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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-04-30 09:23
Subject: [books] Favorites - I'll show you mine if you show me yours
Security: Public
Tags:books, culture, writing
pauljessup mentioned my favorite book in comments earlier. That would be Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe Amazon | Powells ]. Granted there are a number of other books (or series) I love, some of them beyond reason, Shadow is still my favorite.


Because it was the book that opened my eyes to what could be done with story telling, with language, with erudition and wit. Because every time I read the book and its in-series sequels, they challenge my intellect, expand my vocabulary, make me think about both the largest questions and the smallest, and most of all, give me the chills. Because it's a damned good book.

Other stories/books/series which have set barbs deep in my reading mind:

"Story of Your Life"
"Theo's Girl"
City of Saints and Madmen
Miles Vorkosigan
A Song of Fire and Ice
The Einstein Intersection
Fifth Head of Cerberus
Vellum and Ink

What's your favorite book (or series)? Why?
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User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-30 16:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've got a couple of favorite series. Hornblower has been a favorite for going on 30 years. Yes, I saw the Gregory Peck movie first. Make of that what you will. ;-) (I think it's time to reread them, in fact.)

My more modern favorite is still Bujold's Vorkosigan series. They're some of the first books I started reading after I started writing for publication. I think I appreciated them much more because of that than if I'd read them with only my reader's sensibility. I love falling into Mile's world. It's like a water slide ride at Schlitterbahn. You never know where the curves are going to take you or when you're going to find yourself half-drowned and slammed up against the side of the flue, but you just go with it and wind up with a huge smile on your face all ready to run back and get in line to do it again.
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User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-30 16:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh! And Rachel Caine's Weather Wardens (they're about a once a year reread for much the same reason - a fun ride!).

Oh! And Tea With a Black Dragon.

Oh! And just about anything by Dumas.

Mysterious Stranger.
Foundation (until the Robot merging, that didn't work very well for me.)
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User: hundakleptisis
Date: 2007-04-30 16:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One book that haunts me because it was so well written is Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo.

Still creeps me out.

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User: mizkit
Date: 2007-04-30 16:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"The Father-thing" by PKD is one of my favorite short stories ever. I read it for the first time when I was...under 10, and it Creeped. Me. Out. Continues to do so. I think it's just really well written.

Similarly with Bradbury's "The Veldt", which I both read and saw and which made a deep impression on me at a tender age. I also still deeply adore Greg Bear's story "Sisters", though when I re-read it as an adult I could see craft issues that I couldn't the first time I read it. Didn't really matter: I still think it's a fantastic story.

I can safely say that The Dark Is Rising Sequence, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Chronicles of Prydain deeply affected me as a writer and probably as a person. I love all of them dearly, but they all have one nasty flaw in common: The Magic Goes Away. I do not like stories in which the magic goes away. They're listed there in the order of my fondness for them, with the end of the Prydain books earning such passionate dislike that I will not read the final chapter. It is not, I think, coincidence that I write stories in which the magic comes back.

I can, and have, and will re-read TIGANA over and over. I know there are people who just cannot read GGK, but that book is as close to perfect for me as a reader as anything I've ever encountered. The relationships, the scope, the inevitability of the conclusion, the story twist at the end, and then just the language he uses as a writer. I can't do it. I would *love* to be able to write just one book like that. Man.

C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy taught me more about good villains than anything I've ever read. I'd give my eyeteeth to write one character as good as Gerald Tarrant.

And I'll take A Song of Fire and Ice, too, if I may. You want to talk about scope, and about turning expectations on their ear. Man.

I could probably go on for a while, but I'll stop now. :)
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miki garrison
User: mikigarrison
Date: 2007-04-30 18:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The same short stories as mizkit, plus:

Half the stories in the "Young Mutants" and "Young Extraterrestrials" anthologies -- I'd bet that I checked those books out of the library more often than any other book, growing up. Oh, and Jean Karl's "Strange Tomorrow".

Greg Bear's "Eon" -- I was still in grade school when it came out, and it was the first SF book I'd read that had women that seemed real to me. Re-reading it now is quite a bit different, but I still enjoy it.

Julian May's Milieu/Pliocene books, but especially "Jack the Bodiless". I'll grudgingly admit that the writing here has its issues, but these books have "clicked" for me more than just about anything else I've ever read. And they definitely make me think.

Jane Lindskold's "Child of a Rainless Year". There are some books out there (like anything by Gene Wolfe other than Shadow of the Torturer) where the prose simply overwhelms the story for me. And of course, there are loads of books where story massively overshadows the prose. This is the book that found what was for me, the perfect balance.

The Empire books that Ray Feist and Janny Wurts collaborated on, starting with "Daughter of the Empire". I'm not sure exactly how to put it all into words the "why" of this one, other than that it has a lot to do with the characters and with risk-taking.
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User: jimvanpelt
Date: 2007-04-30 17:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There's probably an interesting correlation between how a writer answers this question and the kind of stuff she/he writes. Not that the list would be the kind of stuff the writer writes, but that the writing would be a reaction to it.

