Jul 4 2010 11:02am

OK, where do I start with that? M

This week in the ongoing series of good places to start reading we reach M, which turns out to be a remarkably prolific letter for science fiction and fantasy writers. I have no idea why. Is it because it’s half-way through the alphabet? Is it because of all the Scottish and Irish influence?

This is a set of personal recommendations, done by me looking along my bookshelf. Please add authors I have forgotten, neglected, or never read, with your own starting points for them. Or if you disagree with me, or with each other, about where is a good place to start, please don’t hesitate to post that—for someone coming new to a writer, knowing why people think some starting points are better than others can be very useful.

My M shelves begin with a large block of Rose Macaulay, an English writer of the mid-twentieth century who write historical and contemporary novels. Definitely start with The Towers of Trebizond, which begins ‘“Take my camel, dear,” said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.’ It’s moving as well as funny, and it’s largely about a trip to Turkey in the 1950s.

R.A. MacAvoy—she’s written a lot but do start with Tea With the Black Dragon (post).

Anne McCaffrey—I think I’d still say what I’ve always said, which is start with Dragonflight

I’ve only ever read one book by Mary McCarthy, The Group. It wasn’t the first book I read about people going to university and having fun, but it was the first one where the people were girls, and that meant a lot to me at the time. I originally read it from a school library, and bought this copy a long time ago. This was also one of the first books I read set in the US that wasn’t either historical or science fiction.

Jack McDevitt—start with A Talent For War.

My old George MacDonald books seem to have been visited by the sexism fairy and the Victorian sentimental morality fairy, but when I was a kid I loved The Princess and the Goblin.

With Ian Macdonald you could start at the beginning with Desolation Road (post) or you could start with one of his recent brilliant books like River of Gods.

Ian McEwan is a British mainstream writer. Start with Atonement, which is about what it’s possible to say and not to say in fiction.

Maureen McHugh is one of my favourite writers. Start with China Mountain Zhang (post).

Vonda McIntyre, definitely start with the award-winning Dreamsnake.

It’s difficult to say where to start with Robin McKinley. How about The Hero and the Crown? (post)

Ian Macleod—I haven’t read his Clarke Award-winning latest novel, but I’ll probably pick it up when I’m in the UK. I started reading him with his short fiction, which I think is outstanding, so how about the collection Breathmoss?

Ken Macleod—now that’s an interesting question. We once had a thread on rec.arts.sf.written about MacLeod reading order that went on for months. Start with the Fall Revolution books, and start them with... The Stone Canal. No, read them in any order you want as long as you read The Sky Road (post) last. Or you could start with Cosmonaut Keep (post).

George R.R. Martin—well, nobody would want to start an unfinished series, so you’d do much better to start with The Armageddon Rag (post) or Dying of the Light (post). Or if you want to start the series, it begins with A Game of Thrones (post).

Anita Mason—start with Bethany or The Illusionist. The Illusionist is about Simon Magus, a conjuror in the first century BC. Bethany is contemporary, it’s a novel about how cults work, from the inside. Both of these have a positive attitude towards gay people and are immensely readable. 

Lisa Mason—I’ve only read Summer of Love, which is a fantasy novel about hippies.

W. Somerset Maugham—start with Cakes and Ale, it’s far and away his most approachable book. If you really really like it, then read everything else.

Yves Meynard has only published one novel in English, though he’s an award winning author in French—he lives in Montreal and is so completely bilingual that ideas for stories come to him in one language or the other. I hear he has a fantasy trilogy in English that may be coming soon. Meanwhile The Book of Knights is absolutely terrific, it’s a very unusual fantasy.

Walter Miller—either start with A Canticle for Leibowitz or a short story collection. I tend to re-read his short stories more often. Someone should reprint them.

With A.A. Milne, if you’re grown up and have really never read any, you should start with his poetry, because it’s objectively worth good light verse. When We Were Very Young.

Hope Mirrlees actually did write more than just Lud in the Mist, but Lud in the Mist is where any sane person would start. It’s a lovely early fantasy novel.

Nancy Mitford—start with The Pursuit of Love, sometimes bound in one volume with Love in a Cold Climate. I’ve rather gone off the Mitfords recently myself.

Judith Moffett—I started with her short stories. Pennterra seems to be in print and the Hefn books not, so start there.

Sarah Monette—start with Melusine (post).

Most people begin L.M. Montgomery with Anne of Green Gables when they are eight years old. If you didn’t, you may yet enjoy it, or you might enjoy The Blue Castle more—it’s an adult novel.

With Elizabeth Moon there are several potential starting points depending on what you like. The Speed of Dark (post) strikes me as her best novel, or there’s always Once a Hero (post).

Michael Moorcock—again there are lots of potential places to start. If you are not a particular fan of heroic fantasy, which I am not, then I suggest Behold the Man, or the astonishing Pyat books (begin with Jerusalem Commands) or this excellent collection of his outstanding short fiction.

Ward Moore wrote the classic US Civil War alternate history novel Bring the Jubilee.

Daniel Keys Moran—the first one is Emerald Eyes, but you might do better to start with The Long Run which is a better book.

Chris Moriarty, one of the best new writers of this century—start with Spin State.

Jan Morris is mostly a writer of travel books and historical travel books, but Last Letters From Hav is travel writing about an imaginary place.

I think one of the best places to begin with James Morrow would be his novel The Last Witchfinder, and another would be the collection Bible Stories for Adults.

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.

Christopher Key
1. Artanian
A few others:

Richard K. Morgan - definitely start with Altered Carbon, which to my mind was one of the best recent debut novels.

George R.R. Martin - whatever you do, don't read Game of Thrones. It will only set you upon a path of heartache as you come to realize that, in fact, he's never going to finish the series. So just say no and avoid the pain. The wildcards series, however, is fairly amusing, and he'll likely publish another dozen of those.

Robert McCammon - his early stuff is fairly rough (and also hard to find). I'd probably start with Swan Song.

Julian May - definitely start with the Pliocene Exile series and The Many Coloured Land.

China Miéville - probably Perdido Street Station. If his politics don't bug you too much these are well-written books, but he is somewhere to the left of Marx, and his politics definitely show through.

LE Modesitt - There are a couple of options here. Most folks should probably start with the Recluse books and 'The Magic of Recluse', but if you really don't like fantasy you could start with the Ecolitian books.
2. AlecAustin
I personally found Once a Hero very triggery the first time I read it (and its sequel Rules of Engagement even more so), and so I'd personally suggest Hunting Party or Trading in Danger as possible places to start with Moon instead of it.

R. E. Meluch has 4 rather nice space operas out which do interesting things with character and politics despite a setting that's pretty ridiculous if you look at it straight on (there's a resurgent Roman Empire in space due to a conspiracy of Latin speakers - yeah, I know). The Myriad is the first, but it's not required, due to how it ends - Wolf Star is also a fine starting point.

My personal recommendation for where to start with China Mieville is either The Scar or Un Lun Dun - while I thought Perdido Street Station was very good, The Scar seems to jerk readers' expectations around less, and its setting is more interesting to me than New Crobozon is, while Un Lun Dun is slight but a decent introduction to the sort of thing Mieville does.

I'm a bit biased on Richard Morgan's first book (I didn't like it as much as other people did), but I've found his later work interesting. The Steel Remains is subverts a bunch of fantasy tropes in interesting ways, while Broken Angels or Woken Furies strike me as better places to start with the Takeshi Kovacs books than Altered Carbon.

Planet Stories just reprinted a bunch of C. L. Moore's short stories in two volumes - of them, I'd start with Black God's Kiss, as I think the Jirel of Joiry stories hold up better than Northwest Smith ones. (Sarah Monette mentioned to me during Fourth Street that "Black God's Kiss" itself was a reaction to the cultural omnipresence of stories of that form where the man doesn't die, most of which we've since lost.)

Sandy Mitchell is a pseudonym under which Alex Stewart writes some genuinely funny Warhammer 40K tie-in novels about Commissar Ciaphas Cain, who is basically Harry Flashman in space. Start with the omnibus edition, Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium, and keep in mind that the books improve over time.

ETA: Many of Pat Murphy's short stories are found in Points of Departure (which I always seem to be able to find extra used copies of, despite it being out of print). Others can recommend The Falling Woman as a classic if they want, but my personal favorite is There and Back Again, which is a fun SFnal re-skinning of the Hobbit.
Joe Sherry
3. jsherry
Oh, read A Game of Thrones. It's really, really good. But also be sure to pick up Dreamsongs. Martin is as good of a short story writer as he is a novelist. Some of his earliest work in Volume 1 is a bit rough, but when he comes into his own later...part of me wishes he would return to the short form just to see what else he would come up with.

