12 Science Fiction Books to Help You Escape Earth for Awhile

There is nothing quite like exploring the universe. Since we can’t physically go take a vacation among the stars, here are some books to let you do so from the comfort of your own home.

The Martian

Andy Weir’s The Martian is a great getaway, even if it means being stranded on Mars. Despite the serious predicament, Mark Whatney keeps a fun attitude as he tries to survive. If you liked the movie and prefer another story by Weir, he does have another novel titled Artemis that is also a fun read. It takes place on a colonized Moon and is also filled with fun, scientifically plausible events.

The Forever War

Joe Haldeman’s story of intergalactic warfare against an unknown enemy includes the realistic effects of time versus traveling near the speed of light. This story follows William Mandella as he tries to survive the war, and learns to survive with how the war has changed him.

Dune

With the new Dune movie set to release at the end of the year, I suspect many people will read this book for the first time within the next several months. Unfortunately, some people will also forego reading the book and only watch the movie believing it will be just as good. The book is almost always better. I have high hopes for the new movie, but I know how good the book is. I only read the first book since it can be read as a standalone story. I am uncertain if I will read the entire series, but there is more story out there if you find yourself wanting more after the initial book. The first six books were written by Frank Herbert. All other sequels were written by his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson. Though this book came out in 1964, it reads like it could have been written last year.

The Princess of Mars

This is the first book in a series most commonly known as John Carter of Mars. I discovered these books after watching the movie John Carter back in 2012. I thought the movie was entertaining but it differed greatly from the books. Interesting fact, the movie was released exactly 100 years after the first book/story was published. They were written by Edgar Rice Burroughs who is best known for his Tarzan books.

Ender’s Game

This is another series of which I have only read the first book. Orson Scott Card wrote plenty of sequels to keep you satisfied if you are left wanting more, but I was okay reading just the first one. I may try more of the series at another time. I first read this book when the movie was set to release in 2013. I thought the movie was a great adaptation of the film.

The Hunger Games

Okay, this one technically takes place entirely on Earth, but it is an interesting series. Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy recently had an addition, released last week, titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which takes place 64 years prior to the events of the original The Hunger Games book.

Solaris

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem is a psychological ride originally published in 1970. It takes place above the planet of Solaris which contains a sentient ocean. Kris Kelvin is sent to the planet in an attempt to understand what this alien life, which envelopes the entire planet, could be and what it can do.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What’s better than an escape? An escape that let’s you laugh. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an absurd journey that will not only get you away from current events, it will remind you how crazy things can be when viewed objectively (and at a slight angle). The Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass? What? Douglas Adams was a treasure.

All System’s Red

All Systems Red is the first book in The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot, as it calls itself, is a machine/human construct designed to protect humans who are surveying new planets. Murderbot would rather watch TV than even be around humans, but it must do its job so the company that owns it doesn’t find out that it hacked its governor module (the thing that makes sure it follows every order). The first four books are novellas. The fifth book is a full novel and was released earlier this month. There will be another novella continuing the series slated to be released next April. I adore this series.

The Shadow of the Torturer

Gene Wolfe’s series The Book of the New Sun begins with The Shadow of the Torturer. This series is unlike anything I have read before. Once you get into it, you can’t help but keep reading to know where Severian’s adventures will lead him. Each chapter gives a better glimpse into the world Severian inhabits. But is it a distant future version of Earth, or is it perhaps one of a distant past, or is it Earth at all? It could be any of the three. The real question is, how did humanity end up like this?

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

I recently saw some posts floating around stating that the book version of the third Star Wars film is actually superior to the film itself. I read the book a long time ago, shortly before the film released, and I remember it being great. Matthew Stover did a great job bringing the characters to life and the book delves more into the psyche of Anakin. I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was younger and there are some great stories. Yeah, I know, most of the books are considered non-canon now because of the new movies and stuff, but who cares if they are/aren’t cannon if they are good. Some of my favorite Star Wars stories are technically still cannon and they are in book format. These being the Republic Commando series. If you like Star Wars at all, and haven’t read any of the books, check some out.

Neuromancer

William Gibson gives readers an amazing ride with Neuromancer. Published in 1984, this book has influenced many other science fiction stories. This is the The Matrix meets The Ghost in the Shell before either existed. Though the iconic first line has already become dated, this book remains a great read for any science fiction fans.

8 Short Story Collections

I’m just in the mood for lists, because I’ve created yet another one. This one is about short story collections. The short story is often considered an underrated form. It is also considered (incorrectly) to be dying out. The form is still strong, but it remains more on the fringes of most readers considerations. Here are several collections I’ve enjoyed.

