May 10 2010 9:44am

OK, where do I start with that? D.

One of the questions I often get asked when I talk about a writer is where would be a good place to start reading them. This series of alphabetical posts tries to answer that in the form of personal recommendations, working along my bookshelves in alphabetical order. Please add any writers I’ve forgotten or don’t know, please feel free to argue with my choices and with each other’s if you don’t agree.

A is here, B is here, C is here.

D begins for me with Roald Dahl, and has since I was eight years old. If you are eight years old, or perhaps anywhere under twelve, you can begin as I did with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or these days I’d suggest Matilda, the book that makes the ideal gift for a reading child in a non-reading family. If you are over twelve, especially if you are a young adult, his Tales of the Unexpected is the best place to start. But the book of his I have most enjoyed as an adult is his autobiography, which begins with, Boy.

Ellen Datlow is an editor who has produced many excellent anthologies. Probably the best place to get a good feel for her is with her series of adult fairy tale anthologies, and I suggest starting with Black Thorn, White Rose.

With Avram Davidson, who was primarily a short story writer, you absolutely have to start with the Avram Davidson Treasury.

Grania Davis—it has to be The Rainbow Annals. It’s a very sweet fantasy from Indian mythology.

I joked that Anne de Courcy was my research assistant when I was writing the Small Change books, because she kept doing the research and writing the books that I absolutely needed. She’s a very good writer of biographies and social history. I recommend everything, but you might want to start with The Viceroy’s Daughters, about Curzon’s daughters, which has everything.

Most people should start Pamela Dean with Tam Lin. But you could do a lot worse than reading the Secret Country books first, and you must read them in order—The Secret Country, The Hidden Land, The Whim of the Dragon.

With Samuel Delany, I think his best book is Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, but it was written in the expectation of finishing the story in a sequel that isn’t going to happen. So I’d suggest starting with the brilliant and self contained Nova, or Babel-17. Actually, I think I’m going to say the same thing I do with Heinlein—feel free to start with anything where the book is less than an inch thick.

Charles Dickens—don’t start. No, that’s unfair. Great Expectations and David Copperfield are his least unbearable books, and where you should start if you feel you have to. The reason they’re less unbearable is because they’re first person and not the horrible version of omniscient he uses for most of his books.

Peter Dickinson—anything. He’s brilliant. OK, his terrific SF novel Eva, or his alternate history King and Joker. Most of his work is either mystery or children’s books. But you can’t go wrong with him.

For Thomas M. Disch, I’d suggest starting with Camp Concentration, arguably his best book and certainly a good test for whether you’re going to want to read more.

You can start Cory Doctorow pretty much anywhere, but I suggest Little Brother, because I like it so much.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, definitely Crime and Punishment. He’s one of those classic writers where the consensus canon-formers were right.

Margaret Drabble is a British women’s writer, by which I mean she’s a feminist writing about women’s lives and loves over the last forty years. I’d suggest starting with The Realms of Gold, which is actually literally about adultery in Hampstead, but it’s also about class, family, depression, Africa, and the pleasure of chopping vegetables.

Diane Duane, definitely definitely So, You Want to be a Wizard?

Alfred Duggan wrote historical novels in the second half of the twentieth century. Most of his work is medieval, with one Hellenistic and a handful of Roman novels. I like his Roman ones best, and would suggest starting on The Little Emperors (the end of Roman Britain) or Three’s Company (The second Triumvirate.) They’re in print in nice editions after years of being hard to find, buy them while you can.

Most people probably start Daphne du Maurier with Rebecca, but I usually suggest starting with The Scapegoat, a book that does everything right. It’s about a man with a double who takes over the double’s life, and I can’t believe I haven’t written about it yet because I read it all the time.

Back to science fiction with J.R. Dunn, who wrote the excellent and almost unbearable Days of Cain. That’s definitely the most memorable, and so probably where you should start.

Most genre readers should start Dorothy Dunnett with King Hereafter. It’s fantasy to the point of having accurate prophecy, it’s a historical novel set in Orkney, Scotland, Scandinavia and England in the decades before 1066, with Vikings, Canute, and nation-building. It’s also based on the true story of Macbeth. The other advantage over Dunnett’s other work is that it’s complete in one fat volume. Otherwise, start the Lymond series with Game of Kings. If you like Guy Gavriel Kay, you will like Dunnett. She’s been very influential on historical fantasy in general.

You should start Lord Dunsany with his short stories. If you like them, you can find the novels later.

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.

'nother Mike
1. 'nother Mike
Some additions, I think...

L. Sprague De Camp? Maybe The Fallible Fiend or one of the Enchanter volumes?

Gordon Dickson -- for whimsy, I'd suggest Spacial Delivery and Spacepaw. Otherwise, either the Hokas or the Childe Cycle (I've got a soft spot for Soldier, Ask Not).

David Drake also belongs in the list. Hammer's Slammers.
Marcus W
2. toryx
If you like Guy Gavriel Kay, you will like Dunnett. She’s been very influential on historical fantasy in general.

Well that's good enough for me. I'll add King Hereafter to my reading list right now.
Christopher Key
3. Artanian
For David Drake, it depends, if you like short fiction I'd choose Hammer's Slammers, if you like longer works I'd probably start with his RCN series.

Philip K. Dick? Pretty much any of the short story collections, although if one is a film buff you might send them to 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'. I'd stay away from the later, post-breakdown stuff at first.