Good call on Daniel Keys Moran. I loved The Long Run when i was discovered it as a teenager but it took me a decade to track down Emerald Eyes and a few more years for The Last Dancer.

I'd suggest just skipping Emerald Eyes. It's not good. But The Last Dancer is fine and readable.
Rachel Hyland
4. RachelHyland
Elizabeth Moon: Surely the Deed of Paksenarrion (beginning with Sheepfarmer's Daughter) is the logical place to start?

In her SF, Once a Hero and the rest of the Serrano books are enjoyable, to be sure, but I wonder if maybe the Vatta's War series, beginning with Trading in Danger, is a better beginning? The Serrano stuff can get pretty heavy pretty early, if you're not already a Moon fan (plus, Once a Hero is the first Esmay Suiza novel, but not the first in the Serrano series, which is Hunting Party).

And, yes, Speed of Dark's a Hugo and Nebula-winning classic, and gives a really beautiful and bittersweet perspective on living with autism, but to begin with? Again, it's pretty heavy going.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK! THE PYAT QUARTET! Couldn't agree more. (As the shouting may have made clear.)

Artanian @ 1

L.E. Modesitt. Good call! Recluce and Ecolitan, both awesome; also love the recent Imager Portfolio series, beginning with Imager.

You know who's also awesome, M-wise? Christopher Moore. Clever and often hilarious satire with a definite geek bent. Start anywhere, but Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story and its sequels are pretty topical nowadays.

Oh, and in non-geek but definitely awesome, travel writers Peter Moore and Tim Moore are not to be missed! With Peter Moore, start with No Shitting in the Toilet, and with Tim Moore, start with French Revolutions. (Unless you played British-version Monopoly as a kid, in which case start with [i]Do Not Pass Go.[i])
Ron Griggs
5. RonGriggs
For Michael Moorcock at his best as a science fiction writer, I would start with An Alien Heat, an early work that pushes boundaries very well.

H. Warner Munn wrote several good books; start with Merlin's Ring.

And of course, you should not miss John Myers Myers' Silverlock.
Declan Ryan
6. decco999
Sean McMullen: "Souls in the Great Machine". Very good series of books. Science fiction with just a hint of fantasy.

James A Michener: "Space". Its the only one of his I've read - just to be steeped in the history of it.
Paul Andinach
7. anobium
A warning about Elizabeth Moon: Many of her books, as RachelHyland has noted, are rather heavy going. Hunting Party, atypically, is relatively light and optimistic (I am reminded of something Neil Gaiman once said about stories where characters get what they need, not what they deserve) -- but the rest of the series is more typical Moon, and the second book of the series is not only heavy going in itself, it retroactively supplies the heavy going that was absent from Hunting Party. This can cause emotional whiplash, and if you read Hunting Party and find that you like it because it's fairly light and optimistic, you might do better to skip the rest of the series entirely.

(The Vatta's War series also starts relatively light, but it's more in the way of gradually easing in, and by the end of the first book you already have a fair idea of what kind of series it's going to be. There's not the whiplash in that one.)
Paul Andinach
8. anobium
George R. R. Martin: Two other potential starting points are Tuf Voyaging and Fevre Dream, depending as you prefer science fiction or historical fantasy (that does genuinely new things with vampires).

More authors:

John Masefield: My favourite of Masefield's novels is The Midnight Folk, a charming fantasy. The sequel, The Box of Delights, is better-known, but to my mind distinctly inferior (though I grant it some excellent set-pieces), and has an awful cop-out ending.

Roderick Macleish: I think Prince Ombra is his only fantasy novel (the rest are contemporary thrillers); it has an interesting premise, and one of my favourite opening lines of a novel.
Richard Chapling
10. Chappers
I'd be failing one of my favourite books if I didn't highly recommend Winnie the Pooh.
11. ArtfulMagpie
Patricia McKillip! Start with "The Riddlemaster of Hed!"

With Robin McKinley, I would say yes, "Hero and the Crown" is a good starting place, but don't discount "Deerskin." It's heavy and it'll break your heart, but it's wonderful if you come to it in the right mood.

Sarah Monette, yes, the Melusine series is wonderful, but also check out the series she and Elizabeth Bear are co-authoring. The first is "A Companion to Wolves." Very much subverts certain of the "human-animal telepathic partnership" tropes. Really very well-written!
René Walling
12. cybernetic_nomad
People are always surprised when I say I like it, but Machiavelli's The Prince is always worth reading.

Patricia McKillip I would start with the Forgotten Beasts of Eld

Richard Matheson you can start with either The Shrinking Man or I Am Legend or any collection of short stories. Actually anywhere, but do start, he's a brilliant writer.

Yves Meynard also writes with Jean-Louis Trudel as Laurent McAllister (the name conveniently also falls under 'M') and a bunch of their short stories have been translated to English (and written in English and translated to French), they're also definitively worth seeking out.
Judith Merril is best known as an editor, but her collection Survival Ship and Other Stories is a good starting point. For editing, I would suggest Tesseracts since it started a series of Canadian anthologies by the same name (there's 14 of them and new ones still coming out) and really marked a turning point in Canadian SF.

Barry Malzberg, I'm more familiar with his short stories than his novels, but if someone could suggest a starting point, it would be appreciated.

I'm told A. Merrit is a must if you enjoy Pulp, The Moon Pool and The Face in the Abyss are two titles that come up quite often.

P. Schuyler Miller is best known as a critic. His non fiction is still well worth reading, it's one reason I enjoy old issues of Analog. I haven't read enough of his fiction to accurately judge where to start.

I think someone already mentioned Sharon Lee under 'L', so I'll just mention Steve Miller's name and their Liaden Universe books.

C.L. Moore is another must read (IMHO) there are several collections of her stories out there, Black God's Kiss, Shambleau and Others. She's also written a lot with her husband Henry Kuttner.
13. NaomiKes
William Morris-- very old-school Victorian high fantasy. You can read his first fantasy, The Wood Beyond The World, on Gutenberg.
Phoenix Falls
14. PhoenixFalls
Patricia McKillip indeed!
I'd lean towards starting with The Forgotten Beasts of Eld over the Riddle-Master books, just because, well, I think there's a good reason McKillip only ever wrote the one epic fantasy series. . . (I found it a tad underwhelming until the very end). But I might actually argue to start with Alphabet of Thorn rather than either of those titles, partly because it's where I started (and that worked so well for me!) but mostly because it seems the most characteristic of her mid-late works, which I think are her strongest overall. And if I were going to recommend an early work, I'd actually say start with The Sorceress and the Cygnet, because its opening was so absolutely exquisite that when I read it I can't write for days, for shame that I could never, in my wildest dreams, write anything approaching that good. . .

I've recommended plenty of people start McKinley with The Hero and the Crown, and most of them found it boring. (Who the hell are these people I call friends?) So I've given up and just started recommending The Blue Sword, which has a higher success rate at turning people on to her writing. But a better first place for a certain subset of fantasy readers is Sunshine -- I've gotten plenty of my paranormal romance fan friends totally turned off that subgenre because I've put Sunshine in their hands and it was so much better they can't go back to it. I haven't started anyone with Deerskin though -- I like to save that for a special treat when they're already hooked on her writing. :)

Anybody have a James Michener rec? I've always been vaguely curious to try him, but other than simply picking a place I'm more interested in, is there a good book to make my first?
Clark Myers
15. ClarkEMyers
#14 "Anybody have a James Michener rec? ..."
I'd go with the obvious Space - I suppose but do not know that the unabridged TV mini-series is or will be available as well.

The books I think most worthy over the long long haul are The Bridge at Andau, Tales of the South Pacific and The Bridges at Toko-Ri. All of course as much memoirs as anything.

I'd have a few more with M on my own shelves likely for old times sake including Charles Eric Maine - nothing remarkable and all period pieces I suppose -

and John Dann MacDonald's early genre fiction - The Girl the Gold Watch and Everything was 1962 just ahead of the Travis McGee series. Spider Robinson is a fan of MacDonald and Dean Koontz is reported to find MacDonald a model.
Alex Brown
16. AlexBrown
Totally agree with Ian McEwan. "Atonement" is a great place to start with him, and utterly heartbreaking. It's also one of the few times I've loved the movie as much as the book.