Our Story Begins

Our Story BeginsThis collection by Tobias Wolff includes 31 stories. Several have appeared in other collections but there are 10 that were newly published in this one. Some of my favorites are “Bullet in the Brain” or “In the Garden of North American Martyrs”. I consider Wolff to be one of the best short story writers America has produced. Most of his work is in the short story form and he has several collections available.

Exhalation

ExhalationExhalation is Ted Chiang’s newest collection of short fiction, and it includes a novella length piece titled “The Lifecycle of Software Objects”. I really enjoyed “The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gate” (I enjoyed all of them really). This collection was released just last year and is Chiang’s second collection. His first was Stories of Your Life and Others which I also recommend. I’ve become a huge fan of Chiang’s work and I look forward to whatever he releases next.

The Philip K. Dick Reader

Philip K Dick ReaderI consider Philip K. Dick (PKD) one of the best science fiction writers of the past century. He is probably best known for his stories that have been adapted into film. Many of these were short stories that were adapted while others were novels. A few of the films based on short stories are Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, and The Adjustment Bureau. Ted Chiang admits that some of his writing has been influenced by PKD, and I think both writers have crafted stories that keep you thinking long after you finish reading, which is what I love most about them. PKD has written approximately 121 short stories and you can get all of them in about five collections with this being one of them.

Trigger Warning

Trigger WarningNeil Gaiman is better known for his novels, but he has dabbled in/mastered several genres/fields. He has a few collections of short stories with Trigger Warning being the most recent. His sense of magic and wonder are as prevalent in these shorter works as they are in his longer forms.

Rogues

RoguesRogues is a collection of stories by various authors. All the stories focus on a character considered to be rogue themselves hence the title. This collection includes a story by Neil Gaiman (but it’s not a story included in Trigger Warning). I must admit that I have not read this entire collection. I primarily got it in order to read the short story by Patrick Rothfuss which is a fun, supplemental story to his book The Name of the Wind.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen PoeEdgar Allen Poe is known for several of his short stories. I’ve seen a lot of mentions of “The Masque of the Red Death” going around recently. I have yet to read that particular story, but I will likely do so soon. My personal favorite that I’ve read by Poe is “A Cask of Amontillado”. His stories are more on the darker side and include death in some form (but not all). He is known as a master of the macabre after all.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About LoveRaymond Carver is known primarily as a short story author. The title story is probably his best known or most referenced. It also happens to be my favorite. “Cathedral” is probably my other favorite, but it is not included in this particular collection. You can likely find a few of these stories online including the two mentioned. Carver is considered one of the best at the short form and I have to say that I agree.

I’d Die For You

I'd Die For YouThis collection of stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald is unique because it was released in 2017 and consists of all his work that had remained unpublished. These 18 stories were considered “lost” and had been recently found/discovered, collected, and published in this volume. I bought the collection back when it was first published and have read through about half of them. I was working on my MFA at the time and had to put the collection aside for a bit and haven’t picked it back up, but now that I’ve talked about it, I will probably go back and finish it soon.

If you like short stories and have a favorite story or author not on this list, let me know. I’m always open for new recommendations myself.

I hope that you give some of these a chance if you are not a regular short story reader. At the very least, I hope you go out and read a short story sometime soon. You can find many online for free. I even have several of my own on this blog you can check out (my favorite might be Children of Changyang Mountain).

Happy Reading.

12 Memoirs & Biographies

This time I’m listing memoirs and biographies I’ve read these past several years that I enjoyed. Several of them are about authors or actors I like, but some are simply ones I found or heard about and eventually read.

This Boy’s Life & In Pharoah’s Army

This Boy's LifeThese first two are by Tobias Wolff. The first recounts his unexpected childhood while the latter covers much of his time serving during the Vietnam War. I’m a big fan of Tobias Wolff and enjoy all of his fiction, but his memoirs are equally intriguing and entertaining. This Boy’s Life was actually adapted into film and won the Ambassador Book Award.

The Princess Diarist

The Princess DiaristThis memoir by Carrie Fisher covers her time during the filming of the first Star Wars movie and her eventual launch into stardom as the iconic Princess Leia. It includes a section that reprints her original diary entries from her time during filming including her affair with Harrison Ford. What I found most interesting was Carrie’s admission that she did not plan to enter the field of acting, and then her discussion of what it was like interacting with fans who only saw her as Princess Leia. She had to almost live a double life from the time of these events through the end of her life. I know she has several other memoirs and I plan to check them out sometime.

