Sun
Aug 8 2010 10:24am

OK, where do I start with that? S.

I’ve had evidence this week that some people are actually finding this useful for its intended purpose of finding out where to start reading authors they’ve never read before—someone told me they’d been holding off on starting an author until we got to that letter. So, onward along the bookshelves!

S is a huge letter for my shelves, but I’m sure there will also be lots of good writers starting with S I haven’t read. Please add them—my list is a personal list of recommendations for writers I know about, any additions you read and I don’t are very welcome. Also, feel free to disagree with me, or with each other, about good places to start. The discussion on these threads has been great.

Georgia Sallaska—Okay, you’ve never heard of her, but she wrote an absolutely brilliant version of the Iliad from Cassandra’s point of view called Priam’s Daughter. If you like historical novels it’s well worth seeking out.

Pamela Sargent has written a lot of good solid well written SF—start with Venus of Dreams, about terraforming Venus.

Dorothy Sayers—Peter Wimsey reading order is here, but what Pamela Dean suggested I do worked very well, which was to start with the standalone and excellent Nine Tailors (post) to see if I liked them, and then go back and read them in order. If you want to start with her translation of Dante or her religious plays, you probably know that already.

John Scalzi—start with Old Man’s War.

Karl Schroeder’s first novel, Ventus (post), is online for free, but the best place to start him is with the astonishingly brilliant Lady of Mazes (post).

George Scithers was an editor whose tastes tended towards the light and funny. Cat Tales, which is in print, contains Leiber’s “Spacetime for Springers” and gives a good enough feeling for the kind of editor Scithers was.

Melissa Scott mostly writes the kind of SF I like, with space stations, but she has also written some fantasy and alternate history, mostly with Liza Barnett. If you prefer fantasy start with Point of Hopes (post) and if you prefer SF start with The Kindly Ones.

Paul Scott—He’s a mainstream writer whose main subject is the British Raj. I think his very best book is Staying On.

I wonder if Vikram Seth goes next to Paul Scott on a lot of people’s shelves? You can start anywhere, everything I’ve read of his is excellent, but A Suitable Boy (post) is probably the best place, unless you’re intimidated by the length.

Bob Shaw was a British SF writer who wrote a lot of solid, short, extrapolatory SF and some very funny essays and short stories. You probably want to start with Other Days, Other Eyes, as it’s a classic.

George Bernard Shaw—start with Saint Joan.

Robert Sheckley wrote some of the best and funniest and most memorable short SF stories ever. You could start with a collection, or with his quirky novel Mindswap.

Sharon Shinn—The Safe Keeper’s Secret. It’s YA fantasy, but it seems to be serious in the way that a lot of her adult books aren’t.

With Nevil Shute I usually start people with Trustee From the Toolroom, but you might want to see my post about No Highway.

I think the best thing to do if you’re starting on Silverberg would be to read his collected short stories, because that would give you a sense of his significance to the field over time. If you want a novel, then try his masterpiece Dying Inside (post).

For the inimitable Clifford Simak, I suggest starting with Way Station (post).

Dan Simmons has written a lot of things that edge into horror, which are therefore not to my taste. Hyperion (post) is science fiction, and it’s wonderful.

Joan Slonzewski—start with Door Into Ocean (post).

Cordwainer Smith was one of the people who marked out the space of what SF can be. Start with We the Underpeople, which contains Norstrilia and some of the short stories in the same universe. (It’s a pity Baen put such a clunky title on that, as Smith’s own titles are poetic and memorable.)

Dodie Smith—I highly recommend I Capture the Castle (post). Not SF, and not about capturing castles either.

Sherwood Smith—start with Crown Duel, an excellent fantasy that stands alone, or Inda, which begins a four book series.

S.P. Somtow is a Thai SF and fantasy writer and musician. Start with Jasmine Nights (post).

Muriel Spark was a British literary writer. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a very good book about the exercise of power. It makes an interesting paired reading with Nineteen Eighty Four.

