There’s a question that frequently gets asked on my posts here, and it’s: “Where should I start with [that writer you just mentioned]?” I’ve answered it more than once for some writers when I’ve written about a lot of their books. It seems that it might be worth listing good places to start. I’m going to do a series of posts covering this in alphabetical order, and I’d like you to add authors I don’t mention, with good places to start, but only as I reach the right letter, to keep it easy for people to find in future. (A complete index of these posts is here.) Oh, and as always feel free to argue if you disagree with me.
Edwin Abbott has begun my bookshelves for many years now. I only have one book of his, and it’s Flatland a whimsical book about geometric planes.
Daniel Abraham, on the other hand, is a fairly new addition to my shelves. Begin with A Shadow in Summer.
Douglas Adams is famous for writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series, novelizations and eventually movie. But my favourite book of his, and where I’d suggest readers new to him start, is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
Richard Adams is a no brainer. Start with Watership Down. Then stop.
Joan Aiken wrote a lot of whimsical children’s stories, and a lot of gothics, and some sequels to Jane Austen. I’d suggest starting with The Serial Garden for the children’s stories, any gothic you can find (none of them are in print) and leaving the Austen sequels alone.
Louisa May Alcott: Little Women. Well, what did you expect me to say?
Poul Anderson: Anywhere. There are some books I like more than others, but he doesn’t really vary in quality very much, not does he write series that have to be read in order.
Isaac Asimov: Foundation. Or any short story collection. Or any science essay collection. Or his autobiography.
Marcus Aurelius: Meditations. I’m informed on good authority that the ideal place to read this is in McDonalds in Paris.
Jane Austen: Persuasion. Lots of people would say Pride and Prejudice, but that’s my least favourite.
Please add your own A authors with good places to start. Oh, and you’re right: I don’t own any Piers Anthony. But if you really want to read him, start with Steppe. I loved that when I was twelve.
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.