OK, where do I start with that?

OK, where do I start with that? L

Our survey of my bookshelves with suggestions for where to start reading different writers has this week reached the interesting letter L.

These are personal recommendations. I don’t read everything, not even everything starting with L. If you read authors I’ve forgotten, neglected or never heard of, please add them in comments so that this can be as useful as possible. Also, if you disagree with me (or with each other) about where to start, please don’t hesitate to comment and explain your reasoning.

My L shelves begin with R.A. Lafferty, and the best place to begin Lafferty is with the collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers, or one of his other short story collections. You know how you sometimes get medication that says “do not exceed 4 tablets in 24 hours”? Lafferty is like that for me. The best way to read him is to keep a collection on your bedside table and read one story every night.

I’d be surprised if anyone else has anything by George Lancing. The name was apparently the pseudonym of Bluebell Hunter. I own The Mating of the Dragon in a wartime paper economy edition. It’s a historical novel about Imperial China. Lancing wrote other novels, some in this series about Tzu Hsi, and I’ve always kept an eye out for them but never found them.

Andrew Lang wrote a lot of Victorian collections of fairy tales. Start with the Blue Fairy Book if you want to know what kind of fairies and elves Tolkien was rebelling against.

Justine Larbalestier is an Australian writer of YA fantasy with a very SFnal sensibility. Start with Magic or Madness.

D.H. Lawrence—actually, I only really like his travel writing. I can heartily recommend Sea and Sardinia. Sons and Lovers is better if you think of it as a Victorian novel.

Mary Lawson is a Canadian feminist writer that I discovered through a friend. Start with Crow Lake.

Harper Lee—To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the few books I was assigned as school reading and didn’t subsequently loathe.

Tanith Lee—start with Drinking Sapphire Wine.

There are lots of good places to begin with Ursula K. Le Guin, but I would suggest The Left Hand of Darkness or A Wizard of Earthsea.

Fritz Leiber—again, a lot of potential places to start, but I notice Our Lady of Darkness is in print.

Stephen Leigh—definitely Dark Water’s Embrace.

Madeleine L’Engle—I’m sure most people start with A Wrinkle in Time, and it probably is the best place.

With Doris Lessing, I think the best place to start is The Golden Notebook. If you like it, you can find other books of hers that are doing the same thing as the whatever bits of that you like most. I find Lessing a much better mainstream writer than an SF writer. If you want to read something SFnal of hers, I’d strongly suggest reading the Martha Quest books, which begin with Martha at 12 in Rhodesia before WWII, and five books later end up with her living on a Scottish island in the seventies after WWIII, all in seamless realism even as they outrun the time she was writing.

Ira Levin was a thriller writer who constantly skated the borders of genre. This Perfect Day is dystopia a book I read so young I can’t have a detached view of it. The Boys From Brazil is a really surprisingly good book that makes a great comparison to Cyteen.

C.S. Lewis—I know there are people who argue by internal chronological order, but you really want to start reading the Narnia books with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is not the creation of the world but the introduction to the world. You will care more about the creation when you have come to it in publication order. His SF novels begin with Out of the Silent Planet.

S.N. Lewitt—Cyberstealth is fun standalone planetary SF, and in print, so start there.

Megan Lindholm—start with Wizard of the Pigeons or Assassin’s Apprentice for her Robin Hobb books.

Kelly Link is a short story writer and editor who has been producing some of the most notable short stories in the genre over the last decade. Start with her collection Magic For Beginners.

David Lodge is the person people think of when they talk about mainstream novels in which college professors commit adultery. You know the joke about T.S. Eliot influencing Shakespeare? Now you don’t need to read the book. My favourite of his is Nice Work, which has a female professor and a businessman and steps a little outside his comfort zone. Lodge is a very successful writer, and he can be really funny, but he’s also a sad example of someone who doesn’t have anything to write about.

Barry Longyear—start with Enemy Mine.

Alison Lurie is an American feminist writer—start with Imaginary Friends, which is about a UFO cult, and would be just like SF if the aliens were real.

Scott Lynch—The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Elizabeth Lynn—start with the terrific and World Fantasy Award winning Watchtower.


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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