Sunday, May 07, 2006


There's no hope of defending any list of this nature as anything other than my favorite fictions. I've expanded it to 64 for reasons that will become apparent in a couple of weeks (yes, yet another project). I do think this is also an instructive list for fantasy writers. On it you find all kinds of variation of structure and technique.

I've XXXXX'd out a couple of entries because of World Fantasy Award judging obligations. I'll do a reveal once the finalists have been announced. I also decided to throw out the ten-year rule but to try to, except for some exceptions having to do with genius, limit each writer to one book.

And, again, depending on the weather, what I've had for dinner, etc., it could change from week to week. Before anyone complains, Use of Weapons is first and foremost the most devastating commentary on war and the effects of war written in the 20th century. It is only secondarily a SF novel. And the Dudman has the surreal, dreamlike quality of fantasy, wedded to extraordinarily precise imaginings about science. As for Troika, I published it because I thought it was easily the most brilliant surreal fantasy I'd ever read. And don't get me started on The Cloud Atlas...

Sometime in the next week I will post a corrected and updated comprehensive Fantasy Reading List based on the original long list and the subsequent comments.


FANTASY: 64 Books

1. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
2. The Gormenghast Trilogy, Mervyn Peake
3. Lanark, Alasdair Gray
4. Jerusalem Quartet, Edward Whittemore
5. The Chess Garden, Brooks Hansen
6. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, Angela Carter
7. Alice in Wonderland & Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll
8. Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges
9. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
10. Observatory Mansions, Edward Carey
11. Possession, A.S. Byatt
12. Viriconium Cycle, M. John Harrison
13. Arc d'X, Steve Erickson
14. V, Thomas Pynchon
15. Quin’s Shanghai Circus, Edward Whittemore
16. If Upon a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino
17. Collected Stories, Franz Kafka
18. The Master & Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
19. Pyat Quartet, Michael Moorcock
20. The Collected Stories, J.G. Ballard
21. A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle
22. The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
23. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
24. The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica, John Calvin Bachelor
25. House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
26. The Riddle Master trilogy, Patricia McKillip
27. The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino
28. The Other Side, Alfred Kubin
29. The Circus of Doctor Lao, Charles Finney
30. Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
31. The Circus of the Earth & the Air, Brooke Stevens
32. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
33. Dictionary of the Khazars, Milorad Pavic
34. At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brian
35. The Troika, Stepan Chapman
36. The "Elements" Quartet, Rikki Ducornet
37. Solomon Gursky Was Here, Mordechai Richler
38. Darconville's Cat, Alexander Theroux
39. Don Quixote, Cervantes
40. Poor Things, Alasdair Gray
41. Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
42. The Land of Laughs, Jonathan Carroll
43. The Wizard of Earthsea trilogy, Ursula K. LeGuin
44. The House on the Borderland, William Hope Hodgson
45. Little Big, John Crowley
46. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
47. One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead, Clare Dudman
48. The Seven Who Fled, Frederick Prokosch
49. Already Dead, Denis Johnson
50. Tainaron, Leena Krohn
51. Views From the Oldest House, Richard Grant
52. Life During Wartime, Lucius Shepard
53. The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, Barry Hughart
54. The Wavering Knife, Brian Evenson
57. Shardik, Richard Adams
58. The Merlin Cycle, Mary Stewart
59. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
60. Ill-Met in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
61. The Song of Fire and Ice, George RR Martin
62. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Marukami,
63. Bend Sinister, Vladimir Nabokov
64. The Unconquered Country, Geoff Ryman


Full-on gym work-out, as previous, but 20 sets on leg press (nine at 700 lbs, 2 each at 600, 500, 400, 300, and 200 lbs; the 2 each without rest between)
Plus three sets incline chest press and machine chest press.
Normal abs and sprint/bike sessions

4-mile hike
30 minutes cardio


At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I know you said don't get you started on Cloud Atlas, but I'm curious why it's supposed to be good. I thought it was a cleverly constructed box of nothing.


At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know how to respond to that except with, "Well, I didn't." I found it emotionally resonant and that its parts built to something greater than the parts.


At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't wanna be no troll, no Sir,
but where's mr. Tolkien ?


At 12:23 PM, Blogger erasmus said...

You should include The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe, The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, by Gene Wolfe, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle, and the His Dark Materials series, by Philip Pullman.


At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you going to do a revised version of the exhaustive list too?

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly? Tolkien's somewhere down around 90 or 100. I can't read that stuff anymore.

I think not including Fifth Head of Cerberus is a big oversight. Hardly SF at all, really. And the first two books in the New Sun series. Yeah, I'll give you that.

As for the Pullman, the first book is great. The second is good. The third is...okay.

Some books need a chance to settle into my nervous system. Iron Council might make a future list, possibly.

But, remember: this is my 64 favorite books of all time. This isn't my favorite books that are popular right now.

And it's a highly eccentric list. In general, this is not a list for suggestions. It's a list that will spawn other people's personal favorites lists.

The huge list will follow later this week.



At 4:15 PM, Blogger William Lexner said...

Ah! If it to spawn such lists, here is my top 25.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger William Lexner said...

Oh! And in my defense, I haven't read Shriek yet.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

I know I'll sound all anal here, but since SF authors and fans tend to be that way anyhow...

Calvino's book title is If on a winter's night a traveller. Not "Upon," and only the first word is capitalized (except for some front matter, where every word is in caps). Unless, like the first Harry Potter book, it has a different title in the US. ;-)

Interesting list. I'll have to dwell on my own for a day or three.


At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


So basically you think most of the best books were written in the last 30 years?!?!?!


At 12:35 PM, Blogger Larry Nolen said...

Well, like William, I decided to go ahead and post an 'at the moment' personal list here. I couldn't decide whether or not Arisoto's Orlando Furioso had enough spec elements to it, otherwise it would have made my Top 5 for certain.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger William Lexner said...


My favorite speculative fiction books have been written rather recntly it seems, yeah.

I never said they were 'best,' I merely said favorite.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you included Blood Meridian. I read it recently, and I think that it may be the greatest horror novel ever written.

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just a nit-pick:
GRRM's series is *A* Song of Ice and Fire...


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