Daniel da Cruz? The Texas trilogy, sadly long out of print I think.

Stephen R. Donaldson? Gotta be the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
Alter Reiss
4. asreiss
For Dickens, there are people who like Dickens. I say, start with Bleak House; if you like that, there's more where it came from. If not, I'd go with A Tale of Two Cities, and then Great Expectations, and then The Pickwick Papers; if you like none of those, for heaven's sake, stop trying.

If you want a stand-alone Gordon Dickson novel, I'd go with Wolfling, as it's so typical of the sort of story he likes to tell; if you want to jump into a series, I'll agree with 'nother Mike above, and suggest Soldier, Ask Not.

If you want to try an Avram Davidson novel, I'd start with The Phoenix and the Mirror; I think the other Virgil Magus stories are weaker, but The Phoenix and the Mirror is brilliant.

For P.K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle or a collection with "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" in it.
JS Bangs
5. jaspax
Dahl: I was a weird child, in that I started with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and now that I think about it, I'm not sure that I ever actually read Chocolate Factory. Though of course I saw the movie. The old one, with scary Gene Wilder. So all I'll add is that Dahl is generally so good that if you're a kid you can start just about anywhere, and you'll be fine.

Doctorow: I detest Little Brother. Read Somebody Comes To Town, Somebody Leaves Town instead.

Dunsany: Yes.
Liza .
6. aedifica
I haven't read it in years, but when I was in grades 7-8 and it was in the school library I remember really liking Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.
René Walling
7. cybernetic_nomad
Candas Jane Dorsey: Start with Black Wine but if you can't find it read Machine Sex and Other Stories

Arthur Conan Doyle: (limiting it to actual SF) The Lost World but any Sherlock Holmes story is good too.
Michal Jakuszewski
8. Lfex
With Stephen R. Donaldson logical choice would be Lord Foul's Bane, but if you are one of those people who can't stand Thomas Covenant, you can try The Mirror of Her Dreams.

Dave Duncan - Seventh Sword trilogy, I think. First volume is The Reluctant Swordsman.
Christopher Key
9. Artanian
BTW, I agree with jaspax, I definitely wouldn't start with Little Brother for Doctorow - if it had been the first thing of his I'd read it would likely have been the only thing of his that I would ever read. For those of you who loved it, I want you to do a thought experiment. Imagine the same book, written with the same level of skill, but the kid with mad hacking skills instead finds himself pulled into the government's tracking of the terrorists, and their eventual capture and defeat. IE, imagine the book where the U.S. government is on the side of good (ie, the real world for those of us who aren't hard progressives). Do you think you would have enjoyed that book or thought it was well-written? I don't think so. Now me, I think I would have enjoyed that book, but I'd have known it was political porn, much like, say, Tom Kratman's stuff, or some of John Ringo's, and I certainly wouldn't have nominated it for any awards.
David Levinson
10. DemetriosX
OK Jo, you're doing this on purpose. Every week, you leave out a major name, often a Grand Master.

Others have mentioned Dick. Try something smaller to see if you like his style. That or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep if you're a Bladerunner fan and for some reason haven't already.

For Gordon Dickson, if you prefer fantasy, try The Dragon and the George.

L. Sprague de Camp: Start just about anywhere. The Harold Shea stories are rather dated, but still fun. I'm fond of his historical novels like Dragon of the Ishtar Gate or An Elephant for Aristotle.

Lester del Rey is this week's forgotten Grand Master, but I wouldn't really know where to start.

For Delaney, I would add Triton to the books you mentioned.

Stephen R. Donaldson: The Covenant books are good, but they are very difficult. I just reread them, and finally saw a lot of things at 47 that I never got as a teen or in my 20s. He did a SF sequence too, but I don't know anything about it.

Dunsany, you can start just about anywhere. The best thing is that a lot of his best stuff is public domain and available at Project Gutenberg or OpenLibrary. I would advise against The King of Elfland's Daughter. It doesn't really work and it put my wife off of Dunsany permanently, even though I'm sure she'd like his short works.
Jo Walton
11. bluejo
Two books I've reviewed here but didn't list:

Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine -- how I wish that book was in print so I could tell people about it with a good conscience, and also so I could own it!

L. Sprague de Camp -- I suggest starting with Lest Darkness Fall which I do own but which seems to have migrated to my son's house with the Incompleat Enchanter books which he likes more than I do.
Jo Walton
12. bluejo
DemetriosX: I hate Dick. I've read about half a dozen of his books, and have given up trying on the principle that I don't need to know the jar is marmalade all the way to the bottom.
Ben O'Connell
13. benjamin_oc
Alfred Duggan sounds very interesting. Yet another writer added to the ever-growing TBR list.

I did a quick Google search on Duggan and uncovered this essay by John Derbyshire: The Little Emperors also looks like a favorite of his.
Marcus W
14. toryx
DemetriosX @ 10:

Lester del Rey is this week's forgotten Grand Master, but I wouldn't really know where to start.

As an editor? I've been thinking about it and I can't think of a single anthology or collection. All I really can think of is novels published by Del Rey.

