A small selection of my favourite books. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate all the million reasons why a book will resonate with me or smack me right in the gut. This list will continue to grow as I add more books, but it’s a laborious task whittling down to my favourites, so bear with it.
Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks. This is an example of an unreliable narrator and non-chronological story structure, two things that many readers struggle with (and quite a few dislike). I enjoyed the mental challenge and sudden connections that came from weaving together the chapters. You don’t get a full picture of the whole until the end. It also contains possibly my favourite plot-twist ever.
The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. Here we have pure, unadulterated coming-of-age action-horror-fantasy, and I love it for that. There is no romance sub-plot, and I also love it for that, because a romance sub-plot never would have fit in this book. The characters struggle and make horrible choices out of necessity and they are young and terrified and so very grown up despite everything, and they do not give up. I love The Talisman for that.
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This book combines Pratchett’s inventive and charming humour and Gaiman’s attraction to the darker parts of human (and non-human) nature. It’s funny and clever and entertaining.
The Old Kingdom (series), by Garth Nix. This series contains Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen. The world is so vivid and beautiful and rich and dark.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
The Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov. This series is about a thousand-year long effort to build a strong galactic empire and prevent a 30,000 year long dark age from happening. Asimov has an incredible knack for introducing a character into the story who is only there for two or three pages, yet it feels like they are a well-rounded character that you already know so much about. There aren’t many authors out there who can do that and make it look so effortless.
The Blue Ant Series, by William Gibson. This series includes Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Everybody loves Neuromancer, but I preferred this series by far – mostly because of the main character Cayce Pollard. Cayce senses semiotic connections in branding and can make predictions about future trends, though certain logos and brands repel her intensely. I work in Marketing in my day job, so I particularly enjoyed her slant and reactions.
Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. This dystopian story is a stunning song about the preservation of knowledge and creativity.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s about carnivorous water horses and an annual race held on the fictional island of Thisby. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. Strong character voices and beautiful, vivid prose.
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, by Michelle Paver. Another adventure fantasy that grows progressively darker as the books go on and the main characters get older, much like in the Harry Potter series. The main thing that struck me in this series is the bond between Torak and his best friend Wolf (an actual wolf). It’s beautifully written, with a tightly-built world and fantasy system.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.