Jul 11 2010 10:53am

OK, where do I start with that? N.

When I write about a book, people often ask me if it’s a good place to start with that author, or where would be a better starting point. So I have been engaged in a project of going along my bookshelves one letter at a time, suggesting good places to start with different authors. N is just over halfway through the alphabet, so that means this project is now past the halfway point. Some readers seem amazed at how many authors I have read, and others at my appalling ignorance of their especial favourites. Sometimes I forget well respected writers whose books I’ve read from the library, or that happen to be on loan at the moment.

These are personal suggestions for authors I read and have opinions about. Please add any other N authors I’ve forgotten, or don’t read, along with your suggestions for where to start them. (Please don’t add a list of names without suggestions, that’s not much use.) Also, if you disagree with my suggestions, or with each other’s suggestions, feel free to comment with your alternatives, preferably with reasons that would help somebody who wants to start understand what to choose.

Vladimir Nabokov—for a genre reader, definitely Pale Fire, one of the most enjoyable books ever written. You need to like T.S. Eliot and be amused by unreliable narrators, and you may only understand it properly the second time you read it, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s a Ruritanian fantasy, a puzzle, two moving stories, and it’s laugh out loud funny. He also wrote a lot of other books, many of them very good, but nothing else quite like Pale Fire. I’d do a proper post on it, but unfortunately, Pale Fire, which I first read when I was seventeen, is now one of the books I almost know by heart, which makes it difficult to sit down and read.

E. Nesbit wrote children’s books at the very beginning of the twentieth century, in England. Some of them are fantasy. The best place to start is probably Five Children and It which is about some children who find a sand fairy who gives them a wish every day, and the unfortunate and amusing consequences of that.

Harold Nicholson was a British mid-twentieth century diplomat and MP who wrote copious volumes of diaries, which are probably of interest only to a historian of the period (1907-1964, especially interesting on the thirties). He also wrote Some People (1927) which is kind of autobiography and kind of fiction and light and charming and is well worth picking up if you happen to come across it.

Nigel Nicolson is his son. His Portrait of a Marriage, about Harold Nicolson’s marriage with Vita Sackville West, is well written, candid and fascinating.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden is my editor at Tor, the editor of the fiction part of this site and an occasional blogger here. He also edited three terrific numbered anthologies called Starlight. Start with the first one, but they’re all the kind of anthology that showcases the very best work in genre at the time they were published.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote Making Book, which is an essay collection about books, God, narcolepsy, the necessity of punctuation, and other things.

Audrey Niffenegger—I’ve only read The Time Traveler’s Wife (post) but I hear she has a new one out.

With Larry Niven, I think the best place to begin is with his Known Space short stories, and therefore the collection N-Space.

David Nobbs is a British writer of mainstream books intended to be funny, who, astonishingly, manages to amuse me. Maybe it’s his ability to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Start with Second From Last in the Sack Race.

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall wrote The Mutiny on the Bounty, a terrific book, with slightly less good but still worth reading sequels. My favourite book of theirs is the hard to find memoir Fairy Lands of the South Seas, about their adventures in the islands of the Pacific immediately after WWI.

Kathleen Norris was an early twentieth century American writer of utterly unpredictable romances, including the weirdest book in the world (post). You should start with whatever you can find in the library or for a dollar, but Heartbroken Melody is guaranteed to give you a fine case of WTF. I keep reading Norris because I can stop halfway through and have no clue what is going to happen next. I have identified some of her axioms, but you can’t believe how refreshing it is to read something where the plot is surprising.

There’s another Kathleen Norris, a modern one, who writes uplifting spiritual books in which I have no interest whatsoever. Do not confuse them.

Sharyn November is an editor at Firebird, whose series of SF and fantasy YA anthologies (all with the word Firebirds in the title) I’d wholeheartedly recommend even if I didn’t have a story in the third one. Start with Firebirds.

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.