If you mean as a writer...I'd be surprised. The one book of his I read was so awful that I've blocked it out completely in self defense.
'nother Mike
15. omega_n
Adding a major name to the list:

Charles de Lint: You can start almost anywhere, though I recommend against beginning with "The Onion Girl" or "Widdershins" for spoiler purposes. "Dreams Underfoot" is the anthology that starts off his Newford series, so you can start there and then read them as you find them. But any of the anthologies are good places to get a feel for his mythological, urban-fantasy world. "Memory and Dream" is one of my favorites of his novels. Artists, writers, and musicians may appreciate his carefully researched and sympathetic portrayals of people who live by their creativity.
David Levinson
16. DemetriosX
toryx @14:

Actually, the only novel of del Rey's that I know I've read is Attack from Atlantis, which I got through the Scholastic Book Club lo these many years ago. But I'm pretty sure he got his GM for his work as a writer, though I imagine his work as a fan, editor and publisher contributed. He turned out a lot of novels into the 70s, when he became a publisher and he wrote a ton of short stories during the Golden Age. I don't think we can dismiss him outright (for all that I feel he dreadfully perverted modern fantasy for several years in his role as a publisher).

Jo @12:

I can fully understand not liking PKD. I'm not that fond of him myself. My "big name" comment could apply just as well to Dickson or deCamp. Actually, I think I'm just still in shock that you forgot Ray Bradbury and Hal Clement and it was meant at least partly in jest.

Anybody know anything about Jack Dann? That's the only other D name I can think of at the moment.
'nother Mike
17. beket
bluejo @ 12:
I don't need to know the jar is marmalade all the way to the bottom

Thank you for the best laugh of the day!

I second Sir Arthur's Lost World. One of the best books I've read in the last couple of years.

I would add Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa. While technically not a novel (apparently, she had a habit of changing stories to fit the listener), it is one of the best written pieces of literature I've ever read. Much better than her fiction.
Rob Munnelly
18. RobMRobM
Donaldson's Gap Series is his sci-fi space opera and it is brilliant. Based on Wagner's Ring cycle, it tells a complex tale of a gorgeous military intelligence officer, two nasty space pirates, a political thriller among competing branches of space government, and a bizarre and frightening alien race. Very well done but fair warning it involves very adult sex and violence themes. Loved it much more than the Covenant books. Rob
'nother Mike
19. joelfinkle
I have to agree with several others that starting Donaldson in the Thomas Covenant series is probably the wrong thing to do: The first couple are a little harsh in both writing style and in cruelty-to-characters aspects. He realy hit his stride in "Mirror of Her Dreams" and while "Wounded Land" is amazing, its impact is worthless without knowing what came before (too bad the rest of that trilogy fell flat).

Other "D" authors I have several books by:
Len Deighton: Start either with "The Ipcress Files" if you like 60's spy work, or "Berlin Game" if you prefer later Cold War. These were big influences on Charlie Stross' "Laundry" books.

Paul Di Filippo: You can probably pick up any of his short story collections. I'm a big fan of "Ribofunk"

I'll defer to the Mrs. on Diane Duane.

On the E's I'm hoping to see some opinions on Effinger, Egan, Ellison.
Hypatia James
20. hypatiajames
With Cory, I think Little Brother certainly has a political bent to it, and that can be off-putting. I think I would have liked it even if he'd ended up on the government's side, but it would have been a completely different book. Makers, serialized here on, I loved, but my husband felt as though it was two short stories (novellas actually) stuck together. My favorite of his is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but I often get it confused with The Free Lunch by Spider Robinson, which I absolutely adore, but I will wait to talk about Spider until R.

'nother Mike
21. ZCam
Stephen Dedman, The Art of Arrow Cutting
'nother Mike
22. beket
Dante's Inferno, but avoid the rest of The Divine Comedy.
David Levinson
23. DemetriosX
beket @22:

I disagree completely. The poem is a whole and if you don't read it all the way to the end, you don't complete the journey. It would be like stopping Lord of the Rings once they get to Rivendell. However, a good translation with good notes on the characters and symbolism is vital. I personally recommend the Dorothy Sayers translation.
Clark Myers
24. ClarkEMyers
I'd add John Dalmas as well worth a look - but I'm not sure it matters where to start. Similarly I'd not overlook Gardner Dozois but I'm not sure it matters where to start or to stop for that matter.

For David Drake I'd not suggest starting with the Slammers nor with the RCN but with The Voyage or perhaps Patriots not forgetting Old Nathan for fans of Wellman. Certainly for specific readers there are leadins to the Slammers or to the RCN within the associated sub-genres of military and space opera if you will.
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
Also should add Gardener Dozois to the list, if you are including editors as well as writers. He may be the most honored SF editor ever.
Rob Munnelly
26. RobMRobM
@18/19 Following up on my caution re the Gap Series, cruelty to characters quotient is incredibly high. I almost couldn't make it through the first book - almost biblical Job-level abuse. But the story is powerful and the most abused character has plenty of moments of awesomeness later in the series.

Alex Johns
27. almuric
John DeChancie's Skyway Trilogy - Starriggers, Red Limit Freeway and Paradox Alley.

And I was gonna add deCamp's Lest Darkness Fall, but I see that you beat me to it.
Jo Walton
28. bluejo
The Dozois is on the outsize shelves.

Alexander Dumas (also on a shelf of his own) start with The Three Musketeers or The Black Tulip.
'nother Mike
29. reddwarf
Brian Daley's Requiem SF trilogy is hard to find but well worth reading, I'd also recommend Tony Daniels Metaplanetary and Superluminal and Susan Dexter's Calandra books (YA but pretty good).

