Days in the Life: Robin McKinley's Journal (robinmckinley) wrote,
Days in the Life: 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 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. . . . .

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