Sun
May 23 2010 11:17am

OK, where do I start with that? F.

This is a post in a continuing series about where to start reading specific writers—I’m going along my bookshelves in alphabetic order making suggestions. Please add anyone I’ve forgotten or don’t read, and please feel free to disagree with me (or with each other) if you think there’s a better place to start. So far I’ve managed to miss a major writer every time, and no doubt I’ll have done the same this time, when we’ll be looking at F.

I don’t know why so many letters on my shelves seem to begin with a children’s book writer, but I guess it’s just one of those cool things about alphabetical order. F starts with Eleanor Farjeon, whose work is mostly whimsical fantasy for kids. The first thing of hers I read was Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field when I was about three, but I recommend that you start with The Little Bookroom which seems to be in print. It’s a collection of excellent short stories that read aloud well, and I see no reason that adults shouldn’t enjoy them too—except that sometimes it’s hard to get that kind of perspective on stories you’ve loved since you were a small child.

With Philip Jose Farmer, I’d suggest starting with a short story collection if you can find one. Any one will do. All of my very favourite things of his are short stories—I think they suited his exuberant style. Someone should reprint a comprehensive collection in a nice edition. The best novel to start with is definitely To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first Riverworld series book. Farmer was excellent at big ideas, like having everybody who ever lived reincarnated naked along the shores of a planet-scale Mississippi. He couldn’t always follow through on them so that they made sense, which is one reason why I prefer his short work. He’s also credited with having invented sex in 1953, at least by SF readers. Philip Larkin disagrees.

David Feintuch—Midshipman’s Hope.

Nicholas Fisk is a British writer of SF for kids. He’s not really in the category of “still good when you’re grown up”, but I have a copy of Space Hostages that I bought because I used to love it so much. It’s funny, when I was nine it was a 900 page book full of detail, and now it’s a little thin thing, because most of the story happened in my head. However, if you know a kid who reads—not a teenager, a grade school kid—and you gave them any of Fisk’s books you can find, they might well be able to enjoy the wonderful Nicholas Fisk books I imagined I was reading.

Constantine Fitzgibbon—I already wrote about When The Kissing Had to Stop.

Has anybody not read Louise FitzHugh’s Harriet the Spy? If not run don’t walk and—I’ve just found out that there are sequels written by other people. Excuse me, I have to go and kill them now.

Peter Fleming wrote travel books in the 1930s and he’s adorable. They were reprinted in the late nineties and are relatively findable, more than when I was first looking for them anyway. Start with Brazilian Adventure. He was Ian Fleming’s older brother, and a spy, and some consider him the inspiration for James Bond.

With Eric Flint, start with 1632.

Michael Flynn, definitely Firestar.

For John M. Ford you can start anywhere, but the World Fantasy Award winning The Dragon Waiting is still in print if you like subtly twisted history, and so is The Last Hot Time if you like urban fantasy. And there’s a collection of his short work From the End of the Twentieth Century which might be the best introduction to his amazing range.

E.M. Forster, probably Howard’s End. Not SF. But you knew that.

Margaret Forster, also not SF. If you like historical novels at all, you’d probably enjoy Lady’s Maid, which is about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s maid. She’s also written a number of very good feminist novels about modern Britain, and a number of even better biographies.

Robert Forward wrote very hard SF. Start with Dragon’s Egg which is about people, well, aliens, living on a neutron star.

M.A. Foster—start with either The Gameplayers of Zan or The Morphodite.

John Fowles, well, The Magus or The Collector or The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Many people would suggest you start George MacDonald Fraser with Flashman, which begins his Flashman series. They’re historical fiction, seeing all the highlights of the nineteenth century from the point of view of Harry Flashman, the cowardly bully of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, which I read as a kid but I bet you didn’t. Anyway, I used to like the Flashman books but they curdled on me. What I’d recommend instead are his McAuslan stories which are very funny semi-autobiographical stories about being in the army at the end of WWII. If you like the training camp sections in military SF, you will like these.