David Levinson
1. DemetriosX
I'm glad you had a few more Ns than I was able to come up with. Niven was literally the only one I could think of. And I agree with your suggesstion. I was orignally going to suggest Crashlander, which collects all the Beowulf Schaeffer stories, but the framing story is really only enjoyable if you know enough about Known Space to understand who the people involved are and why they're doing what they're doing. Perhaps more useful with Niven is where to stop. The sad fact is that after about 1990-93 the stuff he's written alone just isn't that good. (The Burning City books with Pournelle and the Heorot books with Pournelle and Barnes aren't bad.) And stay away from the Ringworld sequels.

I've only read a couple of your other recommendations, but would definitely encourage people to read at least the first sequel to Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea. It's an incredible story and entirely true. Bligh managed to get a dozen or so men across 3000 miles of ocean in an open longboat, while losing only one of them. Both of these books put Bligh in a very different light than we usually see him.
2. DeirdreT
What about Andre Norton? Witch World is probably her best known.
Linden Wolfe
3. Lilith
I'm a bit short of 'N' suggestions, myself.

I agree about starting E(dith) Nesbitt with Five Children and It. It was one I really enjoyed as a child.

Kim NewmanAnno Dracula for a different take on the vamp subgenre.

Garth Nix – the fist book in the Keys to the Kingdom series: Mister Monday, or the first in the Old Kingdom trilogy, Sabriel.

Naomi NovikTemeraire (aka His Majesty's Dragon) to begin a really interesting series where dragons meet the Napoleonic Wars.

Taslima Nasrin –You can start with the novel, Shame. It’s not SFF, but an important book by a very brave woman who has literally put her life on the line with her writing. I urge everyone to read this woman’s work.
Christopher Key
4. Artanian
A couple of comments - for solo Niven I'd agree with you, unless you're someone who mainly reads novels. For novels, it's hard to go wrong with Ringworld.

I'd also treat Niven-Pournelle collaborations as a separate category, one that I actually prefer. You really can't go wrong with any of them. The first one, Inferno, is by far the weakest, and I have not yet read its 2009 sequel, but my personal favorite is 'Oath of Fealty'.

You missed Andre Norton, and I'm honestly not sure what to suggest here. I read dozens of her books as a teenager, and I particularly liked the space operas like 'The Zero Stone', and the mil-SF in Star Guard and Star Rangers, but I can't say how well they aged. She wrote so many different series, over so many years, and I basically enjoyed them all.

Naomi Novik, the Temeraire series.
Joe Sherry
5. jsherry
Just for the sake for clarifying, the other Kathleen Norris doesn't exactly write "uplifting spiritual books". Dakota, The Cloister Walk, and even Amazing Grace are far more meditative and thoughtful than "uplifting".

Though I would agree that the two shouldn't be confused.
Michal Jakuszewski
6. Lfex
With Andre Norton I would start with first Witch World novel. For Niven and Pournelle - The Mote in God's Eye or Inferno, two their first and IMHO best novels. Both have inferior sequels, but it is typical for sequels written many years later, and you may skip them safely.

Jeff Noon - definitely start with Vurt. Linda Nagata - The Bohr Maker, I think.
john mullen
7. johntheirishmongol
Larry Niven - I agree Known Worlds is a good place to start, but I also would suggest World of Ptaavs.

William F Nolan wrote Logans Run and its a much much better book than the movie.

Alan Nourse is another forgotten writer, but he proceede James White with the book Star Surgeon. He was a doctor so knew whereof he spoke.

Andre Norton, you can pretty much pick up anything and go with it. I liked Witch World a lot. She also wrote The Beast Master, which was the basis for a series of pretty bad movies. She was a very nice and gracious lady who I ran into a couple of times when I was in high school since we lived in the same city.

I would add Douglas Niles for any D&D fan, since he was one of the original writers for their book line. Though the prose wasn't that great, the characters were good. I would start with Moonshae Trilogy
8. beket
Has anyone read any Anais Nin? I have some of her diaries and some of her novels but have only read one novel, A Spy in the House of Love which wasn't worth the trouble. I'm wondering if I chose poorly and should give something else a try.
Madeline Ferwerda
9. MadelineF
I agree with Artanian: The Zero Stone by Andre Norton is a good starting place; her space operas are definitely the best of her stuff, and fortunately there's a ton of them. I couldn't stand the Witch World books... I seem to remember that there's no plot.