Not sure if I missed some rules somewhere? What is the protocol for double barrelled or similar names - should De Camp and De Lint be under C & L? What about Alan Dean Foster, and where would the Mageworlds books by Debra Doyle & James MacDonald end up?
Seamus Cooper
30. Seamuscooper
I love Philip K. Dick, but recommend against starting with Man in the High Castle. I think one of his lesser-known early novels like Time Out of Joint or The Penultimate Truth make good introductions. And also, unlike in Man in the High Castle, something actually happens in those books.

I've only read The Blue Girl by DeLint, but it was good enough to make me want to read more.

I'd start Dickens with A Christmas Carol. If you don't dig the narrative voice, you should avoid reading anything lengthier.

I started Dahl with James and the Giant Peach, which was also a fine fine introduction.
Alex Brown
31. AlexBrown
For Dickens I'd start with Little Dorrit or A Christmas Carol. The rest of his stuff makes me break out in hives just thinking about it. Better yet, just see the BBC movies.

As for Dostoevsky, I had to read Crime and Punishment over Christmas in high school for Honors English and it was one of the worst Christmases I ever had.

Artanian @ 3: For Dick, I'd start with A Scanner Darkly over Electric Sheep, but that's really only a personal preference because I really like his later stuff :)
Christopher Key
32. Artanian
Milo1313@31, I like his later stuff as well, but what I meant was I really wouldn't start someone out on the VALIS trilogy. Well, not most folks anyways. I think the short stories from the 60s and 70s are probably a better introduction.
Lenny Bailes
33. lennyb
Some additional recommendations for P.K. Dick novels that might be palatable to a larger audience than we certified geek/addicts:

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer: Dick's last published novel, featuring a woman protagonist with some agency, contemporary setting (1970s), controlled narrative (compared to the other Valis books) based loosely on mysteries surrounding the death of Bishop James Pike.

Confessions of a Crap Artist: Non-sf novel, probably the most famous of Dick's mainstream attempts. Concerns the diary and experiences of Jack Isidore (same name as a character in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but contemporary (1960s) setting, an eclectic misfit. This novel was adapted into a French film called Confessions d'un Barjo. The film features a cameo appearance by Dick anthologist and biographer Paul Williams.
Greg Morrow
34. gpmorrow
Dave Duncan: A Man of His Word tetrad, i.e., start with Magic Casement. An entertaining version of the Princess and the Stableboy, and probably the first of his that wasn't ultimately cranky and unhappy.
Greg Morrow
35. gpmorrow
De Camp: De Camp & Pratt's Harold Shea (The Compleat Enchanter) stands up to the test of time, and is the best place to start on the fantasy side. Lest Darkness Fall is one of the key SF time travel stories (i.e., it's the first genre version of Twain's Connecticut Yankee, at least that I know of).
'nother Mike
36. a-j
Philip K Dick: 'Maze of Death' and/or 'Clans of the Alphane Moon'. They were the first two I read. Then perhaps 'Do Androids...' (if only to see how a film can move a huge way from its source novel) and the short stories.
Charles Dickens, a marmite author this, love him or hate him. I love him. I started on 'Hard Times' but only because I'd just watched a very good TV adaptation. I would suggest 'Great Expectations', 'David Copperfield', 'Our Mutual Friend', 'A Christmas Carol' or the short stories 'The Signalman' and 'To Be Taken With a Pinch of Salt'.
Stephen Donaldson I do not recommend. I trudged through the first Covenant trilogy as a teenager who always finished what he started and I still feel grubby.
Alfred Duggan - agree with 'The Little Emporers' or perhaps 'Winter Quarters'.
Thomas Disch - I remember greatly enjoying one called 'Fury'.
Len Deighton, agree that 'The Ipcress File' is the best starting point, or for that real Cold War feel, 'Funeral in Berlin'.
Arthur Conan Doyle - 'A Study in Scarlet' is the logical point to start with Sherlock Holmes, though I personally would suggest either 'The Sign of Four' (which was not only my first Holmes but also my first "grown up" book) or perhaps 'The Speckled Band' or another of the stories from 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' though not 'A Scandal in Bohemia' as that is atypical and so perhaps not the best introduction. Doyle's historical novel 'The White Company' is great fun as are the Brigadier Gerard stories.
'nother Mike
37. Kvon
For Pamela Dean if a trilogy is too much (and Tam Lin is too thick) The Dubious Hills is also a good story. For Delaney I'd go with Babel-17.

Others from my bookshelf:
Kara Dalkey, The Nightingale, or I also liked The Curse of Sagamore.
Peter David Knight Life; or if you don't mind fairly snide and big-tomed fantasy, Sir Apropos of Nothing.
Susan Dexter The Prince of Ill Luck.
Susan Doyle and James MacDonald's Magewar series with The Price of the Stars--kickass heroine edition.
Sarah Beth Durst Into the Wild

zcam @21, thanks for the reminder about Dedman, I wish he'd written more. I'm going to get the sequel I hadn't known about.
Celia Powell
38. celia
Peter Dickinson's Eva! I haven't thought of that in ages - it was one of my favourite books as a teenager. I've never actually read anything else by Dickinson, so I definitely want to check out King and Joker.

aedifica @6 - I think I read The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More too young - I was so terrified and sickened at that story about the boy who has swan's wings tied to him, it's my strongest memory of the book.

