So this week in our alphabetical survey of where to start reading with different authors, we get to G. As usual, please add your starting places for any authors I don’t read or have forgotten, and please feel free to disagree with me, or with each other, if you think there’s a better place to start. If I have written a post on a book, I’ll link to it.
G starts with the immensely popular Neil Gaiman. Maybe people who can read comics can suggest places to start with his graphic work? For his textual work, I suppose the sensible place to start would be with multiple-award winning modern-day fantasy American Gods, but my suggestion is the charming book about Armageddon he wrote with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens.
Daniel F. Galouye seems kind of old-fashioned now, but he wrote a lot of books that were early explorations of ideas that were then new. They’re solid light science fiction—well worked out, and amusing. Counterfeit World is about people living in a computer simulation, written before there were computers. It’s also a satire on advertising. It’s not a bad place to start, and it seems to be in print in a Kindle edition for you e-book fans. My favourite book of his is Dark Universe.
James Alan Gardner is a Canadian science fiction writer. Expendable starts his enjoyable space opera series about space exploration by people nobody would miss. I very much enjoyed Commitment Hour which is hard to describe—it’s a feminist utopia with interesting gender issues and a lot of depth.
Richard Garfinkle—Celestial Matters. Where else are you going to find rigorously worked out SF with literal crystal spheres?
If you’re an adult and you’ve never read Alan Garner, I’d definitely start with The Owl Service, which is the book where he makes the things that he does work best. What he’s doing is contemporary fantasy deeply rooted in place and legend. His earlier books, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, and Elidor are slightly more childish—they’re children’s books—and work slightly less well for an adult reader. His later books, from the brilliant but weird Red Shift onwards, get odder and odder.
I started reading Elizabeth Gaskell when she was described to me as a writer talking about how technology changed society when the technology in question was trains. The book that most meets that description is North and South, but what I suggest you start with is the adorable Cranford. Cranford is one of the most deeply enjoyable books ever written. It’s all small scale and domestic, it isn’t a romance, the characters are extremely real, it’s sweet and funny and short and just lovely.
Stella Gibbons—Cold Comfort Farm. It’s science fiction, written in the thirties and set in the future.
Rumer Godden didn’t write any science fiction, or even fantasy, but a lot of mainstream books about people’s lives in England and India in the mid twentieth century. She wrote a lot, and most of it is very good. Some of the books she wrote towards the end of her life are very slight. Going largely on what seems to be in print, I’d suggest starting with In This House of Brede if you’re interested in nuns (and why on earth anybody would become one), or how people live together in community, and An Episode of Sparrows. Her most brilliant book is China Court, which has been very influential on my imagination of what is possible to write.
Gail Godwin, a Southern American mainstream feminist writer—probably start with A Mother and Two Daughters or The Good Husband. But her new one absolutely blew me away a couple of weeks ago—Unfinished Desires. It’s about nuns. And it would make a really interesting paired reading with In This House of Brede, because at the heart of iTHoB is the grace of God as a real thing, whereas at the heart of Unfinished Desires is the idea that the stories we need to tell don’t need to be literally true.
Parke Godwin—oh, definitely Waiting For the Galactic Bus. I can’t describe it, you wouldn’t believe me.
Johann Goethe—The Sorrows of Young Werther. This book, about an angsty young man, apparently caused waves of suicide across Europe when it came out. I think it’s hilarious because it’s so over the top it’s impossible to take seriously.
William Goldman—though I own many of his books, I would strongly urge anyone to start with The Princess Bride. But if you have read that and you want to know what else he has written, the next thing I’d suggest is The Color of Light, a brilliant but extremely creepy book about finding a muse and what you’d put up with to keep one.
Lisa Goldstein is one of my favourite writers, and you could do a lot worse than starting with The Dream Years and reading all the rest in chronological order. Or start with Tourists, which is just amazing.
Alison Goodman—Singing the Dogstar Blues. When people want to know where the YA SF is, point them at this.
Angelica Gorodischer—Kalpa Imperial. How nice it would be if more of her work were translated.
Robert Graves wrote an odd utopian SF novel while on holiday, because writing something set in the future wouldn’t take any research. That’s Seven Days in New Crete, which I suppose I’m glad I’ve read, but isn’t where you want to start. You want to start with I, Claudius, of course, and if you love it, and love his other historical novels, and even The White Goddess and his poetry and there isn’t any more and you are desperate for more Graves, then read Seven Days in New Crete. He was a terrific historical novelist, but he didn’t know SF from a hole in a tree, and he had very odd ideas about women.
Graham Greene—I find him vastly over-rated, and very dated. But if you have to, then the first half of Travels With My Aunt holds up pretty well.
Martin H. Greenberg is one of the most prolific anthologists around, often in collaboration with other people. Perhaps his best anthology, certainly one containing lots of memorable stories, is After the King, stories in honour of Tolkien.
I cannot really recommend W.E.B. Griffin, despite the fact that I have two whole shelves of books by him. Start with Semper Fi, the best and most characteristic of his books, and the start of his Corps series. Definitely bad, but good.
Nicola Griffith comes next, and it’s a wonder that part of my shelf doesn’t ignite in pure cognitive dissonance. Griffith is a terrific feminist SF writer, and I’d start with her first novel, Ammonite.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales comes next. If they wrote anything else, I don’t know of it.
David Gurr is a thriller writer who wrote the very odd Ring Master, which Emmet read thinking it was fantasy because the packaging makes it look that way. It’s actually about Hitler and Wagner and it’s very hard to describe. If you are interested in a novel about the ways in which the Third Reich was Wagnerian, then this is the book for you. I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again (it’s very long) but it was certainly unusual.
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.