And Naomi Novik, yep, start at the beginning with His Majesty's Dragon (British = Temeraire) and continue to the end. They get better as they go, even. It's nice to see a series of "ohai I have this great talking dragon that loves me" get into questions of whether it's ok to control the lives of those creatures.
Tex Anne
10. TexAnne
I was ambivalent about Witch World as a tween, and I'm even more so now...the idea that married women have to give up the job they've spent their life studying for--in fact, that they become incapable of doing it--has always upset me, and in fact it's why I was shocked to find that Norton was a woman. (But those silly Star Ka'at novels? ZOMG I ate them up with a spoon. Hey, I was 12.)

For fantasy readers, Niven's "The Magic Goes Away" is good.
Madeline Ferwerda
11. MadelineF
So embarassing to lose track of a /b. Sorry.
12. James Davis Nicoll
With Larry Niven, I think the best place to begin is with his Known Space short stories, and therefore the collection N-Space.

I have to disagree here. Younger readers have a responsibility to me to encounter stories in the same order I did regardless of minor issues like whether the collections I read in the 1970s are still in print because (shakes cane). Therefore I would recommend Neutron Star and A Hole in Space.

Doctor Alan E. Nourse

began long enough ago that some of his stuff is up on Project Gutenberg:

That said, the one I started with was The Universe Between.

The title of his novel The Bladerunner was used for an otherwise unrelated film. There was a story treatment written for the Nourse novel but it didn't get as far as the silver screen. The script was written by William S. Burroughs.
Liza .
13. aedifica
DemetriosX @ 1, my impression has been that Niven needed a co-author to give depth to the book. His solo books tend toward enjoyable fluff.
Tony Zbaraschuk
14. tonyz
I would recommend Neutron Star as the first Niven to start with; it's got some of his better stories, and it's a good introduction to Known Space.

Niven/Pournelle is a different author than either Niven or Pournelle. Probably better than either of them. I really liked Inferno, but then I'm a Dante fan as well; Mote in God's Eye is one of the great SF novels of all time.
Paul Andinach
15. anobium
I agree with Lilith that the best Kim Newman novel to start with is Anno Dracula -- but with the addition that the best place to start Kim Newman is actually with Bram Stoker's own original Dracula.

Two reasons: First, it makes Anno Dracula more rewarding; you'll get a lot more of the jokes. Second, it gives you a chance to enjoy Dracula without Newman sitting in your head pointing out the bits that are sadly of their time and the places where the plot doesn't quite work.

(This isn't a strict necessity: if you don't intend to read Dracula ever, or if you try Dracula and bounce off, Anno Dracula works fine on its own. But if it's an option, I definitely recommend Dracula first.)
Madeleine Lee
16. keita12686
About the only one I have to add is a book I picked up on a whim from a new author. Rachel Neumeier has two books out and is working on the third. Book one is the one I picked up - Lord of the Changing Winds. I found it to be a very enjoyable read.
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
If Niven/Pournelle is regarded as a distinct entity, then yes, start with The Mote in God's Eye which is a nicely done first contact novel.
Wanda Wolfe
18. wolfewr
Jody Lynn Nye writes some pretty interesting books. Either Medicine Show, The Grand Tour, or School of Light are good places to start with her.

She really has a great sense of humor, which comes through in her books. She writes great short fiction as well, which I've encountered in a number of anthologies.
Sandi Kallas
19. Sandikal
I my first serious love of science fiction started with a post-apocalyptic novel by Andre Norton that I got from the Scholastic Book Club back around 1970 when I was in elementary school. It was Daybreak: 2250 A.D. and it might have influenced my reading ever since. I really, really wish I had my copy or that it would get re-issued.
Rachel Hyland
20. RachelHyland
@ Jo Walton