Robin

Robin WilliamsDave Itzkoff’s biography of Robin Williams was released in 2018 and is a great, detailed account of his adult life. Most of the book events discussed are supplemented by accounts from Robin’s friends and family. The book covers his early years briefly, goes into how he became an iconic comedian and actor. It then ends briefly after his death to tell an all-encompassing account that gives us a holistic view into who he was and what he faced. I learned a lot about about him and I am glad I did.

 

Amazing Fantastic Incredible

Stan LeeAmazing Fantastic Incredible is a graphic novel memoir of comic icon Stan Lee. This account is beautifully illustrated and shows a great history of the comic industry. It gives us an overview of Stan’s life (including his real name) but don’t look for any in-depth details of his life here. A full biography would be better if you want to know more about the man. However, this does give a great insight to the man who was behind many of the hugely popular characters in the Marvel Universe, and it is in his own words and his own style.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

J.R.R. Tolkien BiographyThis biography of J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter is, as far as I am aware, the best biography of the man behind The Lord of the Rings. I at least think it is the only authorized biography. Carpenter actually met Tolkien and had access to many materials and resources surrounding the author’s life prior to his passing in 1973. I, of course, greatly enjoy Tolkien’s works and enjoyed learning more about the man himself. If you read this and want a little more, I suggest watching the recent biopic titled Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult. It only covers a brief part of his childhood and ends shortly after his time in the war, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

What if Our World is Their Heaven? The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick

What If Our World Is Their Heaven?This “book” is unique as I’m not sure it would be considered memoir or biography. It is a transcription of the last interview with Philip K. Dick. I randomly came across this book in a used book store and picked it up as I am a fan of PKD’s works. The interview covers a lot of areas, including the unfinished book PKD was working on at the time and his excitement at seeing early footage of the film Blade Runner which is an adaptation of his book Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Unfortunately, PKD died of a stroke months after this interview. I haven’t read a full biography of PKD, but I will likely do so in the future. However, I think this interview proves to be a great insight into who he was.

Educated

EducatedThe most recent memoir I’ve read is Educated by Tara Westover and it is captivating. This book details Tara’s childhood through her eventual pursuit of a college education. She grew up without access to school but was always a highly curious child. Her father did not believe in education as he believed it indoctrinated people. He didn’t believe in modern medicine either. Both stem from his religious and personal beliefs. The events of Tara’s life are both shocking and, from an outside view, infuriating at times, but I think this book is important because it highlights more than the importance of knowledge. It highlights the importance of family and doing what is best for yourself.

Tesla: Man Out of Time

Tesla Man Out of TimeMargaret Cheney may be the best biographer of Nikola Tesla. She has written a few, but this one is a great resource if you are wanting to know more about the man who rivaled Edison and became an important figure in the development of electricity. Yes, he is also the person the Tesla Company is named after, but Nikola Tesla never had a company all of his own. I’m glad to see that he has not been lost to history since he is an important contributor to much of the technology we have today, and he continues to inspire and influence research into new technology.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You WishIf you are a fan of The Princess Bride, you will greatly enjoy this memoir by lead actor Cary Elwes. He recounts his time on the set and the making of the film and tells many stories that only make the fellow actors and the film even more lovable. Especially Andre the Giant. I recommend checking out the audiobook version because Cary narrates it himself and it includes snippets from fellow actors and production crew who give their accounts of events as well. This book adds to the film and will make you likely make you want to rewatch it while you read.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Man's Search for MeaningVictor Frankl’s memoir/psychological novel is small but powerful. This insight into Victor’s time inside a concentration camp during World War II not only gives us a glimpse into history and some of the worst things humans have done to each other, it analyzes the human psyche during such harsh conditions. However, I believe this little book is an insight into the human condition and provides a bit of hope through all the sadness. The first part is the memoir of his time during the war while the second goes into his own psychological theories.

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway’s book telling of his times in Paris during the 1920’s was fun and insightful. I think it is a great glimpse into a bygone world as we are now almost exactly 100 years removed from the time it took place. I’ll admit my favorite part includes F. Scott Fitzgerald and a broken-down car, but this book gives a look into the life of the iconic author and the world he knew.A Moveable Feast

18 Fantasy Books to Escape Into

I ran a short poll on Twitter to determine which list of books (by genre) I would write about next. The majority vote was Fantasy. I was surprised the lowest amount of votes went to Science Fiction and Memoir with Short Story Collections coming in second. Without further delay, here are 10 fantasy books I’ve read and enjoyed, and 8 I look forward to reading in the future.

