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Robin McKinley's Journal
. . . even more books

It’s been a long day and I’m going to be sliding relentlessly and ingloriously under the table here shortly:


Nevil Shute. I like his stuff enough to have chased down every one of his books. One of my favorites is "Trustee from the Toolroom" -- about a so-called ordinary man who has the most extraordinary adventures saving his niece's inheritance both from the bottom of the ocean and from evil tax collectors.


"The Legacy" -- aka "A Town Like Alice" -- is about a woman who doesn't whine about what she wishes her world was like, but goes out and makes it so. Very inspiring.



Here are a few more names for the book list: Ursula Le Guin, absolutely. John M. Ford, "The Dragon Waiting," an alternate history about Richard III.


Yes.  This is a terrific book.  Despite a certain harrowing I-don't-do-this-in-fiction scene early on.  And another book I would have said insufficiently well known.


 Ross Thomas, whose books are more thrillers than mysteries, with a fair amount of black humour and an appropriately cynical view of the world.


Yes.  I had a Ross Thomas era.  It’s faded, but I’ve kept a few favourites.  Missionary Stew, Seersucker Whipsaw, Yellow Dog Contract. . . .  I’ve also read all the Oliver Bleecks.


 And Raymond Chandler, also absolutely.


Absolutely.  I adore Chandler.  ADORE.  He may be third on the list of My Influences after Tolkien and Kipling, although there’s some competition for that spot.  His plots suck and his women suck harder (so to speak).  I love him anyway.  I f------- worship him.  Nobody has style like Chandler has style.  I would kill any number of sweet little old ladies to be able to turn a phrase like he does.  Mind you, my own style suits me a lot better than Chandler’s would, and even I know that.  And furthermore the first thing I’d do with it is clean up his women which would probably spoil the effect.  Never mind.  (And about influences:  no, not a lot of women, not till a lot later.  I didn’t discover Rosemary Sutcliff till I was a grown up, for example.  First woman writer really knocked me down and sat on me was probably George Eliot.  I like Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss.  Middlemarch is a comfort book.  Okay, I am a sick puppy.  I read stuff like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Caddie Woodlawn and Anne of Green Gables when I was a kid, but they never did anything for me.  And—Heresy Alert—I have never read the Little House on the Prairie books.  I got maybe halfway through the first one and bailed.)


 And for non-fiction, anything by John McPhee.


Oh my.  We don’t dare get started on nonfiction.  I know he’s not only about the natural world, but I think of McPhee there first, so I then think of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and—another writer who is far from natural-world-exclusive—Stephen Jay Gould.  Barry Lopez, especially Arctic Dreams and Wolves. Farley Mowat, especially Never Cry Wolf.   Lots more . . . and then there are the Brits. . . .


The author I haven't seen mentioned is Martha Wells. She writes wondefully strong, capable women who save themselves and terrific dialogue. And she hasn't written the same book twice. I really think you'd love her, too. I make a point in buying her stuff in HB as soon as it comes out.



Lee & Miller's A Conflict of Honors? It's TOS in space (but good fun, withall: I love the Liad stories)


What’s TOS?  Testosterone on Speed.  Taramosalata Over Spaghetti. . . .


For the most part I'm playing quiet lurper (creeper+lurker=lurper)


Sorry, have I asked you this before?  (Have I posted this before?  Arrrgh.)  What’s a creeper?


 on this blog, I was inspired to say that for me at least, that is exactly what Deerskin does. I have some (not too bad) depression issues,


I’m glad they’re ‘not too bad’ if you have to have them at all, but Beware the Deadly Belittling Thing.  We all do it.  (Okay, maybe only almost all.)   If it hurts it hurts.


 and it's one of the books I turn to. I was at home last time it was a problem, and my mom saw me reading it and said something along the lines of "why on earth are you re-reading that book *now*??"(she's read most all of yours too, usually when I finish and hand them to her), to which I had to explain that yes, it's heartbreaking to start with, but then it's all hope and healing, and really, nothing could be better- and thank you for it.


Thank you.  That’s the idea.  Always extremely glad to hear when it works like that for someone.