My Uncle Oswald was my favourite Roald Dahl book once I grew out of the children's books - not sure what I'd think of it if I re-read it.
Joe Romano
39. Drunes
I'm happy Dunsany's on this list. He deserves to be read more widely than he is. Too many serious fantasy readers know him without actually reading his work.

I agree with Jo that the best place to start is with his short stories, but I'd specifically try "A Dreamer's Tales." I also disagree with DemetriosX about "The King of Elfland's Daughter," but I won't argue with any fellow Dunsany fan.

Still, after enjoying a few short stories, that's where I'd head.
john mullen
40. johntheirishmongol
One I haven't seen is Alan Drury, for political novels, he is hard to beat. Advise and Consent won a Pulitzer and is still very timely.

Brian Daley, a very underrated book is the Starfollowers of Coramonde. Lots of fun and similar in feel to me of Glory Road

Gordon Dickson I like most anything but one I haven't seen mentioned is Outposter. Wolfling also good and Soldier, Ask Not if you want the Dorsai books.

Philip Dick is not one of my faves either but they seem to make more movies out of his stuff than anyone in SF.

David Drake I would recommend A Forlorn Hope. It's a really good standalone novel.

I also think everyone should read at least one Dumas novel, but be prepared to take some times since writers then were paid by the word.
larry shirk
41. lorenzo
Cecelia Dart-Thornton: Read The Ill-Made Mute, and see how it feels. A bit odd, but I've come to like it.
I am one of those who totally could not read Thomas Covenant, but against all odds I did read The Mirror of Her Dreams, and went on to read the second part. There are authors (such as those who just LIKE torture and put it in as an aside) who are on my ... uh, bad... list - meaning that if they wrote something that won every award there ever was I still wouldn't read them. Donaldson didn't offend me, it was just that Covenant is so wretched, and I couldn't stick it out to see if things got better.
I have Kara Dalkey's "The Steel Rose" - I had thought that her written works were few, but I see 15 listed at FantasticFiction, plus short stories. Like some other authors (such as de Lint), she is also a musician.
Clifton Royston
42. CliftonR
I agree Dunsany excelled at short stories. The ending line, as I recall it, "Solely to work up an appetite." still has quite a bite to it. However, I think The King of Elfland's Daughter is a wonderful novel, particularly because of its ending.

While we're on Dunsany, has anybody else read The Curse of the Wise Woman? Not exactly a fantasy, set in the Ireland of his day - but not exactly an everyday story, either. The Blessing of Pan is another wonderful novel, which I strongly suspect Jo has read. I suspect both books got passed over in the great fantasy revival of the '70s because they did not fit the mold that fantasy must be either epic and heroic or whimsically exotic, but I think both would appeal greatly to modern fantasy readers.
'nother Mike
43. ofostlic
For Cory Doctorow I'd recommend starting with "Eastern Standard Tribe". It gives a good idea of his writing and thinking without being as polarizing as "Little Brother".
Leigh Butler
44. leighdb
Mark Z. Danilewski, House of Leaves.

With the caveat that if you get desperate you really can skip most of the Labyrinth section.
S. L. Casteel
45. castiron
Tonke Dragt -- only book available in English is The Towers of February, which is an interesting read and a bit creepy; from what I was able to muddle through of the Dutch, though, I think I'd like a good translation of De Zevensprong better.

Dumas père: 3M's the traditional starting place, and a good one; if you're willing to trust that he'll eventually tie all the seemingly unrelated ends together, The Count of Monte Cristo is brilliant. His quality otherwise is variable, and many Dumas books are obscure for a reason, but Georges is worth tracking down if you're interested in race issues.

Dumas fils: Skip unless you really want to read some of the source material for La Traviata, in which case read The Lady of the Camellias.

Robertson Davies: Fifth Business was a recommendation I got from the late lamented Hypatia at Alexlit, and is my favorite of the Davies I've read so far.
Jo Walton
46. bluejo
CliftonR: I have read it, but after I'd written my own Pan thing. It's very hard to find, and actually a friend got hold of it for me because of that. Very weird book indeed.

RedDwarf: De Camp and De Lint are D, and similarly Le Guin is L.

Alan Dean Foster is F.

Doyle and Macdonald's Mageworld books are... in Sasha's house. Start with The Price of the Stars.
Azara microphylla
47. Azara
I loved The Curse of the Wise Woman. I think of it as a fantasy writer's take on what it meant to be an Anglo-Irish landlord.
Liza .
48. aedifica
cybernetic_nomad @ 7, Jo @ 11: Dorsey's Black Wine may be out of print, but ABE Books lists several copies available (including several for only $1 US before shipping). Enjoy!
Paul Andinach
49. anobium
Nice to see I'm not the only Stephen Dedman enthusiast in the vicinity. I second (third?) The Art of Arrow Cutting as the place to start with his novels.

