to pass unmarked. I regularly receive notifications of 30th, 15th, fifth, even seventh and third anniversaries — at which point, for me, the idea just seems to lose all meaning.
Journalists, of course, should be wary of memorialising. Going back to Dylan Thomas last month around the time of the centenary of his birth, I was grateful for the reintroduction; however arbitrary the reason, I am richer for it. And in a world of distractions, why not welcome any inducement to read? As for Very Hungry Caterpillar Day, you can sign me up for that when the half-century comes around. A preoccupation with the past is understandable right now: six years on from the financial crisis, western economies continue to struggle, populist forces are on the rise nearly everywhere and there is a pervasive sense of a social compact under pressure.
No one is going to turn to the literary editor for a decisive ruling on all of this but it seems fair to conclude that, while Piketty may not have settled the inequality debate, he has taken it into new territory: his opponents will be obliged to follow. Meanwhile, literary non-fiction was taking a personal turn. If this was a year for honouring the past and worrying about the present, it was also a time for speculating about what might be. And as the prize shortlists and review pages showed, serious novelists have clearly shed any inhibitions they might have once had about venturing into the speculative: David Mitchell, Howard Jacobson, Chang Rae-Lee and Michel Faber all did so to great effect in Elsewhere, the forces of progress captured the imagination.
Immortality was in the air, too, with the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari speculating in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity on what might happen if advances in bioengineering and artificial intelligence came together to vastly increase human lifespans and capabilities. But it was the strength of writing about mortality that really struck me in It is to our credit, surely, if that maxim no longer holds. Award-winning authors, FT editors and columnist on the titles to remember this year.
Catmull, a PhD student from the University of Utah, nurtured the dream of making the first computer-animated movie. To Richard Kerridge, British reptiles and amphibians are creatures as exciting, strange and savage as any African lion. It is not just a deeply informed natural history of these denizens of our countryside, but a paean to the small, the unloved, the forgotten and overlooked, all tangled up in a beguiling memoir of childhood, obsession and family life.
So must anyone who plans one day on becoming old themselves. The surgeon and writer forces us to look at mortality unflinchingly, telling us what is wrong with how we treat the old and dying — we revere their safety and we prolong life when it is cruel to do so — as well as explaining how we could do it better. Lawrence Wright has become a formidable technician of synthesis and narrative.
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The peace treaty goes on seeming wholly unattainable right up until the three men unscrew their fountain pens in the White House. Yet they signed, and the peace has held for 36 years. Although he has some hard — and funny — things to say about Ezra Pound, James is firmly committed to celebration. And this is what literary criticism, and literary pedagogy, should aim for: not to add a further encrustation of complexity, but simply to instil the readerly habits of gratitude and awe.
It is brainy, driven, funny, dark, idiosyncratic. I admit. I am one of those devoted fans of Haruki Murakami. Within pages, you are claustrophobically aware of how far he has stepped from his childhood self, fully alive in the company of his four closest friends; now he is sidetracked in a different, smaller life.
A nascent relationship forces him to follow the threads of his own past, beginning a journey through friendships, love, jealousy, sexual awakening and ambivalence, with just enough surreal dream projections to keep it unbalanced. The Austrian Peter Handke, no doubt one of the best and most influential authors in European literature of the past five decades, is back again with another masterpiece, the beautiful Storm Still Seagull Books. In my world, this novel is already a classic. But this is no populist hobby manual.
Light sets out to trace the lives of the virtually untraceable and in doing so uncovers the rich history of people who had no material wealth at all and therefore nothing to hand down to the genealogists. I had never read anything of hers, and it was a wonderful surprise. Lahiri skilfully shapes the political aspect of her story, effectively conveys the collision of two worlds, and vividly describes campus life in the United States.
But what in my view makes the book memorable is the character of Gauri. We get the banking systems we deserve or, more precisely, that our political systems choose. The US has had 12 systemic banking crises since , while Canada has had none. Better awareness of how the political forces work might lead to superior bargains. But this informative book does not leave the reader optimistic.
It is hard to shift bad political equilibria. Macroeconomics — the study of the economy as a whole — has got a bad reputation recently. But Dixit demonstrates in this accessible book that economists do at least know a great deal more than nothing about microeconomics: the study of markets, both their successes and their failures. In the second of two masterly volumes, Fukuyama shows how the difficult balance between the state, the rule of law and democratic accountability emerged, then developed and, more recently, started to decay in the west.
This is a work of political science, not of economics narrowly defined. But the issues Fukuyama raises are of profound concern to economists, too, because economic institutions affect and are, in turn, affected by the political systems in which they operate. Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and then Treasury secretary through the worst years of the financial crisis.
His book offers a lively account of what this felt like. Geithner also argues that the way the US handled the crisis, particularly its use of stress tests, is a model for the future. Sadly, he also believes that crises are sure to recur. Most people have little idea what economists and financiers are talking about. Lanchester, a best-selling author, has decided to remedy this by writing a provocative and personal reference book.
His definitions are not always correct but they almost always offer an amusing start. In this important book, the authors — one an economist, the other a psychologist — demonstrate both the human and economic costs of mental illnesses. These are far and away the most destructive set of ailments to fall on the young and middle-aged. Yet mental illnesses remain undertreated, if not altogether ignored, by health systems.
The case the authors make for ending this neglect is unanswerable. This is a splendid book on the European malaise. He warns that the eurozone is still far from healthy and that the German example, which members are supposed to follow, is a delusion. It is debatable whether this is a universal truth. But it is certainly true of the financial crisis of The authors argue, persuasively, for a shift from traditional debt towards contracts that share losses between the suppliers and users of finance. War: What is it Good for? Morris argues that war may bring peace, prosperity and progress. This is not always the case.
Some war is simply destructive. But through war, more powerful and effective states emerge and these in turn have produced the security that then allows people to become more productive. The thesis is disturbingly persuasive. In a nuclear age, however, it is clear that the great powers will have to try something else. Despite the controversies surrounding it, the book throws much light upon one of the most important questions in economics: what determines the distribution of income and wealth. With an abundance of data and some simple and powerful theories, Piketty has made an immensely important contribution to the public debate.
Dark Light of Mine. Dark Nemesis of Mine. Twisted Sister of Mine. Dearest Mother of Mine. Infernal Father of Mine. Sinister Seraphim of Mine. Wicked War of Mine. Dire Destiny of Ours. Aetherial Annihilation. Baleful Betrayal. Ominous Overworld. Insidious Insurrection. Conrad Edison and the Anchored World. Conrad Edison and the Broken Relic. Conrad Edison and the Infernal Design. Mars Rising. Hunter of Demons.
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Men And Beasts. The Burning World. Monster Born. Vampire Cursed. Getting Sideways. Stronger Than Magic. Finding Flame. Promise of Magic.
Taking Earth. Elements of Magic. By Fairy Means or Foul.
Damon Snow and the Nocturnal Lessons. Damon Snow and the Incubus Rake. Damon Snow and the Viscount Temptation.