 Wow... thats probably about the third longest speech I've ever made with the word 'depression' in it. But on the topic of other people's books, I concur with the Tamora Pierce, and while I haven't gone through everything, I really like Terry Pratchet and Simon R. Green. Then there's Kurt Vonnegut (esp. Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-five)


. . . and Cat’s Cradle


 and Walden Two by B.F. Skinner, but in those you are distinctly out of the realm of fantasy. I also love Howl's Moving Castle- even the movie is good, if you go in with the expectation that the director said "hey that's a cool idea" and then went in a completely different direction.



 second and third Sharon Creech: Love that Dog. I read it a few months ago and felt it was one of those books you can't categorise (often a good thing :)) but so perfect that there was nothing that I would want to change... except I wish I'd written it. A small, sparkling gem of a book.


Has anyone mentioned Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy, which I started reading when I was twelve, and just absorbed. I read it so fast I had to go straight back and read it again to really enjoy it fully...


I think I read everything she wrote.  Her contemporary novels puzzled the heck out of me at twelve or thirteen.


and Mary Stewart's books - airs above the ground is a mystery involving lipizzaners, the merlin trilogy about arthurian times, and one of my favourites, touch not the cat. Her mysteries vary, some more factual, others with some magical elements, and I've found all the books of hers which I've read have been both entertaining and keepers.



She may not be sophisticated enough for some but I very much enjoy Diana Gabaldon's books, especially when I am in need of a good comfort read. Her history is extremely well-researched and there is the added eerie dimension of her having written Jamie's entire story as fiction and then later finding out that some of what she wrote *actually happened*. I don't know about anyone else but she keeps me turning pages long after midnight. Also, for what it's worth, Claire makes a dman fine Girl Who Does Things. :-)


In the YA department, I recently read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, but Brian Sanderson. I really don't know how to desribe it other than hilarious and wonderful. If you haven't read it, go read it now. You won't be disappointed.


For those who enjoyed Middle-Earth, Guy Gavriel Kay has written a really elegant treat with his Fionavar Tapestry. The first book is The Summer Tree. His characters are treated somewhat more harshly than Tolkein's, or perhaps in the harshness comes in a different form; either way, these are not books for kids. They're well worth reading though, even if you read nothing else from this list.




Ooh! Kit Whitfield's Benighted, which is, alas, the only book she's written, is the best thing I read last year. The world is very like ours, except for the adjustments required by 99% of the population being lycanthropes. The unlucky 1% are shunted off to work for DORLA, the branch of the government that handles all moon-night stuff. They're overworked (Lola, the protagonist, is sort of part-lawyer part-cop, because everyone has at least two jobs) and underpaid and treated as their very own social underclass. The interesting thing Ms. Whitfield has done with the book is that she also makes it clear that DORLA is descended in a direct line from the Inquisition. So while its individual members are quite powerless, the organization can do some extraordinary and horrible things to you if it thinks you've done wrong. She plays with that tension very effectively. It's a bleak book in a lot of ways, and several times I wanted to shake Lola until her teeth rattled, but it's fantastic.


Also, Max Brooks' World War Z (probably too gory for you, Robin, sorry, but I thought some of your other readers might like it) is only putatively a novel about how we survived the zombie wars. It's written in the style of a nonfiction account, transcribed interviews with survivors from all over the world. So, yes, zombies, but also: catastrophic social collapse, epidemic illness, and the highs and lows of human behaviour that those things bring out. There are some really beautiful bits (including one piece about working dogs that made me need to put the book down and cry for half an hour), and some astute political commentary. I thought it was lovely, which is maybe not the adjective one would expect.




I so agree with your reader who complained about depressing classics within depressing life events/teenage years. My mother was wont to call these white male midlife crisis books,


Yes!  Saul Bellow!  John Updike!  Philip Roth!  Get me out of here!!


 which helped me a bit since we were struggling with my fathers mental illness and our depressions.


Oh dear . . .


 Of course, in 11th grade at the worst of my own depression we had to read Jude the Obscure


One of the most depressing books ever written.  Yes.  Gods.  And I even like Hardy.  I think that book probably marked me for life.   


 (I only hope that they thought it would discourage teen pregnancy?) and enraged the whole class by coming in one day and sighing with relief, "I'm so glad I finished it. I'd been waiting for the last 4 chapters for him to off himself." Nobody else had finished it and were enraged at the 'spoiler' (though in Jude the Obscure, how could it be a spoiler).


Agreed.  You just wondered how long the torture would last.


My mother, who couldn't stand (for herself) books with sex in them, went doggedly through the Newbery's and I found that many of them were quite good.


