Fanmail FAQ: Looking for Good Books….

So in the last week I’ve had three e-mails along these lines:


School is over for the semester, and I have a long, glorious summer stretching out in front of me. What’s more, I’ve got a summer job that involves very little actual work. (I’m a late-night gas station attendant.)

This leaves me all the time I could possibly want for reading.

Here’s my problem. I’m having trouble finding good stuff to read. Any advice for me? What’s your summer reading list?

Love your stuff,


I get a fair number of these sorts of letters. And generally speaking, they’re pretty easy to answer, as I can just point people at all the blogs I’ve written over the last four years where I recommend books.

Barring that, I point people at my Goodreads profile. Where I sometimes list the books I’m reading, and occasionally post up a review if I really feel strongly about a book.

In addition to letters like the one above, I’ve also had many, many people forward me the link to the current Poll NPR is holding, asking people to nominate books for their upcoming top 100 SF and Fantasy novels of all time.

For those of you too lazy to click a link, the gist is this: On NPR’s page, they’re asking people to post a comment listing their top five favorite SF/F novels or series.

I have opinions on this matter. So, of course, I posted my vote. It was pretty easy, because I’ve been obsessed with the Dresden Files lately. That’s one. Then there’s The Last Unicorn and Something Wicked This Way Comes – Three. Then Stranger in a Strange Land. Four.

I was going to vote for Lord of the Rings, too. But then I erased it and voted for my own series instead. I’m not entirely proud of that, but I’m not going to lie about it either. I figure Tolkien has enough votes. Besides, I happen to like my books a hell of a lot.

Only after I voted did I start to look at other people’s comments, and the titles of some of the books they mentioned hit me like bombs. Dune. Of course. I should have listed Dune. Discworld. Of course I should have listed Pratchett. Amber. Of course.

Luckily I’d already voted, so I couldn’t spend any time agonizing over which ones should really fit into my top five.

Then, later that same day, I got this letter:


I’ve only recently started reading Fantasy and Sci-Fi about a year ago. You were one of my first. ;)

I know you’ve read it your whole life. I need to play some serious catch-up. If you were going to list the most important books you’ve ever read. Like a bibliography of the best, most influential fantasy books you ever came in contact with, what would be on that list?

Specifically, I’d like to become well-read in fantasy and science fiction. But it seems like half of what I pick up is… don’t be offended. But it’s kinda shit. I know that one man’s trash it another man’s treasure. But I’ll trust a list of books from you more than some generic list I found online. I’ve enjoyed most all the books you’ve recommended so far….

Thanks so much,


“What the hell?” I thought. Never let it be said that I ignored a serendipitous confluence of events. Or that I missed a chance to answer several e-mails in a single blog….

So I did some research. By which I mean I went downstairs and looked at my shelves:

For some perspective. Here’s one part of one wall of the downstairs library. Note that this does not give any impression of books on the other walls. Or on the upstairs shelves. Or in boxes in the hallway. Or the boxes in the basement. Or over at the office. Or in storage in the office. Or on my shelves in my childhood bedroom in Madison. Or in the boxes in my childhood bedroom in Madison.

I kinda have a lot of books.

It is my dream to someday have all my books in one place, all on shelves, all organized in a system that pleases me.

It is a beautiful dream.

Anyway, here’s my list of SF and Fantasy recommendations. If you read nothing but these books, I think you could consider yourself to be reasonably well-read and somewhat well-rounded in the genre.

The rules I set for myself:

1. Only stuff I’ve actually read.

2. No more than 40 items, or I’d be doing this forever.

3. No more than one book or series per author.

So here we go:

  1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  2. The Last Unicorn By Peter S. Beagle
  3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  4. Stranger In a Strange Land Robert Heinlein
  5. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  7. Dragonriders Of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
  8. Dune by Frank Herbert
  9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  10. The Discworld books by Terry Pratchett
  11. The Chronicles of Amber–Roger Zelazny
  12. Brave New World–Aldous Huxley
  13. Wizard of Earthsea By Le Guin
  14. Sandman  – Neil Gaiman
  15. The Fisher King Trilogy by Tim Powers
  16. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams
  17. The Riddlemaster of Hed series by Patricia McKillip
  18. Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P Lovecraft
  19. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  20. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  21. 1984 – by George Orwell
  22. Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson
  23. Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare
  24. The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, by Barry Hughart
  25. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  26. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
  27. Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
  28. The Odyssey by Homer
  29. The Last Herald-Mage trilogy – Mercedes Lackey
  30. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  31. River World Series – Phillip Jose Farmer
  32. One Thousand and One Nights
  33. Riftwar Saga by Feist
  34. The Dark Tower series – Stephen King
  35. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
  36. Belgariad series by David Eddings
  37. Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
  38. Michael Ende – The Neverending Story
  39. The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  40. The Shannara Trilogy – Terry Brooks

Now before everyone starts to squawk that I left out their favorite babies, keep in mind that I’m throwing this list together on the fly. So I’ve doubtless forgotten a few I would otherwise have included.

But yeah. It was really hard to even keep it to 40. Here’s the ones I had to cull from the above list. Consider them the runners-up.

  1. The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb
  2. Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
  3. Only Forward by Michael Marshal Smith
  4. A Canticle for Leibowitz- Walter M Miller
  5. Pretty much Anything by Christopher Moore
  6. Time Enough for Love – Robert Heinlein
  7. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  8. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
  9. Black Company Series – Glen Cook
  10. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  11. Lud in Mist – Hope Mirrlees
  12. The Red Magician – Lisa Goldstein
  13. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  14. A Wrinke In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  15. Death is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury
  16. Declare- Tim Powers
  17. Legend- David Gemmel
  18. Icewind Dale Trilogy – R.A. Salvatore
  19. Harry Potter by Rowling (Mostly the first four)
  20. Beowulf

Gech. I have to stop. I’m done. Seriously done.

What’s that you say? Your absolutely favoritest of favorites still isn’t on the list?

Well… suck it. It’s my list, not yours.

No. Wait. What I mean to say is that I picked these books for the list because they:

  1. Influenced me because I loved them so very much.
  2. Influenced the genre because of when/where/how they were written.
  3. Influenced the SF/F readership because so many people have read them.

Every book on this list has done two of these three things. Many have done all three.

While I was doing my brief spatter of research and trolling through the comments on the NPR poll, I kept spotting books and thinking, “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to read that….”

So, lastly, to partially answer Ben’s question about my summer reading list. Here are the books that would probably be fighting for positions on the above lists if I’d read them. They’re books I’m meaning to read, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  1. The Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
  2. Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books – Fritz Leiber
  3. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  4. The Gormenghast series – Mervyn Peake
  5. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  6. The Glass Book of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
  7. A Song of Ice and Fire – Martin (Yeah Yeah. I know. I’ve been busy…)
  8. The Forever War – by Joe Haldeman
  9. House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski
  10. The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  11. Nova – Samuel R. Delaney
  12. Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
  13. The Uplift Trilogy – David Brin (I’ve only read one so far…)
  14. The Hollows series – Kim Harrison
  15. The Fionavar Tapestry – Guy Gavriel Kay
  16. The Vorkosigan Saga – Lois McMaster Bujold
  17. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
  18. Conan stories – Robert E. Howard
  19. Little, Big – John Crowley
  20. Lensman Series – E.E. “Doc” Smith
  21. Malazan Books of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
  22. Wheel of Time – Jordan and Sanderson (I’ve only read the first two)
  23. Tripod Trilogy – Samuel Youd
  24. Flatland – Edwin A. Abbott
  25. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Okay. I’m done. Not only should you have plenty to read now, but those of you who were suffering from a paralyzing lack of numbered lists should be satisfied as well.

Share and enjoy….


This entry was posted in Fanmail Q + A, FAQ, recommendationsBy Pat384 Responses


  1. Posted June 24, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Permalink

    GRRM is by far the best living fantasy writer, in my opinion. Plotting, characterization, storytelling, tragedy, themes, history, he’s got it all. I love your books and blog to an almost irrational degree, but you’re definitely doing yourself a disservice by reading ASOIAF. You’ll smile, you’ll rage, you’ll cry.

    • Posted June 24, 2011 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

      …and by “doing a disservice by reading ASOIAF” I mean “by NOT reading ASOIAF” (obviously).

