Exquisite Corpse

Book Recommendations

Board Game List

This is a much longer list than I expected it to be. Well, you ask for book recommendations, you get book recommendations. Most of these books are science fiction or fantasy, with a few scattered other books that I particularly enjoy. The kinds of things I tend to enjoy: a tinge of humor (whether the book is entirely humorous or not), characterization and character-driven books, attractive use of language. Things I tend not to enjoy: two-dimensional characters, plot holes, predictability. You'll notice a lot of 7-10 ratings, since these are books I recommend, rather than any book I come across, but I put them in for some sort of relative ranking system. My descriptions are sometimes vague and useless. I try. I am also being more critical of these here than I usually am in my reading - playing up the bad points over the good. Eh.


Name   Tags
Best Known For   Start With
Rating   Description
Match By


Douglas Adams
Tags:SF, Humor
Best Known For:The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Series
Start With:The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Description:You've almost certainly read the H2G2 series already, but if you haven't: read it, if only so you'll understand towel references.
Robert Lynn Asprin
Tags:F, SF, Humor, Candy
Best Known For:The Myth series (F)
Start With:Another Fine Myth
Rating:8 pre-breakdown, 4 post
Description:Asprin is known mainly for the Myth series, some books about a young magician and the demon to which he is apprenticed, although he did write a few (non-humorous) standalone books and the Phule series (about a gang of science-fictional semi-mercenary semi-misfits). I enjoy the Myth series quite a bit. A warning, however: at one point (following Sweet Mythtery Of Life) his wife apparently left him and he had a several-year-long nervous breakdown. All the books of his I've read that he wrote after that were garbage. Stick to the earlier ones.
Iain Banks
Tags:SF, Singularity
Best Known For:The Culture Series
Start With:The Player Of Games
Description:The Culture Series covers an intergalactic civilization based on technology advanced enough that people can live anywhere and do anything with very very few limits. The Culture itself is absent-mindedly benevolent and politically correct by linguistic pre-determination, and the books all seem to revolve around some point of contact between it and other cultures. The books are deep and convoluted with complex themes and characters interacting in understandable but occasionally alien ways. Highly, highly recommended.
Dave Barry
Tags:Humor, Candy, Fiction
Best Known For:Newspaper Columns
Start With:Big Trouble
Description:I'm fond of Barry for the newspaper columns he used to write, but he also wrote a couple of fiction novels - Big Trouble and Tricky Business - that few people seem to have read which I'm trying to rectify. Both books are somewhat subtler than his booger-based columns, and are mostly situational rather than slapstick.
Peter Beagle
Best Known For:The Last Unicorn
Start With:The Last Unicorn
Description:The Last Unicorn is one of my comfort books. Once every few years I go back and reread it just to remember it clearly. The movie was quite good, but to get the full effect, read the book. Florid description, memorable phrases, and a hint of melancholy.
Alred Bester
Best Known For:The Demolished Man
Start With:The Demolished Man
Description:Bester is one of the classic SF authors, mentioned in the same breath with Heinlein and Silverberg and Sturgeon. I can't claim to love his works, but they are enjoyable and unstructured. I also recommend Psychoshop, which was written partially by Bester, completed by Roger Zelazny once Bester died, and found in Zelazny's notes and published after Zelazny died.
Patricia Briggs
Tags:F, Candy, Urban
Best Known For:Mercy Thompson series
Start With:Moon Called
Description:Patricia Briggs has apparently jumped into the Semi-famous Author category with the Mercy Thompson series. I liked her before that nyah nyah. In any event, she always provides a fun read.
David Brin
Best Known For:Uplift Series
Start With:Sundiver
Description:The concept behind the Uplift series is that there are many, many civilzations out there, each of which was created by another, older civilization (usually by taking some creature from their own / another planet and "uplifting" them - genetically re-engineering them to sentience), either for slaves, colleagues, or for some specific purpose. Into this mix comes humanity, who have (as far as people can tell) not been uplifted in this way and without the benefits of the vast databases of technologies and cultures that other civilizations possess as a matter of course. I also recommend, for a lighter read, The Practice Effect.
Stephen Brust
Tags:F, Faerie
Best Known For:Jhereg Series
Start With:Jhereg
Description:Yes, the books contain elves, but they're well worth reading anyway. There is a world that contains mostly and is run mostly by tall, long-lived, magically gifted beings called Dragareans, with a few other people (called "Easterners" by the Dragareans and "humans" by themselves) living and working within the society (and being discriminated against). The Dragareans are divided up into 17 houses, which usually share common personality traits and job functions. The "hero" of the books, Vladimir Taltos, is a human assassin in the Jhereg, the criminal house.
