Wednesday, December 14, 2005


A long time ago I posted the following list on Amazon. I still think it holds up. If you haven't encountered some of these books, you owe it to yourself to read them. Or gift them to others.

Also, Matt Cheney is telling me People of Paper is amazing.


Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore
Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet has few equals in modern literature--this, the second book in the series, is the best. All are worth seeking out.

The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

This novel is a joy for those who love fantasy and those who love mainstream realism as the book intercuts between realistic and fantastical scenes. A truly moving ending. An allegory. A love story.

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
Carter's first surreal novel, and one of her best. Amazing fabulist. All of her work is highly recommended.

Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray
This combination of gritty Glasgow realism and an underworld like no other is unique. The new edition with intro by Galloway well worth picking up.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov's classic. My favorite novel of all time--5th only because not as obscure as the other choices.

Arc D'X by Steve Erickson
America's premier surrealist. No one writes like him. No one ever will. This book will alter your brain.

The Troika by Stepan Chapman
Stepan Chapman's haunting and funny story about a dinosaur, a Mexican woman, and an automated jeep. Or is it? The great surrealist underground classic of the 20th century. (I still have some copies of this for sale - JV)

Riddle-Master by Patricia A. McKillip
I rank this so highly because it deserves it, but also because this trilogy is still underappreciated. Much better than Tolkien

Blood Meridian : Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac Mccarthy
If ever a Western qualified as horror or even fantasy, this was it. The author's best book by far.

The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake
Nothing really beats Gormenghast for sheer power of vision--prose from On High. Fantasy as it was meant to be.

The Master and Margarita (Vintage International edition) by Mikhail Bulgakov
This brilliant satire of Soviet writer groups also has great depth and vision. Some scenes are just laugh-out-loud funny.

The Luck in the Head by M. John Harrison
A gorgeous graphic novel adaptation of Harrison's great short story. Surreal and unsettling.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Logical illogic, begun with a wrong number in the night. Weird noir. Borgesian. Stunning.

The Book of Leviathan by Peter Blegvad
A collection of surreal cartoons--without a doubt as odd and yet wonderful as anything out there.

Already Dead : A California Gothic by Denis Johnson
Spiritual gothic, as one reviewer has put it. The ending scenes of this novel are as harrowing and brilliant as you'll find in fiction.

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque : A Novel by Jeffrey Ford
A painter must paint a woman's portrait without seeing her. The resolution of the mystery is secondary to the author's ability to surprise and delight on every page.

From Hell by Alan Moore
Moore's Jack the Ripper graphic novel is psychologically gripping and intense. Better than most novels.

Darconville's Cat: A Novel by Alexander Theroux
The use of language in this novel with a college setting is astounding--simply unmatched anywhere else. Hard to read, but worth it.

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
A lovely work of fantasy by the Italian master. Better, ultimately, than If Upon A Winter's Night...

The Monstrous and the Marvelous by Rikki Ducornet
This book of essays has the depth of fiction--rich and wonderful. I include it as one entry-point to the work of Ducornet, among our best fantasists

The Land of Laughs : A Novel by Jonathan Carroll
Carroll's first is still his best--a classic now back in print. Sharp, cruel in places, unforgettable.

House of Leaves : A Novel by Mark Z. Danielewski
A house that is bigger on the inside than the outside. A love story. A creepy thriller. Controversial. But brilliant in my book.

Possession : A Romance by A.S. Byatt
Still a brilliant novel, no matter what anyone says, and a rather strange one, at that. Ranked this low because relatively well-known.

The Divinity Student by Michael Cisco
This first novel by Cisco should not be overlooked--in its meshing of W. Burroughs and Kafka, it presages a brilliant career

Leviathan Three by Forrest Aguirre & Jeff VanderMeer
I co-edited this one, and am therefore biased, but if you like the recommendations above, then the work in this dark fantasy anthology is for you.

(Evil Monkey: "Hey, weirdo. Posting old lists from years ago? Shame on you." Jeff: "Well, it's not like you had any new content, dumb ass." Evil Monkey: "You seem on edge. What's up?" Jeff: "Too many deadlines. Too much to do. And too much other stuff percolating. It's like being stuck in traffic on the way to the airport to pick up a friend and not knowing what airline they're coming in on." Evil Monkey: "You're babbling again." Jeff: "Never mind." Evil Monkey: "You never tell me anything." Jeff: "If I told you, I'd have to kill you, as they say, and that would be like killing myself." Evil Monkey: "What if I just kill you for being cryptic? That wouldn't be like killing myself. That'd be kind of liberating." Jeff: "I'm a moderating influence on you." Evil Monkey: "Yeah, right." Jeff: "By the way--got any holiday plans?" Evil Monkey: "Yeah, kind of. I was going to meet with Michael Crichton and provide him with some information on global warming." Jeff: "Sounds pleasant enough, I suppose." Evil Monkey: I'm planning on administering it in suppository form." Jeff: "Oh.")


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Wow, how do you find these books? Are you plugged in to some Weird Fiction network? Telepathy? Madness?

Anyway, thank you for the list. I've been looking for just such a list for years. I've only rea don book you mentioned, Gormenghast and love it.

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous jeff ford said...

Jeff: I just finished People of Paper. I think Matt's right, it is really good. The structure is interesting without being confusing and the characters are truly memorable. A little trippy and in certain spots realer than a lot of supposed realism.

Jeff Ford

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Spencer said...

Jeff - I would love a copy of THE TROIKA. Could I send you a check instead of ordering via PayPal? I'm a bit phobic about internet ordering.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, you could send a check. Email me at vanderworld @ for more information.


At 2:05 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Ah, Lanark, probably the best Scottish novel of the 20th century. I love Alasdair Gray - had to treat myself to the gorgeous anniversary signed box set Canongate did of it a few years back. Al is a wonderful character too if you ever meet him.

Gormenghast story: I once had a customer ask for a classic book "you probably haven't heard of" in a condescending tone (always a stupid thing to say to a someone who sells books for a living). I ask what book and he answers Gormenghast. Certainly, sir, would you care for the individual volumes or the omnibus edition? I have both in my Fantasy section. "Fantasy?!?!" exclaims the old chap, clearly outraged, "oh, I don't think so..."

Another interesting observation: when the Edinburgh SF Book Club discussed City of Saints last week Gormenghast and Lanark were two of the books that cropped up in discussion, so Mr Jeff you are in fine company. Oh and tell Evil Monkey that he should make sure to insert that into Crichton sideways.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe, for the cool stories. I'm honored those two names came up while talking about my book.

Jeff: Glad to hear it--looking forward to reading it.

Keith: Generally, it's madness.


At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Sovay said...

Yay, Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy!

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Andrea said...

People of Paper is excellent - my local library was kind enough to loan it to me :) It one of those books that oozes high aesthetics well before the first word.

Jeff, would you like if McSweeney ever approached you to publish one of your (future) books? Their book packaging is a dream, that's not counting their reputation...

At 6:16 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Now that's a good idea - I think Jeff would fit very well in between the covers of a McSweeney's.

At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah--that would be cool, re McSweeney's. I think the main problem is that most of my work contains a rather significant vein of horror or violence in it, and the added surrealism isn't quite as ironic as McSweeney's likes. That said, I haven't pursued them as a publisher. It just depends on the project. There's one project coming up that may get submitted to McSweeney's. I do like a lot of their books.


At 12:22 AM, Blogger On The Rebound said...

If only you knew how my day was going. I was searching for one thing and I ended up here. Now you see how that might affect me!


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