OK, where do I start with that?

OK, where do I start with that? K.

Sometimes people want to try a new author and they don’t know where to start, and everything they pick up seems to be book VIII of a series. These posts are an attempt to answer that question, in alphabetical order, working my way along my bookshelves. Of course, my bookshelves do not contain all the books in the world. They don’t even contain all the books I’ve read, as over the years I’ve read a lot from libraries, I’ve lent books to people who haven’t return them, I lost books in a divorce, and when my son moved out. Also, there are a lot of books and authors I have never read. So please add any authors I don’t list, with good starting points. And don’t hesitate to argue with me, or with each other, if you think there’s a better place to start with anyone.

My K shelves begin with Janet Kagan, whom you should definitely begin with Hellspark, an anthropological science fiction novel with aliens and linguistics.

Next, and taking up a big chunk of shelf space, comes Guy Gavriel Kay, who I’ve been reading in chronological order for pretty much as long as he’s been writing. Good places to start would be the Sarantine books or The Lions of Al-Rassan.

He’s followed by Nikos Kazantzakis. Start with The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s biblical fantasy, and much better than the film.

Garrison Keillor is a better raconteur than he is a writer, and what I’d seriously suggest is that you start with an audiobook. Probably his most novel-like novel is WLT, and if you want to read his monologues rather than hear them, start with Lake Wobegon Days.

Marjorie Bradley Kellogg—read Lear’s Daughters. I keep meaning to re-read these to do a post about them, but I have the old British two volume edition and there’s a revised edition out, and so I keep thinking I should buy the new edition and don’t get around to it. Great characters, great worldbuilding, astonishing weather.

James Patrick Kelly is primarily a short story writer, and anthologist. If you want to start with a novel, I like Look Into the Sun.

Judith Kerr has written a lot of books for very small children and three volumes of fictionalised memoir for children, which start with When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. They’re either really remarkably good or I imprinted on them at a very young age.

Katherine Kerr—start with Daggerspell. I am a very hard sell for anything Celtic, but the Deverry series do really plausible Gaulish Celts in another world, with great reincarnation and history, especially in this first volume, which stands alone as well as starting the whole series.

Peg Kerr’s The Wild Swans is a retelling of the fairy tale, and it’s also about AIDS in its modern day strand. This is on my list of things to re-read and post about soon. I wish she’d write more.

John Kessel has edited many great anthologies, and written lots of excellent stuff, but the place to start him is with Corrupting Doctor Nice, which is like Bringing Up Baby except with a time machine and a baby dinosaur. It’s hard to do screwball comedy SF, but just watch him get away with it.

I heard that someone asked Daniel Keyes how he had written Flowers For Algernon and he answered that he wished he knew. This is one of those books that is so good it makes you feel proud to be human and live on the same planet as someone who could write it. If by any chance you’ve been unfortunate enough to miss it, you could read it this afternoon.

Patrice Kindl writes YA books that are on an odd edge of fantasy. Start with Owl in Love about a teenage girl who is also an owl, and it doesn’t help.

Donald Kingsbury does not write fast and he clearly puts a lot of thought into all of his books. Psychohistorical Crisis is a kind of secret history of Asimov’s Foundation universe. Geta, aka Courtship Rite is about a distant generation of colonists on a planet with no usable animals. This is the book with everything, where everything includes cannibalism, polyamory, evolution and getting tattoos so your skin will make more interesting leather when you’re dead.

With Rudyard Kipling, if you are a child, begin with The Jungle Book or Puck of Pook’s Hill. If you’re a teenager or older, begin with Captains Courageous, which has been described as the first Heinlein juvenile, or Kim. I personally love his poetry and short stories best.

For Rosemary Kirstein, start with The Steerswoman’s Road.

With Naomi Kritzer start with Freedom’s Gate, the first in a very original fantasy trilogy set in Hellenistic Persia and Scythia, where bound djinni, or air elementals, are used to control vast forces of nature. The books have a female protagonist who slowly discovers what freedom is and means.

Michael Kurland wrote one of the first SF books I ever read, The Unicorn Girl, probably best described as hippy SF.

Ellen Kushner—start with Swordspoint or The Privilege of the Sword.

Henry Kuttner—start with the Best Of short story collection reprinted as The Last Mimsy.


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.

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