Lois McMaster Bujold
Tags:SF, F
Best Known For:Vorkosigan Series (SF)
Start With:The Warrior's Apprentice
Description:Bujold is probably my all-time favorite author. She started with the Vorkosigan series, which is science fiction, though lately she's switched to fantasy books. It's all well crafted and characterized (barring one of her earlier attempts at fantasy, The Spirit Ring, which is the one book of hers I recommend against reading). The Vorkosigan series in particular is based around the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, the brilliant, somewhat malformed son of one of his planet's great nobles (both in the high ranking sense and in the strength of character sense), and he has to battle his planet's prejudices and his own personal issues in order to make his own mark on the society instead of just being his father's son.
Emma Bull
Tags:F, Faerie, Urban, FSF
Best Known For:War for the Oaks
Start With:War for the Oaks or Bone Dance
Description:Emma Bull has written far too few books - 7 according to Wikipedia. They span a fair range - one's a historical fantasy western, one's a far-future science fiction epic, one's a post-apocalyptic voodoo-based world, and one's an our-world-but-with-faeries. They're all worth reading.
Jim Butcher
Tags:F, Urban, Candy, Faerie, Vampire
Best Known For:Dresden Files
Start With:Storm Front
Description:I understand that the Dresden Files have recently become a TV series, so you may be familiar with them from that. It's another our-world-but-with-secret-dangerous-magic. In it is a wizard named Harry Dresden, who lists himself in the yellow pages as "wizard". He usually gets prank calls and requests for love potions, but some of his cases are real and magical - and dangerous and complicated. A dash of gumshoe (in the wisecracking Philip Marlowe tradition), a dash of faerie, a dash of mysticism, and more wisecracking. Entertaining stuff.
Jo Clayton
Best Known For:Skeen Series
Start With:Skeen's Leap
Description:I like the Skeen series very much. A smuggler goes to a planet which has a one-way portal to another. The other world is filled with bits and pieces of the various races to have gotten sucked through the gate, reduced to the technology that they were holding when they went through and what they could build on the other side. Elaborate language and entertaining chapter headings - occasionally they go on for pages with the author musing to herself about what to put in the next chapter.
Glen Cook
Tags:F, E&D
Best Known For:The Black Company Series
Start With:Sweet Silver Blues (Garrett series)
Description:Glen Cook is odd. He writes either a) dark horrible fantasy worlds where people are pawns of higher powers who in turn are pawns of even higher powers, or b) the Garrett series, a light-hearted private eye series in a fantasy world. Both types of book are good reads for entirely differing reasons.
Greg Costikyan
Tags:F, SF, Humor
Best Known For:RPG games
Start With:Another Day, Another Dungeon
Description:Costikyan has written four novels (not counting the roleplaying games), each of which is funny semi-parody and each of which I keep wishing he'd continue (particularly the Cups & Sorcery series, which has been stuck at the end of the second book of what feels like four for more than a decade). The Cups & Sorcery series starts off as a D&D parody and moves toward a parody of bad fantasy novels. I particularly enjoy the crottled greeps - every now and again, the characters come across a restaurant serving crottled greeps, and every time they ask the cook / server gives a long, meaningful personal history with greeps which is entirely incompatible with all the other greep stories - greeps are fishes, greeps are flying creatures, greeps are four-footed mammals, etc.
Pamela Dean
Tags:F, Faerie, FOW
Best Known For:The Secret Country series
Start With:Tam Lin (standalone) or The Secret Country (Secret Country series)
Description:Pamela Dean is yet another author who hasn't written enough. My favorite book of hers is probably Tam Lin, based on the scottish ballad, which is set in an American university, revolves around a student getting her English degree, and which, if you removed the ending and maybe five pages scattered through the rest of the book, has no recognizable mystical influence of any kind. I also quite enjoy The Dubious Hills series, which involves a small group of schoolkids from our world who have been between them in the summers evolving a play / game / fantasy world of intrigue and Hamlet-like endings who at some point stumble upon a way into another world which is almost, but not exactly, just like their story.
Tom Deitz
Tags:F, Faerie, Urban, FOW
Best Known For:David Sullivan Series
Start With:Windmaster's Bane
Description:An 18-year-old from our world gets yanked into faerie and becomes heroic. The series starts with the Celtic mythos, and then starts spreading into Native American myths through obscure routes.
Diane Duane
Tags:F, Urban, YA
Best Known For:So You Want To Be A Wizard series (young adult fiction), The Middle Kingdoms series
Start With:The Door Into Fire
Description:There are some books that are targetted at "young adults", i.e. teenagers, which I feel are enjoyable to people of any age. Diane Duane writes many of these (the So You Want To Be A Wizard series), with a few adult-targetted books around the edges (the Middle Kingdoms series). Warning about the Middle Kingdom books, though - there's supposed to be four of them (The Door Into Fire, The Door Into Shadow, The Door Into Sunset, and The Door Into Starlight), but the fourth one is about 15 years overdue. The first three books seem to wrap up the series nicely, however - I don't really see the need for a fourth.