  2. AO_22
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

    I just finished reading Butcher’s Dresden Files for the first time. I wish that he spent just a bit more time on character development and “quiet moments”, but overall I was definitely impressed.

    I am curious if fans of Dresden have checked out Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series (5 novels currently)? It takes place in London, and while some of the basics are similar, the books go in a different (though still very interesting imo) direction. It’s less epic than Harry, and the 2nd book is a bit weak, but I found it to be very enjoyable and unlike a lot of UF, it’s light on the sex scenes.

    • Beej
      Posted July 1, 2011 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

      I’m currently re-reading the Castor series and loving it just as much the second time. Although I love Dresden, I like that Castor is “defined”–at the end of the fifth book I didn’t feel like there would be more books coming. Instead I felt that he’d written five novels to tell a complete story, with each novel also telling a story within the larger arc.

      IMO, too many authors write a popular series but just can’t let it go. See: McCaffrey; Laurell K. Hamilton; Raymond Feist (oh God, Feist. Just let it go, man!); and even Glen Cook (as much as I wanted to know the origin of the Black Company, the Tales of the South was just BAD).

  3. Posted June 24, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    Hey, Pat. I’ve been lurking for a long time, and I am finally inspired to post a comment.

    First, I want to say that I have been a long-time supporter of your books. I used to be a Waldenbooks store manager here in Arlington, TX. I received a galley copy of Name of the Wind, and I was floored. I sold the living heck out of your first book, and I made sure all my employees did, too. I can honestly say I personally sold hundreds of them, one at a time, to my regular customers. It was all about the personal relationships at my store. I miss those days sometimes, but being a school teacher (my new career) has its perks, too.

    I wanted to recommend to you a fantasy series that greatly influenced me as a reader, and as a person. I return to these books again and again, and they never fail to please me. You can read the entire series in a day or two, since they are for a younger reader.

    It’s the Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. They are masterpieces of fantasy, drawing heavily from the Celtic mythology. More importantly, to me, they are a coming of age story, and tell a tale of finding the inherent worth in oneself, rather than living the life others see for you.

    Powerful books for a young man, and the person I am really recommending them to is Oot. Read them to him now, and then give them to him to read as soon as he is ready. Please!

  4. rookedwithElodin
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Hurray for the Black Company!

  5. Theo
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    So glad you listed The Sandman Series. Your taste is fucking classy my good sir.

  6. bomberoman123
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

    I read The Way of Kings based off your blog and your recommendation and recommend it to all as well if you haven’t already read it. Not as good as The Name of The Wind, but it will keep you occupied.

  7. Posted June 24, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Wow, Dark Tower was way down on the list. :( To the person who said they stopped after Gunslinger, they get leagues better with Drawing of the Three.

    I’m one of the few readers who wasn’t a huge Ice and Fire fan. I understand why people would read them, and I’ll almost certainly get Dance with Dragons, but Wheel of Time is much better to me.

    Hunger Games was the last series I finished, and it is amazing, heartbreaking, and beautiful, as well as being one of the most depressing but life-changing series since His Dark Materials.

    Seconding the Berg, Abercrombie, and Hobb recs as well, and so excited the last of the Kushiel books comes out Wednesday here!

    The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde) is remarkably quirky, and Kim Harrison is awesome contemparary

    With the Encarceron series, am I the only one who hears Rickman doing a perfect voice-over for John?

  8. rebelheart
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    Three lists and a 187 comments discussion and not a single mention of Jules Verne! Not even by the French guys! I am so very shocked people. You need to know where you’re coming from to see where you’re going to. Or however that saying is correctly phrased in the english language.

  9. davidellisr
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    Hey Pat (and everyone else on this blog) please read Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. I know you put it on your list, but the first two of those three books are A-MAY-ZING (and I know there is no ‘y’ in amazing).

    I also LOVE all of Neil Gaiman’s books and please read at least Viriconium by M. John Harrison but if you like that give Light and Nova Swing a chance as well.

    Steven Brust is another one of my faves for light, sarcastic fiction. Lastly, obvious props for R. R. Tolkien, R. R. Martin, Scott Card, Christian Jacq, Rothfuss, Heinlein, Asimov, J.V. Jones, Huxley, Wells, and Dostoevsky. Also Sartre for his existentialism.

    Peace be the journey,

    • froznpeas
      Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:15 PM | Permalink

      I echo the Steven Brust recommendation! I devoured all of the Vlad Taltos books I could get my hands on last spring, and alternated them with the Dresden Files books. Bizarrely enough, the two (very) different worlds had a lot of similarities between the ways of magic. Interesting to read in conjunction.

  10. Marc
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    Woah, glad to see some love for Gargantua and Pantagruel. Very, very few people not involved in academia know of that one. I’m halfway through the second book right now and love the overt satire and crassness. It’s pretty much South Park in 16th century France!

    And Mr. Rothfuss, about not reading A Song of Ice and Fire…ehem…yeah you should probably get on that. You’ll love it.

  11. Gesepp
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    I was thinking of complaining that Ender’s Game was so far down the list, but in hindsight I’m just glad that it was there at all.

    I’m going to throw Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series into the ring. It has great characters, a solid magic system, and a believable, exciting apocalyptic event. But most of all, it’s just FUN. The ingenious, solid economic system blends with the modern sports games and references just as well as the science does with the magic.

    Also, there are puns.

  12. jmatthe7
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:58 PM | Permalink

    I find it interesting that you stopped at book 2 of The Wheel of Time because I also stopped after book 2. I was just wondering if there were any particular reasons you stopped reading it. I have my own and I just wanted to know your thoughts.

    • MouetteSheridan
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Permalink

      For one who’s not on the WoT bandwagon – I know I’m not the one you’re talking to, but :P – I stopped *reading* about midway through the fourth, skimmed the fifth, and quit. When I read Eye of the World, I thought it was a fantastic first book… for an excellent trilogy. By the time I reached those middle ones, I’d stopped caring about all but one or two characters, and it wasn’t worth slogging through the rest to find out what happened to them.

      Contrast with Martin, where love or hate them *every* character still interests me and still is a vital part of the story… yeh.

      • jmatthe7
        Posted June 26, 2011 at 8:35 PM | Permalink

        THANK YOU!!! I’m just glad I’m not the only one. The first book was great, the second book had some pretty great moments but dull as a rock for the other 600+ pages, and when the first 100 pages of the third consisted of the characters walking around or sitting on a hill waiting for something to happen I just gave up and got the synopsis off of Wikipedia.

        And I couldn’t agree with you about GRRM! He’s a literary genius!

      • 9lives
        Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Permalink

        Not to pile on here, but I felt much the same way. I got to 6 or 7 (I don’t clearly remember) but could not make it any farther. Book 7 or 8 was coming out when I reading the series so I had to wait in between each book. When the new one came out I didn’t remember what was in the last books, and I could not read the previous book again. I just stopped due to attrition.

      • Renny
        Posted June 28, 2011 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

        I must say I found almost the reverse. I read A Game of Thrones and never got any further. I suppose this makes me a heretic…

        • jmatthe7
          Posted June 28, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

          It most certainly does!!! How dare you have a difference in opinion or unique point of view!! Hahaha. I guess it’s OK if you don’t like ASoIaF. Truthfully I gave up on it once, the first time I tried to read it. There was just so MANY character’s and it jumped around so much. It was a little overwhelming and hard to keep up with. But once I got myself oriented in the universe and became familiar with the characters, I started to appreciate just how beautifully crafted and intricate the culmination of the story really was.

  13. EruditeVolatility
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 9:06 PM | Permalink

    I feel somewhat validated in my fantasy/sci-fi readings now, seeing as many of the books I’ve read are on a list of someone who has merited the right to have an opinion on such things.

  14. Posted June 24, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    The Shannara Trilogy… really Pat? No…

    • yakaji
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

      Seconded. There are a couple series / authors up in those lists that may be bestsellers, may be influential in the genre, but just aren’t good writing. To be fair, it’s been years since I’ve read the original Shannara trilogy, but I’ve found that Brooks’ prose is almost unreadable in some of his later stuff.

      When I was in elementary school, those were some good books. Also, Chef Boyardee ravioli tasted delicious, and “Rad” and “BMX Bandits” were two of my absolute favorite movies. Having developed some taste since turning 10, I’ve never found Terry Brooks to be interesting or readable since. And I HAVE tried.