Francis Spufford—start with Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin. (post)

Brian Stableford has written lots of SF and some hard to classify fantastical, and I think he’s best approached through his collection The Great Chain of Being.

With Neal Stephenson, I think it would be best to begin with Crypotonomicon, (post), because I think it would give you a good sense of whether you liked what he was doing or not.

Bruce Sterling emerged with cyberpunk, but he’s done a lot more of that. I’m going to suggest a collection to see the breadth of his work, but if you want a novel then I think his future-election thriller Distraction is a good place to start.

Jennifer Stevenson’s Trash Sex Magic is an amazing urban fantasy somewhat in the tradition of Sean Stewart.

Robert Louis Stevenson—start with Kidnapped. I started with his poetry, which, when I was a child I really believed that he had written when he was himself a child.

With Caroline Stevermer, you could start with her standalone fantasy When the King Comes Home (post) or if you like fanrast of manners, with her collaboration with Patricia Wrede, Sorcery and Cecelia.

I suppose most people start Mary Stewart with her Merlin books. If you like gothics, do try Nine Coaches Waiting.

Sean Stewart is one of the best writers of contemporary North American fantasy. Start with Mockingbird.

Catherine Storr wrote the terrifying children’s book Marianne Dreams, and a number of other fantastical children’s books. That’s the one to start with, though if you can find Thursday it’s a Tam Lin version.

Jack Trevor Story was a very odd writer, whose books are mainstream but not like anything else. Start with Live Now, Pay Later.

Noel Streatfeild wrote excellent unsentimental children’s books. Start with Ballet Shoes. Oh, and in case you read some of these as a kid in the U.S., I want to tell you they all have real titles that don’t mention shoes, except Ballet Shoes, and the real titles are much better.

Charlie Stross is one of the rising stars of SF. Start with Halting State, quickly, before it gets out of date.

There seem to be a whole pile of writers this week where I’m telling you to start with the short stories. Theodore Sturgeon is all about the short work. He wrote some of the best things ever written, all of them short. If you really insist on a novel, try Venus Plus X, very clever utopia. But what you really want is Selected Stories and then you can move on to the other stories.

Rosemary Surcliff wrote historical fiction that would probably be called YA today. Start with The Eagle of the Ninth.

Gosh, that really was a lot! But I bet you have more, you always do.


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.

80 comments
TW Grace
1. TWGrace
Fred Saberhagen - The Berserker War stories, or maybe Empire of the East and then the Swords

John Steakley - Armor

SM Stirling - Dies the Fire
René Walling
2. cybernetic_nomad
There are a lot with this letter'

Fred Saberhagen: like many people, I started with some Beserker stories, but he's written a whole lot more and his range is tremendous.

Clark Ashton Smith I would start with a collection of short stories

Carl Sagan I think most people start with Contact, but his non-fiction is also very good

Nick Sagan son of Carl, I started with Idlewild the subsequent books are in my "to read" pile and I should get around to them Real Soon now

James H. Schmitz wrote a lot of great stuff, it sometimes feels a bit dated, but I still enjoy them. I started with some Telzey Amberdon stories, T'nT: Telzey & Trigger recently released by Bean is probably a good place to start.

Stanley Schmidt I first discovered him with the serialization of The Sins of the Fathers in Analog before he became editor of that magazine.

Rod Serling adapted many episodes of Twilight Zone as short stories that were published together. That's a good place to start, even if you've seen those episodes.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, some sonnets, just start.

G. Harry Stine I started with his non-fiction published in Astounding/Analog, always a good read.

Michael Swanwick a brilliant writer, everything I've read of his was excellent. I started with some short stories, I'm sure others will recommend books, none of them the same since so many are so good. In other words, it doesn't matter where you start, as long as you do start.
Matthew Kuhl
3. pattonmat
Brandon Sanderson: Warbreaker. It's a good look at his style, and you can download it for free on his website.
(still) Steve Morrison
4. (still) Steve Morrison
Olaf Stapledon — his future history Last and First Men is deservedly his best-known book. If you want something more novelistic, then Odd John or Sirius; I preferred the latter, though it’s less well known.
Jo Walton
5. bluejo
For Swanwick, I suggest starting with The Iron Dragon's Daughter.
jon meltzer
6. jmeltzer
Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men (skim over the first immediately-post-WWI section)
Nick Rogers
7. BookGoblin
Johnathan Swift was a British satirist who wrote a wonderful series of stories about the travels of a man named Gulliver. I'd start with the first story and go from there.