10 Fantasy Books I’ve Enjoyed

The Magician: Apprentice

The Magician: Apprentice is the first book in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga which is the core of the even larger Riftwar Cycle. It tells the story of Pug, a seemingly low status, serving-boy in a castle who unexpectedly finds himself as the apprentice of the lord’s magician. He also quickly realizes he has an aptitude for magic. It’s been some time since I’ve read this book, but I greatly enjoyed it and have fond memories of the story. Perhaps a reread is in order.

The Once and Future King

This book by T.H. White is sometimes classified as science fiction for reasons I don’t quite understand outside of inferred time/inter-dimensional travel. But this book (a collection of four books in one volume) tells a mostly fun, easy-to-read version of the legend of King Arthur. The first part, The Sword in the Stone, inspired the animated film of the same name.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I will always recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I simply love this book, but I still need to read the other two in the trilogy. I also greatly enjoy the animated film adaptation by Studio Ghibli despite the several, smaller changes made to the story. The story follows young Sophie, who gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She sets out to find a cure for the curse placed on her and makes a pact with the fire demon Calcifer who requires her to break his contract with the wizard Howl in exchange for his help.

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is book one of The Kingkiller Chronicle and is an excellent read. It tells the tale of Kvothe as he survives tragedy to then enter the famous University. There, he learns many incredible skills that lead to his eventual fame. The story is told by Kote, the older version of Kvothe, who has since forsaken his abilities. Books one and two of this trilogy have been published along with a supplementary novella and short story. I will be re-reading these books to prepare for when the third is published.

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a phenomenal read if you have not read it yet. The films by Peter Jackson do it much justice, but the books are still better. You can often find all three in one volume (hence the grouping under the one title). Frodo sets out to destroy the One Ring as he is hunted by the forces of evil who seek to reclaim the ring and allow the Dark Lord Sauron to rule Middle Earth. This trilogy laid a strong foundation for much of the fantasy books we know today.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone as it was originally titled in the UK) is the first in J.K. Rowling’s world-wide bestselling series that was adapted into eight films. This book is the first of seven that tell the story of Harry Potter as he learns he is a wizard and is swept off to the Wizarding School Hogwarts the day after his 11th birthday.

The Eye of the World

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan’s magnum opus, begins with The Eye of the World. The first of 14 books (plus a prequel) with the final three installments finished posthumously by Brandon Sanderson. The story follows Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve (as well as a plethora of other characters), as they are swept out of their small village onto an epic journey that leads one of these characters (no spoilers here) as they become the savior of the land against evil forces.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Admittedly, I have only read this first book in V.E. Schwab’s magical trilogy, which I recently heard may have more story to come with future books. This story follows Kell who has the unique ability to travel between the four Londons. The London in each dimension is always the same as far as layout, but each world suffers from different leaders and levels of magic. Red London is teeming with magic and is Kell’s home. Grey London is where us non-magic folk live. White London is slowly losing it’s magic and is ruled by strength. Black London was consumed by magic and effectively no longer holds life. Follow Kell as he must travel through the London’s in order to find the mystery of a powerful artifact given to him that seemingly came from Black London.

The Eyes of God

The Eyes of God is the first of four books by John Marco which follow the knight Lukien. I read the first three books as a trilogy and only recently discovered a fourth was published that follow the events of the original trilogy. I have not read this newer book, so I am unsure what parts of the story it expands upon or if it adds only new material. Lukien, much like Lancelot, falls in love with his king’s wife, Cassandra, and is later tasked with finding a magical item, called the eye of god, to heal Cassandra from an inexplicable illness.

The Stormcaller

Another unfinished series for me begins with The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three books before the fourth and fifth were published. Unfortunately, it has been some time since I’ve read them so I will likely start from the beginning and read them all the way through. This story follows Isak who is a white-eye, a human with traits that designate them as outcasts. Isak is thrown into the middle of a war and must learn to control his powers and find out what he is really capable of.

8 Fantasy Books I Want to Read

The Sword of Shannara

My wife bought me this book, or the trilogy in one volume, a while back and I’ve always heard it is a great read. It’s been in my to-read list for some time and I need to bump it up and actually read it. Another reason for me to read it is because I have not yet read anything by Terry Brooks.

The Wizard of Earthsea

Another series, the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin have been on my radar for some time. I have read other books by Le Guin and have enjoyed them so I’m sure I’ll like this one and the sequels. Ironically, this is also another series my wife bought me (because she loves me). She bought the illustrated edition, all in one volume, and it is a massive text.

The Gunslinger

Technically I have already read this book. I just haven’t read the remaining six books in Stephen King’s acclaimed Dark Tower series. A friend of mine recommended this series to me and I will get around to finishing it at some point.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

This book by Scott Lynch I had picked up in a bookstore simply from browsing and thinking it was interesting. This was before I had a massive TBR and I developed the habit of always finding new books to read before I finish the ones I have. I keep seeing this book come up time and time again in mentions by other authors or fans, which bumps it up on the TBR list each time.