Michael Ende
Tags:F, YA
Best Known For:The Neverending Story
Start With:The Neverending Story
Description:Read it. The first movie is vaguely similar to the first half of the book, though the book is much better, and the second movie (yes, there was a second movie. it was crap) is a pale attempt at mocking the second half of the book. Read it now.
Eric Flint
Tags:SF, Historical, FOW
Best Known For:1632 series
Start With:Mother of Demons
Description:Eric Flint has made a career of writing books as one of a pair. He's written a good 20 books paired with other authors, and something like 2 by himself. They are almost all based around historical events. Mother of Demons is one of his few solo novels - a colony ship crashlands on an alien world and has to survive and build a civilization. It's written mostly from the standpoint of the aliens, who have an iron-age technology and who resemble large bipedal molluscs sans shell. Other series he's involved with are the Belisarius series, about the Roman general Belisarius and what happens when people from the far future send back a computerized intelligence to attempt to redirect the flow of history down a path more to their liking, and the 1632 series, about a small Midwestern town accidentally sent back in time to Germany in 1632. His books usually involve a person or people who is amazingly wonderful in all things, but I still like them.
Eve Forward
Tags:F, E&D, Humor
Best Known For:Villains By Necessity
Start With:Villains By Necessity
Description:Eve Forward has written only a couple of books. The one I like is Villains By Necessity. The premise is that the forces of light and good have won the great battle between good and evil and the world is becoming more and more a good and happy place to be. Now, before the world is overcome with light, a small band of plucky villains goes off to quest for a small set of mystic talismans needed to stop good's reign, bring back evil, and make the world safe for crooks, thieves, and murderers once more. It's sometimes simple parody, sometimes more complex parody, and sometimes seems to be trying to make grand statements about the nature of good and evil. It mostly fails at the last, but it still tries.
C. S. Friedman
Tags:F, SF, FSF, Vampire
Best Known For:The Coldfire series
Start With:Black Sun Rising (Coldfire series) or The Madness Season (standalone)
Description:Friedman excels in complex plots and highly detailed settings. The Madness Season, for example, is about a future world in which earth has been conquered by an alien race and one near-immortal man is attempting to drum up resistance to them... and things get complicated. I can't buy her science, but the story carries it along nicely.
Neil Gaiman
Best Known For:Sandman comic books
Start With:American Gods
Description:Gaiman is good at exactly what I like in books - strong characters and a touch of humor. He's written a number of novels, some short story collections, several screenplays, and a bunch of comic books. American Gods explores the idea that gods are created by humans thinking them up... and then, once created, they hang around. Its biggest weakness is that it ignores Christianity entirely, but once you just accept that the book is well worth picking up, as is anything else he is in any way involved with.
James Alan Gardner
Best Known For:League of Peoples series
Start With:Expendable
Description:It is the distant future. Humans have encountered alien races and intelligences of near-infinite power. In order to colonize other planets, planets need to be explored, but exploration is highly dangerous, especially when lessons learned on any planet may actively get in your way on the next one. Explorers die in droves. When attractive people die, they are missed and mourned. So, the government created the Expendables - those who are born deformed, who get trained as explorers and sent off to die.
Randall Garrett
Best Known For:Lord Darcy series
Start With:Too Many Magicians
Description:The Lord Darcy series is about an alternate Earth where magic is explored with scientific rigor. In it, in approximately Victorian times, is Lord Darcy, that world's Sherlock Holmes. It's a series of short stories that have been collected in several volumes. They're mysteries. They're good, if you like mysteries.
Peter Garrison
Tags:F, Complete Crap
Best Known For:Nothing, if I have my way
Start With:Shooting him in the face
Description:I have to take this opportunity in this series of 7-10 ratings to point you diametrically away from this guy's books. I read one of his series, somehow made it through the whole thing (due to inherent masochism and "it can't be as bad as I think it is!"), and then threw the books across the room as hard as I could. Awful characterization, gaping plot holes, nonsensical plots, wrapped up in an awful deus ex machina that's a blatant plea for another series / more money. Gah. Do not read.
Stephen Gould
Best Known For:Jumper
Start With:Jumper
Description:Another author who writes rarely but well. Jumper the book is nothing like the movie - it's far more of a character piece about the main character dealing with his father's alcoholism and abuse of him and his mother's departure... and then he finds out he can teleport.