C .S. Friedman, I suggest starting with In Conquest Born. It’s Over The Top Space Opera. In a good way.

Esther Friesner typically writes funny things, but I think her best work is serious. You might not be able to find Psalms of Herod easily, but it’s an interesting book that bears comparison with Atwood and Elgin and Tepper rather than Aspirin and Pratchett.


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.

64 comments
Linden Wolfe
1. Lilith
For C .S. Friedman, I'd personally recommend starting with the Coldfire trilogy.

With Michael Flynn, much as I enjoyed the Firestar series, I have a soft spot for In the Country of the Blind.

I'd also like to throw in Cornelia Funke's Inkworld trilogy for consideration.
Kate Shaw
2. Kate Shaw
The only Nicholas Fisk novel I've read is Monster Maker, which is excellent and holds up even now when I'm an adult (although I've read it so many times over the years, I'm probably not the right person to ask about its quality). I thought I was the only person who'd heard of the writer. Now I'll have to look up some of his other books.
Jo Walton
3. bluejo
Lilith: I also have a soft spot for In The Country of the Blind and it's certainly the first Flynn I read.
Tex Anne
4. TexAnne
Feintuch: Start with Midshipman's Hope, and then stop, unless you're a fan of relentlessly dour Calvinism made flesh. (And if you're not a Christian, please don't think we're all like that.)

Forward: The only one I've ever read was Camelot 30K, which is a physics lesson thinly disguised as a novel. It wasn't to my taste, but I could see the appeal.
Declan Ryan
5. decco999
Alan Dean Foster: a favourite of mine. Simple, adventure-packed stories. Huge fun to read. But where he excels is with his wonderful aliens, meticulously described and woven into the storylines. Start with "The Tar Aiym Krang", "Icerigger" "Spellsinger" or "A Call to Arms".

Steer away, perhaps, from his novelisations of big screen films (Alien, Outland, The Thing).
Kate Shaw
6. odaiwai
Raymond E. Feist: the first trilogy (Magician, Silverthorn, a Darkness at Sethanon) always seemed to me a good ripping yarn in the fantasy genre. Probably best when you're a teen, as with most Fantasy. It reads like a D&D campaign quite a bit (which it actually was, I believe), but fun anyway.

I'm not really a fan of the later books, as they seem to be milking the millieu for everything it's worth.
Beth Friedman
7. carbonel
I hadn't realized that Martin Pippin visited the daisy-field! I'd only read about him in the apple orchard.

ObCopyeditor: Howards End doesn't have an apostrophe, which leads me to wonder how many Howards were killed there.

For Alan Dean Foster, I'd recommend starting with Midworld or his short story collection With Friends Like These..., but most people seem to prefer the Flinx books.

Walter Farley? If so, one has to start with The Black Stallion.

C.S. Forester?
Dru O'Higgins
8. bellman
For Nicholas Fisk, I loved Trillions when I was the appropriate age.

For Philip Jose Farmer, steer clear of his multibook series. I liked Dark is the Sun.

For Ian Fleming, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is a fun kids book, and nothing like the movie.

For Alan Dean Foster, I love Cyber Way, and enjoyed Sentenced to Prism, Glory Lane and To the Vanishing Point.

And I love the Hornblower books by C.S. Forester, even if they're not genre.
Clark Myers
9. ClarkEMyers
My own shelves include Howard Fast and Michael F. Flynn. It would be easy to find stories that are more than somewhat opposed as between these two.

(or Fallen Angel by Fast and Fallen Angels by Flynn and others purely for the coincidence of titles}

I'd suggest starting with the autobiographical Being Red for Howard Fast as useful background but starting there assumes that knowing something of the author and the intent informs the reading of fiction.

Others may disagree and start with say Spartacus.

IMHO as hinted above Fast's SF is way too full of message (shades of Coming of Age in Samoa as a worker's paradise of communist equality and just as dishonest) and dates badly.