  15. ImLittleJon
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    As I’ve gotten older and curmudgeonlier, I’ve gotten pickier about the books I read. A lot of stuff that’s getting the love in this thread, I’ve tried, and it just wasn’t worth my time. Right now, there are only 3 in-progress series that I enjoy. Two are obvious – The Kingkiller Chronicles and A Song of Ice and Fire. The other, I have not seen mentioned yet – Carol Berg’s Collegia Magica. Her other books didn’t impress me, but Collegia Magica is quite good.

    Besides that, my top list would include LotR, Narnia, Amber, Earthsea, the Odyssey, Ender’s Game, Startide Rising, the Black Company, and the Forever War. I have a hard time seeing myself re-reading anything else.

    Anyway, I hope some of you will pick up Spirit Lens (the first Collegia Magica) and give it a shot.

  16. Rathain123
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    I rarely post comments but wanted to suggest a few additions to the already incredible lists present here. For starters: “The War of Light & Shadow” series by Janny Wurts. I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction since my early teens and there are but a handful that have caused tears or strong emotion. Hers definitely falls into that category. It’s a great series that’s been in the making since the mid 90′s. Glenn Cook’s The Black Company has been mentioned a few times but his series “The Instrumentalities of Night”, is another great series by a guy whose been doing the genre justice since the early 80′s. I’ll add one more for the symmetry of 3. Paul Kearney and his “The Macht series”. It starts with The Ten Thousand and proceeds apace with Corvus. The series is historically reminiscent of ancient Macedonia with similar weapons and tactics. All in all, I just wanted to offer a few more options that have given me a great deal of enjoyment over the years. I hope that they do the same for any of you. Best to you all!

    • AO_22
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Permalink


      I’ve been slowly working my way through the first of Wurts’ novels in this series, “The Curse of the Mistwraith” and have had serious doubts as to whether or not I wanted to continue on. Could you tell me if the rest of the series is similar to the first book?

      I had been very much looking forward to reading this series after finishing the amazing Empire Trilogy that Wurts & Feist did, “Daughter of the Empire”, “Servant of the Empire” and “Mistress of the Empire” but have found “Curse” to be quite a letdown in some ways. The mythology and backstory have been just as good as I’d hoped, the plot is decent, but the characterizations (at times) and especially the dialogue have seemed stiff and at times very unimpressive. There are stretches where I come away with less of a sense of a story being told than a series of facts. As interesting as some of those facts might be, the way that they are being told sometimes strikes me as very wooden and uninteresting. I have no doubt that there are the makings for an excellent novel here, but imo Wurts doesn’t pull it off. Perhaps it improves as it goes along?

      • Rathain123
        Posted June 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

        Hey AO_22,
        I think that they’ve gotten considerably better. The first book, introduces the two main characters: Arithon and Lysaer, along with a host of others of varying importance. As the series continues more characters are brought along and most importantly the scope of the story broadens and deepens. My only gripe with the series and Wurts writing in general is she tends express her stories with a great deal of prose. I am all for descriptive prose but I do feel there is a point in which the lengths an individual goes for its inclusion can be telling. If you continue to read the series (and I strongly suggest that you do) there are going to be times where she gets verbose and it’s unnecessary. Beyond that I haven’t found anything else that I find off-putting. IT’s strongly written, with great characters of impressive depth and a story that is heart-rending at times. I do hope that you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.

  17. mattl86
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    “They’re books I’m meaning to read, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Watership Down – Richard Adams”

    Really? What a great book.

    “A Song of Ice and Fire – Martin (Yeah Yeah. I know. I’ve been busy…)”

    Okay, hold on a second. That’s going to far. What?! Whaaaat?

    “Wheel of Time – Jordan and Sanderson (I’ve only read the first two)”
    WHAT??? You don’t have to even like it, but you have to read it.

    No mention of Abercrombie in the recommends or to-read section. That’s disturbing.

    And to think, you had tricked me into thinking you were cool :(

    • MouetteSheridan
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

      ‘You don’t have to even like it, but you have to read it.’ ? Why would anyone continue to read something they didn’t like?

  18. JBSC78
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 12:25 AM | Permalink

    If you ever want to read a fantastic SciFi novel read Dan Simmons. Hyperion is an amazing book. It won the Hugo.

  19. battlequeen
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 1:54 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    thanks for the great lists. I already read the various other recommendations you posted over the years and I think amazon will be very very happy with my next order ;-)
    But I think your list is missing something: The Demon Triology by Peter V. Brett. After Kingkiller this is/are the best books I have ever read.
    (And I also think “Way of Kings” by Sanderson deserves a place on the list ;-) )

    Since I am a first time poster I also have a question: Did you know that the german publisher of Kingkiller – Klett-Cotta – will split “The Wise Man’s Fear” into two hardcovers? Each of them will cost round about 25€ (approximately 35$) which I think is really kind of a rip-off – so I hope you also get paid twice!!! – but the really annoying thing beside that (for my friends who aren’t able to read the original) is that the second part of day two will be published 5 month after the first part (Feb 2011).

    One more thing: Discovering you lead to discovering Subterranean Press which made my growing library very happy *g*

    Greetings from germany,

  20. Logan
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    I think a lot of us are forgetting that this is Pat’s personal list of books that have had the most impact with him and in the genre, not a list of best sci-fi and fantasy books done by a poll of experts or anything.

    A lot of us disagree with certain things or would have added different books (for example, I would definitely have some Jack Vance on there), but he might have enjoyed some of the same books we think should be on the list, but they might not have hit him as emotionally as they did us.

    I’ve read most of them and agree with SporkTastic about Wheel of Time. I’ve read about half of them, and I just don’t think they’re as good as Martin’s or Pat’s books. Too much summarizing of previous books and too much trying to make every single thing seem hugely important.

    • Posted June 25, 2011 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

      +1 to this comment. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, for me GRRM is not a must read, and I enjoyed his Wild Cards series just as much as I have enjoyed ASOIAF.

      Unless you are getting paid to sit around and do nothing, you just do not have the time to read every book out there. Since I finished uni and started working full time, I have not had nearly as much time as I would have hoped to read books, and I imagine that since Pat finished uni he has also not had as much time to read books except when he is in transit between venues for book tours.

      I also imagine that as a writer, you want to be reading what the new authors are writing right now because writing is your industry and you want to know what is going on in your industry. If I was writing full time I would be staying right on top of all the fantastic new fiction that is coming out and save the classics for when I have the time.

    • AO_22
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Permalink

      I agree. None of us can know where in Pat’s life he was when he read these books. Some of them might have influenced him to a greater extent because he was young enough to be especially impressed by an aspect of one particular book or old enough to see the wisdom of another.

      I know that I can’t argue how much a work touched or inspired someone else, and I agree with you that I don’t think that any of us can.

    • MouetteSheridan
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 7:03 PM | Permalink

      Fourth absolute agreement. These, as Pat said, are not the A or even A- books – these are the A++, for him personally, and those that influenced him most. Influence can happen for a variety of reasons.

  21. jlundy10
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 2:07 AM | Permalink

    Is The Hobbit, lumped in with The Lord of the Rings?
    They are connected stories but they are different. Did you overlook it?
    It has to be hands down one of my favorite memories as a kid growing up, reading and re-reading The Hobbit.

  22. Nina
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 2:09 AM | Permalink

    I would like to add Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Trilogy (The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur) to the list of books you should read. He usually writes historical novels but this trilogy also qualifies as fantasy and it’s really worthwhile.

  23. Cknight
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 4:37 AM | Permalink

    You have not read Mr Martins Song of Ice and Fire series? Quite frankly I’m apalled, to me that just seems insane. There are only 2 series’ I’ve enjoyed kinda, just slightly more than yours and that is one of them ( Glen Cooks The Black Company would be the other) Mr Rothfuss, I ask that you please get on reading those. And for the record, I don’t recall seeing Robert Jordans Wheel of Time Series on any lists either. Sir, you’ve got some work to do.


