An Alphabet of Authors

Inspired by @WS_Bookclub’s post of alphabetical fantasy authors. I decided to do an Alphabet of Authors myself. These are authors I have read and I was surprised to see several gaps in letters, so please give me some recommendations if you know of any.

I made this list mainly by perusing my bookshelf so it may very well be incomplete. I’ve also only added the authors whose work I have enjoyed (of course) because I figured you may want to read them if you haven’t yet. If you want a specific book recommendation for any of these authors, peruse my list of recommendations I have posted here. Anyway, here we go:

An alphabet of authors (by last name)

A – Douglas Adams with Honorable Mentions: Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

B – Ray Bradbury with Honorable Mentions: Edgar Rice Burroughs

C – Ted Chiang with Honorable Mentions: Orson Scott Card, Raymond Carver, Albert Camus, Ernest Cline

D – Philip K. Dick with Honorable Mentions: Emily Dickinson, Anthony Doerr, Alexandre Dumas

E – Cary Elwes with Honorable Mention: Matthew Eck

F – Raymond E. Feist with Honorable Mentions: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carrie Fisher, Victor Frankl

G – Neil Gaiman with Honorable Mentions: William Gibson, Arthur Golden, Helene A. Guerber, The Brothers Grimm, Malcolm Gladwell

H – Frank Herbert with Honorable Mentions: Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Aldous Huxley

I – Dave Itzkoff with Honorable Mention: Kazuo Ishiguro

J – Robert Jordan with Honorable Mention: Diana Wynne Jones

K – Stephen King with Honorable Mention: Franz Kafka

L – Ursula K. Le Guin with Honorable Mentions: Stanislaw Lem, Ann Leckie, Tom Lloyd

M – John Marco with Honorable Mentions: David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy

N – Garth Nix with Honorable Mentions: Phong Nguyen, Patrick Ness

O – George Orwell with Honorable Mentions: Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor

P – Terry Pratchett with Honorable Mentions: Gary Paulson, Robert M. Pirsig, Gareth L. Powell, Edgar Allen Poe

Q – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook)

R – Patrick Rothfuss with Honorable Mentions: Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling

S – Antione de Saint-Exupery with Honorable Mentions: V.E. Schwab, Snorri Sturluson

T – J.R.R. Tolkien with Honorable Mention: Karen Traviss

U – Recommendations Please

V – Kurt Vonnegut

W – Tobias Wolff with Honorable Mentions: Gene Wolfe, Martha Wells, Danny Wallace, and Andy Weir

X – Recommendations Please

Y – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life)

Z – Yevgeny Zamyatin with Honorable Mention: Timothy Zahn

The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is officially out in the world and it is riveting. There is so much I’d love to say, but I keep these recommendations spoiler-free so I’ll just let the official blurb give you a taste of what to expect.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

When I first started reading, I couldn’t help but compare this book to the movie Knives Out, which I greatly enjoyed, because they have some similarities: the wealthy grandfather who passes away, a will reading, a great cast of suspicious characters who are all family.

But from there it diverges into it’s own, well-constructed world that is the Hawthorne family (and they definitely live in their own world of wealth and mind games). The pacing of this book is excellent. Short chapters and just enough revelations paired with new mysteries make this book an absolute page-turner.

My only gripe (which isn’t really a gripe) is that there are too many mysteries to be contained in this one novel. Or rather, the overarching mystery is too big. That’s right, there will be a sequel and I would be surprised if there is only one. Don’t worry though, you won’t feel cheated in any way. The “game” just extends into a new phase though I’m sure you will be like me and want the sequel right away. Alas, we must wait and let Jennifer Lynn Barnes work her magic for us.

Huge thank you to TheWriteReads for letting me join this blog tour. I can’t imagine a better way of finding new books than following them and the many bloggers promoting great books. Of course, I also need to thank Jennifer Lynn Barnes for writing such a compelling book.