For Flynn I'd say any of the short fiction (SF is fortunate in offering a market for long short stories as novella) though Fallen Angels should not be missed I'm not sure where to shelve it.
Christopher Key
10. Artanian
A few more here.

Alan Dean Foster - For Love of Mother Not is a good place to start.

Leo Frankowski - The Crosstime Engineer is a good place to start.

David Farland, start with The Runelords. I like these books at the beginning, but they really kind of run out of steam after a few. Interesting magic system.

For Eric Flint, if you're more of a fantasy person you might start with The Philosophical Strangler instead.

On a completely different topic for Richard Feynman start with 'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman', or if you really want to see why he was such a good teacher, 'QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter' is probably the single best pop-science book ever written, taking an extremely complex subject and explaining it in such a way that it's really understandable, and almost entirely without math.
Kate Shaw
11. Teka Lynn
I read Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field first, but it doesn't make quite as much sense if you haven't read Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. I also found that the ending of Daisy Field packed a sneaky punch that I hadn't gotten at all as a child.
Kate Shaw
12. beket
Ian Fleming - does anyone recommend the Bond books and if so, which one to start with? I'd assume Casino Royale?

EM Forster - one of my favorites, particularly Howards End and Passage to India, and in general, you can't go wrong with his novels. But I've been told "everyone hates The Longest Journey and it's best avoided." So I've never read it. As for his short stories, if I'd read them before I read the novels, I never would've read him again. One, though, "The Machine Stops" is science fiction and has some redeeming qualities-- it's about people who spend their lives talking to each other through machines. Imagine that!
Kate Shaw
13. Kadere
William Faulkner, start with The Sound and the Fury.

Ian Fleming, easiest to start with Casino Royale, but you can actually start anywhere in the series as long as you read On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, and The Man with the Golden Gun in that order.
Kate Shaw
14. beket
Kadere @ 13 - Thank you.

Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier - not SF but had to recommend as there's something about this book I really like but not sure what. If you like completely unreliable narrators, this is for you. The narrator tells the story as he sees it but then other people tell him "the truth", only IMO they're telling him lies (and you'll realize this if you know the effects of cyanide). Of course, it could all be a case of "unreliable author.":-)
Kate Shaw
15. beket
Follow-up Fleming question - Some of my copies of the Bond books say "complete and unabridged". Does that mean there are editions out there that were abridged? Should this be something to look out for?
Thanks!
Dru O'Higgins
16. bellman
If we include graphic novels, than Phil Foglio. Girl Genius, of course - they are all available online and good enough that I bought all the books. Also check out his Mythadventures, adapted from the book by Robert Asprin. Way, way better than the source.
Naomi Libicki
17. AetherealGirl
Valerie J Freireich -- Of the two books by her I've read, because they were the ones I encountered in a second-hand bookshop, Beacon is probably a better place to start, being more of a standalone, although in fact I started with Testament. Both of them deal with operating in a world with shared consciousness; in the case of Beacon it's a sort of mental internet thing, and in Testament it's ancestral memories. Also she has an interstellar empire called the Polite Harmony of Worlds, which I think is a great name for an interstellar empire.
Paul Andinach
18. anobium
Kate Shaw, perhaps you know this already, but there's been a TV adaptation of Monster Maker, with Jim Henson's people doing the monsters. (Not having read nor seen either version, I don't know if it's a good adaptation.)

Nicholas Fisk was one of my favourite writers when I was the appropriate age. Another good one of his was Grinny, about an elderly relative who turns out to be (or would that be telling?) -- the climax is (as I recall it) extraordinarily creepy. (There's a sequel, which isn't quite as impressive, but has a neat metatextual joke in it.)
Kate Shaw
19. James Davis Nicoll
There's Robert Frezza. The place to start with him is with his first and best book, A Small Colonial War.