For his short stories, I suggest The Lady of Situations, which is a good sampler, if you can find it. (Never Seen By Waking Eyes might be easier to get hold of, but it's deliberately slanted toward his horror stories - there was originally planned to be second collection to balance it, but it didn't eventuate. Of course, if you like horror stories...)
'nother Mike
50. beket
@40 - Drury also wrote two historical novels set in ancient Egypt, God Against the Gods and the sequel Return to Thebes, both about the family of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamen-- written long before the recent DNA studies. The novels were very good, but I read them as a teen and might feel differently now.
Alison Sinclair
51. alixsin
Thank you for the mention of King Hereafter. Aside from the joys of Dunnett, who can do as much with one sentence of description as other writers can with a page (ps, I like description), but as a Scot I think Macbeth deserves a Macbeth Society, to restore his historical reputation!
'nother Mike
52. Rush-That-Speaks
For genre readers I would suggest starting Isak Dinesen at Seven Gothic Tales. Out of Africa, while very interesting, is not really representative; the Seven do what they say on the label and I think are very overlooked when people talk about fantasy.
'nother Mike
53. David DeLaney
Well ... I'd add a comment listing a few other authors from my collection that haven't been mentioned. But - I also did so for, I'm _very_ sure, both B and C - and while my comment in the A thread is there, the B and the C have both vanished. I know they posted, I saw them do it?

I didn't see any rules about "don't add more than ten names" or "don't give comments for an author shorter than ten words"... so I'll keep reading these, but until I figure out why the comments I was putting that amount of work into vanish afterwards, I won't be contributing any more missed authors.

Jo Walton
54. bluejo
David DeLaney -- add comments as long as you like. I'm sorry about whatever happened. I have no idea what it was.

Sometimes comments don't post because you only preview, you see the comment but it doesn't get added. I have done this myself. Sometimes if you're not logged in -- and I urge you to log in anyway and use the features you can use when logged in like seeing new comments on threads you've posted in -- odd things happen to the database "guest" thing when you do the weird word "prove you're not a robot" thing. (Discrimination against AI -- how awful that AI develops and all it wants to do is sell us holy rivers made out of air!)

But I value your comments, and I hope you'll keep commenting. You definitely weren't moderated off.
'nother Mike
55. daharyn
Delany -- Neveryon series? Might be something of a failed experiment, and possibly a bit too theoretical, but weirdly engaging nonetheless. Also, pretty much all of the nonfiction, including the article on Hart Crane, "Atlantis Rose...", which is probably the best example out there of how to write humane lit crit in a post-poststructuralist universe. (Anyway, I'm a total Delany fangirl, so I'll stop here before this list gets completely embarrassing...)

Dostoevsky -- I read C&P first, because I was that sort of bored thirteen-year-old (and I'd already done Tolstoy the summer before), but my heart is with The Brothers Karamazov. David James Duncan does a mostly-successful 20th-century takeoff on it with The Brothers K, but I can only recommend that one if you grok the intellectual aspects of baseball. (In which case I wholeheartedly recommend it!)

Don DeLillo -- I think White Noise is a good introduction. Try to avoid Players unless you want to engage in thought experiments about the fantasy vs. reality of terrorism.

Michael Dorris -- A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is the famous novel, but I'm reading his essays (Paper Trail) at the moment and find them both charming and insightful. I've long wished he were still with us.
'nother Mike
56. Neil in Chicago
One wouldn't want to give the impression that Roald Dahl was exclusively or primarily a children's author.
I am still indebted to the friend in high school who lent me his short story collections Kiss, Kiss and Someone Like You. They're wonderful, and give an accurate impression of his sensibility.

Regardless of one's opinion of Dickens, there is a difference between this penny-a-word (or possibly pound-a-pound) work and the more reasonable lengths. I had a history course where one of the required readings was Hard Times, which is clearly written from the heart rather than simply to manipulate the heart.
Though I do have this recent addition to my .sig collection:
Make them laugh, make them cry, but most of all, make them wait.
-- Charles Dickens
'nother Mike
57. filkferengi
Carole Nelson Douglas has written science fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery. Her Midnight Louie mysteries are delightful, and the Irene Adler mysteries are engaging. Her Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator series is fun.

Lester Del Rey wrote lots of excellent stand-alone juveniles. My favorites are _Tunnel Through Time_ and _Outpost Of Jupiter_. He also wrote some classic short stories, such as "Helen O'Loy." In addition to the _Best Of Lester Del Rey_ collection, Nesfa Press has issued the compilations _War And Space_ and _Robots And Magic_.
David Levinson
58. DemetriosX
filkferengi @57

"Helen O'Loy" was Del Rey? I would have sworn that was Poul Anderson or Fred Pohl, somebody like that. Anyway, it helps make the point that he really was a major author for a time. It's just that, like Campbell, his work as a writer was pushed into the background by his later work elsewhere in the business.
'nother Mike
59. David DeLaney
ok ty lol and all that. Well, let's see: D.

(Should I be scared that I have two Firefoxen open, one with eleven tabs up and one with four? And that only two of those tabs are

Dahl - Start with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, definitely, but don't stop there.

Kara Dalkey - The Curse of Sagamore starts a wonderful little two-book humorous fantasy saga. Her other works that I have were quite readable too, but not on the same humor level, so don't get used to it.

(Dann & Dozois have edited a great quantity of anthologies, and you can start with pretty much any one of them and be assured of at least some fairly good stories, and maybe one or two that you won't like, but they're not novellas, so you aren't going to lose serious amounts of time trying to struggle through one you don't like but still want to finish. Nearly all good. Enjoy!)
(Dozois has also done some anthologies on his own, and some with Williams, and a couple with Strahan. All seem to be at LEAST medium-good, from my point of view.)

Cecelia Dart-Thornton - The Ill-Made Mute is the first in a pair of trilogies that are dark, realistic-ish fantasy that I quite liked.