Simon Green
Tags:F, FSF
Best Known For:The Nightside series
Start With:Blue Moon Rising
Rating:6, 8 for Blue Moon Rising
Description:Simon Green really likes to use the Bigger Hammer. Everything that any character in his books ever encounters is Vastly Powerful, More Powerful (And Usually Evil) Than Anything That Character Has Ever Encountered Before... until they meet the next person / creature, who can wipe the floor with the previous one without even trying. One does get a little tired of all the ancient and powerful beings and/or artifacts. Luckily, his main characters always have the one trait which allows them to solve all problems and kill anything, and usually have enough of a reputation to cause even the aforementioned Vastly Powerful Beings to draw back in fear. It does tend toward the repetitive. I do like Blue Moon Rising, though, as it was before this trait really solidified - there is some Bigger Hammer, but it isn't nearly as Big as it later became. Blue Moon Rising is about 1/4 fantasy parody and about 3/4 straightforward fantasy book. What can I say, I have a soft spot for senses of humor.
P. C. Hodgell
Best Known For:God Stalker Chronicles
Start With:God Stalk
Description:P. C. Hodgell enfuriates me. She writes approximately one book a decade to continue this series, and I don't think it will be ending any time soon. Still, the pieces she's completed by now are worth looking into. Darker fantasy with a female protagonist from a shadowed ancestry. An interesting take on deity, where the race the protagonist comes from not so much worshipping their god as being moved like pawns by him.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Tags:F, Urban
Start With:The Thread That Binds the Bones
Description:While her characters are a bit too powerful for their setting and her climaxes usually end up in solving a problem through emotional conversation rather than any sort of real confrontation, I like Hoffman, mostly due to the way she uses language.
Tom Holt
Tags:F, Humor
Start With:Expecting Someone Taller
Description:There seems to be a common set of attributes amongst British comedy science fiction / fantasy writers. Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, and others all fit into a similar mold in many ways. In any event, Tom Holt has written many books, more and more of which are becoming available in the U.S. Fantasy humor, varying in quality, but all at least readable, usually based on some form of mythological being or group taken into the present day.
Tanya Huff
Tags:F, Urban, Vampire, SF, Candy
Best Known For:Blood Books
Start With:Blood Price
Description:You can rely on Tanya Huff to write an entertaining story featuring characters with senses of humor and indomitable wills who never know when to quit and whose worst flaw is their inability to deal with their complicated love lives. Most of them are female, as well. The Blood books are a perfect example of this trend, revolving around a female dectective ex-cop with diminishing eyesight who encounters the mystical underbelly of Toronto with a vampire romance writer. I always buy her books when she comes out with a new one.
Barry Hughart
Best Known For:Master Li books
Start With:Bridge of Birds
Description:Three books! Why Hughart couldn't have put out 50 of these, I don't know. Due to problems with the publishers and the writing industry, he quit after three, which fact I continually hope will change. The series is set in ancient China, with many, though not all, of the myths of the day being true. In this world is Master Li, an elderly "sage with a slight flaw in his character", where the slight flaw is the fact that he's a ruthless conniving unprincipled brilliant drunken dectective, and his client / assistant Number Ten Ox, the narrator of the books in more of an active way than the Watson tradition. If you haven't read these, go! Do it now! You can thank me later.
Diana Wynne Jones
Tags:F, Urban, YA
Best Known For:Chrestomanci Series
Start With:Howl's Moving Castle
Description:Diana Wynne Jones is another reason I'm slightly resentful of the "young adult" label for books. She's written a number of serieses, mostly from the point of view of younger people, and all of it is well worth reading. She somewhat overuses the "main character with vast powers that they don't yet know they have" cliche, but when you can write the cliche better than she can I'll be willing to listen to your complaints about it, and not before.
Guy Gavriel Kay
Tags:F, Historical, FOW
Best Known For:The Fionavar Tapestry series
Start With:The Summer Tree
Description:Everything Guy Gavriel Kay writes is wonderful, without exception, deep and meaningful with brilliant characters and unexpected plots. He's responsible for the only unexpected inclusion of King Arthur I've ever read which didn't make me angry (and since I have read far, FAR too much within the Arthurian mythos over the years, this is quite an accomplishment). The Fionavar Tapestry itself is another group-of-people-from-our-world-brought-to-a-magical-world-to-fight-evil, but he handles it better than almost anyone else in this listing (possibly barring Pamela Dean's Secret Country series). Once you've read and enjoyed that: I consider it to be the weakest thing by him that I've read.
Nancy Kress
Tags:SF, Singularity
Best Known For:The Sleepless series
Start With:Beggars In Spain
Description:I used to be all about the Sleepless series, but I don't find it quite as appealing as I used to. It's good, and interesting, but I don't quite buy the characterization. Still, I look back on it fondly. The Sleepless series is about the world changing caused by genetic modification pre-birth, symbolized particularly to the public by the "Sleepless" modification which causes the modified person not to need sleep. Since only the very rich can afford this kind of modification for their kids, this causes public resentment of the growing differences between the haves and the have nots, and the Sleepless themselves, growing up in the middle of all this, have to deal with the ramifications of actions done to them.