The second book, Fire in a Faraway Place has aged not necessarily badly as such but in a way the author couldn't have intended in 1994: the ending involved :

Gur cebgntbavfgf, cebgrfgvat gur cbyvpvrf bs gur znva fheivivat fhcrecbjre, n cbjre tvira gb hfvat vgf zvyvgnel erfbheprf gb shegure vgf pbzzrepvny vagrerfgf, pnaabg ubcr gb qrsrng gur terng cbjre va n pbairagvbany jne fb vafgrnq gurl qrzbafgengr ubj veevgngrq gurl ner jvgu gur terng cbjre ol uvwnpxvat n fcnpr fuvc orsber sylvat vg ng terng fcrrq vagb gur gnyyrfg (V guvax) ohvyqvat va gur terng cbjre'f cevapvcny pvgl bs pbzzrepr.
Kate Shaw
20. reddwarf
Cheryl Franklin's Tales of the Taormin series which starts with Fire Get is very good - though I think it may be out of print now.

R Frezza - I preferred McLendon's Syndrome - its got a bit more humour to it.
Kate Shaw
21. SherriN
I enjoyed Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair quite a bit. The rest of the Thursday Next series is a little uneven, but the first one is a fun romp.
Kate Shaw
22. liontime
As regards E.M. Forster, the place I would begin, is " The Machine Stops " Read it decades ago and still remember it well.
Jo Walton
23. bluejo
Aethereal Girl: just mentioning the inclusion of an interstellar empire called the Polite Harmony of Worlds was enough to get me to look up Freireich on the library database.
Kate Shaw
24. Kate Shaw
anobium--no, I had no idea there was a TV adaptation of Monster Maker. Thanks, that's another one to look up.
Kate Shaw
25. altarego
I agree with the previous comments re: Feist. The original trilogy is well-paced and the characters are memorable.

However, reading those books (and perhaps the one or two that immediately follow) provide the context for the vastly more substantial Empire trilogy, which Feist coauthored with Janny Wurts. The setting is Feist's universe, so they should be mentioned here.

Wurts has since developed her own style and I'm sure she will be mentioned in the W's; however, the Empire books are too good to pass up.
Kate Shaw
26. Kvon
In non-sf I enjoyed Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (although I really loved the movie version first).

Lynn Flewelling I would start with Luck in the Shadows. She also did The Bone Doll's Twin which was excellent but I didn't like where the series ended up.

Karen Joy Fowler...I haven't read enough of her work to know. I liked her short stories, and Sarah Canary is on my to read list.

Monica Furlong is another ya author, Wise Child or Juniper are both fine to start with. Her third was written posthumously and not as developed.

I agree with SherriN about The Eyre Affair being fun. I'm wondering if he's one of those authors to read only the first of the series, but I enjoyed his latest book, Shades of Grey, a postapocalyptic society where your status and career depend on which colors you can perceive (hint, don't be colorblind).

C.S. Friedman I would start with Black Sun Rising.
Mary Aileen Buss
27. maryaileen
There are also two Harriet the Spy sequels by Fitzhugh: The Long Secret, which is my favorite of her books, and Sport. But definitely start with Harriet the Spy.
Kate Shaw
28. David DeLaney
Feist - the first 3-or-4-book series starts VERY slow (but gets nicely grand in a while). You might well want to start with his "& Wurts" Empire trilogy instead - it doesn't need too much of the background from the first series. Once you start reading the main series, go till you're tired of it, and stop - since he doesn't appear to be stopping ANY time soon.

Flint - You can also start with Boundary w/Spoor, or (already mentioned under D) An Oblique Approach w/Drake, or The Shadow of the Lion w/Freer & Lackey, or Pyramid Scheme w/Freer. But for pure Flint, do The Philosophical Strangler if you don't want to get caught up in the unending 1632 series. He's also done quite a number of edited-collections-of-older-author books that I've found to be good.

For Ford, I understand the Star Trek novel _How Much for Just the Planet?_ is also excellent.

Eve Forward wrote _Villains by Necessity_, an epic humorous fantasy about what happens AFTER the Forces of Good have their final epic triumph.