  24. Infinite_Day
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

    I was looking through this post real quick and noted that Pat had the Discworld series higher up on it. I thought I would interject a small iota of fact that nobody probably cares about. If you look at the cover of the Discworld graphic novel of The Color of Magic you’ll see that it was adapted by Scott Rockwell – that’s my wife’s uncle. Scott has a live-in female friend who also knows and worked with Gaiman. At any rate – that’s my small bit of irrelevant trivia for the day. Thanks for this list, Pat. I need some new reading.

  25. Kara
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    I’m so glad Connie Willis is on your “to read” list! She’s amazing and it seems like so many people have never heard of her. I especially love her stuff about time travel but all of her books are based around extremely cool ideas.

    Also, thank you for the John Scalzi recommendation from forever ago. My mom is also thrilled since she always lamented that “real scifi” died out with Asimov.

  26. Ellie
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    great list…. But for my personal list I would add the “Bartimaeus Cycle” from Jonathan Stroud. Okay it is Young Adult. But the characters are great and I’ve never met such a sarcastic, funny and ironic djinn. Brent Weeks, Joe Abercrombie and Peter V. Prett were already mentioned but nevertheless they would be an my list as well.


  27. nr
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    Dear Pat,
    I think you are a pretty awesome guy *begins gushy rant*. As if it weren’t enough that you wrote a fricking amazing book or two, your taste in others and fantasy/sifi in general is something I respect very much (not that you reaaaallly needed to hear that from a random on the internet but hey).
    However I do have just one or two bones to pick with you:
    a) You did not mention Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell. This book never ceases to blow my mind every time I read it. I can never pin down exactly what it is about it. I think it’s the way it seems to not use any of the preformed structure to a fantasy novel and yet so effortlessly draws you into this alternate historical reality. Maybe you have to be kinda British?? I’m going to invoke Gaiman now: “unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years.”.

    b) I have never noticed you mention Dr. Who. Although I refuse to believe in my heart of hearts that you would not love the show if you’d seen enough, can it be that you are an uninitiated? What about now Neil Gaiman has written an episode??? -This is meant to provoke a reaction either way… basically I’ve just always wondered if you had an opinion on it and thought this might be the best way to get it, Neil references and all…-

    • lykashii
      Posted June 25, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

      I’ve noticed the lack of Doctor Who also. Being British, and Welsh (Where it’s made) I am very proud of it becoming a big hit in the states, and would love to see an amzing author appreciate it as well : )

      • jaimo
        Posted June 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

        Being a fairly new US watcher of Doctor Who, I found myself a little overwhelmed. I tried to go back and watch the complete series from it’s first season (1963) and couldn’t get into it. I enjoy the newer episodes starting in 2005 (mmmmmm…Billie Piper!). How much backstory am I actually missing by not watching the early episodes?

        • kaleid
          Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

          ” how much backstory am I missing..”
          Answer 1:
          None at all. The Dr is constantly reinvented, so it is an ideal program to just start watching at any time. As well, the seasons starting in 2005 were deliberately made so that anyone too young for the earlier backstory would be able to start watching and enjoy straight away
          All of it. There are references to early ‘Who all of the way through the current seasons. Pretty much everyone who is working on the series now grew up with it, so it is a giant shared mythology. And yes, the more early ‘Who you watch the more you will references and backstory you will notice
          Answer 3:
          If you talk to fans you will find that most have them have one Doctor who is ” their’ Doctor, and they will tell you to watch that one, and not worry about the rest (mine is Tom Baker, for the record). But realistically: NOTW and WMF draw on a large SF and fantasy tradition. Mr Rothfuss has just given us a list of books. Have you read all of them? Do you think that it is necessary to read all of them in order to enjoy NOTW? I think classic ‘Who is a bit like reading classic SF- some of us are completists, and want to know where it all came from, and some of us just enjoy kicking back and enojoying what is there right now. And whichever one you are, (and many of us are both at different times) it’s fine, and there is lot to love, even if you miss a few references.

          • jaimo
            Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

            Great response kaleid. Thank you. Based on your reply, I am going to go back and watch the series from the early days.

          • kaleid
            Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

            Hi jaimo,

            I talked to a few of my other friends about this question. They pointed out that the production values in early Dr Who were very different to what is now normal. The new series of Dr Who has been cut so it is much faster. this may be why you found it hard to ” get into” when you started?
            One of my friends had the same first two answers as mine, above, but her third answer was ” Only if you like watching old movies, and old television programs, because people who are not used to the different pacing will find it very difficult to watch”.
            Hope this helps.

  28. Robo
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

    Can we set this blog aside somewhere where I can access it randomly over the course of the next year? It’s like a christmas stocking stuffer. Every time I look inside, something new and juicy good rolls out.

  29. Robo
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    BTW, while I really enjoyed the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series, nothing is better than Conan. Howard’s prose is spot-on and Conan lets loose more misogynistic zingers than Andrew Dice Clay. They’re both episodic, but Conan leaves you giggling with delight throughout. Pulpy good!

  30. lykashii
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

    I’m happy to say I’ve read a lot of those books you’ve listed. Own a large number of them as well. (Which I think is an achievement considering I’m 20 and already in debt with uni fees)

    So glad that my faves are on there. Apart from your books, obviously, Robin Hobb’s books are AMAZING.

    Also. One word :



    Enough said.

  31. BenT
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    One of my favorites is L.E. Modesitt Jr. He makes some great characters. Not quite as deep as Kvothe, but still great. Just got started on Butcher’s stuff. Fell in love on the 9th page of “Storm Front. ” ” Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

  32. Fluffybunnywant2kill
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

    I too am an unabashed book whore! unfortunately I dont have a personal library as grand as yours but I’m working on it! Most of my friends turn to me when they need a book recommendation and I unerringly point them to Name of the Wind first. After that I strongly recommend the following that didn’t make your list (hopefully just because you havent read them :) )

    Mathew Woodring-Stover’s Hero’s Die
    (Futuristic dystopian actors cross the barrier into a parallel universe where magic works, and mythical creatures roam. they have cameras surgically implanted in their heads to send video back to earth for earthling second favorite book ever!)

    Douglas Preston & Lincon Child’s Relic, riptide, Codex, and Cabinet of Curiosities.

    Ted Dekker’s THR3E and Circle trilogy

    Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series (even ppl not normally a Koontz fan enjoy this new spin on the Frankenstein story, its current time and Shelly’s original Dr Frankenstein and the monster still live to today and are dukeing it out in Louisiana.

    Frank Peretii’s Monster

  33. Posted June 25, 2011 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    I must say, the Forever War is one of the best books I’ve ever read, all genres mixed together.
    I also really like Starship Trooper.

    For video game fans (and hopefully SF fans in general too), the Halo novels written by Eric Nylund are also very good.

    My favorite one is The Fall of Reach. I never tire of re-reading it.
    If you haven’t read it, try. I’m sure you’ll be surprised ! :)

  34. BBB
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    Pat, you are brilliant…you will be even more so once you read Watership Down.


    PS–nice job with The Wise Man’s Fear…in case no one had mentioned that to you just yet ;)

  35. b0b3rt
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    Allow me highly, highly recommend Forever War, and slightly recommend Forever Peace (which is not actually a sequel, but still worth reading).

    Stay far, far away from Forever Free. It is a sequel to Forever War – and, frankly, it’s terrible. It adds nothing good to the story. The entire time I was reading it, I was like, okay, what’s next? The ending left me incredibly disappointed as well.

  36. Dan... 11111
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 6:12 PM | Permalink

    Not read GRRM… that’s a criminal offence =.=

    Others I’d recommend:

    Jennifer Fallon – Second Sons Trilogy – Main protagonist is a little bit like your Kvothe in a way, i.e. A genius who uses his brain rather than brawn to get out of difficult situations. World is really nice and also there isn’t any ‘magic’ in it making it a bit different from most fantasy books.

    Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn Trilogy – The first book (The Final Empire) in my opinion was better than the other two, mostly because the main antagonist is better characterised, and just generally nicely done, this however isn’t the case for the second antagonist present in the other two books. But the magic is awesomely done and although the world is very dark and gloomy, I liked it =).

    Alison Croggon – Pellinor Series – Although it’s been a few years since I read these, I found the world vibrantly colourful and it’s written quite poetically. The Maerad the main character reminds me of a female kvothe at times. Very muscal etc…

  37. StoneDogAiel
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:03 PM | Permalink

    I met you at the Portland signing for Wise Mans Fear (both of them are excellent, by the way) and became ever more of a fan since I found your blog. There is only one author that jumps out at me as being missing from your lists.