Gardens of the Moon

I purchased the first few books in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series but have not read them yet. I think I held out because the series was not yet finished. I think the series is now finished and has a total of 10 books, so I will get around to it soonish. I just finished Wheel of Time which is a big series so I am taking a break at the moment on bigger series.

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a series that I believe is still on-going. If I remember correctly, the fourth book is slated to be released at the end of this year. I first discovered Sabaa Tahir when I discovered Patrick Rothfuss when I came across them interviewing each other (or maybe it was Patrick interviewing Sabaa). I think I will like this series so will give it a shot one day.

Game of Thrones

I did get into the Game of Thrones craze and greatly enjoyed the show. I am holding out until the book series is finished before diving in because I prefer to be able to read it all in one go without a large hiatus. I believe George R.R. Martin stated there will be two more volumes before the series is completed.

The Fifth Season

Honestly, I do not know much about The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin except it is the start of a trilogy. I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve added N.K. Jemisin to my list of authors to read having only heard great things about her writing and books.

Book Series for the Long Haul

I figured now is as good a time as any to recommend a few longer book series to help us all pass the time while we try not to think about the state of things. Don’t worry, all series on this list are completed so you don’t have to wait for the next one.

It’s always good to get lost in a book. Admittedly, most of these series fall into either fantasy or science fiction, but I have read them and greatly enjoyed them.

The Wheel of Time

The Eye of the WorldThe first series I thought of was the one I read last year and may be the longest I’ve ever read. The Wheel of Time is fourteen books long (fifteen with the prequel) and each book averages at about 800 pages. This epic fantasy series was incredible and I consumed it all in about 9 months. The first book is The Eye of the World. If you decide to dive in, there is a great community of fans on social media sites (at least there is on Twitter) and Amazon is currently adapting it into a television series. I also tracked my way through this series as I was reading it, so you can read my reactions and thoughts on each book after you read each installment to see if we had the same thoughts about the events. You can find my posts on this series on my list of Book Recommendations above.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyIf you a prefer a more whimsical read, then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams may be for you. This series of five books is an absolutely absurd story filled with space travels and nonsense that is joyous to read. Yes, the premise does include (spoiler warning even though the book starts with this) the destruction of Earth, but the journey afterward is a funny exploration of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

 

The Riftwar Saga

Magician Raymond E Feist

The Riftwar Saga was written by Raymond E. Feist and begins with The Magician. As you may have figured out, this series is a fantasy series. It consists of four core books but there are several other books the extend the story into The Riftwar Cycle. I’ve read the core series and only a few of the books that take place immediately after the main four. I greatly enjoyed them and hope you do to.

Dune

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in the past several years. Admittedly, I have only read the first book. The series extends beyond the first novel (which can be read as a standalone book if you prefer) to include nearly 20 books in total. The first six were written by Frank Herbert and make up the core books. The series was extended by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. A new film adaptation of the original book is being made and should be coming out within a year (I think the original date was this December).

 

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving CastleHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is a trilogy aimed at younger audiences, but that just means anyone can read it. I again have to admit I’ve only read the first book of the trilogy, but this was because I did not know it had sequels until recently. I am definitely going to read them. There is an animated film adaptation of this first book made by Studio Ghibli that is an excellent watch. They do change a few things (as usually happens with film) but it is a great supplement to the book.

 

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the RingsSince I think the Lord of the Rings series/trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien has become one of those stories that people will claim to have read but have never actually read, I thought it would be a great time for many people to actually read it. Of course, the movies are phenomenal and do a great job of adapting the series for the screen, which is why I think many people have not actually read the books. There are quite a few differences between the book and screen despite the scripts sticking really closely to the source material. There is much more to Tolkien’s universe as well if you like this series. Outside of The Hobbit which preludes this trilogy, there are supplemental books that expand into areas well outside the main story-line for any who are interested.

 

Harry Potter

Harry Potter

It’s always a great time to re-read Harry Potter. Or finally read it. The series is great and you can even reward yourself by watching the movie adaptations alongside your read-through.

 

The Murderbot Diaries

Okay, this last one is simply a guilty-pleasure recommendation that actually breaks my rule. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is not yet completed, but the fifth book comes out next month. The first four books are novella-length, so the series isn’t terrible long, but I think the introverted Murderbot is just a great, fun character who tries to interact with humans a little as possible.Murderbot Series