(Alan Dean Foster has more places to start than many people would readily believe. Several short story collections of his would work; so would the Star Trek Log novelizations of the animated ST series. The fantasy trilogy that starts with _Carnivores of Light and Darkness_ is also a good unrelated starting point. I'd not point people at _Spellsinger_ initially...)

Diana Pharaoh Francis is a more recent writer, who I'd say to start with the excellent _The Cipher_, first book in the Crosspointe fantasy series.

For Frankowski, I agree to start with The Cross-Time Engineer. And, much like Piers Anthony, stop after the first book in the series that creeps you out even a little bit, because it'll never get any LESS creepy than that from that point on.

Lorna Freeman has written three books, so far, in her Borderlands series, semi-high fantasy with intercountry politics, mages, and border-patrol troopers that don't expect to get caught up into high-level intrigue. Start with _Covenants_.

(Non-SF children's books: Fitzgerald's _The Great Brain_ series definitely deserves a mention, starting with the book of the same title.)

--Dave
Matthew Haase
29. Indagator
I second the recommendation of In the Country of the Blind over Firestar - I think it has superior ideas. Plus, it's a standalone volume, so you can decide whether you enjoy what passes for plot in a Flynn novel without buying four books upfront.

For C.S. Friedman, I would recommend This Alien Shore.
j p
30. sps49
becket @15-

The unabridged note may refer to the awful practice of editing books for paperback in the 60s or so.

Fleming's Bond novels are fun, simpler than the movies, and some are definitely a product of their time. But do read them.
john mullen
31. johntheirishmongol
Most of the F books have been already mentioned. Fiest, I agree with Magician, also you must read the trilogy with Jannly Wurts which is remarkable.

Farmer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go.

Alan Dean Foster, Tar Aiym Krang or The End of the Matter

Forester - Start with the first Hornblower book

Eric Flint - He has done a lot of things with other people, and almost all are good. 1632 as a stand alone is good

One I have not seen mentioned is Pat Frank...If you have not read Alas Babylon, it is the best WW3 book I have read because its completely about the aftermath.

Someone newer I have just read is CC Finley. I only read the first book of the patriot Witch series, but it was an interesting alt world take.
Kate Shaw
32. mndrew
Starting someone on Feist, I'd skip the riftwar and go with stand alone "Faery Tale". This is an excellent book and good addiction fodder.
Kate Shaw
33. Andrew Barton
For George MacDonald Fraser I'd also strongly recommend Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), one of the best memoirs of World War 2 at the sharp end.

Lymond fans might also find very interesting 'The Steel Bonnets (1971)', a history of the Border Reivers of the Anglo-Scottish Border.
David Levinson
35. DemetriosX
Late to the party this week.

So far, I'm pretty much in agreement with everybody.

The Bond books tend to be rather different than the films, but several of them are worth it, especially if you like the reboot. Start with Casino Royale, since it sets up a lot of Bond's later motivations.

CS Forester, definitely the Hornblower books. Start at the beginning, obviously. They're a bit deeper than you might expect, too.

Fraser, I haven't soured on Flashman as Jo did, but some of the later books were a bit "phoned in" as it were. I do wish he'd got to some of the other things Flashy hinted at, though. And read the footnotes, you might learn something. The McCauslan stories are fun, but should probably be read only a few at a time or they blur together. Another fun Fraser book is The Pyrates. Stick with it through the first chapter, he stops writing like that.

For RL Forward, Dragon's Egg isn't bad and makes an interesting counterpoint to Clement's Mission of Gravity.

Nobody has mentioned Jack Finney yet. I prefer his shorter works, but The Body Snatchers was the inspiration for the original film and Of Missing Persons is interesting. Of course, if you're in a romantic mood there's Time and Again.