    Dennis L. McKiernan.

    Other than that, I just have to say, get on Martin, Kay, and WoT. Just do it!

  38. Kashiraja
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 12:50 AM | Permalink

    Bujold (with the Vorkosigan Saga) has done for SF what you’ve done for fantasy. just don’t read the last book (Cryogenics) as it doesn’t even feel as written by the same author who wrote the same fantastic Vorkosigan books before that.

  39. McGoose
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 5:28 AM | Permalink

    Get your Mervyn on and read some Peake! The first one at least. It will haunt your dreams. Many of your titles also influenced me as well. Did you read Shannara with the wonderful illustrations? I read mine till the pages fell out.

    Definitely anything by Patricia McKillip. Little gems.

    Donaldson? Gap into Conflict is one of my favorites. With a character like Angus Thermopylae you can’t go wrong.

    Thanks Pat

  40. Sedulo
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 5:47 AM | Permalink

    I was delighted to see “A Wrinkle In Time” on your list. My 3rd grade teacher read it to the class and I was spellbound.

    I’m kind of stunned at how many of the books on your lists I have read, but I also have two teetering stacks that other people in the blog recommended so I think I’m fine in these genres. Woohoo!

    Read GRRM when you feel like it. It is as good as everyone says!
    Plus you won’t have to wait 10 years to find out what your fave characters have been up to. Bonus!

    I, of course somehow think you will feel like reading ASOIAF after you write book three. Happy Father’s DAY! (a week late, sans frog +”FALL”).

  41. scotp
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 6:19 AM | Permalink

    Flatland is only about 80 pages long. Leave copy in the can and you’d have one book off you “to read” list in just a few dumps.

  42. ericturner29
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Where you are in life when you read these books absolutely matters.

    I read the the Sword of Shannara in middle school and loved it. I read LOTR as an adult and had to force myself to finish it.

    • 9lives
      Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

      Totally agree. I came into LOTR after reading for years, and while I could see his influence in everything I read, I didn’t really enjoy his work. Perspective is everything.

  43. fanofnotw
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Did you not like “The Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind? The first four books were genius and then they kind of trailed off a bit but then got better again somewhere later. I didn’t see it up there. It could just be me though. Just wondering. Oh! And the “Mistborn” series is pretty awesome too. Well, pretty much everything by Brandon Sanderson’s really good. “The Way of Kings” and “Elantris” are just a few of my favorites. :)

  44. DietchyPeach
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 5:50 PM | Permalink

    more books than i have money, or the library for that matter

  45. Jellyk8
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 7:13 PM | Permalink

    Just joined the site after being a HUGE fan for ages. Had to join as my other favourite author wasn’t on your list and I was wondering if you have read his stuff. Terry Goodkind. He is awesome. I have a bad habit of re-reading books again and again until I find something that lives up to it. Found yours after re-reading his series for about the 5th time. Yes I am a geek.

  46. Posted June 26, 2011 at 9:52 PM | Permalink

    This is my first time posting here Pat but I have been following your blog with much joy for the past couple of years. I am currently half-way through Wise Man’s Fear and am loving every page.

    I felt impelled to register and post after reading your list. I’ve read quite a few of those and you have given me a great deal to look forward to.

    I know you have a ton of blog comments to read (much less books) but seeing that you enjoyed Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” I couldn’t help but pop in and give a plug for his “Eyes of the Dragon”. It is as close to “traditional” fantasy as you will get from Mr. King and is probably my favorite out of all his many works. I really think you would enjoy it.

    Also move GRRM to the top of your list ;)

    • Sark_Amen
      Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

      Wow, surprised to see you on here. I love some of your stuff!

    • jaimo
      Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

      I have to second Stephen King’s, Eyes of the Dragon. An extremely underrated piece of writing and not at all what you would expect from the author,

  47. millerhv
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 11:08 PM | Permalink

    All those are good books to read, I have read and also own the majority of them. Some other good reads are, the Nightside series by Simon R Green, The Redemption of Althalus and the continuation of the Belgariad in The Malloreon by David Eddings. Two good Australian authors are Fiona McIntosh and Sara Douglass. The Quickening series and The Valisar Trilogies are by Fiona McIntosh and The Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglass will keep you reading all summer! The first book in a new trilogy by Deborah Harkness, Discovery of Witches is a great read also. I find I can always take one of these books off my bookshelf to re read any day!

  48. landlouper
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

    No mention of the Darkover novels anywhere in blog or comments. Sad me. One of my favorites. I like darkover much better than mists of avalon – great worldbuilding, a fantasy series with a scifi origin, some of the most incredible characters I’ve ever read. Marion Zimmer Bradley rules.

  49. Sark_Amen
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:16 AM | Permalink

    Nice list, hit about 75% of my favorite authors in there. I am surprised not to see Terry Goodkind on there. Though, I am not sure where he would fall on my own list.

    • Dianadomino
      Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:31 PM | Permalink

      I find the same frustrations with Terry Goodkind’s series as I have with the Wheel of Time series: It takes FOREVER to get anywhere in these stories. They are plot-driven behemoths, albeit charming and occasionally engrossing behemoths. Still aggravating when one has read two or three of the books and only a few weeks have passed in “world time.”

      Martin accomplishes that much more seamlessly.

      Pat’s behemoths, on the other hand, are so engrossing and easy to read, one forgets just how long the books are. One just gets to read and read and read and then, finally, regretfully, come to the end wanting more.

  50. Frank
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

    Wow, this helps me a lot. And gets me a little sad because there’s so much I haven’t read yet. (sad? I can continue on reading for, like, forever. What am I saying?)

    Thanks for this, and thanks for sharing that you haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire yet. This gives me a precedent to say to anyone harrassing me about it: “You know who also didn’t find time to read that? Yeah that’s right, Patrick Rothfuss himself, baby. Suck it.”

  51. Tobias
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    I think my Summer Reading List is full. :P Thanks.
    Howl’s Moving Castle is a great read by the way and I’m only three books into The Wheel of Time series, but I have to say the third book was better than the first too so keep reading! :)

  52. arabin
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    First, thank you. I now have enough reading to do for easily the next few years.

    Second, how is it possible that none of your lists include any Aasimov? While some of his work was less than stellar, can anyone deny the influence the Robot series had? And easily the most memorable and formative reading I did was the Foundation series!

  53. kick2k5
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    A couple of weeks ago I picked up Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” because… well, I couldn’t find anything else that looked interesting at the bookstore. I was hooked after the first chapter. For fans of the Dresden files, imagine a darker Harry Dresden looking for revenge.

    • Dianadomino
      Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

      A MUCH darker Harry Dresden. A Chaotic Neutral Harry Dresden, who’s been to hell and back! ^_^

    • sethbu
      Posted July 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

      Seconded. I occasionally browse the new books section at the library and finding books like this is the reason why.

  54. PerykPeryk
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    All the books in the Temeraire series are a good election (
    On the other hand, the books of Brent Weeks (

  55. 9lives
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

    Thanks again for listing your books (and writing them). Spending the morning reading your list and the comments makes me remember how much I love books and how much those books are a part of who I am.

  56. bluezone
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    hey pat,

    great lists, thans for a lot of tips!
    amazingly, i read around 50% of the books in your top ten…

    Couple of classics that were ‘missing’ would be ‘Gateway’ series by Fred Pohl Asimovs ‘Foundation’ , David Gerrolds ‘War on Chtorr’ and Dan Simmons ‘Hyperion’.

  57. bluezone
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    hey pat,

    great lists, thanks for a lot of tips!
    amazingly, i read around 50% of the books in your top ten…

    Couple of classics that were ‘missing’ would be ‘Gateway’ series by Fred Pohl Asimovs ‘Foundation’ , David Gerrolds ‘War on Chtorr’ and Dan Simmons ‘Hyperion’.

  58. Sommerset
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Permalink

    Crap in a hat! I LOVE the chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. I read the first two books umpteen times from my local library, and in a further confluence of events I just discovered there is a third book. Unfortunately, it is crazy out of print and “spensive” so it’ll be a while before I finally track it down.

    Just giddy that someone else actually read and liked those books.