When the story is read makes a difference too. A PRINCESS OF MARS was absolutely everything I could handle, and it certainly did everything Jay listed in his original post, when I was ten.

Here's my list:

Mythago Wood - Robert Holdstock
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert Heinlein
The Lord of the Rings, and "A Leaf by Niggle" - J.R.R. Tolkein
The Martian Chronicles (and a zillion other stories) - Ray Bradbury
"Hitler Painted Roses," "Croatoan," (and many other stories) - Harlan Ellison
Lincoln's Dreams, Passage, To Say Nothing of the Dog (and others) - Connie Willis
"The Dead Boy at Your Window" - Bruce Holland Rogers
The Dead Zone, The Stand (and others) - Stephen King
"Fondly Farenheit" - Alfred Bester
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula le Guin
A Princess of Mars (and the rest of the Mars books) - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Earth Abides - George Stewart
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russ: watchmen
User: goulo
Date: 2007-04-30 17:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Shadow of the Torturer, for the same reasons.

Samuel Delany's stuff for similar reasons, starting with Nova probably just because it was the first of his I read. Also for being among the first sf I read dealing with themes of alternate sexuality.

Watchmen (Alan Moore), for being very clever and engrossing, and also for showing me that comics can be great literature.

Frankenstein and Dracula, for being early proto-sf, written in epistolary/journal/verbose style.

Cities in Flight (James Blish), for being cool space sf which also felt very epic and meaningful to me.

Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) (you didn't say it had to be sf), for being so long and sprawling with characters and tragic doomed romance balanced with finding meaning in life.

The Bear (William Faulkner) for being so challenging and like an intellectual puzzle, yet still emotionally engrossing.

Orlando Furioso (Ariosto) for being a huge sprawling fantasy chivalry adventure from centuries ago that inspired me to read it twice (in prose translation and in poetry translation) and indirectly sparked all sorts of creative ideas.

El la Vivo de Bervala Sentaŭgulo for being the first novel I read in Esperanto, and quite entertaining and bawdy.

Nudpieda Gen (translation of Japanese manga) for being a moving autobiographical story about a family in Hiroshima, and the first Esperanto work to make me cry.

No doubt more I'm not thinking of now...
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User: shsilver
Date: 2007-04-30 17:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

  • Citizen of the Galaxy, by Robert Heinlein
  • "Death in Vesunna," by Harry Turtledove & Elaine O'Byrne because it is a nice, brief treatment that demonstrates that earlier men aren't stupid just because they lack technological achievement.
  • Dictionary of the Khazars, by Milorad Paviç
  • Lamb, by Christopher Moore (or most any of his other books)
  • The Little Country, by Charles de Lint
  • Perfume, by Patrick Süskind
  • Sherwood, by Parke Godwin
  • Towing Jehovah, by James Morrow
  • "The Wheels of If," by L. Sprague de Camp
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-04-30 17:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I probably should have listed Milorad Paviç. Khazars was mindblowing for me.
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Jess Nevins
User: ratmmjess
Date: 2007-04-30 17:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My favorite series remains Patrick O'Brian's The Aubreyad. Moving, lyrical, subtle, witty, and it has one of my favorite characters of all time, Stephen Maturin. Plus I'm a sucker for happy endings, or at least deserved ones, and the Aubreyad has that in spades.

Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes was my constant companion for years in my twenties. I'm afraid to go back to it now, for fear that it will disappoint me in some way.

Ouida's Under Two Flags, which is a perfect example of how, as a writer, to do all the small things wrong and yet somehow make them work splendidly.

John Clute's two encyclopedias, which for me are the ideals that I strive for--I'll never reach them, but I'm content to strive for them--in reference books.
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Paul Weimer
User: princejvstin
Date: 2007-04-30 22:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My favorite series remains Patrick O'Brian's The Aubreyad.

I've never heard them described thusly. One of these days, I should read them.
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robin catesby: electrophone
User: deedop
Date: 2007-04-30 18:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've a feeling I'd probably add several of the books from your list onto my list when I've a chance to read them. (I've chomping at the bit to get my hands on both City of Saints & Madmen and Vellum for ages, and I've not yet had the chance.)

Shadow of the Torturer, Lathe of Heaven and Ubik all have a special place in my heart for being the first three books I read in my first college level SF class, after years of not knowing one thing from another and making bone-headed mistakes like "oh, I heard Heinlein's supposed to be good -- I'll try this copy of Friday.

After that, let's see...

The Stress of Her Regard for introducing me to Tim Powers.
As She Climbed Across the Table ditto, Jonathan Letham.
The Greatest Slump of All Time (David Carkeet) -- my favorite baseball novel of all time.
Good Omens
The Daughter of Time

We're in the middle of A Song of Fire and Ice right now. It's too early to add it to my all-time favorites just yet, but I will say that Tyrion Lannister is well on his way toward making my fictional character top ten list.
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User: hijhinckx
Date: 2007-05-03 05:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Tyrion and Miles Vorkosigan - I rather think they might enjoy going out to the pub together occasionally. Can you imagine the devilment the two of them could get into....
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Jonathan Wood
User: thexmedic
Date: 2007-04-30 18:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Perdido Street Station" by China will always have a special place in my heart for opening up to me everything fantasy could be, after I'd abandoned fantasy in favor of scifi, despite it always being my first love. Finally fantasy that actually seemed fantastical to me... ah, the bliss.