(Datlow, and also & Windling, is/are another source of vast amounts of anthology, the Best of the Year series of which are each pretty vast themselves. These also are start-anywhere.)

de Camp - I'd start with The Compleat Enchanter, if you can find it, or alternatively The Goblin Tower, I think.

John DeChancie has some less-serious series that are devourable in much the same way potato chips are. Start with either Castle Perilous (for one fantasy series) or Starrrigger (an SF series).

Deitz - Has several series, but I think you want to start with Windmaster's Bane.

del Franco - Start this series about an unfrocked druid with 'unshapely things', I believe; he's also started a spin-off series starring one of the other characters.

Can't let Lester del Rey go by without mentioning _Tunnel through Time_, can we?

Gordon R. Dickson's long-running Dragon series starts at The Dragon and the George. I didn't really like the Dorsai and don't know where they start (and have seen some discussion about the series indicating this isn't actually a silly question). You might also try Home from the Shore, if you want his SF rather than fantasy.

Stephen R. Donaldson - ...DON'T start with Lord Foul's Bane. Instead, find _Daughter of Regals and other stories_, or _The Mirror of her Dreams_. Learn to like his writing before you get plunged into Thomas Covenant's dysfunctionality. (I survived, but apparently many don't). Also, I read the first of his Gap books and said "no, NOT reading any of the rest of the series, blech", in much the same reaction I had to Anthony's first volume of Bio of a Space Tyrant; life is too short to read about perfectly disgusting and villanous people doing vile and malicious things repeatedly. We have the newspapers for that.

Carole Nelson Douglas - Her new paranormal-romance series reads more like a travelogue with things just happening to the protagonist, to me ... so I'd reach back to _Six of Swords_ and a rather older series of hers.

Doyle & MacDonald - Squeee! Space opera with magic involved; start with The Price of the Stars.

David Drake ... Lord of the Isles starts off his epic fantasy series of the same name; magic has returned and is cresting to a thousand-year peak, with results somewhat resembling the recent hundred-year flood in Nashville. Our heroes get drawn in to help stave off various Bad Things that could happen, or visit. Or you could sample his Old Nathan stories, or the Mountain Magic four-part book (with Kuttner, Spoor, & Flint).
Or you could start his Belisarius series, alternate-history with two time-travelling future opponents, at An Oblique Approach (or the first of the two-book packages Thunder at Dawn).

Diane Duane - Soooo many possibilities. _So You Want To Be A Wizard?_ starts the Young Wizards series; _The Door into Fire_ starts the Tales of the Five (NOT FINISHED YET, WARNING); or the first of her several very good Star Trek books, The Wounded Sky.

Dave Duncan - Hm. Another several-places author. Magic Casement gets you going with the A Man of His Word series; The Gilded Chain starts you off on the King's Blades setting (both fantasy). Ill Met in the Arena is a recent standalone fantasy novel of his that would work too.

Lois Duncan - Have to mention A Gift of Magic. I understand she's written many more young-adult books but I think that's the only one of hers I ever read.

Alfred, Lord Dunsany - Can start almost anywhere - there's not that much though. (But what there is is EXCELLENT.) The Charwoman's Shadow and The King of Elfland's Daughter are novel-length; At the Edge of the World, and Beyond the Fields We Know are short-story collections.

Some Ds I've left out, whether because I don't know where to say to start (like Dick, or Delany ), or because I sort of wouldn't recommend starting on that D when there are many better ones, or whatever. E is going to be much shorter, thankfully!

Dave "for S, we're gonna need a bigger blog" DeLaney
David Levinson
60. DemetriosX
@59, Dunsany's name was Edward (John Moreton Drax Plunkett). Not Alfred. You've confused him with Tennyson.
'nother Mike
61. David DeLaney
...So I appear to have. Thank you! (And you have to love the rest of that name too...) You'd think with the entire Internet _right here_ I'd make fewer errors of fact, but noooo.

'nother Mike
62. hapax
Jo Walton, I meant to ask, have you read any of John Dickinson's (eldest son of Peter) work? His fantasy trilogy, beginning with CUP OF THE WORLD seems to me like it might be your sort of thing.
Jo Walton
63. bluejo
Hapax: I have not. I'll keep an eye out for it.
'nother Mike
64. TPost
As the father of two sci-fantasy reading kids I couldn't recommend any book more than Daley's Requiem Series to get a young person started. As for gripping stories but with more complex characters start with Donaldsons Daughters of Regal or Reave The Just. Once you learned to trust Him, reading the Gap series although not to be entered into lightly will turn your head completely around. Also DeLint because he reminds us that magic both high and low could be hiding in any old coffee shop or dusty bookshop.Did I forget Dahl? of course not just save him to read aloud to your kids.
Naomi Libicki
65. AetherealGirl
Dostoevsky -- I started with The Idiot when I was 14 or 15 and loved it passionately. In fact I couldn't put it down, which caused problems for me since I started it on a school day. Some time later I read The Brothers Karamazov and adored that as well. Then I read Crime and Punishment and found it kind of slight in comparison.

Dumas -- I started with The Count of Monte Cristo and enjoyed it, especially the unexpected lesbians. Then I tried to read The Three Musketeers and couldn't finish. I kept hoping for the French Revolution to kill everybody, then getting depressed when I remembered it wouldn't be along for another hundred-odd years.