Charles De Lint
Tags:F, Faerie, Urban
Best Known For:Newford Series
Start With:Dreams Underfoot
Description:De Lint was one of the authors who popularized the urban fantasy genre, based usually around the fictional city of Newford which seems to have odd bits of magic spilling out of the cracks in the sidewalk. He has a gift for description and characterization. The plot doesn't actually suffer but is a bit secondary to the description and characterization. Still, good stuff.
R. A. MacAvoy
Tags:F, Historical
Best Known For:Damiano series
Start With:Damiano (Damiano series) or Tea with the Black Dragon
Description:I'm torn. On the one hand, I enjoyed the Damiano series when I was younger, but these days I have no desire to return to it. I think the religious themes put me off. The Damiano series begins as the story of a young sorceror in Renaissance Italy trying to save his home city from the potential ravages of war, and moves in some odd directions from there. Tea with the Black Dragon, on the other hand, is the fantasy book with the least fantasy in it I've ever read. Both have their good points, but I can't recommend either unequivocably.
Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald
Best Known For:The Mageworlds Series
Start With:The Price Of The Stars
Description:The Mageworlds series feels vaguely Star Wars - it works on scientific principles except that some people can feel and potentially influence the flows of the universe. The main conflict is between the Adept worlds, which have the Adepts, a group of people who only follow the universal flows and who believe that changing said flows is blasphemous, and the Mageworlds, ruled by the Mages, who attempt to bend the universal flows to their desires. Space Opera, not quite at its finest, but a solid example of the genre.
John D. MacDonald
Best Known For:Travis McGee series
Start With:The Deep Blue Goodbye
Description:MacDonald wrote trash. There's no denying that. Trashy dectective books, full of sex and violence and murder and psychopaths. And yet... it's really good trash. The fact that he's one of the only non sf/f authors I reread on a regular basis is testament to that. There are whimsical and not-so-whimsical reflections on the progress of the world's affairs thrown in unexpectedly, the sex may be frequent but is never meaningless, and the main character actually changes slightly through the books (for the worse, mostly, but from his experiences, it's understandable). Travis McGee, the main character and narrator, lives on a houseboat and works only when he must. When he does work, he finds someone who has had something stolen from them, legally or otherwise. He risks his life and expenses, and if he recovers it, gets half the value from the owner. This always seems to lead to the aforementioned sex and violence. Give the first one a try.
Alistair MacLean
Best Known For:The Guns of Navarone
Start With:The Golden Rendezvous
Description:There are a few books by MacLean that I cherish, but I must admit that he wrote a lot of the same thing - action thrillers that all sound like each other. Still, it's not a bad writing style in that particular genre, and if that floats your boat, who am I to argue? The men/heroes are hard, the women/perfunctory love interests start out appalled by the hero's cold-bloodedness and then grow to understand that their actions are necessary, there's an older world-wise male figure to pat the women on the head and tell them they'll understand some day, all very formulaic.
George R. R. Martin
Best Known For:A Song Of Ice And Fire Series
Start With:A Game Of Thrones
Description:Go ahead and read the first book. Ignore the fact that it's the first book in a series - it's fine. You won't get sucked into an amazing world full of complex characterization and intriguing politicking and hints of magic around the seams and yet even still more pieces of characterization that makes you love the characters while knowing that they're both mortal and fallible until you look up and realize that you've finished the latest book and you're going to have to wait for what seems like forever until the next one comes out or anything like that. First one's free...
Patricia Ann McKillip
Best Known For:Riddlemaster series
Start With:The Riddlemaster Of Hed
Rating:10 (early books), 8 (other works, post, say, 1990)
Description:I did mention that I like flowery language, yes? McKillip's books are what I was thinking of when I said that. Her use of language is always very strong and interesting. However, in her later books, she's shown a distressing tendency for the plot to wrap itself up without the real need for the main characters to do much, leading me, at least, to wonder why the main characters had to be there in the first place. Still, the Riddlemaster series is still one of my favorite fantasy serieses, and I also quite enjoy The Forgotten Beasts Of Eld and the Throme of the Erril Of Sherril (which is more of a short novella than a full-length book, but never mind).
Robin McKinley
Tags:F, Vampire
Best Known For:Damar Series
Start With:The Hero and the Crown (Damar series) or Sunshine (standalone)
Description:I love Robin McKinley. I want to bear her children. I know this is physically impossible, but I want to do it anyway. Every few years I learn that she's come out with another book, and this fact makes me happy for days. She's written a half-dozen re-tellings of fairy tales (with not one but two different retellings of the Beauty and the Beast), a half-dozen books in worlds of her own making, and nothing else, damnit. Sunshine bears mentioning as a book that goes back and forth between vampires and baking (no, not baking vampires. Baking cookies and cakes.) and does it quite well.