With Robin McKinley I think it really depends on what sort of story you like. If you prefer the sword and sorcery stuff then totally "The Hero and the Crown" or even "The Blue Sword". If you like more adult fare then I'd recommend my own personal fave "Sunshine". Or, if you're more into the fairy tale/fantasy stuff then my second personal fave "Spindle's End" or "Rose Daughter" or even "Beauty".

A.A. Milne's "Pooh" books are great, but I really like his adult stuff as well, especially "The Sunny Side: Short Stories and Poems for Proper Grown-Ups". It's very P.G. Wodehouse by way of Evelyn Waugh.

I'm going to be daring and suggest you start Richard K. Morgan right where I did, at "The Steel Remains". Some of the best queer SFF I've read in a long time, but very intense. I mean seriously intense.
Katie Schmidt
17. safarikate
Martin Millar: I've read The Good Fairies of New York and Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation and would recommend both. Probably start with Good Fairies. Lonely Werewolf Girl and Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me are on my to-read list.
Madeleine Lee
18. keita12686
A few dittos: Love Richard Morgan's stuff, and I agree with starting with Altered Carbon. I also love Sean McMullen, and Souls in the Great Machine is exactly the place to start.

New recs:
I've enjoyed Juliet Marillier's books. You could either start with Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters series) or The Dark Mirror (Bridei Chronicles).

I read a few other things by Dennis McKiernan, but I do like his "Once Upon" stories/fairy tale retellings. Start with Once Upon a Winter's Night.

The only thing I've read by Julian May is the Boreal Moon series, and I did like it, although now I'm thinking I should also read his earlier stuff.
19. Edward Milewski
Missing is Paul J. McAuley. Confluence sequence?
20. Reddwarf
Agree that Patricia McKillip is a must read - surely Jo must have some somewhere?

Also a bit surprised that LE Modessitt hasn't been mentioned - start with Saga of Recluce or Ecolitan Operation.

John Morressy's Kedrigern books are amusing fantasy and worth a look if you can find them, as is Lee McKeone's Ghoster series (entertaining space opera) - as well as Melisa Michaels Skyrider books - beginning with Skirmish.

Don't know if anyone mentioned Roger MacBride Allen under A, but I did like The Ring of Charon and The Shattered Sphere and they're under M on my shelves...
Jo Walton
21. bluejo
Keital: Julian May is "she", incidentally. I'd start with The Many Coloured Land, go on to The Golden Crown and then stop. (I wish I had had this advice.)
Samantha Brandt
22. Talia
While Walter Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries (which are very good, they start with 'Devil in a Blue Dress'), he's written a little sci-fi too. I liked 'The Wave.'

RE: Jack McDevitt: While I haven't read 'A Talent for War,' I was introduced to his stuff with the Pricilla Hutchins books, which start with 'The Engines of God.' Really excellent, engaging series which I found a great introduction to his style of writing. Some of his stand-alone novels that I particularly enjoyed were 'Moonfall,' 'Eternity Road' and 'Infinity Beach.'

I second starting with E. Moon's 'Deed of Paksenarrion' series (at least if you're more inclined to fantasy than sci-fi, as I am). One of my absolute favorites. Well-fleshed, likeable characters, particularly the protagonist, with a generous amount of action to keep the plot rolling. Really fun.

Heh, no Gregory Maguire yet? Well, he is somewhat contentious - a lot of people I know can't read his stuff at all. I Did indeed struggle to get through 'Wicked,' but I found it very rewarding when I finally did, and would recommend it (with the warning that it may be hard to get into).

I very much enjoyed Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road,' though readers should be warned it is NOT a happy book, and his style will not appeal to everyone.

Karen Marie Moning has a fairly entertaining series of urban fantasies set in Ireland. The first one is 'Darkfever.'

I guess I don't even really need to mention Stephanie Meyer :p
23. Elaine Thom
How about Malory? With all the Arthurian fantasy around surely a bow to one of the main sources is desirable.

(mentally runs through the bookshelves)... Naomi Mitchison. Travel Light or To the Chapel Perilous .
The first is a quest featuring the princess kicked out by the stepmother, questing through a magical Europe. The second is a journalist reporting on the Grail Quest.
There's really nothing quite like them.

I've actually tried to read a Hope Mirlees book that wasn't Lud in the Mist . I foundered on it several times and eventually sold it to someone else on Usenet.

Any McKillip is worth reading, but her later stuff is quite different from the early. Try an early one, like Riddlemaster and a late one like Changeling Sea or The Sorceress & the Cygnet (both are short) before deciding she's not for you.
Tricia Irish
24. Tektonica
I second the John D. MacDonald recommendation, all the Travis McGees. Very amusing and he's a good craftsman.
Michal Jakuszewski
25. Lfex
Ian McDonald - I would start with Desolation Road. Ian McLeod with The Light Ages, Ken McLeod, probably with The Cassini Division.

For George R. R. Martin it is probablby best to start with short stories. Dreamsongs is the authoritative collection.

John Meaney - I think Nulapeiron trilogy is the best starting point. The first volume is called Paradox.

John Morressy - probably one of Kedrigern books. I rather liked A Voice for Princess.
David Goldfarb
27. David_Goldfarb
On Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution books: I started with The Cassini Division because that's the one Patrick put out first in the US, and then when I came to The Stone Canal I discovered that the book I read first had spoilers. So I strongly recommend reading The Stone Canal before Cassini. Combine that with your sensible advice to put The Sky Road last, and you actually have a fairly tightly-constrained order.
Michael Grosberg
28. Michael_GR
C. L. Moore (the feminine half of "Lewis Padgett" along with husband Henry Kuttner):

Actually I'm not a Moore expert. apart from her excellent collaborations with Kuttner, her most famous solo works are two series: the Northwest Smith planetary romances, and the Jirel of Joiry medieval fantasy tales with some lovercraftian themes. I was not impressed with either - but there's a lesser known novella of hers which I simply adore: Judgment Night.
It seems like a pulpy space opera at first. Its heroine is a space princess - the daughter of the galactic emperor. And yet it contains some deeply flawed characters, a love/hate story, great action, some neat SF gimmicks that were ahead of their time (this was written in 1945) - and a pessimistic view on the nature of power and of man's place in this universe.
Kate Shaw
29. KateShaw
A. Lee Martinez--I always recommend The Automatic Detective, which I like because its main character, a robot dealing with being a robot in a mammal's world, is likable and sympathetic, unlike most of Martinez's characters. The book's also interesting and funny. I've tried to read most of his other books and can never get past the fourth or fifth chapter at the most.

Kelly McCullough has a great series starting with WebMage. Also, for those of you who don't like starting a series without knowing if it'll be finished, the fifth and final book came out a few months ago.

Moira J. Moore also has a good series out, starting with Resenting the Hero. These have possibly the worst and most misleading covers in book history; ignore the covers and just grab the first book, which is an interesting SFnal fantasy where certain people can channel violent natural forces and dissipate them before they can do any harm.

I love J.M. McDermott's slightly surreal fantasy Last Dragon. I don't know if it's still available in print, but I know there's an ebook version out.

Georgess McHargue has written a bunch of YA fantasies, but my favorite has always been Stoneflight, about a girl who discovers she can bring to life the stone statue of a griffin on her apartment building's roof.

And William Mayne wrote a strange book about unicorns called A Grass Rope that I loved with a white-hot passion as a kid. I used to braid ropes out of grass just in case.

Lots of M's!
john mullen
30. johntheirishmongol
Silverlock is one of the best books you can ever read, full of joy and love and adventure. If you havent read it, then you need to.

I would recommend GRRM but I would start with the Windhaven stories. I would not recommend buying any of the Fire and Ice books because he hasn't committed to finishing them.

I read a bunch of Moorcock when I was young and remember it all fondly. No particular title sticks out though.

John D MacDonald wrote 3 scifi books and I remember enjoying all of them. I havent seen any of them in a while but if you come across them grab them. One of the books was turned into a cute little movie by the same title, The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything.

I agree with Jo about Julian May, read the Many Colored Land and stop.

Dragonflight is the only place to start with Anne McCaffrey, but I also enjoyed the Crystal Singer books.

Some of the others I read but only once or twice because I didn't like them much included Moon, Modesitt, and Ian McDonald (I just don't care for cyberpunk).
Liza .
31. aedifica
On Robin McKinley's Deerskin: I do really like the book, but I don't think it should be recommended without a warning--I'd hate to think I had blithely recommended it to a rape survivor without at least mentioning that a rape is a major event in the book.