I've got a decadent taste for comfy books, by which I mean that things are quite interesting even when the plot is resting, and which means that I am very fond of Georgette Heyer and have an appalling mania for Angela Thirkell, despite her terrible prejudices. In Thirkell's books, nothing really happens but I find them terribly funny. I have to read them aloud to my roommates with much emphasis in order for them to get it. "All over the county, people were angrily accepting invitations..."


I’ve read several of her books kind of by accident and am always surprised when I rather like them.  I feel as if maybe I should pay attention some day and decide if I really do or not.   I had a grudge against her to begin with for her cheek in borrowing Trollope’s Barsetshire and some of the characters.


1. Many folks have mentioned Bujold (whom I also met at World Con one year, and who is very cool) but I have to especially call out the Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, particularly the latter. I like Miles but I LOVE these two books as being complex and fresh and great stories and older protagonists.


2. Sarah Caudwell wrote only four books, and I adore ADORE her first three: Thus Was Adonis Murdered, Sirens Sang of Murder and The Shortest Way to Hades. She wrote FUNNY and WITTY and TOTALLY WONDERFUL British mysteries with a great reverse sexist attitude. FABULOUS.


LOL!  Yes, I liked them too.


3. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. One of my favorite stories ever. Fantasy and just awesome. A must re-read for me.


4. For silly humor: A few of the column collections by Dave Barry. Dave can talk about boogers one second and then turn around and rip a hole in your soul the next by writing about his mom's suicide or his son's bike wreck. NO ONE evokes better.


Dave Barry.  Yes.


5. Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird. A very cool book about writing and life.


I loved (Lamott, by the way) Operating Instructions.


6. CE Murphy, Urban Shaman, VERY imaginative first book in a good series


7. Also silly humor: Tom Holt. My Hero is my favorite, about characters that come to life and an author who gets stuck in a book with them. Sort of Douglas Adams-esque (also a favorite, of course, but I figure EVERYBODY's read him!)


Yes.  Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? is probably my favourite.


8. Though he's sexist, racist, opinionated and clearly was a real jerk in real life, I'm still enamored of the Nero Wolf books by Rex Stout. I've been re-reading these for 25 years and not only are they a fascinating look at the mores of the time, they're just fun (except when he's particularly racist or sexist and then I wince).


9. And, well, this is embarrassing but since I don't have a therapist I guess I should come clean here: I love JR Ward despite the overheated melodrama and extremely explicit sex scenes. Fantasy romance with some very graphic and tortured twists.


10. Finally, have to recommend Karen Marie Moning's Bloodfever and Darkfever, very Buffy-esque, also a little graphic, and riveting. Can't wait for the next in what is supposed to be a five-book series.


Of course, I also adore Heyer (and have the aged paperbacks), Barbara Mertz (the real name of Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters--I swore I would grow up to be Amelia Peabody one day but it hasn't happened and I didn't marry Emerson. Damn), Mary Stewart, Dorothy Sayers, and (another embarrassing one) some select few of Nora Roberts, particularly the Morrighan series that she did fairly recently.



I second the reccomendation of Megan Whalen Turners books! Yes! The Thief DOES have a sticker and it IS awesome, but it is nothing compared to Queen of Attolia and King of Attolia, IMHO. And Garth Nix's books are good as well. :)



Charles deLint and Robin Hobb... anything by them counts as a most favourite. The first got me through highschool and the second inspired me to write again. (I was, at the time, not reading or writing after having dropped out of university. Cereal boxes were my utter limit).


Charles deLint does some good 'slightly alternate reality' fantasy, and Robin Hobb does character and world-building so naturally (and CJ Cherryh, although I pick and choose her stuff a little more).


My husband wouldn't believe me when I told him that Robin Hobb is actually a woman. He seems to think that girls can't/shouldn't be able to understand men so thoroughly from the inside... for that reason he was seriously loathe to let me read High Fidelity since I might get good ammo to use against him later. LOL! Little he knows, obviously (;


(Plus, I know we're not supposed to mention your books, but The Blue Sword got me through grade 6)


Good grief!  PLEASE mention my books!  I am just mostly cutting them when I paste into an entry to re-post, on the grounds that most of you are reading this blog because you already read my books and don’t need a recommendation!



Just general fiction, if in a historical setting: Charles Palliser, The Quincunx. Not a particularly happy book, but one of those things you find yourself finishing at 5 a.m. when you should be getting back out of bed at 5:30. Of course I've never done that. And I had until 5:45, anyway.