Making Book! This is one of those gems you come across at an indie bookstore and pick up 'cause you think the cover's cute, buy because the blurb grabs you, read with joy and wonder, and then spend the rest of your life telling people: "Seriously, read it!" Well, okay, maybe that's not how you came across it -- what with the editor connection -- but that's what happened to me. I was simply thrilled to see it on your list.

lilith @ 3

Garth Nix and Mister Monday, I concur, though would hapily recommend anything Nixian.

anobium @ 15

I completely agree! A passing knowledge of the Dracula mythos such as we all seem to have picked up by osmosis works fine, but, as with any parody/pastiche/homage, intimate knowledge of the source material will always add to your enjoyment. That said, an intimate knowledge of 19th century history and literature, along with a whole lot of pop culture, is also helpful. From Dr. Moreau and Professor Moriarty to Barnabas Collins and Blacula, Newman is big with the funny, funny references.

On a more disturbing note, I just went to Amazon to buy a copy for a friend and discovered that Anno Dracula is out of print. Out of print! This is, to be frank, insane, especially in our current vamp-obsessed age.

The only other author I would suggest, N-wise, is in a simlarly Fantastical Alt-History vein: Naomi Novik and her Temeraire series, beginning with His Majesty's Dragon. Not usually a big one for the dragons, me, but dragons in the Napoleonic Wars? That concept definitely caught my fancy. (Although it's possible Stephen King's endorsement on the front cover is what ended up selling me on the book -- and thence the series -- in the end.)
Joe Romano
21. Drunes
@Sandikal - The first SF book I remember buying was "Daybreak:2250 A.D.", too. I also bought it from the Scholastic Book Club, but about 4 or 5 years before you did. Because of that, a friend of mine would say you and I have been friends for decades, but didn't know it.

Andre Norton gave me a lifelong love of SF and fantasy. I guess she could be blessed or cursed for that. By the way, the book's original title was "Star Man's Son" and I think it can be found under either title. Not only would I start Norton with this book, I'd recommend it as a starting point for anyone who has never read any SF.
Jo Walton
22. bluejo
RachelHyland: If you love Making Book, check out Making Light, the Nielsen Hayden's blog, where you can find lots of other essays like that from Teresa.
23. James Davis Nicoll
It was Daybreak: 2250 A.D. and it might have influenced my reading ever since. I really, really wish I had my copy or that it would get re-issued.

The most recent edition is i]Darkness and Dawn, the Baen omnibus that bound it with No Night Without Stars. It can be found here:
Kate Shaw
24. KateShaw
I don't seem to have very many N writers on my shelves except E. Nesbit and Naomi Novik. I agree with both the recommendations listed for those two.

As for Andre Norton, I loved The Jargoon Pard and Crystal Gryphon when I was a middle schooler. As I recall, they're pretty similar to each other. I haven't read either in decades, so I don't know if they'd hold up to an adult's perspective.

The one Andre Norton book I do reread every so often is Quag Keep, something of a guilty pleasure. I recommend it, but for God's sake don't make the mistake of reading the 'sequel,' which Norton co-wrote at the very end of her life with someone who obviously decided being a cowriter meant she could do what she wanted regarding the source material--like ignore it completely. Even some of the characters' names are wrong, and the book itself is a badly written mess. *shudders* But the original book is a lot of fun.
25. hapax
Genre fans might like Katherine Neville's THE EIGHT, a big fat time-travelling puzzle thriller, like a trashy beach version of FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM.

Having tried some of her later works, I'd say start with THE EIGHT, then stop.

26. Elaine Thom
Rachel Neumeier has written three books, not two, and all are worth reading. Her first was City in the Lake and it reads as if she were channelling McKillip. And has a horrible cover. It is not related to the Gryphon trilogy, mentioned above.

I was about to say "what about Andre Norton" but I see others already have. I liked everything, back when, but not all has aged well. Try the original edition of Time Traders (she rewrote it, sort of, trying to update a few years before her death. DID NOT WORK.) In that series, set in the Cold War, USA and USSR are both sending people back in time, and the Americans find a spaceship and aliens. It takes off. Or, one of my very first was Crystal Gryphon which still holds up reasonably well. It's a Witch World, but on the other continent, and you don't need to background of the preceding books. The space operas like Zero Stone also hold up well. My 13 year old likes Operation: Time Search . Not related to the Time Traders, AFAICT, an American gets in the way of a time viewer gizmo and gets thrown back to Atlantis and Mu. Changes history.