Finally, I would recommend Cornelia Funke. I know she's been translated into English, because publishers and movie studios were hoping to turn her into the next JK Rowling. The Inkheart series is her best known, but also not her best work. The Thief Lord isn't bad (they filmed that one too), but her best stuff is actually aimed at younger kids. Igraine the Brave and Dragon Rider are both very good. (Can't vouch for the quality of the translations, though.)
Pasi Kallinen
36. paxed
My bookshelf has only one F not mentioned here:
White Horse, Dark Dragon by Robert C. Fleet. I seem to recall it was fun to read when I was a kid, but the satire certainly went over my head.
Kate Shaw
37. Rich Horton
For a major writer you missed may I suggest Karen Joy Fowler? One of my favorites, certainly. Her novels are only ambiguously fantastical, though my reading of her wonderful first novel, SARAH CANARY, follows John Clute's, and makes the book definitely SF. THE JANE AUSTEN CLUB is not SF, but does have a convincing SF reader as a character.

As for where to start with her, SARAH CANARY is a good choice, as are her collections, ARTIFICIAL THINGS and BLACK GLASS (both of which contain plenty of no doubt about it SF).

For a major writer who didn't write SF, my favorite "F" is probably Penelope Fitzgerald, who wrote a series of delightful short novels. The most famous is probably THE BLUE FLOWER, about the German poet Novalis, and that's perhaps the best place to start with her.

I'd also certain second recommendations for Charles Coleman Finlay (who also writes as C. C. Finlay).
zaphod beetlebrox
38. platypus rising
Nice recommendations on Fowler and Fitzgerald.
Jeffrey Ford - The short story collections, either
The Empire of Ice-Cream or The Drowned Life.
I feel there are many more Fs, but I'm in neuronal deleting mode...
Rob Munnelly
39. RobMRobM
F is one of our weaker letters so far. Farmer is the only genre author I have read (although my daugher enjoys various Funke books very much). Riverworld was always a guilty pleasure and I remember reading Riders of the Purple Wage but have no memory for what it is about.

For non-genre, add Richard Ford - Sportswriter and Independence Day are outstanding and award winning in an Updikean vein. I'll second the Hornblower stories as well as lots of fun as well.

Rob
Peter Stone
40. Peter1742
I wasn't that impressed by Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, but I'm halfway through his newest book Shades of Grey, and I'm absolutely blown away. It's set in a very bizarre future dystopia, where there's a class system based on how good your colour vision is. (For unexplained reasons, people's vision has deteriorated, so now they have no night vision and relatively little colour vision. Bar codes grow on most animals, and spoons are very valuable because it is forbidden to manufacture new ones.)
Andrew Mason
41. AnotherAndrew
It's just struck me that no one has yet mentioned Stephen Fry. The obvious place to begin for SF fans is Making History (which is in any case the only one I have read).
Allison Lockwood Hansen
42. Talisyn
Jack Finney, for his time travel novel Time & Again, and his Science Fiction novel, The Body Snatchers, the book that was the basis for the movie(s) Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Kate Shaw
43. aleistra
DemetriosX @35:

CS Forester, definitely the Hornblower books. Start at the beginning, obviously. They're a bit deeper than you might expect, too.

Would that be the actual beginning -- the first book in the series Forester wrote, i.e. Beat to Quarters, or the chronological beginning, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower? There's never an "obviously" to series written out of chronological order. I'm a big fan of publication order, myself.

Peter1742, the only satisfactory explanation I could find for the weird color vision scenario in Shades of Grey (which is weirder than your capsule summary makes it sound; some people can see only red, some only blue, but everyone can see "synthetic" versions of those colors) is "nanotech". That is to say, "magic".
David Levinson
44. DemetriosX
aleistra @43:

I don't think I was even aware that he wrote them out of chronological order. Or really thinking about, maybe I was. I'm not sure. There's a lot to be said for publications order, since authors often go through a lot of contortions to fit whole books into the interstices between what they've already written and differences between a younger author and an older author who has refined his craft or perhaps gotten rather tired of the whole series can be extreme.