I had mixed feelings about it.  The whole conspiracy within a conspiracy within a conspiracy thing where it turns out furthermore that everybody is connected with everyone else eventually kind of gets on my nerves.  It was still fascinating.  And a lot of late-night just-one-more-chapter reading, yes.



Trustee From the Toolroom is a comfort book. I always pictured the hero as Bob Hoskins.


I am also particularly fond of Round the Bend, In the Wet and, being a flaming romantic, An Old Captivity, and also Shute's autobiography, Slide Rule. Yes, The Legacy is a fine piece of work.



Yes, Elizabeth Peters is Barbara Michaels is actually Barbara Mertz, who has also written two excellent books on ancient Egypt, Red Land, Black Land and Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs (and if someone has already mentioned this, I apologize).


I'm reading Buffy S8. Have you read Fray? It's Joss's future Slayer graphic novel, and very good.


I don't know how many times Tamora Pierce has been mentioned, but YES, I infinity that suggestion. Her books (and yours!!!) were among my utter favorites when I was younger and just discovering fantasy and starting to realize just how few strong female protagonists there were, and how utterly precious, therefore, were the few I could find!


I'd also second (or third or fourth or whatever) Patricia Briggs. I like the Mercy Thomson series...sassy woman holds her own against vampires, Fae, and dominant male werewolves. Fun!


Charles DeLint rocks my world. Reading "Dreams Underfoot" was like sinking into wonderful dreams. I literally had to shake myself to come back to the real world every time I set it down.


And speaking of consciousness-bending, the Book of the New Sun series (quadrology) by Gene Wolfe is amazing.


I adore Robin Hobb. Start with Assassin's Apprentice and read all the way through to Fool's Fate, and I swear you will not be disappointed. Her books are gritty and real and utterly moving, but fantastical and beautiful all at the same time.


Some of the best-written large-scale epic fantasy being worked on today is the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin.


I know you're a dog person, but I have a special place in my heart for "Tailchaser's Song" by Tad Williams...the secret lives of cats, in a much better, deeper rendition than the damned musical full of dancers licking their own knees.


And, again, more good cat (or cat-like creature...) fiction are the books in Gayle Greeno's "Ghatti's Tale" series. Basically, we're dealing with an alien species (this is a lost human colony that's forgotten all advanced tech, etc, as in the "Pern" books). They're called "ghattis" and look a lot like cats, but much smarter, and telepathic. They bond with humans receptive to them and those special humans are trained to be Seekers of Truth...basically, investigator/judge/jury...who form the basis of the human legal system and travel circuits, hearing cases and allowing their ghatti's truth sense to suss out the matter. There's an indiginous human-like species whose culture is superficially similar to Native Americans, and a lot of prejudice against telepathic humans, and some deeper stuff too...so it's not just all fluffy cat-fantastic, ya know?


Some of my favorites follow (note that since I am a YA and children's lit scholar, my list is unabashedly focused on those genres):


Patricia McKillip: The way she weaves words makes me feel like I'm reading one of those medieval tapestries, except the women are not merely decorative. Her fantasy is not only pretty, it has depth.


Shannon Hale: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and River Secrets - I love how she starts by retelling one of my favorite fairy tales and turns it into a fantasy that takes power from the four elements.


Hilary McKay: the Casson family series - Saffy's Angel, Indigo Star, permanent Rose and Caddy Ever After - this is targeted at middle graders, but I love the humor she injects into 'family problems' so that they don't seem like problems at all. These books are hilarious and affectionate.


Markus Zusak: The Messenger - the hero, Ed, is one of those sweet, brave, bumbling teenagers. He'll capture your heart.


Diana Wynne Jones: does she need any introduction? I especially loved Howl's Moving Castle and Fire and Hemlock, both being sophisticated ways of turning fairy tale tropes on their heads.


Peter S. Beagle: The Last Unicorn - A unicorn is turned into a woman and discovers what love is - I am a sucker for that kind of romance.


William Golding: The Princess Bride - if you watched the movie the book is even better. Golding parodies the fairy tale discourse. Its silliness is cleverly done (what an oxymoron).


I adored Transmet. It suited my... odd sense of humor. Rather morbid, it is. My boyfriend introduced me to both Transmet and Zero Girl.