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Best Known For:Liaden series
Start With:Agent Of Change
Description:I don't know why, but I feel vaguely ashamed of enjoying these books as much as I do. Possibly because I feel the books are slightly simplified - most people are either Good or Bad, with few shades of gray. Still, I like their world enough to accept this and move on. The tinge of odd humor helps. Science fiction with a slight mystical tinge around the edges - empathy is not uncommon, more powerful abilities to manipulate the world rare but not unknown.
Christopher Moore
Tags:F, Humor, Vampire
Start With:Bloodsucking Fiends
Description:Christopher Moore excels in writing books where a confused man from our world stumbles into an unexpectedly mystical situation and tries desperately to cope with it. Strange situations appear out of the woodwork. Bloodsucking Fiends itself is my favorite of his books, involving a young female who was just turned into a vampire, her wannabe writer boyfriend, his friends who bowl with turkies at the local supermarket late at night, and the Emperor of San Francisco. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is also worth reading as an intro to Moore.
John Moore
Tags:F, Humor, Candy
Start With:Slay & Rescue
Description:Another humorous fantasy author named Moore. Odd. This Moore's books are parodies of standard fairy tale tropes, particularly the sexual aspects of the tales. Sex-obsessed adolescent hero princes, "good girl" princesses who end up enjoying sex as much as they believe they shouldn't, that sort of thing. Not exactly deep and meaningful, but good for a laugh here and there and at least a wry smirk when they can't get a laugh.
James Morrow
Best Known For:Towing Jehovah series
Start With:Towing Jehovah
Description:How can you not enjoy a book that starts with god dying, falling into the ocean, and a supertanker captain being hired by the vatican to tow god's massive corpse to an iceberg tomb? It gets more interesting with the extremist atheists who want to destroy the body - after all, while god may be dead, His corpse is proof that they were wrong. As it might sound, he tends to write religious semi-satire - characters question morality in a world lacking god, that sort of thing. More meaningful than one might expect.
Eric S. Nylund
Start With:Pawn's Dream
Description:Nylund really likes his ubermenschen. Every book he's written that I've read (approximately five books, plus some Halo novelizations that I've ignored on principle) star a main character with some trait that he is The Best at which cause him to win in any situation, whether or not he is aware of this trait at the beginning of the book. I enjoy books featuring ubermenschen, don't get me wrong, but it is a bit wearing at times.
Tamora Pierce
Tags:F, YA
Best Known For:Tortall serieses
Start With:Alanna: The First Adventure
Description:Another author who writes books that are tarred with the young adult brush. Yes, they're for teenagers, but I still read them today, and with good reason. They almost always involve a young female character who is dealing with the consequences and responsibilities of their own great abilities, plus dealing with the prejudices of those around them. Also simplistic in the Good Versus Evil sort of way, but I can more easily excuse it in books for the young adult audience. She does like her lovable male rogues, though.
Terry Pratchett
Tags:F, Humor
Best Known For:Discworld series
Start With:Small Gods
Description:Terry Pratchett is about as iconic of a fantasy writer as possible - if you've read fantasy, you've heard of or read him. His books are mostly set on the Discworld, a world which started out being, in the first book, a straightforward fantasy parody, and swiftly mutated to allow Pratchett to make points about everything from religion to policework to rock and roll. The tone tends to be a bit predictable after you've read a few of them, but I'm currently re-reading the entire series with no regrets. Small Gods, to my mind, is the best of the series, where his humor, his tone, and his ability to make meaningful points are all at their peak.
Spider Robinson
Best Known For:Callahan's series
Start With:Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
Description:Spider Robinson is all about empathy. Almost everything I've seen by him revolves around understanding and communicating with other beings, and most situations, in the end, boil down to various people being empathic / telepathic with each other in order to solve problems. If you're good with this, you're good with him. He does it quite well - interesting situations and characters. A lot of punnery. I'm strangely ambivalent about his writing just at the moment, but every time I pick one of his books up, whether or not I've read them before, I enjoy the hell out of it, so there you are.
Matt Ruff
Tags:SF, Humor
Best Known For:Sewer, Gas & Electric
Start With:Sewer, Gas & Electric
Description:How can you not enjoy a satiric near-future book that prominently features a holographic AI version of Ayn Rand in a lava lamp?
John Scalzi
Tags:SF, Humor (Android's Dream)
Best Known For:Old Man's War series
Start With:Old Man's War or The Android's Dream
Description:A friend of mine described John Scalzi as "a funnier version of Charles Stross", which will only mean something to you if you've read Charles Stross. Scalzi is a long-time blogger turned SF writer, and his writing tends to the sort of breezy humorous tone that frequently characterizes blog writing. I particularly enjoyed The Android's Dream, which starts in a strange place and moves through strange logical steps to a strange conclusion. His aliens are very human, though whether that is a plus or a minus depends on your perspective.