Ngaio Marsh, mystery author: Artists in Crime is a good place to start. Beyond that, I'm told her books that involve the theatre tend to be better, in general, than those that don't.

Margaret Mahy, YA SFF author: read The Changeover. (At least, it was good the last time I read it--it's probably due for a re-read.) Set in New Zealand, I think.

Charlotte MacLeod, mystery author: cozy mysteries. Wrote under her own name for novels set in the US and as Alisa Craig for novels set in Canada. Start with The Withdrawing Room (as MacLeod) or The Grub and Stakers Move a Mountain (as Craig) to see if you like her writing, then read the rest if you do. Of the books she wrote under her own name, I tend to slightly prefer the books featuring Sarah Kelling Bittersohn to those featuring Peter Shandy.

Seconding KateShaw's recommendation of Kelly McCullough. Start with WebMage, the first book in the current series. A descendant of the Greek gods gets in trouble with other members of his family. Magic works like computer programming.
32. vcmw
The first L.E. Modesitt, Jr. book I read was The Fires of Paratime, which I guess after republication is the Timegod now, or perhaps Timegod's World? I liked it a lot, but I haven't read it since I was 15 or so. I read it a lot between 11 and 15 - it made very satisfying YA reading because the younger protagonist had all this power and knowledge the adults didn't have. And because the Norse mythology stuff was intensely enjoyable. I have never entirely warmed to Recluce, so I suppose I'd still recommend starting where I did.

For McKillip, I'd go either with the Forgotten Beasts of Eld, or maybe Solstice Wood. She doesn't write relatively contemporary stuff often and I thought it was very good - and might be more accessible to a romantic fantasy reader than some of her other stuff - which I love and find dreamy but definitely has a spell-of-language thing going.

For Christopher Moore I'd recommend starting with either The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove or A Dirty Job.

My bookshelf has a lot of graphic novels on it. Of those, many people like Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. It probably makes most sense to start at the beginning, but I think perhaps the beginning of the 2nd volume (or issue 4, depending on how you think of this) might be an easier starting point. The comedy-pathos-violence balance swings wildly throughout the series, but it's a bit more erratic in the first three issues.

If you like YA fairy stuff and want to try reading Melissa Marr, I recommend starting with the second book, Ink Exchange, over the first, Wicked Lovely. I personally think it's triggery as all heck, though, so fair warning on that. Though other people don't seem to find it as dark as I do.
Joe Romano
33. Drunes
For Robert McCammon, I'd start with "Boy's LIfe," especially if you're older than 40. While the fantasy elements don't always work very well, it's an interesting coming of age story.

For James Morrow, I'd start with "Only Begotten Daughter." I think it's his best book.

For Michael Moorcock, I started with "Breakfast in the Ruins," then moved on to the three "Nomad of the Time Streams" books. After that I tried the Elric stories, but didn't find them anywhere near as enjoyable as the first Morcock books I read.
34. Helen Lowe
For Robin McKinley, I'd recommend starting with Beauty or The Blue Sword, which I think give a better intro into her style than The Hero & The Crown. I also love Sunshine and Deerskin is very good, but dark.

I totally agree with everyone who has said that Patricia McKillip has to be in there: my personal favorite is The Riddlemaster of Hed series and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld; I also think they are more accessible language and story-wise than some (but not all) of her later books. The House on Parchment Street (which may have been her first published?) is also worth a look and I also love The Changeling Sea, although it is aimed at younger readers.

I would also add Australian writer John Marsden for his Tomorrow series (starts with Tomorrow When the War Began) and his fellow Australian, Melina Marchetta, probably also rates a mention for Finnikin of the Rock, although I much prefer her contemporary fiction such as Jellicoe Road.

For Michael Moorcock, well it's always been Elric of Melnibone for me ...
35. Wes S.
One more thumbs up for Daniel Keyes Moran's The Long Run and The Last Dancer. I have both on my personal bookshelf, and enjoyed them hugely. Whatever happened to him, anyway?

I'm not aware that Moran published anything else after Dancer, save for a couple of short stories set in the Star Wars universe, one of them dealing with Boba Fett, that appeared in a couple of SW anthologies.

It's a shame. I'd really like to return to the Tales of the Continuing Time...

(Word verification: "Unmoral Patrick." Huh?)
38. James Davis Nicoll
Whatever happened to him, anyway?


Other Ms:

Ward Moore. Start withBring the Jubilee.

Richard C. Meredith. Start with his space opera We All Died at Breakaway Station. Note: the title is something of a spoiler. He had a tendency to do characterization by cup size but I don't think it was too bad in this one.

Vonda McIntyre: start with her short story collection Fireflood and Other Stories .

John D. MacDonald: Time and Tomorrow

R.A. MacAvoy: Tea with a Black Dragon
Allison Lockwood Hansen
39. Talisyn
Marlys Millhiser - For her time travel novels The Mirror, Nightmare Country, Threshold. Excellent historical detail.
Alice Arneson
40. Wetlandernw
George MacDonald - The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie are easily the most accessible, as they are (on the surface, anyway) children's stories. If you can handle them, though, Phantastes and Lilith are amazing. Not the place to start, but something to shoot for if you really want to challenge your mind. My personal favorite is At the Back of the North Wind.

Julian May - Agree that The Many-Colored Land is the best; go ahead with The Golden Torc, maybe, but the other two go badly downhill IMHO. In a very different vein, I enjoyed her collaboration with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton on the Trillium series; although they aren't great literature they're an enjoyable read.
Pasi Kallinen
41. paxed
Sandra McDonald - The Outback Stars, sort of an australian slant to the military SF.

Paul Melko - Singularity's Ring. The title says singularity, so you know what to expect. :)

George Mann - The Affinity Bridge, steampunkish.
42. weregopher
Peter Moorwood's retelling of the old folk tales of Russia (Prince Ivan, Firebird, The Golden Horde) are well worth tracking down. I'm not much of a fantasy reader but I tried these because I know and like Peter as a person and thoroughly enjoyed them. It's a crying shame he's dropped out of print.
David Levinson
43. DemetriosX
I'm sure I'll repeat some stuff, but here goes.

John D. MacDonald: Before there was Travis McGee, he wrote some SF. Pulpy, but decent.

Arthur Machen: The Welsh counterpart to MR James. He wrote some excellent ghost and weird stories. Another of Lovecraft's influences.

F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre: He appears to have committed suicide last week. He wrote some excellent short stories and poems. Look for a collection.

Roderick MacLeish: He wrote a fantasy novel in the 80s called Prince Ombra. Sort of an eternal hero thing with children. Very good.

George R.R. Martin:I would say either Armageddon Rag or Fevre Dream. That or a short story collection that includes "Sandkings".

Jack McDevitt: My first book from him was The Hercules Text.

Patricia McKillip: I've always been rather disappointed with the ending of the Riddlemaster trilogy, but a lot of people seem to like.

A. Merritt: A must if you like Rider Haggard. Either The Moon Pool or Ship of Ishtar (which like She is a little more philosophical/romantic than the rest of his work).

C.L. Moore: Most of her short stories are excellent. Ace did a nice double in the late 80/early 90s with Vintage Season and a companion piece by Robert Silverberg. If you like Cherryh's stories about the woman traveling between worlds, try the Jirel of Joiry stories.

Ward Moore:Beyond Bring the Jubilee, he also wrote a cozy, end of the world book called Greener Than You Think. Giant crabgrass destroys all other life.