OTOH, something like Hornblower, where there aren't that many books and there is a certain continuity of action, may benefit from following the internal chronology. Maybe the best thing is to do first one and then the other, starting with your preference.
Kate Shaw
45. Kvon
aleistra@44, re Shades of Grey it's hinted that there is future genetic reengineering, probably repression of certain cones in the retina. What isn't clear to me yet is how this is tied in with the direct effects on the brain of certain colors. But the floating rocks do seem like magic.
larry shirk
46. lorenzo
Mick Farren : Phaid the Gambler: a dystopia, but not one that's near.
Joe Clifford Faust: Ferman's Devils: dark humour in the advertising business.
Joe Romano
47. Drunes
@ johntheirishmongol: Good to see a recommendation for Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon," a realistic view of how a small Florida town deals with the aftermath of nuclear war. A relatively quick read, it also provides an interesting slice of early 1960s morals and ideas.

@ Artanian: I agree with you about Dave Farland's "Runelords" series. The first book, "The Sum of All Men," presents some interesting ideas I had never seen in fantasy before and it's worth a look. If you like it, go deeper into the series. If not, the first book offers a satisfying story and is a good stand alone novel.
Kate Shaw
48. Diamond Jim
I strongly second Penelope Fitzgerald, who though not at all SF or fantasy was the best novelist writing in English after Angela Carter died. I would not start with The Blue Flower, though, as it is probably her least accessible book. Start instead with any of Offshore, At Freddie's, The Bookshop, or Human Voices, and on no account miss The Beginning of Spring, a nineteenth-century Russian novel written by a twentieth-century English woman.
Kate Shaw
49. a-j
Ian Fleming - Raymond Chandler said that 'Casino Royale' was the best novel and that 'From Russia With Love' was the best Bond book. Personally I would suggest FRWL as an introduction or maybe 'Thunderball' if you like the films, it's closest to the films in atmosphere. Avoid 'The Spy Who Loved Me' as that is very atypical and as Kadere@13 says, do not start with either 'You Only Live Twice' (as I did as it happens) or 'The Man With The Golden Gun'.
George MacDonald Fraser - with the Flashman books I find the character too unpleasant in the earlier ones plus his habit of using plots from famous 19th century novels in a couple I find irritating. I started with 'Flashman's Lady'. I adore the McAuslan stories, start where you like. 'Quartered Safe Out Here' is an excellent war memoir, and funny.
Jo Walton
50. bluejo
Diamond Jim: A dissenting point. The only Fitzgerald I have read is Offshore and I particularly disliked it, which is why I haven't read any more. I found the characters unsympathetic, the writing-style trying too hard, and the plot thin. So clearly not a good place to start for me and people who have a reasonable degree of congruence with me.
Kate Shaw
51. Jason (No, the other one)
Kenneth C. Flint wrote science fantasy retellings of the Irish/Celtic mythological cycles, and I so wish someone would reprint those in hardcover. If you're so inclined, you can start with the first book of any of the 3 cycles:

Riders of the Sidhe (Tuatha de Danaan)
Isle of Destiny (Cuchulain)
Challenge of the Clans (Finn MacCumhal)
Kate Shaw
52. lampwick
Minister Faust, _Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad_. It's a whacked-out, funny urban fantasy, but really, I can't explain more than that -- it isn't like anything I've ever read. The title does get explained, though.
Kate Shaw
53. anef
Re Penelope Fitzgerald, I didn't get on with The Blue Flower, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Gate of Angels. The Amazon reviews give a good idea of what it's about, if you need help deciding whether to read it.
Kate Shaw
54. daharyn
Someone up above dismissed most of E.M. Forster's short stories, to which I can only say "no no no!" and heartily recommend "The Life to Come." Then again, I also recommend starting him with Passage to India, so I may just be rather contrary.

And to another comment, if you start Faulkner with The Sound and the Fury, you must immediately follow with Absalom, Absalom! AND Go Down, Moses, to get the best sense of the author's range.
Monica Annis-Hilliard
55. beltempest
The first E.M. Forster I read was The Celestial Omnibus and although I've read plenty other of his works since, its still my favorite.