James H. Schmitz
Tags:FSF, YA
Best Known For:The Witches of Karres
Start With:The Witches of Karres
Description:I think of Schmitz as a young adult writer, although his books aren't really sold with that market in mind. Much of his writing has the standard traits of that type - generally youthful main characters, slightly simplistic worldviews, said youthful main characters having Vast And Unprecedented Powers, etc. Still, his writing has been cited as an influence by quite a number of today's writers. And it's just fun to read. More power to him. Well, to his skeletal remains, anyway.
Eluki Bes Shahar
Best Known For:Hellflower series
Start With:Hellflower
Description:I just found out that Eluki Bes Shahar is a pseudonym for another author whose works I don't like. Huh. In any event, I like these - they're a futuristic journey involving honor, illegal artificial intelligences, backstabbing, and general interestingness.
Will Shetterly
Tags:F, Faerie, Urban, SF
Start With:Witch Blood
Description:I have lamented repeatedly in this listing about authors who have written tragically few books. Well, Will Shetterly is another one, with nine books written over the past 25 years. They cover a fair range of genres, from high fantasy to modern urban fantasy to semi-distopian dectective science fiction, but all share, again, that tinge of humor I find so appealing.
Sharon Shinn
Tags:F, FSF
Best Known For:Samaria series or Twelve Houses series
Start With:Archangel (Samaria series) or Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses series)
Description:I like Sharon Shinn's ideas. She makes a good thing out of coming up with an interesting idea for the world and then populating that world with well-rounded characters in adventurous situations. Every book I've read by her does revolve around some sort of romace, but if that's your cup of tea, then you can rely on it being a well done romance.
Neil Stephenson
Best Known For:Snow Crash
Start With:Snow Crash
Description:Stephenson writes odd books. They are packed with interesting characters, settings, and situations, rising up to some dramatic climax, at which point, if you're lucky, the book ends with perhaps a page to wrap things up. If you're not lucky, the book ends at or just before the climax. It's enfuriating. Still, he writes well enough that I read his works anyway, so perhaps that's a good sign.
Charles Stross
Tags:F, SF, FSF, Singularity, FOW
Best Known For:Laundry series (FSF) or Merchant Princes series (F / FOW)
Start With:The Atrocity Archives (Laundry) or The Family Trade (Merchant Princes)
Description:Charles Stross is all over the map. He's written hard far-future space opera, near-future during-the-singularity science fiction, parallel world semi-fantasy, and fantasy spy-thriller semi-parodies. It's all brilliantly done.
Sheri S. Tepper
Tags:F, SF, FSF
Best Known For:Feminist fantasy / sf books
Start With:King's Blood Four
Rating:9 (True Game Series), 7 (other books)
Description:Sheri S. Tepper is very well-known for her feminist fantasy / science fiction, and all of it is well written, but my favorite series of hers is the first one, where her feminist leanings had barely started to make their presence known. In it, most people have some sort of "talent" - shapeshifting, visions of the future, healing, raising the dead, etc. - which they use to play "The True Game", an elaborate game of life and death.
Harry Turtledove
Tags:F, SF, Historical
Start With:Between the Rivers
Description:Harry Turtledove has been called "The Master of Alternate History" for a reason. Whether science fiction or fantasy, almost everything he's written takes our world's history and either mutates it to see "what would happen if..." or just straight out places it within another setting. This makes his books seem very real - they're based enough on things that actually happened that he can easily describe them in realistic terms. His writing can be a bit dry occasionally, reading out background rather than showing it in memorable ways, but by and large, it's well worth the effort.
Joan D. Vinge
Best Known For:Snow Queen series
Start With:Psion
Description:Deeply, deeply depressing, yet very moving. I can't help thinking that Vinge hates her characters for some reason, or else why would she mistreat them like that? I can't understand why - her characters are interesting, well-rounded, sympathetic, and develop well over the course of the narrative.
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Tags:F, FSF
Best Known For:Ethshar series
Start With:The Misenchanted Sword
Description:Lawrence Watt-Evans writes interesting plots, but his characters don't move me. They tend to blend in with eachother - almost all of his main characters have the same over-controlled blase conversational style and react similarly to their various situations. If you can get past the feeling that you've seen these people before, however, the variance in what goes on will keep you entertained for at least the first few books of his you read.