Zero Girl is nowhere near as brainmelting, and is actually rather sweet in a lot of ways.


I have to go to beeeeeeeeeed. . . . .


49 comments or Leave a comment
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From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2008 12:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite and please, PLEASE, PUH-LEEEEEZE, don't leave me with images like taramosalata on spaghetti. No, no, no. How will this be erased from my mind. Don't go there. This is splatter blogging, you are injuring poor innocent minds. This image is blinding me...

There are Greeks who read this blog you know. Things like that hurt.

Susan from Athens
robinmckinley From: robinmckinley Date: March 17th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
All you have to do is tell me what TOS stands for . . . :)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
jade_sabre_301 From: jade_sabre_301 Date: March 17th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh! oh no! I see in your previous post that you are adverse to reading The Queen of Attolia because of minor dismemberment! No no no! Do not allow this to deter you! The Thief has no dismemberment, and the scene in The Queen of Attolia happens at the very beginning and is about half a page long. No graphic descriptions, no tawdry titillation, just--boom. Over and done with. The book's about dealing with it (among other things, and so many wonderful things). Please. It's not violent or grotesquely horrific at all. It's all about politics and depression/dealing with it and the nature of romance and oh oh oh so wonderful. My favorite books in the whole world. *flails*
danceswithpahis From: danceswithpahis Date: March 18th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to second this. The scene in question is short, easy to skim, and there is nothing else like it in the book. And while I winced when I first read that part (I too am a wuss in this area), I've found while rereading the books I actually really appreciate the fact that she included this. I've read other books where something similar happens (or where a character appears already missing a few parts), but this is one of the few where the author takes a look at what this really means for the character, and how his life is affected (in both good ways and bad) by this loss (because the actions set in place by the political decision causing him to lose his hand are profound and far-reaching).

I found that I really liked the complexity of the characters as the series went along. The first book was simpler; it had its surprises and twists, but everything turned out alright, the main character ended up fine as you always knew he would, and the end was typically happy. And then, at the beginning of book two... it was NOT alright, he had lost his hand, and the book possibilities opened up a lot more (not that I'm a big fan of authors doing nasty things to their characters, but at times it is refreshing to think you have an author pegged and then to see that author do something entirely different). The main character becomes more complex and interesting as time goes along, as well as the female lead. I have to say that I would not want their relationship, but I enjoy the way they are drawn to each other and in the third book I enjoy the way they care for each other and support each other. And you can really see the protagonist growing in the third book, gaining a maturity and depth that only comes through wrestling with tough issues. Plus, along with all of this, the author is witty and wry and manages to come up with these tongue-in-cheek one-liners that always crack me up even though I've read all three books a number of times.

This is responding to someone else's comment, but I figured I'd combine posts and give you less work. Someone else mentioned L.M. Montgomery's book "The Blue Castle", and said that it was considered a "throw-away book". I was shocked. How could BC be a throw-away book?? I know it's one of her lesser-known works, but quite honestly it's my favorite among her writing (and I've read almost everything she's written, which is odd because I never think of her as being quite my style, but I keep reading her anyway). One of the things I like about it is that it's one of her wittier books; she was often very earnest in her writings, which is no problem, but then it's nice to see her playing around with things. Plus, I liked the sceptical look she takes at the society and era in which Valancy lives (as does the author). The book gives a thoughtful, ironic look at many of the societal excesses and gives the character the freedom to live a more honest, genuine life than those around her (but she gets there in a very believable way). And honestly, I just plain like Valancy.
fyrebyrd From: fyrebyrd Date: March 17th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Gahh! I don't generally have the time to keep up with reams of comments, but especially since you put them up for us... I keep finding authors that I love and need to read/re-read more of, or ones that I remember seeing and then forgot about, or ones I'd never heard of and suddenly go OMG Need to read!

I seriously need to start keeping a list somewhere.

I've recently found an Aussie author named Jennifer Fallon who writes some neat stuff, very low fantasy, and I've been devouring my way through everything my library has.

Also stumbled across a very silly series that I read years ago and haven't seen again since... I don't recall the author, but the books start with Pyromancer.