Happy Reading.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me GoI wasn’t going to recommend this book, but there are a few things that have led me to change my mind and this recommendation will be a bit different that any of my previous ones.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is not like anything I’ve really read before. In a way, it seems like a combination of several books I’ve read but with a little something extra (or omitted). This book was released in 2005 and was later adapted into a 2010 film.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a name that came onto my radar several years ago but I had never read any of his work. I can’t recall exactly how I came across his name. It could have been from others talking about his books or the fact he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, but now that I’m actually trying to recall how his name came to my memory I think it was some association with Neil Gaiman.

However it happened, I knew of him as a respected author and therefore picked up Never Let Me Go from a library book sale simply because I wanted to eventually read some of his work. Ironically enough, I recently finished a book of nonfiction by Margaret Atwood where she actually discussed this very book. I realized I had it on my shelf and it became my next read.

I enjoyed the book because it was well written and it held an underlying mystery throughout that kept you interested in the story. The book technically would fall into a science fiction dystopia category considering the subject matter, but I will get into that a bit later. For now, I will supply a brief summary adapted from the book itself:

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at an exclusive English boarding school called Hailsham. It was a place of mysterious rules. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman and Ruth and Tommy have re-entered her life. She begins to look back at their time at Hailsham and comes to understand how they were special.

As I said, the story is written well and there is enough mystery to keep interest, but it can be considered a bit slow story-wise despite being a fairly quick read being just shy of 300 pages. Here is where this book recommendation goes off my regular pattern. After this paragraph, I will include spoilers so if you want to stop here and enjoy the book yourself, please do so and I bid you happy reading. If you have already read the book or don’t care much about spoilers, then feel free to read ahead. Continue reading

In Other Worlds

In Other WorldsIn Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood includes three previously unpublished lectures, several book reviews, and a few miscellaneous discussions. I would state the core theme of this collection, aside from the obvious one of SF, would be Utopia/Dystopia. These are often labeled as sub-genre of SF and Atwood gives them a unifying name of Ustopia as she argues that every dystopia has elements of utopia and vice-versa.

Her lecture “Dire Cartographies: The Roads to Ustopia” focuses on these themes and goes in depth into her thoughts on them as well as the history of how they became such a popular way of storytelling. Many people consider her novel The Handmaid’s Tale a dystopia. She neither agrees or disagrees, because she argues that everything within the novel could have been found in the world at the time she wrote it in 1984-85.

As with collections like these, and perhaps one of my favorite parts of reading collections, is that I discover books I had never heard of before and which were influential to authors I respect and admire. There were several in this collection I was glad to discover and have added to my ever-growing to-read list. Interestingly enough, many of the books mentioned in this collection that I hadn’t known were written in the late 1800s. She also has a few, fun sections about H.G. Wells.

Atwood discusses how she first became a fan of SF, which started as a young, voracious reader who would read anything and everything she could when such materials were sparse during the second World War. She often created her own fictional characters and adventures during this time. Thus begins the life of a writer.

There are a few shorter discussions near the end of this collection that comment on the covers of the SF magazine Weird Tales during the 1930s and beyond. She lightly delves into the known history of SF using stereotypical male and female images and plots. Many of which are the stories that failed to endure. Speaking of covers, the cover of this book surprised me a bit. The more I look at it the more confused/intrigued I become.

This book is dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin, who has argued that Atwood actively tried to not label her works as SF despite the fact they contain primarily SF elements. I don’t think this is a dig or critique by either author. It seems like they had a large amount of respect for each other. I honestly wonder what type of relationship they had, if they had a personal relationship at all or if it was merely professional. I may look into this at some point as they are both talented authors who have created amazing works while persevering through a time when SF wasn’t considered literature (the argument is still ongoing) and when there were little-to-no women who were writing SF. I believe they have both become larger-than-life figures and an inspiration to many people around the world.

I know collections such as these aren’t usually a typical read for many people, but I think this one would be fun for anyone interested in the subject of SF or are fans of Atwood. The nice thing about collections is the ease of reading. You can pick them up and read one or several and put it down. Perhaps you’ll give this one a try.

Happy Reading.

Fight Club

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahnuik was first published in 1996 and the film of the novel came out in 1999. I picked up the novel at a used book store a few years ago and randomly decided to read it only recently. I had seen the movie a long time ago, so having known the “twist” I wasn’t really expecting any surprises.