David Weber
Tags:F, SF
Best Known For:Honor Harrington series
Start With:On Basilisk Station
Description:David Weber has made quite a name for himself off of the Honor Harrington books, and I can see why - they're well-done military sf, Horatio Hornblower turned female and dealing with interplanetary wars and space piracy. You can rely on one person in whatever he writes being The Great Hero / Heroine Who Guides Others To Victory Over The Foe, but that's hardly limited to his writing alone. He's very militarily inclined - everything I've read by him in some way involves large troop movements and battles - and his background in military history definitely strengthens the military side of his writing (though sometimes at the expense of in-depth characterization).
Martha Wells
Best Known For:Ile-Rien series
Start With:The Element of Fire
Description:For some reason, Martha Wells seems to be a relative unknown, and I must confess that this puzzles me. Her writing is quite impressively entertaining - her characters are vibrant and interesting, she's got natural-sounding but snappy conversations and intriguing plots, her worlds are complex and exciting but internally consistant, and she's good at breaking conventions - not in any obvious way, but there are large numbers of subtly stereotype-breaking elements throughout her works. And yet, despite all this, I rarely see any books by her at all in bookstores. She hasn't written terribly much, maybe that's it, only seven books altogether so far. Pfeh.
Donald Westlake
Tags:Fiction, Humor
Best Known For:Dortmunder series
Start With:The Hot Rock
Description:Westlake is a sadist. He seems to put real effort into tormenting his characters, notably John Dortmunder, the world's unluckiest criminal. In almost every book in the series, Dortmunder gets presented with bizarre things to steal and more bizarre reasons to steal them, and in each one things go from bad, to worse, to worse, to worse yet. His books, at least in the Dortmunder serious, are funny in a wonderfully strange and inventive way. The Hot Rock, as an example, features Dortmunder and his cast of friends attempting to steal a gem for the ambassador of a small African country... over and over again, with the reason it has to get re-stolen becoming more and more elaborate each time.
Patricia C. Wrede
Tags:F, Candy, YA
Best Known For:Lyra Series
Start With:Shadow Magic
Description:See the review for Patricia Briggs. Not that you need to, I could reprint it here, but I feel like making you work for your review. No need to thank me.
Timothy Zahn
Best Known For:Star Wars Books
Start With:Cobra
Description:I got introduced to Timothy Zahn through his Star Wars books, and I was amazed to learn that, unlike any other books set in the world of a movie, TV show, or game, they were actually quite good. When I came across his non-Star Wars books I was even more impressed. His climaxes always involve the main character figuring out some fact or plan that makes everything well again (or at least, as well as can be expected under the circumstances), but that's hardly an objectionable trait as far as I'm concerned - I'm into the intellectual rather than physical solutions to problems myself.
Roger Zelazny
Tags:SF, F, FOW
Best Known For:Amber Series
Start With:Nine Princes In Amber
Description:What can I say about Zelazny that others haven't said before me? Many people, including me, grew up with his books, which frequently, though not inevitably, invloved mythological beings from any mythology combined with modern voice and sensibilities. The Amber series, probably his best-known works, showed infinite worlds, all, in varying degrees, descended from the one central world of Amber. Members of the family of the one who drew the Pattern at the center of Amber could walk the Pattern and then travel to any of the infinite worlds of creation with little difficulty or effort. Since this ability provides near-unstoppable power, and members of the family were, on top of this, immortal physical powerhouses, most of the conflicts are interfamilial.

Tag Explanations

These books are entertaining, but with no deep meaning or lasting significance of any kind. Read them for fun, but don't expect to be overwhelmed.
The world of the books is based off of Tolkien's world (intentionally or unintentionally).
This author writes fantasy novels.
The world of the books is based off of the fae of medieval Western Europe (mischevous and arrogant) rather than the Tolkien model of elves (wise and beautiful and kindly).
This author writes books that are neither fantasy nor science fiction.
FOW - One or more books by this author involve a theme widespread enough to be cliche
"a person or a few people from our world gets yanked accidentally into another world that works by different rules and work to save that world from some overarching menace". The different rules are usually fantastical but may be science fiction based.
This author writes books that combine fantasy and science fiction in the same book or straddle the divide between them.
This author writes books that are based on Actual Historical Events (usually given a fantastical or science fictional spin).
These books exist mostly to be funny (rather than books that are sometimes humorous but which that is not the main focus)
This author writes science fiction books.
There is an SF concept which involves the Singularity, the point at which people either figure out how to upgrade their own intelligence or to write AIs which can write more intelligent AIs. In either case, the theory goes, intelligence will continue to spiral upwards, producing more and more changes to our society and technological base, until the point at which society becomes entirely unrecognizable and possibly ununderstandable from where we currently live. Singularity books attempt to write about either this concept or what happens to life on the other side.
This auther writes urban fantasy books, books set in the modern world with fantastical elements involved.
This author writes books that star or revolve around vampires (although they are usually slightly different from the classical / Stoker vampires in some way).
This author writes books aimed at teenagers (I may still enjoy them, but I'm not the primary target).