John Myers Myers: It's been mentioned before, but Silverlock is an absolute must for all lovers of literature.
44. a-j
A A Milne - if you've never read them, I would strongly recommend that you do not start with the first Winnie the Pooh story, it is very cloying and I suspect that the critics who so despise Milne never got past that one.
Michael Moorcock - if you're a teenage boy, 'The Stealer of Souls' is a good introduction to Elric. If you're not a teenage boy, I would probably avoid it. 'The Jewel in the Skull' is, I reckon, the best starting point for his high fantasy books. 'The Warlord of the Air' is possibly the original steam punk/alternate history book while 'Glorianna' is a Mervyn Peake-ish dense fantasy.
J P Martin - 'Uncle'. "Uncle is an elephant. He's immensely rich, and he's a B.A. He dresses well , generally in a purple dressing-gown, and often rides about on a traction engine, which he prefers to a car." A brilliantly odd series of comic tales for children, sadly out of print but well worth chasing.
Somerset Maughn - 'Ashenden'. Based on his experiences as a British intelligence agent during WWI, this is arguably the original spy novel as opposed to secret agent spy-fi.
George R R Martin - someone on another thread suggested reading his novella 'The Hedge Knight' instead of the heart-break of the 'Game of Thrones' saga. fwiw, I agree.
Nicholas Monsarrat - 'HMS Marlborough Will Enter Harbour', a novella set during WW2. If you like that, then 'The Cruel Sea' his masterful novel about the Battle of the Atlantic.
45. David Mosley
Huh? No-one's mentioned Alan Moore yet?!! How can this be? Even though Moore predominately works in the comics medium (he's written one novel and has a second in progress) he's without question one of the greatest living writers of our generation. I'll avoid suggesting Watchmen, Marvelman or V For Vendetta as obvious starting points (although they are) and instead recommend Promethea or (if superheroes, magic & metaphysics aren't your thing) either From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Lost Girls as good introductions to the Sage of Northampton.
46. Megaduck
RE: Mcdavit I'd recommend Skipping A Talent for War and moving on to its sequel Polaris. He changes the Narrator and Chase makes a better one then Alex. Mainly because she's the Watson to Alex's Holmes.
47. Geoff Thorpe
For Robin A. McAvoy I would recommend "Lens of the world" and its sequels.
For William Morris "Sigurd the Volsung" it's poetry.
Elizabeth Moon - I prefer her stand alone books "Remnant Population" and "Speed of Dark" to her series.
Pat Murphy - The City, Not long after.

Authors in my collection so far unmentioned (in most case so long since I read them no suggestions from me):
Mary Mackey.
Ann Marston
Graham Dunstan Martin
David Marusek
Wil McCarthy - The Collapsium
Alex McDonough - Scorpio, but as it's a pseudonym she may not count.
Oisin McGann
Robert A. Metzger - Picoverse
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Dan Morgan
Janet Morris
jon meltzer
48. jmeltzer
Moorcock's fantasy novels: second the comment about the original Elric series (the early 1960s stories) and only if you're a teenager. The adolescent passion and angst is lost in the later sixties and seventies fantasy work, which reads as if he's trying to toss off quickie potboilers to pay _New Worlds_' bills. (Crossing over three heroes so that one can have the same scene in three different books? Now, really ...)

A more recent series of Elric books is more in the style of Pyat; I haven't been able to get through any of them.

_Gloriana_ is a better book, but you need to read Peake first.
49. SerialStoryteller
James D. MacDonald's "The Apocalypse Door" is a book I've been able to recommend to at least a dozen people with enthusiasm. His series with Deborah Doyle are great, I'd start with the first one in the Wizard's Apprentice series, "School of Wizardry" (which sounds like a Harry Potter rip-off, but predates J.K. Rowling's boy wizard by more than a decade).

L.E. Modesitt Jr is my favorite writer of door-stop length fantasy series with Darrell K Sweet cover art (there's a larger pool of candidates than you'd first expect). What makes his Recluse series great is that it can be enjoyed in almost any order; each one is a sort of compartmentalized unit that works as well alone as part of a bigger whole. Just like "real" history. Personally, I'd start with "The Magic of Recluse" but, I admit that "The Towers of Sunset" is my all time favorite (sappy cross-telepathic romance sub-plot included).
Linden Wolfe
50. Lilith
I’m posting without reading all the thread, so apologies if I reapeat what has laready been sais.

I second the praise for Hope Mirrlees’ Lud in the Mist.

China Miéville – I really enjoyed Un Lun Dun.

John D. MacDonaldThe Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything, a humorous fantasy about a guy who inherits a watch that can freeze time.
Or for non-SFF, start the Travis McGee series with The Deep Blue Goodbye. They are a bit dated, but still enjoyable. And you can have fun spotting the Stephen King references in the later books (and the MacDonald refs in King).

Ian McDonald – the first book of his I read was the award-winning King of Morning, Queen of Day, so that seems a good place to start. I also highly recommend River of Gods and Brasyl, which both picked up awards.

Paul MacAuley – the only book of his I have read was Cowboy Angels, but it made me want to read more of his work.

Robert R McCammon – I’m mot a fan of most of his books, but I absolutely love Boy's Life.

Sharyn McCrumb – the Appalachian Ballad novel series beginning with If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O. Not SFF, but well worth reading.

Ken MacLeod – the only thing I’ve read, other than short stories, is The Execution Channel which I recommend.

Gregory Maguire- Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

John MarsdenTomorrow, When the War Began (The first book in the Tomorrow series).

George R.R. Martin – forget Song of Ice and Fire start with Fevre Dream, an inventive vampire novel.

Richard Matheson – so may good stories, many of which have made it to the screen: I am Legend, The (Incredible) Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes

Richard Morgan – I absolutely love his stuff (except for Market Forces, and I’m yet to meet anyone who liked that book and it's the only one of his I’ve given away). To start the Takeshi Kovacs series begin with Altered Carbon; for the Land Fit for Heroes series, start with The Steel Remains.

Pat Murphy – I really enjoyed The Falling Woman which uses Mayan mythology, and Nadya, a werewolf tale.
Emmet O'Brien
51. EmmetAOBrien
I would offer that with Moorcock, if you are a fan of heroic fantasy and are not a teenage boy or otherwise angstmuffin-positive enough for Elric, the place to consider starting is The War Hound and the World's Pain, a fairly short, intense, thoughtful novel about an antiheroic Thirty Years War-era knight tasked by Lucifer with finding the Holy Grail. It has connections to the whole Eternal Champion meta-mishmash but not ones that are central or necessary to appreciating it.
52. Kvon
Some that haven't been mentioned yet (?!)

Laurie Marks--Fire Logic. Inventive magic system, a country responding to invasion with nonviolent means, good queer characters. She's covered three of the four elements so far, unknown when the last will be finished, but they all finish well. Or if you want to try her older work, look for Dancing Jack.

Louise Marley--The Child Goddess. If nothing else, it has a beautiful cover.

Syne Mitchell--Murphy's Gambit. Space opera.

Lyda Morehouse--Archangel Protocols. How often can you mix angels and devils with computer code and nanotechnology? (Ok, pretty often. But she does it well.)

Following previous commenters, for Pat Murphy I recommend There and Back Again (The Hobbit in space).
For Christopher Moore, don't start at The Stupidest Angel like I did because it references characters from previous books; I'll go with Lust Lizards of Melancholy Cove.
I'm halfway through China Mieville's The City and the City which has all the bizarreness and place-ness of his other books.
For McKillip I vote for The Changeling Sea. Or Alphabet of Thorn is a good suggestion too.
Robin McKinley read Sunshine and try to avoid going to a bakery afterwards.
And Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun, a murder mystery at a sf con, isn't too accurate but a lot of fun.
Gray Woodland
53. Greyhame
So many M's, so little time! A small cross-section:

Arthur Machen: You won't be cheated by buying a good collection. The Great God Pan and The White People both achieve rare cosmic horror with nary a tentacle.

Anne McCaffrey: Absolutely, without question, Dragonflight.

Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills.

John D MacDonald: The Travis McGee books are great, but they don't come to greatness all at once. They get significantly better as his friend Meyer comes closer to centre-stage, about the time of Darker Than Amber, and his worldview grows less consistently dated and more complex. The later books, especially from Free Fall in Crimson, grow savagely dark, though there is characteristic light brighter than the dark in all but that one. A good non-McGee book is the psychological thriller and character study, Slam the Big Door.

Patricia McKillip: The Riddlemaster of Hed for lovers of epic fantasy up for something a bit different; Alphabet of Thorn or The Bell at Sealey Head for her later, smaller-scale, and brilliantly concentrated work.

Ken MacLeod: As a jump-off point, I'd go for The Star Fraction.

A A Milne: For fellow Pooh-poohers, he offers the surprisingly untwee cosy murder novel The Red House Mystery.

Michael Moorcock: The Warhound and the World's Pain is one of his best, and also one of his least self-conscious. For his mannered fantasy, maybe the Prince in the Scarlet Robe books, beginning with The Knight of the Swords. There are two trilogies: the third book of the first is frankly just silly, but there's a deal of quality in the rest, and even the silly book profits by its outrageousness at times. Avoid Jerry Cornelius, at least in the beginning, as you would avoid the Tellurium Basilisk.