Re. the rant about blogging, Mr. Gaiman posted that today too, with some interesting comments. Mostly boiled down to that some authors work better with a community and some tend to be more solitary. I, for one, am very glad you've taken to blogging. You're a fabulous author, and talk about all these random things that interest you with your inimitable style. Thank you!
taliabriscoe From: taliabriscoe Date: March 17th, 2008 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
William Goldman, not Golding is the author of the Princess Bride. It really is a wonderful read, he has a very humorous and entertaining voice.
blackbear88 From: blackbear88 Date: March 17th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Stephen Jay Gould. Yes, yes yes. His early death was a great loss to humanity, and to my library development--I've read nearly everything he's written, and he renewed my love of science long after I'd stumbled off down the humanities path in academia. He makes me want to go back to school. AGAIN.

For those'ns who feel the same way, particularly about evolutionary biology, you might also like Natalie Angier's The Beauty of the Beastly. And one of my very favorites is Stephen Asma's book on the culture of natural history museums, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads. It's utterly fascinating--and I'm not just saying this because I work in the museum field. It's a great examination of how current taxonomy developed in (sometimes) completely arbitrary ways, and how we got from kunstkammeren-type displays of natural oddities (the pickled heads of the title) to the American Museum of Natural History and its brethren. Funny, engaging, a great read.

And I'd have to say that Dave Barry and Monty Python have been the two greatest influences on MY writing style... Sadly, the museum fails to appreciate a good booger joke.
stotangirl From: stotangirl Date: March 17th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Most of my favorite authors are mentioned already, but may I suggest Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths series (Melusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, and one more to go; *not* for the faint of heart, but I could read her character Mildmay all day long and be happy), Lindsey Davis's Falco mysteries (hard boiled detective in ancient Rome, good mysteries, great characters, and they're hilarious), and Kage Baker's Company novels (there are a lot of them, but the first one is In the Garden of Iden. The series-wide intrigue doesn't really start to boil until about book 3, but the first two are good stand-alones. Cyborgs, time travel, True Love, harrowing adventure, bits and pieces that she lets you put together yourself, more-than-occasional hilarity ensuing, and the very last one doesn't disappoint).

Oh, and YA: Sarah Dessen, John Marsden, Cynthia Voigt (the Tillerman books! Though A Solitary Blue is my favorite of them, and the Tillermans don't come in until the end), and Chris Crutcher (he's a little over the top, his characters like to monologue, and he writes books for guys, but his girls tend to be strong girls).

Were I writing this in anyone else's journal, I'd have listed you, too. First off. I can't tell you how many of your books I've given/suggested to people. :)
redheadedali From: redheadedali Date: March 17th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, so many books I love recommended in this post (Love That Dog, Diana Gabaldon, Emma Bull, Hilary McKay, etc.), so I think I may have to bookmark it for the books I haven't read yet :).

The mention of Buffy Season 8 reminded me that I would recommend anything - literally *anything* - by Brian K. Vaughan. He is one of the writers for Buffy S8, and he is writing for Lost right now, and his comics - Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, Pride of Baghdad - are to die for. I think any fan of Joss Whedon would probably dig Vaughan.

Edited at 2008-03-17 02:37 am (UTC)
kathy_s_32 From: kathy_s_32 Date: March 17th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I love book lists, and there have been lots of favorites here. Of course, I've never been able to limit my own lists to 10, and even had problems when I initiated a "Top 100 Fiction" thread at http://middlescommonroom.co.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=158&start=0. (Yes, you are in my list. Twice.)

Let's see.... I can count 3 obvious Newbery medals out of that batch, though I didn't run away from children's awards at the speed with which I rebelled against English teachers categorizing anything with a happy ending – or any poetry with rhyme and rhythm -- as unsophisticated drivel. I came to dread anything I liked being dragged into class, since they'd be sure dredge up enough unsavory symbolism and "critical analysis" to transform it into something as tortured and despairing as the rest. Fortunately, librarians were more understanding.

The medalists:
Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time. This was the book that nudged me into the science fiction section, which previously I'd considered "too weird." Meg was the perfect protagonist to draw in a bookish outsider.

Susan Cooper, The Grey King. I thought that, for once, the medal committee really did pick the best of a series.

Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. For a while it seemed as though historical fiction was the only bastion of the young adult 'feisty heroine' genre, so you will also see represented Sally Watson, K.M. Peyton's Flambards trilogy, and some of the classics – plus Sutcliff, despite her lack of women. I hadn't encountered Heyer at the time I generated this list, but she may well end up bumping something.