After that came "Storm of Wings" by M. John Harrison which stretched me further than anything I've ever read. The way you could feel him reaching for every word. The way that there is not one single magical spell in the whole damn book. Loved it.

"The Etched City" by K. J. Bishop. I can't claim to have understood it all, but here was someone using fantasy for a reason, not just because it was cool. I know many other writers do that too, but I really felt it in this book.

Recently, Ursula Pflug's story "The Python" blew the back doors off my mind. Just the way she uses language and her images, how she could depart from reality totally and yet still find a way back with a truth of feeling and emotion that touched me deeply.

Plus, pretty much any anthology that Forrest Aguirre put together. Because they're cool, that's why.
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J Erwine - writer/editor
User: jerwine
Date: 2007-04-30 19:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Dan Simmons Hyperion showed me what story telling could be in science fiction. I had always enjoyed SF stories, but when I read that, I realized that (and I'll probably be publicly flogged for this) SF could be "literary" as well as being an enjoyable read.

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scarlettina: Book love
User: scarlettina
Date: 2007-04-30 20:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Book love
"Story of Your Life" and "Hell is the Absence of God" both wrecked me when I read them and I still go back to them again and again. I even wrote a story in response to "Story of Your Life" that I may have workshopped too much but which will see the light of day eventually. That story pushes my buttons not only as a writer and a genre reader but as someone who is a sucker for stories about the relationships between parents and kids.

I'm also a lover of A Song of Ice and Fire.

I go back to Spider Robinson's Callahan stories every couple of years mostly because of their humanity. And I like his narrative voice.

You didn't say whether we should limit our comments to the genre, so I'm assuming not. I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was, I think, 12 and I read it again every year or so. Some of it has to do with language. A lot of it has to do with character. Some of it has to do with its quiet wit that many people seem to miss.

Lastly, I'll mention Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." You could teach a writing class on that one novella and still not cover everything the story has to offer.
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Douglas Cohen
User: douglascohen
Date: 2007-04-30 20:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'll play. Keeping it speculative, here's the stuff that truly blew/blows my mind (no order, except the first one):

--A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George Martin
--DUNE by Frank Herbert
--the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard (first fantasy I ever read)
--ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card (not including A WRINKLE IN TIME, this was the first sf I ever read).
--DAWN by Octavia E. BUTLER
--LEGEND by David Gemmell
--The Zothique Tales by Clark Ashton Smith (Jay, if you haven't read these, Gene Wolfe's New Sun books trace their lineage Jack Vance's DYING EARTH stories, and DYING EARTH traces its lineage back to Clark's Zothique Tales).
--THE DYING EARTH by Jack Vance

These next two are far from the same caliber of writing as the others I've mentioned (IMO), but I must confess that I grew up on the fat epic fantasies, reading as many as I could get my hands on during high school. Robert Jordan's early Wheel of Time books & Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule both made me forgo many hours of sleep. I'd probably still enjoy these books if I went back and gave them another read, but the later stuff just doesn't do it for me.

Funny how I've read more far more fantasy, and yet most of my favorite speculative books are in fact science fiction.
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Douglas Cohen
User: douglascohen
Date: 2007-04-30 20:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, and also put me down for "The Hotel Astarte" by M.K. Hobson, in the latest issue of RoF.
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User: ex_frankwu
Date: 2007-04-30 22:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Junior" Robert Abernathy
"City" Clifford Simak
"The Sound of Summer Running" "The Foghorn" "The Rocket Man" Ray Bradbury
"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" and "Croatoan" and "The Executioner of Malformed Children" and "On the Slab" by Harlan Ellison
"I See a Man Sitting on a Chair and the Chair is Biting His Leg" by Ellison and Robert Sheckley
"Shape" Robert Sheckley
"The Disambiguation of Captain Shroud" Gary Shockley
"Before Paphos" Loretta Casteen
"In the Late December" Greg Van Eekhout
"Plenty" Christopher Barzak
"Forever War" Joe Haldeman
"Mysterious Island" Jules Verne
"Sergeant Chip" Bradley Denton
"Biographical Notes to ‘A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes’ by Benjamin Rosenbaum", Ben Rosenbaum
"Last of the O-Forms" Jim Van Pelt
"Empire of Ice Cream" Jeffrey Ford
"They're Made Out of Meat" Terry Bisson
"Even the Queen" Connie Willis
"The Ugly Chickens" Howard Waldrop
"Liar!" Asimov
"Beggars in Spain" Nancy Kress
"Flowers for Algernon" Daniel Keyes
"Love is the Plan - the Plan is Death" "Last Flight of Dr. Ain" "And I Awoke and Found Me on the Cold Hill's Side" James Tiptree Jr.
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