William Morris: The Wood Beyond the World is not IMO very good. His absolute apogee in this genre is certainly The Well at the World's End, which appears to be a youngest-prince fantasy in the high mediaeval style, and which is really to radical egalitarianism what E R Eddison is to aristocracy:

So having nought but this little they longed for much; and that the more because, king's sons as they were, they had but scant dominion save over their horses and dogs: for the men of that country were stubborn and sturdy vavassors, and might not away with masterful doings, but were like to pay back a blow with a blow, and a foul word with a buffet.

It is a wonderful mouth-filling infuriating book, full of nested stories by unreliable but often persuasive narrators, and reinforcing and undercutting itself in rambling and complex patterns. It is also a wandering adventure of the old there-and-back-again school, with the back nearly as important as the there. Certainly worth taking a bounce at.

John Myers Myers: Silverlock is one of my very short list of Modern Fantasy Essentials: brilliant metafantasy, timeless in its main matter, very much of its time in its particular angle.
Rob Munnelly
54. RobMRobM
GRRM - read the four Ice and Fire books, and the fifth is almost done and should be out in the fall. Brilliant. John the Irish, etc - I believe he has committed to finishing them. Also, second a-j recommendation for the three "Dunk and Egg" novellas. The first two are in Robert Silverberg's Legends I and Legends II collections; the other is in the recent Dozois/Martin Warriors collection. Great stories in the Ice and Fire-verse but set 80-100 years earlier about an impoverished hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his noble (and very funny) squire Egg. From reading Ice and Fire, it is clear that both Dunk and Egg become historical figures in Westeros. Martin plans to keep writing them and eventually do 8 or 9 of them. Brilliant writing and not as R rated as the principal series.

Rob Munnelly
55. RobMRobM
One other GRRM point - HBO is currently filming Game of Thrones as a mini series, to be shown in March 2011. There is a 15 second teaser trailer on the HBO website. The book is made for HBO, with intrigue, violence, sex, humor, honor, pathos, etc. GRRM wrote some of the scripts to ensure quality control. Good actors are attached already (Sean Bean as Ned Stark, Lena Headley as Cercei Lannister, Peter Dinklage (!!!!) in the key role as dwarf genius Tyrion Lannister). HBO also has the rights to the rest of the books in the series, and can dive in if this is well received. So best to read the freakin series (such as it is) before next March so you can enjoy the mini-series fully. I for one can't wait to see the scenes involving tomboy Arya Stark - including when her half brother Jon gives her a sword and tells her the first lesson - "Stick them with the pointy end."

56. OtterB
The only thing I recommend that hasn't been mentioned is Knee-Deep in Thunder by Sheila Moon. I suppose it's a YA. Something of a journey. I adored it when I first read it, probably in my early teens and continued to enjoy rereading it for years. There are two sequels which I haven't read.
Sean Armstrong
58. phinsxiii
L.E. Modesitt - Parafaith War. Great book.
rick gregory
59. rickg
I've read various MacLeod and very much like Learning the World - it's standalone and would be, I think, a great starting point.

Very glad you mentioned Chris Moriarty - I did start with Spin State and would certainly recommend that and Spin Control. I've seen nothing since the sequel, Spin Control though and a cursory web search show nothing upcoming. Any idea where she's gone to Jo?
Rachel Hyland
60. RachelHyland
Lilith @ 50

How could I possibly have forgotten John Marsden? Tomorrow When the War Began and the rest of the Tomorrow series are just the greatest ever... have you read the follow-on trilogy, The Ellie Chronicles? And did you know about the forthcoming movie? You can see the trailer here: Tomorrow When the War Began Teaser Trailer.

Also astonished to have left out Matheson's I Am Legend. As so many others have pointed out: so many M's!
Jo Walton
61. bluejo
RickG: I don't know. I hope she's working on a brilliant SF series in a new universe, but this is a wish, not information.
62. James Davis Nicoll
From Chris Moriarty's blog:

At the moment I have two more books in the works: another SF novel, and a children's fantasy set on New York's Lower East Side, ca. 1900.
63. James Davis Nicoll
A little poking around suggests the adult SF novel mentioned above might be titled Ghost Spin.
64. intertext
Has anyone mentioned David Mitchell? Cloud Atlas is a must-read. And how about Haruki Murakami? Kafka on the Shore is a classic, but Norwegian Wood, although not typical of his work is a good way to ease in.

Another vote for Patricia McKillip!
rick gregory
65. rickg
James - thanks, I'd not found that link. Updated her wikipedia profile with it.
66. R. Emrys
The only notable thing on my bookshelf still missing here is Herman Melville. He wrote this amazing fantasy about a prophet who goes rogue and tries to kill god.

R.M. Meluch is amazing. Her old stuff is well worth tracking down, along with the new series mentioned above. The conspiracy of Latin speakers is, of course, a ridiculous idea; their website is here.
Joe Terrenzio
67. Terren
On China Mieville -
The Scar or Perdidio Street Station are both fine places to start, but do not start with Iron Council. The world is less immersive and you miss out on all the fun world build revelations, plus the characters are generally less dynamic and love/hate-able.
Lucas Huntington
68. L.P.Huntington
These guides are fantastic, thanks for posting them!

I have a related question. I read a lot of SF/F, but I have never ventured into the long, long, long series like DragonLance and WarHammer and Forgotten Realms. They look very tempting sometimes, but when I start browsing I get quickly overwhelmed and confused because I can never figure out where to start, there are so many.

So, where do I start with that...Forgotten Realms? DragonLance? WarHammer? Help?
69. beket
David Markson - This is Not a Novel. Completely outside the genre, and sadly, the author died just last month, but of all the books I own, this is the first one I would recommend anyone read. It's very easy to read, it's experimental, and it's different, but not annoyingly so. "Writer" is writing a story... but without plot and without characters. And then it starts to read like a book of lists with a dozen facts on each page on how famous people-- artists, writers, composers, opera singers, baseball players-- died. As it progresses, "Writer" reveals bits about himself, and many of the facts refer back to earlier facts. Best of all, if you don't like the book, you've only wasted a couple of hours or so.
Jo Walton
70. bluejo
L.P. Huntington: I can only answer for Warhammer, as I have read nothing in any of the others. For Warhammer novels, start with Drachenfels by Jack Yeovil, which is about some people putting on a play that tells of some historical events that aren't as over as they think.
71. cdalek
Jonathan Moore: I'd recommend Heroics for Beginners or The Unhandsome Prince

James Morrow: My favorite of his is Only Begotten Daughter
72. Pam Adams
Along with Silverlock, I highly recommend John Myers Myers' historical novel The Wild Yazoo. It's about the Wild Wild West when that West was Missisippi.
Judith S. Anderson
73. jskanderson
Christopher Moore: Read Lamb first, it's about Jesus' early life by his best friend Biff. Then Fool,(quite new) which is King Lear from the Fool's POV. We still use many of Moore's phrases from Fool which I can't type here. Then the vampire trilogy. You must read Fool before the final book of the trilogy because the references will make you fall down laughing.

Juliet Marillier: I second the Seven Waters trilogy. Really terrific. I like her writing, and have read all her books, even the YA
Sam Kelly
74. Eithin
I have two to add.

Dan McGirt wrote a series of three over-the-top comic fantasies, starting with Jason Cosmo. Going to look them up for a link, I found out that they're being revised and rewritten; the first is out, and available as a free ebook. If you find the originals, you can safely jump in at any point; each spoilers you for the earlier ones, but plot is not a huge part of their appeal. He's written others, but I've not read them.

Juliet McKenna writes quietly subversive quest fantasy. She's got a strong history & classics background, and it shows. Start with her first, The Thief's Gamble.
Joe Romano
75. Drunes
@ 12 cybernetic_nomad: for Barry Malzberg, start with "Beyond Apollo."
76. Rush-That-Speaks
Kenneth Morris! Book of the Three Dragons is jaw-dropping, epic fantasy that really deserves comparison with Tolkien. The Chalchiuhite Dragon is infuriating and strange and theosophist and has flashes of things that are Really Interesting. And you can read The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed online.

You should probably start Herman Melville with Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, but it is by no means his only supernatural fiction.

Arthur Machen: I'd go with "The White People", which has been thoroughly anthologized.
77. a-j
Rush-That-Speaks@76 - I'd be tempted to suggest launching Melville with the short story 'Bartleby' before embarking on 'Moby Dick
Monica Annis-Hilliard
78. beltempest
One that I have not seen mentioned is Ardath Mayhar. I really liked her stuff when I was younger and I imagine that its all out of print now (although a quick look online shows some reprints). I started with Lords of the Triple Moon which was good. The last thing I read was Monkey Station co-authored with Ron Fortier.

