My Favorite Reads

Is there any better way to get to know a reader than looking at a shelf of her favorite books? Here are some of the books I’ve loved best — I’d love to hear about yours! Check back; this list is always under construction.

Fantasy

  • Ghostlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  • Exile’s Song by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Although it’s near the end of the Darkover books, it made for a great introduction to Bradley’s world.
  • War For The Oaks by Emma Bull. Urban fantasy done right.
  • Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.
  • The Fortress In The Eye Of Time by C. J. Cherryh. Possibly the best job of creating the sense of a rich backstory I’ve seen outside Tolkien.
  • The The Secret Country trilogy by Pamela Dean. The story I dreamed of writing — or living — when I was a child. Enormously satisfying to read for anyone who played in a fantasy world when he or she was young.
  • Spiritwalk and Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint. More great urban fantasy.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
  • Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip. McKillip’s books are unfailingly beautiful, and this is one of her best.
  • Od Magic by Patricia McKillip. Ditto.
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley.
  • The Chronicles of the Deryni and The Histories of King Kelson by Katherine Kurtz.
  • The Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara.  Her work just keeps getting better.
  • The Dragon Charmer by Jan Siegel.  This is the middle book of a trilogy; you’ll want to read them all, but this one is my favorite.
  • A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer.
  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.  One of my favorite treatments of the Arthurian legends.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Goes without saying, no?
  • The Once And Future King by T. H. White.  If you didn’t read this as a kid, you absolutely should now.
  • The Wood Wife by Terri Windling.

Science Fiction

  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. No list of sci-fi is complete without a mention of the master.
  • The Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh. Nobody does intelligent, character-driven sci-fi like Cherryh.
  • Cyteen and its sequel Regenesis by C. J. Cherryh. Ditto.
  • Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein.  Heinlein admittedly had a bug in his ear about free love, among other things, but this, one of his longest books, is pretty moving all the same.

Mystery

  • The Vicky Bliss books by Elizabeth Peters.  Vicky’s a great protagonist, and the supporting cast of characters make for a pleasantly entertaining trip in every book.
  • The Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers, especially Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. I’m a particular sucker for the emotionally-charged byplay between Lord Peter and Harriet.
  • Touch Not The Cat by Mary Stewart.  Also a romance; Stewart wrote a lot of good ones but this is my favorite.
  • The Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. Do narrators come more charming than Archie Goodwin?
  • Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey.

Historical Fiction

  • The Praise Singer by Mary Renault.  Renault wrote a lot of great historical fiction; this one is my favorite but they’re all worth a read.
  • The Elegant Witch by Robert Neill.

Adult Non-Genre Fiction and Autobiography

A number of these books are out of print in the US, but they’re well worth reading if you come across a copy.

  • Brief Candles and its sequels by Manning Coles.  Also, The Far Traveller.  Charming English ghost novels.
  • Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis.  I’ve never been clear on how much of the book is actual events and how much is dramatized, but Auntie Mame is an absolute hoot.  (And in saying so, I suddenly feel like my grandmother.)
  • My Family And Other Animals, the rest of the Corfu trilogy, and indeed, all the charming works of Gerald Durrell. Anyone who loves animals and the great outdoors should check them out.
  • Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.  I didn’t come from a large family, but as the child of an engineer, Frank Sr. and his crazy projects and ideas have always reminded me strongly of my own father.  Extremely funny reading about an efficiency expert raising twelve children.
  • Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling.  A novel about inseparable friends at a British public school, and the adventures that prepared them for life at large.  Even though my school experiences were very different, it still gives me a flash of nostalgia for my childhood friends every time I read it.
  • The Image Men by J. B. Priestley.  Priestley’s hilariously cynical take on the advertising industry and the modern tv/radio culture.  People who like it should also try The Good Companions.
  • A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.
  • Down the Hatch by John Winton. Extremely funny (in a very English way) novel about life on a post-WWII British submarine.

Children’s Literature

  • The Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks, particularly Freddy the Cowboy and Freddy Rides Again.  Even adults looking for some good-hearted light reading will find themselves laughing at the adventures of Freddy and his friends.
  • The The Dark Is Rising Series by Susan Cooper. I somehow managed to miss them when I was a kid, but my copies are tattered and dog-eared all the same.
  • Seaward by Susan Cooper.  I read this book once as a child in the library, forgot the title, and was haunted by images from it for YEARS.  I was beyond delighted to find it again a decade later.
  • Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.  I’ve read and loved both of Alice’s adventures, but I find Through The Looking-Glass is the one I come back to as an adult.
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.  One of my favorites from when I was little; the mysterious room in the tower from which the moon shines has always stuck with me.
  • Dragon’s Blood and Heart’s Blood by Jane Yolen.

Cookbooks

  • Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop.  This one has something appealing to do with any vegetable you can come up with.  Even the obscure ones you see in the greenmarket for fifty seconds in late June.
  • Martin Yan’s Feast by Martin Yan.  Because a) I love that Martin Yan’s cheer never runs out, and b) this has a great selection of the basic Chinese dishes that someone new to cooking Chinese is going to want to try, including the best offerings from the dim sum carts.
  • The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather.  One really fantastic  easy cobbler recipe, a lot of great baked goods, and some really solid Texan lunchtime favorites.
  • Tartine by Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson.  Mmm, baked goods.  Don’t miss the praline or steamed gingerbread pudding recipes.
  • The Joy of Cooking.  Joy, you are my everything.
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  1. LL says:

    For the fantasy category, may I suggest Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold? I’ve read her other books and found them entertaining, but this one qualifies in the “long-term favorite” category, which the others do not.

  2. Annabelle says:

    I think I read that one a while ago and liked it — I’ll have to revisit!

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