Dante Alighieri -- Should be under A, surely?
Naomi Libicki
66. AetherealGirl
Oh and also:

Bradley Denton -- Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede.
'nother Mike
67. AlayneMc
I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Dunnett's books, and I wouldn't start with _King Hereafter_. I found it by far the most difficult of her books to read. _The Game of Kings_ is quite simply more fun and more interesting. Or, if you prefer her later, slightly less ornate style, then start with _Niccolo Rising_.

The Game of Kings was actually written originally as a standalone. It's better if you read the remaining five books in the Lymond series, but it can still be enjoyed well on its own, to give a good idea why people adore Dunnett's writing and world.
'nother Mike
68. DianaH
I have to plug Dave Duncan's King's Blades books (The Gilded Chain, The Lord of the Fire Lands, and Sky of Swords are the original three). When I was fourteen or so these really got me into sword-and-sworcery fantasy.

And, I have to defend Dickens. I LOVE Dickens, but it was definitely a battle. Dombey and Son and Bleak House (I know, I know) are my favorites. I loathe Great Expectations but really liked David Copperfield, which was my first delving-into when I was young. I think David Copperfield is probably the best book for young readers to start with.

Also love Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment is great, but I was very affected by Notes from Underground as a teenager.
'nother Mike
69. Peruhain
Glad to see several people mention Dumas, who is one of my absolutely favorite authors. In addition to the works recommended above, I'd also recommend Queen Margot. Also, I think with Dumas' historical novels (e.g. the Musketeers series) it's handy to have a translation that has notes explaining things that might be obscure to contemporary readers and an index to the numerous historical figures who appear in them. I'm partial to the Oxford University Press editions myself--they use the original 19th century translation, though, which may be off-putting to some.
Bob Blough
70. Bob
Did anyone mention Gardner Dozois - THE AUTHOR? He is one of the best short fiction writers ever in SF. He has not written much and all of his collections overlap, but the best is probably GEODESIC DREAMS. His one solo novel is terrific, too - STRANGERS. He is writing again and I for one am happy because as much as I love his editing I really missed his stories. He was the Ted Chiang of his generation an should be remembered.
Linden Wolfe
71. Lilith
Good grief! I can't believe I forgot Richard Dansky's Firefly Rain, because I've known the guy for over 10 years. Sorry, Richard!
72. hobbes01
One that no one has seemed to mention is Sara Douglass. Her fantasy series are interesting as a number of them mix fantasy with historical events or myths including Troy and the bombing of London during WW2. I would suggest starting with her major series / world and the book Battleaxe which is where I started. I however enjoyed the Troy Game Series (Book 1 is Hade's Daughter)immensly and it is a standalone series so another good place to start.
'nother Mike
73. formerly Underhill
I liked Little Brother by Doctorow a lot. It reads like a bit of a political awareness 101 course for those to the left of the spectrum. Because I am firmly on the left of the spectrum myself, I loved it. (I got a kick out of his character urging readers to go do some programming, the genuine enthusiasm of a code writing initiate, the instruction to Go; Seek Python; Code!) It seems to me a novel for youth that is a wakening to the possibilities and an introduction to the realities. Things you need to know to live as an aware person in the world.

From my end of the political spectrum, a thought experiment where a high school student with lots of brains and a bad attitude works for US Homeland Security... well, it seems like a stretch, right off. (I guess for me Bad Attitude often equals Independant Thinker, one not willing to blindly believe what they are told.) But, if I make that stretch, in my world view that kid would have realized people were being pulled in and detained and tortured, basic rights suspended, etc just as fast or faster than in the real book. It would take some pretty fancy writing to make that character sympathetic to me if he continued to work for Homeland Security when he saw all the moral implications. I am boldly going to guess that most who do not enjoy this book are those who just don't have the same political orientation as I do.

I also have to vote - big time! - for Dave Duncan and The Gilded Chain/Lord of the Fire Lands/Sky of Swords books. Those three books, taken together, pull off something extraordinary. I can't tell you what without messing it up for those who haven't read it yet, but these three are special favourites of mine, that I have read multiple times, and I know I will enjoy reading them again - they are a great pleasure to re-read. I remember the FIRST TIME I read the third book, the sense of puzzling discomfort at the discrepancies that crept up on me gradually, increasing the tension... and the extremely artful resolution - well, I don't know why they aren't more generally admired. Plus, they are a lot of fun. Great swashbuckling!
John Adams
74. JohnArkansawyer
I enjoyed all of Cory Doctorow's books (except Makers, which I've yet to read). Those who don't like* Little Brother (and quite a few who do) won't like For The Win, but I say it's a better, more realistic book and the one I would start a young adult on.

Of the adult novels, I don't know that I'd recommend Somebody Comes To Town, Somebody Leaves Town as a first Doctorow, even though I think it's his best, unless you have a high tolerance for weird. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a better choice, and either book of shorts even better.

Gordon Dickson's Soldier, Ask Not is really good, but I started with Tactics of Mistake, and think it might be well to do the Dorsai books (if you're going to read them) more or less along their timeline, which means the other really good one, Young Bleys, won't come along for some time.

*I've thought long and hard about the virulence sometimes directed against Doctorow, and have come to the conclusion that it is not because of his politics per se, but because he is a) an optimist and b) he believes something can be done to improve the world, thoughts which shame us.

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