I must admit that the film does an excellent job adapting the story. There are a few differences but the overall story is pretty much the same with of course a few underlying elements you get more of in the book such as the reasoning behind the main character’s mental instability. If you haven’t seen the movie, I may recommend reading the book first. If you have seen the movie, you likely won’t get too much more from the book, but it may be a fun way to experience the story again if you’re in the mood. This is definitely a story that you need to be either in the mood for or open to the craziness that is involved.

The book was a really quick and easy read at around 200 pages. I read it in about two days and probably could have read it in one sitting if I had the time or wanted to. This is the first book by Palahnuik I’ve read but I know he has a reputation for not holding anything back in regards to language, imagery, etc., and I think that is what draws people to his work. He won’t sugar-coat anything and no topic is off-limits. This is also the draw to Fight Club itself. The story centers around the down-trodden, middle-to-low class, working stiffs of the world which every society depends upon but doesn’t care to fully appreciate. This is also known as the majority of the population in every period of civilization.

The story is oddly liberating. I think we can all relate to hating a job and feeling stuck by paying bills and having to do things we would prefer to avoid, or we feel compelled or encouraged to follow a cookie-cutter path that is expected of us though these expectations change from generation to generation. Go to school, then go to college, then maybe get an even higher degree so you can get a good paying job though by the time you do all this the world has changed and that degree doesn’t get you as far as it used to and now you have to work that job in order to pay for the debt you took on for said degree because the cost of the education has increased eight-fold in 40 years while your salary is the same it would have been in 1950. There is no doubt that the world changes quite quickly and by the time you follow one recommended path, the theme park you were promised has been shut down.

What I’m trying to say is that despite the fact this book was written when the world was a much different place, despite being less than 25 years old, many of the same concerns remain. This book was written before 9/11 and the smartphone and it is therefore dated, but it touches on themes that have persisted. Get a job and buy a house and fill the house with things and that help you forget that the world is a messed up place. The book explores who we are when all these things are taken away. It delves into a primal notion to explore what it means to be human in the (recently) modern world. It is a reminder that we don’t have to follow the rushing current of societal expectations and perhaps we have an obligation to resist that current a little bit so we don’t lose ourselves in it.

Therefore, I think this book is a refreshing reminder despite its “taboo” or “uncivilized” subject matter. It is a reminder that sometimes we should re-evaluate where we stand in today’s world. However, I don’t think anyone needs to go join or start an actual fight club and try to destroy anything though apparently these did happen shortly after the book was released. Apparently people thought much of the book was based on factual events. It is entirely fiction, but fiction can have a big influence on human behavior. Chuck Palahnuik has a nice little essay at the end of the novel (the edition I have at least) that talks about how Fight Club had become a pop-culture sensation and how it started as a short story and he wrote it around the simple rules that are used when talking about Fight Club. The rules were meant to keep the story going and allow transitions that reader would accept without additional information. Therefore, the story was really based on a writing experiment. He goes on to talk about how it didn’t really need to be “Fight” Club per se and could have been anything, but Fight Club was definitely an area of interest for a lot of people. As he states, “It could have been ‘Barn-Raising Club’ or ‘Golf Club’…”

I’m curious if the sensationalism about this story has persisted. You don’t really hear much about Fight Club anymore (yes, I’m aware of the joke involving the first rule), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it still isn’t an influence. I think the sensationalism has faded, but the story will persist at a certain level. Hell, I just read it for the first time which is some sort of proof. I’ll likely watch the movie again sometime in the future, but I don’t imagine a new generation will pick it up as a doctrine.

Then again, we have had a lot of protesting this year and the world is a fairly uncertain place at the moment, so perhaps this story seems a bit out of place right now. Who knows if it will maintain it’s current meaning ten years from now. The world may be much different than as it is today. We can only hope it is for the better. I think reading, and reading widely, best prepares us to help steer our future to a better place. Perhaps this may be one of those books you read at the right time. Maybe you’re not quite ready for it. Maybe you’ve already read it and loved it or you hated it but still got something from it. Maybe you need to read it again. Only you can determine that.

Happy Reading.