  59. ollas78
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 5:51 PM | Permalink

    Ok, so I will fokus on the books you haven´t yet read, that i have and think is realy worthy. Cudos on the other selection by the way.

    1: The Doomsday Book – Connie Willis; One of the best books I have ever read, the humanity that transpires from every page is astonishing, and the second half of the book, you will read every page with your heart in your throat.

    2: Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books – Fritz Leiber; Mmm, wounderful stuff, the witt, the bravado, the machismo, and always whith a ironic twist in the face of the classic herofantasy!

    3: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones; The goddess of childrens fantasy, nah any fantasy! What i grew up reading , and the source of whorship from the demigood Gaiman, that should be enough. To sweeten the cake Studio Gibli has made a fantastic film out of it. Read the book first though.

    The bad english is due to the Swedishnes of myself

    / Olle

    • Dianadomino
      Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:22 PM | Permalink

      I, frankly, adored Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. I had cats with those names, and knew when a kindred spirit was visiting if they “got it”. LOL

  60. dowanx
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Permalink

    I would have to say Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn is the best book I have ever read. While in the same breath i would say Patrick Rothfuss has a better grasp of the English language and can turn words into a glorious piece of art.

    They only way to explain this is by the following. I could read Mr. Rothfuss write about a brick sitting in a yard and he would find a way to make me be entranced. But on the other hand, Mr. Sanderson knows how to build amazingly creative worlds, captivating characters, great plot arcs, and just about anything else you need in a great story all the while keeping you entertained.

    That being said Mr. Rothfuss and Mr. Sanderson are probably the two best up and coming authors and I would look to them for the best Fantasy or Sci-Fi has to offer.

    Since I am speaking about great authors, I have to mention George R. R. Martin. He is the Motzart of the Fantasy Genre. His ability to juggle half a hundred plot lines, characters and make you hate then love a character and then hate them again is truly unique.

    Sadly, I don’t think he will finish his best work, A Song of Fire and Ice. If only truly amazing authors could live through the decades as the greatest classics have the world would be a better place.

    That being said if you haven’t read the A Song of Fire and Ice series you are sorely missing out.

  61. Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the list, Pat. It made me pleased, as I have read a lot of what you have. So there is hope for me yet – maybe, just maybe, I will one day get my shit together and write the book I’ve always dreamed of.

    Also, you are going to love your summer reads. ‘A Mote in God’s Eye’ is classic Niven and Pournelle, the aliens dubbed the Moties are both cute and terrifying. And word of warning, ‘House of Leaves’ is a taxing novel to get into, but well worth the initial effort.

    P.S I have now sold 83 copies of Name of the Wind at my work :)

  62. Renny
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    Has anyone else read the Liaden Universe series? If so , what did you all think of it?

    • kaleid
      Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:28 AM | Permalink

      I had a holiday in Liad a few years back…. 5 books in 7 days. I am in awe of the Ninja Giant turtles who spend years growing knives deep in their caves… Definately recommend them to all my friends.

      But, deep as my Love and Devotion is to Liad, I am sorry, they just cannot write bad guys. It is a tribute to their story writing skill, their plot and pacing, that you can read a whole book, get really caught up in it, and then come out the end and say.. Huh? What a wimpy lot of evil villans!
      In short, wonderful, fantastic, fun, silly books.

  63. swedishness
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    Well… just have to start of by – as quite many of you already have pointed out – that one simply MUST read ASOIAF. Asking which series I treasure the most – Kingkiller chronicles or ASOIAF – would result in my head exploding from indecision!

    Other than that – having finished the first four books by Joe Abercrombie I found myself duly impressed. Loved that mix of brutality, grittyness and humor. What fantastic reads!

    Have also just finished Daniel Abramham’s Long Price Quartet and can NOT believe that this has not been mentioned. Absolutely fantastic world-building and truly heart-breakingly written. Apart from the great Pat himself I don’t think I’ve read any books with such profound insights into human conflict and hardships as Abraham’s. Can’t recommend that highly enough.

    For SF, you cannot go wrong with picking up Son Of Heaven, the first (of 20!) books in David Wingrove’s epic Middle Kingdom dystopian cycle. Read that as they were originally published as 8 novels back in the ’90′s and have thought about them quite often since then. Really looking forward to reading all of the (now expanded) series again.

    Have just today also started Peter V Brett’s The Painted Man, which looks really promising – a page-turner!

    Well…. could go on and on and on….

  64. Dianadomino
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for including the “Riddle Master of Hed” trilogy, one of the finest bits of fantasy I have ever read. I think I have read a good 3/4 of the books on your list, and several have been pointed out to me now, that I will put on my reading list.

    Ah, books, how I love them. <3

  65. Bob78164
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

    The Amber series is not my favorite Zelazny title. I have often called “Lord of Light” prose poetry. The power and command of style Zelazny demonstrates from cover to cover can make accomplished writers weep with envy.

    Do yourself a favor and grab the book. But before you open it, make sure you have nothing else to do that evening.

    • Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:57 AM | Permalink

      YES. Lord of Light was brilliant. I have to re-read it sometime soon. It’s especially enjoyable if you are familiar with religions of India and also have read Siddhartha. But that is not a requirement by any means. It stands alone.

  66. theriptide
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 9:47 PM | Permalink

    Holy cow, not having read GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire is incredible. Not sure Ive ever met anyone who loves fantasy fiction and hasn’t read that and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. In my honest opinion, GRRM isn’t just the greatest fantasy fiction writer alive, he’s the second best living American writer alive, second only to Cormac McCarthy. And it’s a close friggin’ second. A Song of Ice and Fire is must-read for anyone.

    P.S., thanks to all for the book recommendations. This is a great post.

  67. mandati
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

    ASOIAF series is a must read, and if you want to read something that is on par, pick up a copy of Prince of Nothing by R.R. Scott Bakker. These two had ruined the fantasy genre for me. However I’m starting to like The Way of Kings.

    • per
      Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

      Bakker. I’ll second Bakker.

      … just make sure you set aside, you know, a month. There’s a lot of Bakker to love.

  68. Atreus
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Permalink

    Picked up and read a few Neil Gaiman books this week (realize I had already read Sandman without knowing it was him). And, I have to admit, he is an incredible writer who created breathtaking mythologies. His worlds are unique and vivid and wonderful.


    Don’t sell yourself short.

    In all honesty, I like reading your books more.

  69. Nicham
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

    I’m so glad Zelazny is on your list. Before you he was my favorite author of all time. My dad gave me his copy of Nine Princes in Amber when I was 12, and it changed my life for ever.

  70. SavalBork
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:37 AM | Permalink

    Not that any sane person would read down to comment 314; however, should you not be sane, two notes on your summer reading list: skip The Fionavar Tapestry, as Kay’s later works are much better (Sarantine Mosaic or The Lions of al-Rassan will put a lump in your throat), and if/when you read Erikson, focus, focus real hard (I am reading through a second time now and taking notes- at the end of book three, I was at 4,000 words. Never have I done such a thing before, ever). Best of luck- oh, and seek help online on reading the Vorkosigan Saga in the proper order.

  71. Skara
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

    First day back to school.
    A.P. Literature and Composition Teacher: Why didn’t you finish your summer readng list?
    Me: Patrick Rothfuss posted a list of books that I felt compelled to read. It really isn’t my fault.
    A.P. Literature and Composition Teacher: Zero on all assignments.

    See what you’ve done to me! If I fail my A.P. Lit class, I’m blaming you!


    • Beej
      Posted July 1, 2011 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

      You: How the hell can an A.P. Lit class not include these books AS the reading assignments?

      I once told my English teacher–who was also the headmaster of the school, a guy who hadn’t changed his syllabus in decades–that the definition of literature was books no one read but everyone talked about.

  72. Bartb11
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 7:43 PM | Permalink

    Why must I work so many hours a week to put food on the table and a roof over the children’s heads????!?!?! I already have so many books on my ‘want to read’ list, however, thanks so much Pat and my fellow Rothfuss fans for adding a bunch more (though I’m happy to say I’ve read a LOT of those mentioned by Pat and in the comments). Thank goodness many of these titles are available in my local libraries as my discretionary funds to buy books is not that much. Yet somehow I have purchased multiple copies of NOTW and WMF…..copies for me, copies for my children, copies to give away as gifts so my friends share in the joy of reading Pat’s books…. :-)

  73. B
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    Echo the Prydain shout-out – growing up we had in the house the Middle-Earth series, the Narnia series, and the Prydain series, I thoroughly enjoyed all 3, and (blasphemy I know) found the Prydain stories much more accessible as a young person, compared to the complexity of LOTR stuff.