Overall, science fiction & fantasy seem most heavily represented on my list. Many of my favorite fantasy authors have already come up here, but I'd like to add two who are more on the SF side: Sylvia Louise Engdahl, partly for her handling of religion, and Vonda McIntyre, whose Starfarers tetrology resonates with me even more now than in pre-Bush days. For comfort reading, I also go to "cozy mysteries" – Elizabeth Peters, Ellis Peters, Nancy Atherton (esp. the first two Aunt Dimity) – as well as to what seems to be known in the UK as "Girl's Own literature," and a mixed bag of other authors including Arthur Ransome, Miss Read, Chaim Potok, Jane Duncan, and the later Rosamund Pilcher.
spindriftdancer From: spindriftdancer Date: March 17th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
OOh! Susan Cooper! I forgot about her. She writes seriously creepy stuff sometimes.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)


There are a lot of authors mentioned I would second...before you go checking them out, know that if you don't like violence, the Kushiel series is primarily about a masochistic courtesan with DETAILS, but they are still some of my very favorite books; I was halfway convinced that she and Storm Constantine were the same person until some recent occurrences, and speaking of which, I CAN NOT BE TRUSTED TO DISCUSS STORM CONSTANTINE RIGHT NOW. I'm a bit peeved at her. Also extremely graphically violent (in parts) are the oft-mentioned Laurell K. Hamilton books, which I also can't quite be pollyanna about right now. Not to disillusion you—I LOVE graphic violence and tormented souls and all that goth stuff, which segues nicely: TANITH LEE TANITH LEE TANITH LEE. Why has nobody mentioned Tanith Lee (did I miss it?)? She is the QUEEN OF GOTH. She's written a gazillion books and I LOVE THEM. She writes dark fantasy and science-fiction; my favorites are the Books of Paradys series and Don't Bite The Sun, which is passionate and funny and beautiful. Also, Meredith Anne Pierce. I can think of few writers whose books are so consistently and ABSOLUTELY beautiful and wonderful. She writes amorphous-age-group fantasy novels; I think my favorite is Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood. Has anyone mentioned Donna Jo Napoli yet? She is a FANTASTIC writer— she imbues traditional stories with the kinds of twists and passions that make it real again (much like yours, Robin, but her style is VERY different), retelling fairy tales and Biblical stories along with modern "normal" fiction, mostly aimed at young adults, but again not age-specific. Also, Francesca Lia Block is probably one of the best authors I know of.
Reading these booklists has made me very sad. I hardly read at all anymore, and I'm only 17...
I also talk about books more on the lines of discussion rather than recommendation, and I am, shall we say, very OPINIONATED, so it's been kind of an EFFORT to hold back here, but I think I've refrained from saying anything mean. I just HAVE to get my bit in, but I selfishly think that maybe enough's enough with the booklists. I'm sure you can guess JUST HOW LONG WE COULD KEEP GOING ON ABOUT THIS. This blog, by definition, attracts readers.
Anyway, finally, one last recommendation— David Mack is a brilliant artist who has created a series of graphic novels called Kabuki. If you ever feel like reading them, not only is the artwork amazing and the words like poetry and the plot complex and amazing, but there is a great deal of in-depth commentary on Japanese culture which I thought might interest you from your own experiences with that culture gap.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
From yesterday, about recordings of Peter Grimes--I have the ur-recording with Peter Pears, Britten conducting. Alex Ross, who reviews classical music for The New Yorker, cites both Jon Vickers and Philip Langridge in the role, but I haven't heard them. I was impressed enough with Griffey's performance that I'd buy another recording with him--and I thought Runnicles did a great job with the orchestra. I really like Britten's music and think Peter Grimes is a terrific opera; I don't know why his operas aren't done more.

I think Updike is a good writer--better with short stories, in my opinion, and has written some good poems--but I don't find his plots or characters interesting. But I do think he's an intelligent critic and always find his review pieces interesting, even if I haven't read or wouldn't read the work in question.

I live in Laura Ingalls Wilder country, so it is an even bigger heresy for me to admit that I never read her books, either. I looked at them as an adult and found her style off-putting. How about Eloise? I have a great-niece (!) who actually does live in New York, and I hope to be the person who puts Eloise into her hands when she's five or six.

Diane in MN
robinmckinley From: robinmckinley Date: March 17th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Updike. Bleaaaaaaaaaaaugh. :) I permit exceptions to the pollyanna rule about the Self Conscious Litr'y Male, who wouldn't be caught dead stooping to this blog *anyway* so I don't have to worry about hurting his feelings.