As for James Morrow, I much preferred The Wine of Violence.
79. filkferengi
No one has mentioned Gerald Morris yet. His Squire's Tale series has all the wonder of Chrétien de Troyes' Arthurian tales, without having to wrangle the medieval French.
Bruce Bromberek
80. wombatpm
Sean McCullen Souls in the Great Machine. Libarians who duel and a giant computer made of people.

David Marusek Counting Heads. Like Snow Crash but with Nanotechnology
81. beket
Has anyone read Marguerite de Navarre The Heptameron? Is it worth the time?
Samantha Brandt
82. Talia
@ LP Huntington - RE: DragonLance & Forgotten realms - I read many of these books when I was younger. I wouldn't think to much on them - because they're all written by different authors, the quality is HIGHLY inconsistent, and some of the books are, well, not very good. Its a particular problem when the same characters are written differently by different authors - that really grated on me.

If you'd like to give it a shot anyway, let me suggest a couple starting points -

Dragonlance: Start with the Chronicles trilogy, which begins with 'Dragons of Autumn Twilight.' Its a good introduction to the world and you meet many characters who pop up again in many of the offshoot novels. If you enjoy Chronicles, move on to the follow-up Legends trilogy, which begins with Time of the Twins.

Forgotten Realms - this series I largely think you can start anywhere. It has less of a defined timeline than Dragonlance. I might recommend starting with the Icewind Dale trilogy, which begins with 'The Crystal Shard' by R.A. Salvatore. Its a good introduction to the character Drizzt Do'Urden, who I was rather partial to, although some people think he's kinda stock.
Walter Underwood
83. wunder
Judith Merril edited Year's Greatest/Best S-F from 1956 to 1967 (the name changed during the run). I read all of those in 9th grade. I can still see the blue volumes lined up on the shelf at the Baton Rouge High School library.

Excellent collections and an interesting time, when the stories moved from outer space to inner space. I'm pretty sure that I first read Flowers for Algernon in those anthologies and I still remember the story about the woman who could talk to the roaches in her NYC apartment. She hated roaches, but they loved her.
Kim B
84. Amaranthine
I just read _The Terrorists of Irustan_ by Louise Marley, and I would recommend it highly. It's an SF novel that is set on another world with an Islamic, middle-eastern sort of culture, and it's all about women's rights. It was truly wonderful and thought-provoking.
85. AlayneMc
I'd recommend _Death and Nightingales_ by Eugene McCabe, which is mainstream fiction set in Ireland, but which has much of the same feel as tragic fantasy. And it's just beautifully written.

A somewhat guilty pleasure are the books by Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters), whose real name is Barbara Mertz. Most of the Michaels books are gothics with a fair dash of the supernatural and lots of romance, but they're quite addictive. I still love _Shattered Silk_ and _Prince of Darkness_.
86. AlecAustin
@ R Emrys: Sadly, even the actual existence of the group doesn't make the scenario around the revived Roman Empire in Meluch's books any less likely to strain readers' credulity. Because seriously, getting every Latin speaker in the world to give up their current power and prestige for the glories of Nova Roma? Good luck with that plan.

@ Jo: I agree with you on the Pleistocene Exile books (the ones after the Golden Torc - not so great), but I found that I liked Intervention (or its component books) fairly well when I read them back in College. Never read past Jack the Bodiless in the sequel trilogy, and I wasn't terribly impressed by it.
Stephanie Ellis
87. Steph.Ellis
Sarah Monette's _Melusine_ is fabulous. She creates such a wonderful pair of characters in Mildmay and Felix. I love the distinct, colorful (in the case of Mildmay) voices she uses for each character. _Companion to Wolves_, which she wrote with Elizabeth Bear, is also a great read.
88. David DeLaney
Apologies, but I'm ordering all the Macs before any of the Mcs, and with stuff in between. It's just how I letter-roll.

GOODNESS, there's a lot of M. I'm leaving off some for which I honestly don't recall one single thing about the book(s) that I own and have read, possibly decades ago... also leaving out authors that mainly or only did books set in, for example, the Forgotten Realms setting, or Magic the Gathering expansion-set tie-in novels. (And the various Oz books that are scattered through the alphabet, because you start with _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_ for those, duh.)

This set of comments seemed to keep coming back to the same authors, for some reason. Here's a heaping helping of ones nobody's mentioned yet, starting with a couple of children's-book authors; this post is gonna get split into parts, also, because I don't want to overload Tor's commenting system:


Betty MacDonald wrote the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children's series, about a lady who lives in an upside-down house and offers cures for various bad behaviors the neighborhood children exhibit, which cures clearly have fantastic elements. Starts with _Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle_.

Ellen MacGregor wrote the Miss Pickerell children's series, which was SF from its start, _Miss Pickerell Goes To Mars_ - "every child's favorite maiden aunt" keeps getting into adventures with various forms of new technology. Sort of the age-inverse of the Danny Dunn books.

Elliot S! Maggin was a comics writer for quite a while, and wrote a couple of delightful novels about Superman; start with _Superman: Last Son of Krypton_ (but read the other one, _Superman: Miracle Monday_ as well, along with his later novelization of the _Kingdom Come_ miniseries; you won't regret it).

Violette Malan is a recent writer who has a series starting with _The Sleeping God_, about a pair of mercenary Partners in a high-fantasy setting.

Laurence Manning is a long-ago SF writer who wrote _The Man Who Awoke_, about a man travelling into the future in fits and starts via suspended animation, back when that trope was new, in 5000-year steps. It also looked at _several_ other would-become-staple-tropes concepts.

Louise Marley - You can also start her with _Sing the Light_, which starts a currently-four-book series of which I see I only have three, bah.

Marshak & Culbreath wrote a couple of Star Trek novels, over 30 years ago, which look into some of the consequences of teleportation that most of the rest of the series rigidly ignores or sweeps under various rugs; _The Price of the Phoenix_ is the first one. (Opinions vary on the quality. I remember liking them. But that was 30 years ago...)

Gail Z. Martin has a series out currently about a king who has necromantic powers, the vampires who co-inhabit his kingdom along with the regular live folk, and the kingdom's troubles; start it with _The Summoner_.

George R.R. Martin - He's got a series that's gone much longer than A Game of Thrones and is still going, you know; it starts with _Wild Cards_, and with Jetboy, and poor Doctor Tachyon. If you've never read it, tracking them all down and reading them will probably take long enough that the next AGoT book will be out.

A. Lee Martinez - All of his books so far are standalones, and I've found all the ones I've read to be pull-you-till-the-last-page books. _The Automatic Detective_ is SF, while the rest are fantasy; if the latter's your thing, try his _In the Company of Ogres_ or _A Nameless Witch_.

Armistead Maupin did not write SF. But did write a series of slice-of-life-with-gay-people stories starting in the mid-70s, when that was NOT uncontroversial, that are a delight to read. Start with _Tales of the City_.

Ann Maxwell... I'm sort of unsurprised that nobody else mentioned her, but MAN you guys have a treat waiting. She wrote what today we'd call "parapsionic romance" and "SF (space opera) romance", but stopped in the mid-80s to turn to crime & romance novels, as "Elizabeth Lowell". Her (unfinished) series starts with _Fire Dancer_ - it only went three books, and there's clearly much more to come, bah - and her collection of novels containing the Carifil organization and the various Evolutions of beings starts chronologically with _The Singer Enigma_, but I'd say to start with _Name of a Shadow_ or _The Jaws of Menx_.

Julian May - She's also written an entirely separate middle-fantasy trilogy that starts with Conqueror's Moon, for people who can't get into the Pliocene Exile series. (And, apparently, quite a bit of non-SF/fantasy...)

McCaffrey - other starting points include Crystal Singer, Dragonsong, The Rowan, The Ship Who Sang, and To Ride Pegasus, all but one of which are unrelated to the Pern series.

Wil McCarthy's Collapsium series has been mentioned above; start it with, duh, _The Collapsium_.

Robert McCloskey is another children's book author; his Centerburg stories have definite SF/fantasy elements in them, and are a joy to read. Start with _Homer Price_ (the other collection is _Centerburg Tales_).

Terry McGarry wrote a short series starting with _Illumination_, and is one of the rare authors who doesn't have their own Wikipedia page.