    In the theme of early Gibson (Bridge or Sprawl trilogy) or Stephenson (prefer his Diamond Age, particularly as a first-read, probably helped that I had a young daughter when I read it….)

    I must also give a shout-out to

    Bruce Sterling’s ‘Holy Fire’ – a brilliant nearish future story (and his near-futures are some of the best) about what might really happen if old people could be made young again……..

    Though 1A and 1B of my favorite current authors (you being the other, changing places depending on the day) is the less-known, bat-@#$% crazy, always perversely entertaining and brilliantly inventive Charlie Stross, (name-checked in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series)… for my money, the short-list of people who write a style of future fiction that involves dense, thorough, believable projections of modern science and knowledge, (as found in Snow Crash and/or Diamond Age and/or Gibson’s early work) includes Sterling, Stephenson, and Stross (all located on the same bookshelf usually).

    Charlie Stross ‘Accelerando’ – may be my all-time favorite sci-fi book – the audacity, density, and diversity of this book is unmatched by anything I’ve read or heard tell of. its like the whole Wells/Verne catalogue condensed into a single volume, and modernized, then futurized, then blended with ice and tequila….. or something…

    he has a few ‘genres’ or sub-genres he works in –
    ‘Eschaton series’ – a few books in a similar vein to Accelerando, he also has a stand-alone ‘true-sci-fi’ book in a similar vein, ‘Glasshouse’

    at any rate, wanted to give my other favorite writer a shout-out.. can’t wait for day-3, and hopefully continued work in the Kvothe-verse and/or anything of the reliable Rothfuss-ian quality…

    his modern-day-tech-nerd-fights-Lovecraftian-horrors series (The Laundry Series – full of win, with awesome sauce on the side)

    (The Merchant Prince Series – an alt-reality homage to ‘Amber’ disguised as ‘fantasy’ to avoid exclusive sci-fi rights written into his contract…. but more a political thriller anti-fantasy mish-mash that I could not stop reading… in all his books he has characters that I fall in love with, and then he does, awful, horrible, almost unbearable things to them.. in this series in particular, our (female-lead) protagonist suffers events that would impress Job himself…..)

    also, in defense of Brooks, Sword of Shanarra may be a pure LOTR rip-off, but its a damnfine pie, more of a tribute or homage maybe? I’ve read some of his other work (Landover and Shannara), which I feel don’t measure up to the ‘Sword’ book. Though his most recent works (running with demon, etc) and their tie-in to the birth of the Shannara-verse I found compelling……

  74. per
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    … you picked Hughart. I love Hughart.


  75. Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    I can’t believe I don’t have Shannara on the Kindle yet! The Kindle is still a fairly recent acquisition, and with my physical books all packed away in storage boxes (tiny apartment means not enough book shelves #pout) a checklist of what should be on it is very helpful.

    Thanks for providing the handy-dandy list of awesome in time for the long weekend!

  76. artoodeeto
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    Hey Pat, thought I’d toss in a vote in favor of you reading Watership Down – I first read it when I was in 3rd grade I think (still have the book report on whose cover I drew rabbits :P )…anyway. I’ve done a lot of reading over the years, and Watership Down is in so many ways still utterly unique. I reread it about a year ago (I’m 34 now) and still loved it. Great story, well told, and unforgettable characters (not to mention very believable character development and plot line, as well as only-slightly-under-the-surface environmental commentary).

  77. Shadowrest
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 6:03 PM | Permalink

    Admittedly I haven’t waded through every comment but it needs to be said: ever since I read Malazan every other fantasy novel I’ve read jsut made me shrug and go “Meh, its not Malazan.” Until a friend turned me onto the Name of the Wind.

    For my money The Malazan Book of the Fallen and The Kingkiller Chronicles are flat out the greatest fantasy series of recent years. Sanderson, Martin, all these other guys write decent books-but they don’t hold a candle to these two series. If you haven’t read Malazan you are absolutely missing out.

    Also-maybe I just missed it but if you haven’t read it check out Soldier, Ask Not by Gordon Dickson.

    Also also- A Canticle for Leibowitz is an absolutely amazing read.

    • mandati
      Posted July 1, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

      Sorry but the Malazan does not come close to ASOIAF.

      • Kruppe
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

        In your opinion, that is…

        Both series have their advantages/disadvantages, no need to act like one is qualitatively superior to the other.

        • Shadowrest
          Posted July 5, 2011 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

          Thanks for the comment Kruppe. I hate when message boards turn into a forum for bashing other people’s tastes. But to make it clear…….I’m not bashing other authors as someone apparently assumed, just rendering my personal opinion as to which people’s work I personally prefer.

  78. NJT
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    I would read The Curse of Chalion, before The Vorkosigan Saga.

    The Vorkosigan books are good, but The Curse of Chalion is one of the few fantasy novels written in my lifetime, that I would put in the same class as your books.

  79. IAmtheRooster
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    Dood (yeah, spelled that way)! I am positively giddy, giddy I tell you, about your lists. I will not comment on your choices in any negative way–seeing that you are not a sheep and are entitled to opinions of your very own–but merely wanted to share that my giddiness is entirely* due to your intention to read Kay’s Fionavar trilogy (or Tapestry) this summer. It is *the* series I recommend to people who’ve never read fantasy before. I fervently hope you enjoy it.

    *Ok, not entirely; I also will be adding a number of books and series to my list based on your faves thus rendering my giddiness to near uncontrollable levels.

  80. wmorris
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    I’m surprised you listed SoIaF in the ‘to read’ section. You’re the one who recommended that series to me, when we met at Egocon some years back.

  81. reveries
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Permalink

    Wonderful lists, Pat! I have so much trouble ranking books, and tend to get overly excited given the chance to talk about my favorites so I’m not sure I could even throw together a list! ;)

    I’m pleased to see The Neverending Story mentioned. I finally read it about two years ago, and thought it was a fantastic book. I may or may not have cried at the end.

    And oh. Hmm. Wheel of Time. Oh my, what to say about Wheel of Time? That series means SO much to me. I would highly suggest that when you have time, you read it…but I mean, when you have LOTS of time. That series isn’t playing around. It is intense, in a good way! Some flaws, but hats off to RJ for his magnum opus, and for Sanderson for taking on finishing it. He’s going to do great. : )

  82. Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    It is excellent to have access to RRR (Rothfuss Recommended Reading). I’m a programmer/geek… I need acronyms to survive! I’ve many read of the books and series on the RRR list already but found some excellent reminders as well as some new finds as well. Thank you muchly!

    It is also good to know someone else loves The Belgariad. This was one of the first fantasy series I ever read and it surely helped to cement fantasy as one of my favorite genres. I was quite sad when I learned of the passing of Mr. Eddings although I haven’t read much he has written in more recent years.

    As David Edding and Tolkien are the glorious past for fantasy, you are the future (along with a couple other young authors that I love). It is a bright and exciting future and I cannot wait to see what comes next!

  83. Kruppe
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think I could give a top 40 list, but the ones that seem to stand out the most for me are
    Legend by Gemmell
    Dragonlance Chronicles

    I’m particularly thrilled to see you give some love to both Dragonlance Chronicles and Legend; many times in fantasy discussion I just see those titles get dumped on because they aren’t sophisticated enough supposedly. I read Legend so many times that my paperback fell apart.

  84. carnivoracious
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:10 PM | Permalink

    I’m frankly astounded that you mentioned Lethem’s Gun With Occasional Music. I’d begun to think I was the only person who’d read it. It’s likely out of print considering the “literary novels” he’s written since, but both Gun and Amnesia Moon were fantastic. For those that haven’t had the pleasure Lethem writes a bit like a cross between Phillip K. Dick and Chuck Palahniuk. Fun stuff.

  85. iceblinc
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

    lol I have read most of these, but there are a few I have not read. :)

    Have you read the Live Ship Trader series of Robin Hobb’s? That is my favorite by her.