Seconding Garth Nix, prefer Sabriel as a starting point. It's pitched at a YA level, the Keys series is pitched younger. They're both good, though.

Ruth Nichols wrote a couple of very nice juveniles {i] A Walk out of the World is, IMO, the best. Background is that a generation or two ago, the prince was magically exiled into our world. His kids comes back. I remember the starts, they're much more colored than ours. And the fire and the water people.

I remember liking Eric Nylund's work, but can't suggest a place to start.
Sandi Kallas
27. Sandikal
James, thank you for the link. I see that it's available as an ebook for only four bucks! Perfect for my Nook!
ed tambini
28. ed t
all books are good, free books are great, but a bag full of free books WOW

thanks all
29. Rush-That-Speaks
My starting-place advice for Andre Norton is Year of the Unicorn, which has all the virtues of both stand-alone and series, plus bonus awesome protagonist, believable romance (I find that unusual in Norton) and Not Having Been Visited By The Sexism Fairy.

My very favorite Norton is Wheel of Stars but I will cheerfully admit that it is very New-Agey and also that while it is a plus for me that it is basically horror, I know that other people do not necessarily think so.

Vera Nazarian! I've mostly read her short fiction, of which I am very fond, but I think the most famous novel is Dreams of the Compass Rose.
30. mike shupp
And when you've read through Alan K Nourse's SF, you might want to locate INTERN by "Doctor X". Nourse again, in an autobiographical mode.

Another Norton: Mary Norton, an English children's novelist. Begin with THE BORROWERS.
Glenda Wilson
32. glinda
I've just put the Nabokov you recommended on hold at the library.

Re: Katherine Neville, I enjoyed The Eight, and am currently reading The fire, which follows the events of the earlier book. Not sure how/if I like it, yet.

Sharan Newman writes interesting (to me, anyway) historical mysteries. She also has a series of three fantasies: Guenevere, The Chessboard Queen, and Guenevere Evermore, which I've enjoyed.

I've got Vurt, a very strange book by Jeff Noon, in my accumulation, but I haven't read it in at least a decade; it's in a carton in the storage locker rather than on the shelves.

Definitely seconding the Garth Nix recommendation.

Especially seconding (or thirding, or one-two-many-lots!ing), Naomi Novik's books. I'm reading them from the library, but have them on my "I must acquire this, for re-reading" list.

And then there's Andre Norton, whose books I'd somehow not encountered until I was 27 (about the same time I came across the Narnia books). I was doing the Navy wife in Hawai'i thing, and one of my then-husband's shipmates asked to store his cartons of SF&F with me. First thing I did was sort the books by author, then title - their owner was flabbergasted to receive them back in order, but how else was I to know which ones I had and hadn't read? There were many books by Andre Norton, and I devoured them all in one fell swoop. I don't know how well they'd hold up to re-reading more than 30 years later, but I might find some of them comfort reads. I certainly loved them at the time.

Another guy stored his two guitars and banjo at our apartment, that same patrol. A Martin Vega banjo, which I mostly ignored; a Gibson six-string guitar, pretty much ditto; - and a 12-string Martin, which I re-strung and from which I removed the tape from the cheat-sheets, and with which I had a very intense and rewarding 3 1/2 month relationship. *grin* Between the books and the music, I don't think I came up for air for anything except checking the mailbox and making occasional grocery runs, for at least a month. One of the better months of my life, really... more than enough books and music, what else do I need? :) )
Gray Woodland
33. Greyhame
Rush-That-Speaks @ 29 - Another benefit of starting with Year of the Unicorn is that one gets a little bit more from Pard and Gryphon if one has read it first. It's still by far the strongest of the three, however - even taking into account the different target audiences.

I started the Witch World books with Spell of the Witch World, a quartet of short stories based on the same continent, and which made quite a good taster for mood and style. Hooked me in, anyhow.