Have you read Lucy Johnston Sypher, speaking of prairie childhoods?
manywaters From: manywaters Date: March 17th, 2008 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Good grief! PLEASE mention my books!

I love your books. I first read The Blue Sword in late middle school, and scrounge and inter-library-loaned my way into getting the rest of them imported out to podunk NAS Whidbey Island. Deerskin was a book I literally wore out, through all manner of teenage tribulations, minor and rather major. It's a book for a quiet day, when life is heavy and still, and you just want to be still and solitary.

Lo and behold, years later, having hauled your books through states and ships and air bases alike, picking up a husband along the way, I find out that you're not only on LJ, and a Navy Brat, but that you lived in Yokosuka too - amidst the shock of a rough relocation, it was a small bit of 'maybe this isn't the COMPLETE end of the earth and separated from everything I love'. I like reading your blog, even when I've only time to skim, because to borrow a phrase from L. M. Montgomery, you really seem to be one of the race that knows Joseph.

I adore reading cookbooks. It's a bit batty, but recipes are stories to me, and I love seeing authors advocating techniques.
robinmckinley From: robinmckinley Date: March 17th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

I can't believe Yokosuka is ANYTHING like it was . . . urp . . . over forty years ago.

you really seem to be one of the race that knows Joseph.

*************** LOL! I have *no* idea what this means!!!

And I love reading cookbooks too--I agree there's a story or stories there. It's always interesting the difference between anthology or collection type and a passionate single-person cookbook.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 17th, 2008 09:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Barry Hughart

A couple of years ago Baen's Barflies voted Barry Hughart "the stopped writer they most wanted another book from" and Jim Baen actually tracked down Hughart and asked him to consider writing another book. Hughart had however soured so badly on publishers and editors that he refused. And the Bar wept.

Anette, the Great Dane
ajl_r From: ajl_r Date: March 17th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Survival of the fittest

I've just realised that we didn't (so far as I know) mark in any way the 6 Month Anniversary Of This Blog last Friday (14th)! I shudder to think how much of your time this has taken over said half-year, but THANK YOU very much for it all anyway. :)
robinmckinley From: robinmckinley Date: March 17th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Survival of the fittest

You're very welcome, mostly. If you lot weren't so, ahem, amusing, it would be easier to be CURSORY. Believe me, *I* shudder. . . .
wordswoman From: wordswoman Date: March 17th, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh goodness, I thought I was the last woman alive reading Nevil Shute! A Town Like Alice is my sentimental favorite; my God but that woman was determined, and I always felt sad for the besotted old attorney. But Trustee From the Toolroom is a close second for me.

My guilty pleasures (more pleasure than guilt, actually) when I need a vacation from reality are the Modesty Blaise series by Peter O'Donnell and *all* the books written by his pseudonym, Madeline Brent. Chock full of spunky heroines who never waste time feeling sorry for themselves.

And I must tell you that this past week, your Beauty was a balm to my weary soul after learning that my father needs another brain surgery (his second). I've read it many times, and I can't tell you how comforting it was to immerse myself again in that delightful story, knowing Everything Would Turn Out Well. Happy endings seem to be much underrated these days, especially in Literature-with-a-capital-L.
robinmckinley From: robinmckinley Date: March 17th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear. thank you . . . and good luck. If you feel like it, post when you want the candle lit.
kitmf From: kitmf Date: March 17th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not yet mentioned.
In mysteries, Heron Carvic's Miss Seeton series, continued (not quite as well but acceptably) by Hamilton Crane. Comfort reading. Also in mysteries, Andy Greeley's stuff, but you might need to be an American Catholic. Emma Lathen, Amanda Cross, Josephine Tey.
In SF and fantasy, Christopher Stasheff, Alma Alexander, Alan Dean Foster, Liz Berry.
Historicals, Elspeth Thane's Williamsburg novels.
In the nothing happens in the plot and you love it anyway, Miss Read and Jan Karon.
And in romance novels that you eat like potato chips and are worth about as much, Grace Livingston Hill. (this time you might need to be evangelical christian, or tolerant of those)
Yes I know that some of those are pseudonyms, but that's the name they publish under. Real names interest me less than the one you look for in the bookstore or the library.
But most of my primarily loved authors are already on the list
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