    Also, have you read the Night Angel series by Brent Weeks? It is quite violent, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    There is always Terry Goodkind, too. I know he kind of sold out a bit with the TV series… But I can promise the books are way better than that!

    And finally, have you read “Jakeru” or “On Fortune’s Wheel” by Cynthia Voigt? They are nice light reads and great stories.

  86. D-Chan
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:29 AM | Permalink

    A late recomendation, if good, is never late (not regarding books anyway). I would really advice everyone to read Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a truly mindblowing book and one of my all time favourites.
    That’s all for now, but I’ll be getting back to this lists as soon as I’m done with my thesis, whenever that may be. Thank you all for the great advice fellas.
    Thank you Pat for being awesome!

  87. Posted July 5, 2011 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    Wonderful recommendations.

    I’d add “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester–the pinnacle of “Golden Age” SF–and will Nth the many recommendations for Scott Lynch’s “Locke Lamora” books. I really hope he finds his way through.

    If I’m going by influence on my life, Algis Budrys’ “The Falling Torch”, “Who?” and “Rogue Moon” are all high on my list, especially the last–they form a thematic trilogy exploring identity: political, personal and metaphysical. And then there’s William Tenn: “Of Men and Monsters” is his only novel, I think, but his short stories are as relevant and incisive today as when they were written half a century ago.

    And then there’s always (shameless plug warning!) this:

  88. Phule77
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

    Hrm. Female authors:

    Emma Bull (War for the Oaks, Finder, Freedom and Necessity)
    Caroyln Stevermer (When the King Comes Home, A College of Magics)
    Wen Spencer (Tinker)
    Elizabeth Moon (The Paksenarrion trilogy)
    Jennifer Roberson (The Sword Dancer series)
    C. J. Cherryh (Cyteen, etc.)
    Caitlyn Kiernan (Silk)
    J. V. Jones (The Barbed Coil, The Baker’s Boy Trilogy)

    With regards to Dianna Wynne Jones, I would recommend “A Sudden Wild Magic” over “Howls…”

    Riddle Master is on my “every half year” reading list. Amber used to be, but Zelazny has not aged well with me. The Liaden books are on my “every half year” list as well.

    “Night Watch” is the only book that I have ever read three times in a row the first time I picked it up. Incredible series.

    I have to say, I reread a lot of McKillip’s singles every couple of years, especially “Ombria in Shadow” or “A Song for Basilisk”. Having books that you know, going in, that you’re just not going to get the whole thing are, I think, imminently healthy for the mind.

  89. pkeeting
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    so, so many…
    guy kay is amazing – fionavar, sarantium, tigana, lions, etc.

    try ra mcavoy if you can find her work (old), esp tea with the black dragon, lens of the world

    try shiner – Glimpses – strange but a story with brian wilson and jimi hendrix as lead characters… cool book..

  90. TwoPynts
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    I feel I should also mention Tales of the Otori, Books 1 & 2 by Lian Hearn. She has a very poetic writing style and captures the drama of an alternate feudal Japan quite well. I have yet to read book 3, but unfortunately what I’ve heard about it isn’t overly positive.

  91. Birdie1964
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

    What about the Deryni Saga by Katherine Kurtz? Am I the only one that really loved those?

    Pat – thanks for getting me interested in reading more Fantasy, again. Over the past 15 years, I’d read American Gods, Stardust, Neverwhere and the HP series, but had sort of tired of fantasy “series”. I think I may need to read some of the Game of Thrones books and re-read American Gods, while I (anxiously) await Day 3 of the Kingkiller Chronicles.

    Thanks for the great books!

  92. crazysg1fan
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    House of Leaves AND Dahlgren! You’re my hero. I’ve recommended those two to so many people, usually together.

  93. Earthlight
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    I would like to recommend anything written by Brian Aldiss. One of my favourites is Helliconia

    Ian M Banks has a talent for inventing twisted, sadist situations and paints them with a lot of humour.

    Philip.K.Dick is king.

    Read a Mote in Gods Eye. Nobody creates alien life forms like Niven.

    Scott Card is good too, but one gets suspicious when one realizes that all his novels are about very young boys.

    Do not read the GG Martin series. After reading the last of a 1000+ pages of book three, expecting a conclusion to a series that had started to bore me, I found I had only finished book three of who-knows-how-many. Actually, I had only finished part one of book three. This series really illustrates the dollar-per-page-disease that plagues American literature (and Fantasy in general). It is a pity you cannot put books in a pot and reduce them like you do with a thin broth, because then ABOSAI might have become a tasty soup.

    Great list by the way, Amazon will thank you when I’ve put my next order in.

  94. Posted July 13, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    OK, I had a tome here, but I know I’m competing for a seriously limited slice of your attention. So here are two sf titles so excellent that their continued obscurity violates all known natural, mathematical, and magical laws:

    FINDER, Carla Speed McNeil

    I think COYOTE KINGS is out of print; the first three volumes of FINDER (an ongoing comic) are currently banging around Barnes & Noble in a giant omnibus collection, and you can purchase all of it at

    (And, if you’re still reading: For your aspirational list, yes to Leiber, Peake, Martin, Delany, and Le Guin. Maybe to Erikson/Esslemont. No to Dahlquist, Bujold, and WoT.)


  95. Rhia
    Posted July 20, 2011 at 7:14 AM | Permalink

    There’s not much I’m misssing (and tons I still have to read), but there is an author that crossed my mind: Walter Moers. I don’t know if you know him (I guess he’s still mostly known on the German market), but I have to say I ADORE the originality and wit of his books, especially ‘The 13.5 Lives of Captain Bluebear’ (Captain Bluebear is also a protagonist of German children’s TV so I love it even more for rediscovering him years after watching the TV show) and ‘The City of Dreaming Books’.
    In case anyone wants to check them out:

  96. sethbu
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink

    First off, you and Neal Stephenson are by leaps and bounds my two favorite current writers. With that in mind, I wanted to recommend further Stephenson books. He writes shorter novels (snow crash, diamond age) and then longer epics (anathem, cryptonomicon, baroque cycle). I love everything (baroque cycle was OK), but I think Anathem might be my favorite book of his, and one of my favorites ever. Philosphy, physics, an entirely unique world, and an incredibly exciting plot, especially towards the end.

    Interesting: Iain M. Banks writes great scifi, but he also writes “normal” fiction (I guess) as Iain Banks. I like his fiction stuff even more than the sci-fi. I feel like a lot of the books are as much about living in Scotland as they are individual stories, which is cool.

    Lev Grossman: The Magicians. Loved it.

    Also, someone shouted out Nick Harkaway’s “The Gone Away World” in an earlier thread and I wanted to say it one more time: fantastic book.

    • sethbu
      Posted July 25, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Permalink

      Also, haven’t read Memory, Sorrow and Thorn yet but I really like Tad Williams’ Otherland series. The plot’s pretty good, but the highlight is the dozens of different worlds the characters travel through.

  97. Morganio
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

    I agreed with all of your lists, but please, please, please say that you have gotten through a fair number of the books on your summer reading list? (the ones you hadn’t read yet). I can see why your list worked out how it did- after all the first 80 listed were the ones I started with, but to not have read George RR Martin, Steven Erikson and Guy Gavriel Kay? You are missing out on so much!

  98. Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:48 AM | Permalink

    I would add Zenna Henderson to your list for her stories about “The People.” Her stories were re-released in one volume, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson Other stories unrelated to this series could be found in Holding Wonder and The Anything Box.

    I would also add Robin McKinley to your list for pretty much anything she’s written but I especially love Deerskin and Sunshine.

  99. Posted October 24, 2011 at 1:10 AM | Permalink

    Oh and The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, short by today’s standards and a real thriller with twists you just don’t see coming.

    Poul Anderson…I re-read Operation Chaos every now and then. I grew up on the classics.

    Lloyd Biggle Jr is another one who has been forgotten over the years–I recommend The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets and All The Colors of Darkness. I discovered him on my mother’s bookshelves and I’d like to think he made me a better person. I suspect his emphasis on cultural understanding influenced my choice of Anthropology as a major, now that I think about it. :)

  100. EnderUSAF
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the list! I’m always looking for good books to read. Especially now that I’ve got two series that I’m eagerly awaiting the next book on (yours, and George R.R. Martin’s).

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