Another vote for Sabriel on the Garth Nix front. True, it's the first of a trilogy - but it's also very neat and self-contained, whereas the Keys books are written as a cliffhanging serial.
34. Questionable
Nabakov is the real stand-out for me in that list. However I found Pale Fire quite heavy going. Personally, I started with (and found more approachable) his "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight". A truly amazing piece of writing.
Rob Munnelly
35. RobMRobM
Really not a strong letter, tsk, tsk. Nabokov (Lolita) and Niven (Ringworld) and pray for rain.
Linden Wolfe
36. Lilith
And no one is recomending John Norman? Gee, I wonder why :-)
Although maybe everyone should try to read one, just to see if it is as bad as everyone says, and see how far they get before throwing it at the wall.
Joe Romano
37. Drunes
@ Lilith -- I had completely forgotten about John Norman. A college friend who had every Gor book (this was in the mid-1970s) once lent me one. I'm not sure if I finished it, but I didn't borrow any more. I also quit reading SF and fanatsy for a few years after that!
Rob Munnelly
38. RobMRobM
@36 - wow. Like Drunes, I had blacked that out. I read several Gor books before abandoning them as flawed, sexist Edgar Rice Burroughs ripoffs. R
Paul Andinach
39. anobium
Anno Dracula is out of print. Out of print! This is, to be frank, insane, especially in our current vamp-obsessed age.

They're the wrong kind of vamps, that's the trouble. Lestat's only in it for half a page, and he gets mud thrown at him. (One can only imagine what might have befallen Edward if the world had known about him back then.)
40. a-j
Kim Newman - agree with all the 'Anno Dracula' comments above. I can also recommend his short stories, 'Famous Monsters' is a good collection to start with, and his Diogenes Club stories are great fun as well: 'Seven Stars' or 'The Man from the Diogenes Club' are good starting points.
j p
41. sps49
I read a lot of the Gor books back in the day; I found the adventures fun. Too, the overall story arc developing was pretty good.

But as the series continued, plot and story suffered. Too, the very adventures were replaced by page after page of ruminations on why women had their very specific place. Too, the very characters in the story would blather on at length about nothing to to with anything. Too; oh, never mind.

I liked Niven's "A Gift from Earth" as a standalone novel. "inconstant Moon" is a good short story. "Ringworld" and "A Mote in God's Eye" kicked ass. And don't forget "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex".
42. OtterB
Norton - somehow I never read the WitchWorld books. But The Time Traders was one of the things that first hooked me on sf/f some 40 years ago. I still enjoy an occasional re-read, although some of the others have held up a bit better over time. I'd recommend The Beast Master and its sequels; ignore the film versions.
Heloise Larou
43. Heloise
Jeff Noon is definitely someone who should be more widely read; sadly, he seems to have given up on writing. I love all of his books, and Vurt certainly is as good a place to start as any, buy my personal favourite is Nymphomation because of the delightful and catching joy it takes in playing with language - at times, it reminded me of a genre version of Finnegan's Wake.

Everyone should of course have read every book by Vladimir Nabokov; but for starting out I'd suggest either going with the popular choice and read Lolita or try one of his early novels, like King Queen Knave. Or maybe Pnin which is probably his most easily accessible.
44. reddwarf
Second Linda Nagata - read Deception Well or The Bohr Maker

For Eric Nylund read A Game of Universe or Signal to Noise.

I'm not sure if Carol Nelson Douglas' Six of Swords series was mentioned under D - so I'll recommend them now.
45. twirlip
beket @ 8: I haven't read a lot of Anais Nin, but I believe A Spy in the House of Love is pretty typical of her novels. It's actually the fourth part of a 5-volume "continuous novel" called Cities of the Interior; the first book is Ladders to Fire but you're supposed to be able to start reading at any point in the sequence. I've read parts of her diaries and they are great -- more straightforward than the novels, but insightful and very lyrical, and you don't keep waiting for a plot to show up the way you do with her fiction.