Seanan McGuire has recently started a series with _Rosemary and Rue_, about a Fae detective named October Daye, that's urban fantasy. WELL worth finding. (Oh goodness, there's going to be at least three more. A restrained squeeee!)

Fiona McIntosh has a series about an unwillingly body-hopping protagonist that starts with _Myrren's Gift_.

John McLoughlin is another Wikipedia nonentity, only he's got namesakes there. He wrote _Toolmaker Koan_ and _The Helix & The Sword_ in the late 80s, both space-operatic; start, I think, with the latter.

(Splitting here.)
89. David DeLaney
A.J. Menden has recently written a couple books in a superhero series, that starts with _Phenomenal Girl 5_; she is an applicant to the Elite Hands of Justice super-group.

W.F. Miksch I'm mentioning only because he wrote _The Addams Family Strikes Back!_. Another Wikipedia-invisible author; if you liked either of the first two movies, though, you'll like this book. If you can ever find it, of course.

Karen Miller and K.E. Mills are the same person, it seems. Start Karen Miller's works with _The Innocent Mage_; start K.E. Mills' (only) series with _The Accidental Sorcerer_. Despite title resonance, they're fairly different; TIM is set in a medieval-fantasy-type setting that has been protected from various disasters by a magical Wall for quite some time, and has two human subraces that work different kinds of magic. TAS is set in a British-like vaguely-WWII/Cold-War-time milieu (and in a generic Middle Eastern country), with typical British citizenry that can do magic of various sorts, and the Office that deals with regulating them and interaction with other countries' Offices...

Modesitt - The Recluse series starts with _The Magic of Recluse_, yes, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon. The Timegods series starts, apparently, with _The Fires of Paratime_, but it's only two books. The Ecolitan series starts with _The Ecolitan Operation_, the Spellsong Cycle begins with _The Soprano Sorceress_ , the Corean Chronicles about a semi-dying world, its native races, and the alien races that ruled it for a while starts with _Legacies_, and a newer series about magical visualization starts with _Imager_. ...I may have missed some. These series are generally completely independent, and just about any of them will let you know whether you like his writing style or not. (I ... don't think I do - but I can't stop reading them.)

Devon Monk has a series out that starts with _Magic to the Bone_, urban fantasy in a world where magic flows in channels of glass and lead in the cities for use by their inhabitants, and where using it demands a price, from minor headaches to massive memory loss.

Michael Moorcock - Oh gods. (Literally). ...Whatever you do, DO NOT start with the Jeremiah Cornelius novels, unless you really really like depressing British slice-of-life magical realism. Other than that ... he has more fantasy series than most authors can shake a stick at, and ALL of them tie together. _An Alien Heat_ starts the Dancers at the End of Time semi-SF series; _The Warlord of the Air_ starts the Oswald Bastable series, _The Knight of the Swords_ starts the Chronicles of Corum, _Elric of Melnibone_ starts -that- series, _The Eternal Champion_ is the first Erekose book, _The Jewel in the Skull_ starts off Hawkmoon's adventures, and _The War Hound and the World's Pain_ starts off the von Bek tapestry. _Warriors of Mars_ begins the Kane of Old Mars books. _Blood_ begins the Second Ether/scale-ships setting. The advantage of these is that most of the series are only three to six books; the disadvantage is trying to _find_ all the books in the particular series you're looking for, compounded by the "different titles in the UK than in the USA / reshuffled and repackaged as a different book in later years" syndromes. There's enough in Moorcock to keep you reading for quite a while.

John Moore's series starts with _Bad Prince Charlie_, I do believe.

Daniel Keys Moran - There's only three books out in the main series. (Out of a projected 33.) There are various fragments available over at, and if you're like me you'll devour those once you've run through the books. _Emerald Eyes_ is chronologically the first, yes, but it's much more of a prequel; start with either _The Long Run_ or _The Last Dancer_, both of which are everything-including-kitchen-sink tours de force. _The Armageddon Blues_ is set in the same multiverse but never hits the Continuing Time's timeline... and we were promised _Players: The AI War_ would be appearing on his blog and/or archive website, some time last year, but apparently he's not done with it yet. Can you tell I really really like his work? (He has also published _Terminal Freedom_, written with his sister Jody.)

John Morressy's Kedrigern books start with _A Voice for Princess_.

Janet Morris wrote some fantasy & SF of her own, but much of what I have of hers is from the Thieves' World shared-world series and from the Heroes in Hell shared-world series. The former starts with the first _Thieves' World_ book, but her novels in it start with _Beyond Sanctuary_; the latter starts with _Heroes in Hell_.

Peter Morwood wrote a series that starts with _The Horse Lord_; I remember nothing at all about it, and MAY not have actually read any of it yet. He is also married to Diane Duane. (I see someone else has mentioned his Old Russia books above.)

C.E. Murphy is a more-recent urban-fantasy writer; her series, so far (unrelated to each other), start with _Heart of Stone_, _Urban Shaman_, and _The Queen's Bastard_, and are all worth finding.


@68 - For Dragonlance, start with the original trilogy, which begins with _Dragons of Autumn Twilight_. Where you go after you've read that is pretty much up to you; Wikipedia has a list of novels, which are STILL BEING WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED over TWENTY-FIVE years later, under "List of Dragonlance Novels". I personally stopped buying them over a decade ago, I think, and still have ten or twelve in my "to be read" pile. (Certainly by the time the Age changed, I had lost interest.)

For Forgotten Realms ... well, Ed Greenwood created it, so his novels are the most canonical in that sense. Salvatore's Drizzt do'Urden series has become a hallmark of the setting, and there's an awful lot of them. (And there's anthologies all over the place too, which can give you a good overview of one facet or another of the world.) The Avatar series covers a crisis in the gods' realms, and starts with _Shadowdale_; Salvatore's The Cleric Quintet starts with _Canticle_, and his original Dark Elf trilogy starts with _Homeland_. Ed Greenwood's Elminster series, about a major wizard of the setting, starts with _Elminster: The Making of a Mage_ (warning: Ed's stories tend to have deadly magic flung about with wild abandon, and deaths of both wizards and non-wizards galore). There was a loooong multi-author series, The Harpers, about those secret agents of good, that began with Denning's _The Parched Sea_. There's about a gazillion other trilogies, short series, long series, etc., too - check the "List of Forgotten Realms Novels" page in Wikipedia - but the above ought to give you a few places to attack from.

Jo Walton
90. bluejo
Dave: Thank you, as always.

The Horse Lord trilogy is about a fantasy world that has a kind of Japanese attitude to honourable suicide, only more so, and the protagonist is constantly in agony about whether or not he should kill himself and why he hasn't already. I expect there was also an evid bad wizard and some plot, but I couldn't swear to it. My ex-husband was very fond of them and kept them in the divorce.
Jeff Domer
91. jqueasy
James Maxey: Bitterwood. Follow that up is Dragonforge and Dragonseed. Great stuff.
Jeff Domer
92. jqueasy
Can't forget A. Lee Martinez. I love In The Company Of Ogres. But being that everything he writes is a stand alone, you can start anywhere.
93. Judy Moffett
I'm pleased to be included here among the M's.

Should anybody care to know this: the third Hefn book, _The Bird Shaman_, otherwise known as the Holy Ground Trilogy Vol. III, IS in print; Amazon has it and so does my website, Vols. I and II, _The Ragged World_ and _Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream_, are available from Amazon too in used editions, or from me in spanking new ones. And both _Pennterra_ and _The Bird Shaman_ are now available as ebooks from
Jo Walton
94. bluejo
Wait, there's a third Hefn book? I must get it immediately if not sooner.
John Adams
95. JohnArkansawyer
Susan R. Matthews, An Exchange of Hostages.

And the complete set of Judith Merril's Best of. I'm still working on mine. Those are, I think, good introductions to SF, period.
96. dmg

How about Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden? Did you read and enjoy that novel...?
Jo Walton
97. bluejo
DMG -- I've never even heard of it.

Really, I'm well aware that there are far more books I haven't read than those I have.
98. dmg
I heard of the novel only yesterday, and figured who better a person than you, Jo, to ask if it merits reading.

You obviously read many books. Moreover, The Forgotten Garden seems to conform with your taste... admittedly, as I perceive it. But so does John Connolly's Book of Lost Things, and you did not include that book either. So what do I know? And thus my question.

Thank you for your reply. Very much appreciated!

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