I'm not sure if anyone else has ever read it, but Howard Fast had a book of kind of SFF short stories published in the late 70s called The General Zapped an Angel. The stories were highly thought provoking to a teenager and I still have fond memories of the book. Not sure how they'd hold up for me now.
Kate Shaw
56. filkferengi
Monica Ferris has a fun mystery series, starting with _Crewel World_. Under the name Mary Monica Pulver, she also wrote _Knightfall_ are also excellent.
Monica Annis-Hilliard
57. beltempest
I occurred to me that we left out another Farmer in this list. Nancy Farmer is mostly a young adult author, but she's got a lot of good stuff. I would probably start with her stand alone House of the Scorpion.

I also forgot to mention my favorite Joe Clifford Faust book A Death of Honor. That one was in my top ten favorites of all time for a long time.
Katharina Schuschke
58. Katharina
Flint,Eric: 1632 is a good starting place, but as a non-American you might like to read 1633 (w David Weber) immediately afterwards. 1632 is a bit heavy on "Americans save everyone else", 1633 and the rest of the series is still American-worldview-centric, but adds a bit more perspective.

Freer,Dave: Rats, Bats & Vats (w Eric Flint). Wonderfully over-the-top space opera. Sheer laugh-out-loud-fun.
Kate Shaw
59. Nirgal
I would Mention Mark Frost (who was co-creator of Twin Peaks with David Lynch). His book THE LIST OF 7 was a period piece about Arthur Conan Doyle dealing with an Occult Menace. I never read any of his others, (THE 6 MESSIAHS, etc.) but did enjoy TLO7.
Kate Shaw
60. HelenS
There's also Penelope Farmer, of _Charlotte Sometimes_ fame (see also http://grannyp.blogspot.com/). _Charlotte Sometimes_ is actually the third of a trilogy that begins with _The Summer Birds_ and middles with _Emma in Winter_., but the third book is not at all closely related to the first two and is frequently read on its own.

Antonia Forest of course didn't write fantasy (apart from the inevitable time-travely effect of each book of a long-drawn-out series being set in the period it was published), but all the same ... I suppose _End of Term_ is the only really logical place to start with her books, though _The Thursday Kidnapping_ is a stand-alone and quite good. If you like adventure stories better than school stories, _The Marlows and the Traitor_ can stand on its own quite well, too.
Liza .
61. aedifica
Coming in very late on this one...

David DeLaney @ 28, thanks for mentioning Eve Forward's Villains by Necessity! I like that one--it's true it reads like it started life as a D&D campaign, but it's such a neat concept and well handled.

I bear a huge grudge against Flint's 1632, though. It promised such interesting things, and then utterly failed to deliver on them! Thinking it over now, I think someone who didn't care about the "what would really happen if" and just wanted an unusual adventure would probably like the book just fine, but I wanted some actual exploration of the cultures and technologies affected, and I didn't get what I wanted. And I'd have been happy to skip the 30-page hymn to Gustavus Adolphus, too.
Kate Shaw
62. Kaijanaho, Antti-Juhani
aedifica @ 61: You would likely find a lot of that development in the expanded series, especially the shorts written by other authors in the Grantville Gazettes.

I would like to note that the hoops this comment form makes me jump through to get this comment posted are above and beyond the call of duty (and unusual). I must have tried at least ten times by now, always *something* was wrong.
Kate Shaw
63. NORCAL49
Have to add Robert Frezza to this list. Small Colonial War and its follow-up are brilliant.
Kate Shaw
64. James Davis Nicoll
Ahem. Re: Frezza: check comment 19....
mark tranter
65. antiloquax
For those who like John Fowles his book, The Aristos, is wonderful. Not fiction, it's an attempt to make sense of life using ideas from pre-socratic Greek philosophers. Just amazing.

Oh and I totally agree about Nicholas Fisk. Space Hostages is great.

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