(I'm guessing most people's exposure to Nin is through her erotica, but I haven't read that so I can't comment on it, except to say that she didn't regard it as part of her "serious" work.)
46. beket
twirlip@45 Thank you so much for the comments on Nin. I'll give the diaries a try.
Jo Walton
47. bluejo
Twrlip, Beket: I've read some of the erotica and I found it very odd, not especially erotic but full of bizarrely memorable poetic images -- which is to say I read it when I was about sixteen and I still remember some of them.
48. Teka Lynn
I second (third?) Year of the Unicorn for Andre Norton. There are times I don't know how I would have gotten through junior high and high school without Norton's books.
Rich Horton
49. ecbatan
By Nabokov -- definitely PALE FIRE is a wonderful place to start, and distinctly if ambiguously genre-ish. But I might instead recommend PNIN, which is not genre at all, but is much shorter, much simpler, and yet still gorgeous and heartbreaking.

ADA, OR ARDOR, is his most unambiguously SFnal novel, and I confess I don't remember it well -- I need to reread it! -- but I think it's quite good. The early Russian novel KING, QUEEN, KNAVE is also SF, and quite nice, and a couple further novels are marginally SFnal (INVITATION TO A BEHEADING and BEND SINISTER).

He was a great great novelist, and a matchless prose stylist.
50. David DeLaney
N! We've lived to see N! Hallelujah, pant pant! There's not all that much to it, compared to M, but then there'll be nearly nothing at all for O.

Mary Nash wrote a series of children's books about a family whose nanny was a Mrs. Coverlet, which crept over into fantasy tropes at least once. Start with _While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away_.

E. Nesbit - one could also start with _The Enchanted Castle_.

Douglas Niles has written some of his own stuff, and a good bit more set in the Forgotten Realms setting. Try _A Breach in the Watershed_.

Jenny Nimmo writes a children's book series about Charlie Bone, one of the Children of the Red King, each of whom has a special magic power, and who mostly all go to school together. He also has Evil Aunts who live with him and an Evil Headmaster to contend with, as well as some of the other Children being Evil. Start with _Midnight for Charlie Bone_. It's for younger folks than the Harry Potter series, overall, but still has its dark (and, naturally, Evil) moments.

Larry Niven's works are MOSTLY in Known Space; a collection can be the place to start there, though I'd say _Tales of Known Space_ or _The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton_ for it. You could also start with _Ringworld_, or _Protector_, and recently he's done some collaborations with Lerner looking at some secret-history-type backstory for Known Space. If you want to look at non-Known-Space stuff, his Magic series starts with _The Magic Goes Away_ (and finishes up in some collaborations with Pournelle); he also has standalones like _A World Out of Time_, and the _The Flight of the Horse_ series.

Niven and Barnes have collaborated on a series set in a futuristic amusement park-cum-LARP setting, Dream Park; starts with _Dream Park_.

Niven and Pournelle have collaborated on several things; try _The Mote in God's Eye_, or _Inferno_.

Garth Nix, yes, writes children's-level books, or "young adult", that are quite nice fantasy. He has various series; The Keys to the Kingdom starts with _Mister Monday_ (and has one book for each day of the week, and has just finished up with _Lord Sunday_). The Seventh Tower starts with _The Fall_, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to start Nix on. And his Old Kingdom series starts with _Sabriel_, which is a wonderful gem about a teenage necromancer and her initial quests to find and strike down the evil that has recently claimed her father, the Abhorsen; she has inherited his necromancer's bells, and has been taken out of school in Ancelstierre, the nonmagical country south of The Wall separating it from the highly magical Old Kingdom, to take up his duties. There is also backstory, oh yes there is, and other Powers involved. Oh, and the Ancelstierrans don't _believe_ in magic. And there's SEQUELS!

Lisanne Norman wrote a series about humans and catman-style aliens, space opera with psionics and some time travel, the Sholan Alliance; starts with _Turning Point_.

