When a new fan asked me for book recommendations, I realized it's been a while since I've freshened up my reviews, mostly due to the fact that I've been too busy writing to read! Then they asked me a great question: "What are the writers reading?"
Every time I hit a conference there are a handful of books everyone is talking about. And I mean, everyone; high fantasy, low fantasy, hard scifi, science fantasy, YA, agents, editors, authors, booksellers, fans, everyone telling me about the same books, no matter the genre. So in this series I offer you a list of the books I recommend over and over, not necessarily because I've read them, but because when the best in the industry tell you something, you listen.
The Windup Girl: Paolo Bacigalupi's dystopian biopunk novel has won numerous awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel. If the countless recommendations from agents and authors wasn't enough, the Windup Girl takes place in a 23rd century vision of one of my favorite countries, Thailand. I'd never heard of Paolo before this book and he's continued to pique my interest--most recently with his YA novel, Ship Breaker.
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest: In this expanded vision of the stunning A Circle of Cats, urban fiction master Charles de Lint combines his genre-defining skills with the mesmerizing art of Charles Vess. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest tells the tale of Lillian Kindred, a young girl whose life is saved when the cats of Tanglewood Forest turn her into a kitten. De Lint and Vess play off one another's considerable strengths to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It is a book I can not wait to share with my daughter.
Graceling: So many books on this list are from premier authors with exceptional skill and Kristin Cashore is no exception. Graceling takes place in a world where certain individuals possess extraordinary skills called graces. Someone can have a swimming grace, or a crafting grace, or an oratory grace. The main character, Lady Katsa, possesses a killing grace. My wife is a picky reader so when she tells me she enjoys a book, I listen. Unlike some series where the second book falls short, Graceling's sequel/prequel Fire is reputed to be even better than its predecessor.
Throne of the Crescent Moon: Euro-centric fantasy has been the staple of the genre since Tolkein and I'm always excited to see stories set someplace other than the mystic West. I've read and roleplayed in many eastern-inspired settings including AEG's Legend of the Five Rings, Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo and Travis Heermann's Heart of the Ronin, but Saladin Ahmed drops us in a world unique to modern fantasy publishing--The Middle East. Throne has been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, and recently won the 2013 Locus Award for Best First Novel. Though a unique and interesting setting draws attention, the special effects don't make the movie. Saladin's character development and world building skills are the foundation of this series and I can't wait to read more.
Don't forget to support your Friendly Local Bookstore. In the San Diego or Redondo Beach areas? Check out my favorite FLBS: Mysterious Galaxy.