Andre Norton. Sooooo many books. Many are stand-alones; several series exist in them as well. Perhaps the longest series was the Witch World, starting with _Witch World_. (I don't have any books by her whose titles start with A, I, K, N, R, or X, although I have an A, a K, and an N in omnibuses.) She lived in Cleveland, Ohio, my home town, until I was 2 years old, it seems... She also had various series that one can start on at _The Beast Master_, _To the King a Daughter_ with Miller, _The Shadow of Albion_ with Edghill, _The Elvenbane_ with Lackey (did I mention she also collaborated prolifically?), _The Time Traders_, _Black Trillium_ with Lackey & May, _Storm over Warlock_, and _The Zero Stone_, plus several others. And a whole SLEW of standalone novels, just about any of which will give you a good feel for her writing style.

Mary Norton wrote _Bed-Knob and Broomstick_, a children's-magical-adventure book, which I see now actually started as two books (_The Magic Bedknob_ and _Bonfires and Broomsticks_), so I probably have the edition published after it was filmed by Disney. Oh well. She also wrote _The Borrowers_. As far as I can tell, either one can be the starting point for your reading.

Alan E. Nourse wrote SF, and I'd say to start with _The Universe Between_; he was not, in fact, a pen name of Andre Norton. You could also start with _Star Surgeon_, or his collection _Psi High and Others_.

Jody Lynn Nye has written several-many SF and fantasy books; you can start her at _Mythology 101_, or _Taylor's Ark_ (a space-veterinarian series, if I recall right), or _Waking in Dreamland_ (which is about the only unchanging inhabitant of the Dream World). She's also co-written with Asprin on several MythAdventures books, and with McCaffrey on a couple of Anne's series. Or you could start with her recent _An Unexpected Apprentice_.

And that seems to be about all I know about for N.

51. filkferengi
Emily Neville won the Newbery for _It's Like This, Cat_, which holds up well.

Robert Newman wrote delightful YA. For mystery, start with _The Case Of The Baker Street Irregular_. For fantasy, start with _Merlin's Mistake_ or _The Shattered Stone_.

Ruth Nichols' _Song Of The Pearl_ is quite lyrical.

Andre Norton wrote in more genres than most people write books. For sf, start with _Moon Of Three Rings_ . _Ralestone Luck_ is a fun YA adventure, although if you prefer a historical theme for a younger audience, there's _Octagon Magic_ or _Red Hart Magic_. For YA with pirates, try _Scarface_.

Of her gothics , the best are _The White Jade Fox_ and _The Opal-Eyed Fan_. For fantasy, _Crystal Gryphon_ is an essential prelude for _Gryphon's Eyrie_ .
52. AlecAustin
Ugh, forgot to actually post this after previewing the first time.

Anyway! I started reading Garth Nix with Sabriel, which I enjoyed more than the sequels that followed it, though it wasn't unproblematic. The Keys to the Kingdom books have some very crunchy and enjoyable worldbuilding going on, but they also seemed to be targeted at a much younger audience, and so I haven't gotten all the way through Drowned Wednesday yet.

For Naomi Novik, I liked His Majesty's Dragon well enough, but the preview for Throne of Jade in the back of my copy utterly killed my desire to keep on reading the series. The Chinese characters were orientalized to a degree that I found kind of offensive, honestly.
53. Teka Lynn
Two wonderful writers I don't think have been mentioned yet, and their first(?) books:

Ruth Nichols, A Walk Out of the World

Joan North, The Whirling Shapes

I LOVED these books as a child, and they've held up very well on rereading. Both are late-sixties and have preteen/teen protagonists coming in contact with a World That Is Not Ours, in very different ways.
54. Susan Loyal
Apologies for coming late to the "N" party.

Patrick Ness. Start with The Knife of Never Letting Go.
Paul Andinach
55. anobium
On a more disturbing note, I just went to Amazon to buy a copy for a friend and discovered that Anno Dracula is out of print. Out of print!

Good news on this front: It's recently been announced that not only has Newman struck a deal to get the whole series back in print, the deal includes the long (long) awaited fourth book, set in the 1970s and 1980s and featuring guest appearances by Francis Ford Coppola, Andy Warhol, and Orson Welles.

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