Ekaterina Sedia is both a wonderful collection editor who's Paper Cities anthology is one of my absolute favorites, as well as a sparkling author who's Alchemy of Stone is slightly better than her earlier The Secret History of Moscow but either are good places to start.

Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords stuff was where I first found him. The First Book of Swords is an obvious place to start. I always liked his fantasy better than his Berserker stuff, so tastes obviously vary.

And then there's Brandon Sanderson who is probably most famous for closing out Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Personally, my favorite of his is Elantris, but several people loved Warbreaker and both are single novels that will let you try his style without committing to his longer series (or Jordan's).

I would also like to mention Zylpha Keatly Snyder (who's name seems to end in a double unhyphenated name, so not sure if she should be filed under Keatly or Snyder) who wrote the children's novel Below the Root and it's sequels, which was the first book I checked out of a library and one of the principle reasons I love strange fiction to this day.
jon meltzer
8. jmeltzer
Robert Silverberg: Collected Short Stories, volumes 3 or 4 (the late 60s-early 70s work, when he had found his voice).

E. E. "Doc" Smith: "Galactic Patrol". Don't start the Lensmen series with "Triplanetary"; read it in order of publication. And you'd better be used to space opera cliches because Doc invented most of them.

James Schmitz: "Witches of Karres". There are no sequels.

Mary Shelley: "Frankenstein".

Lucius Shepard: "Life During Wartime".

Rex Stout (non-SF, but one can't leave Nero Wolfe out): a novella collection to get the flavor, then start reading the novels
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
Saki: Lots of wonderful short stories running a gamut of types and genres. If you like Wodehouse, try some of the Reginald or Clovis stories, though they are more cynical and have more bite. And everyone should read "Sredni Vashtar" at least once.

Robert J. Sawyer: Hominids or FlashForward (which is only slightly related to the TV series).

Michael Shea: He has lots of early weird influences, plus Leiber and Vance. Some like Nifft the Lean, but I would recommend The Colour Out of Time, which posits what happens after years of people drinking from the reservoir that framed the Lovecraft story.

Charles Sheffield: A must for hard sf fans. Not sure where to start, though.

Lucius Shepard: I like his short fiction best. Try The Jaguar Hunter.

M.P. Shiel: Another of Lovecraft's favorites. The Purple Cloud is probably the easiest to find. It's a last man on Earth story. Almost a cozy disaster.

E.E. Doc Smith: Yeah, he's very pulpy, but he had a huge influence on golden age authors and SF in general. Lensman is probably better, so start with Triplanetary.

S.P. Somtow: He also wrote under his real name Somtow P. Sucharitkul, and it may be that some of his books are still under that name. Mallworld or Inquestor were good. Also, The Shattered Horse, which is sort of the Trojan War: The Next Generation.

Norman Spinrad: A very diverse author. Bug Jack Barron is his famous book, but I liked A World Between.

Christopher Stasheff: Very fluffy, but I did like the first few Wizard in Rhyme books. Start with Her Majesty's Wizard and stop after the second or third.

S.M. Stirling: I'm conflicted about his stuff. I both like it and dislike it at the same time. Start with Island in the Sea of Time.

Bram Stoker: Dracula obviously, but don't stop there.

Jonathan Stroud: He mostly writes kids books, but the YA BArtimaeus trilogy is pretty good.

Suetonius: The Lives of the Caesars, just because.

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver of course, but he shouldn't be forgotten.
john mullen
10. johntheirishmongol
Fred Saberhagen - hard to find a lot, check the used bookstores. Berserker is a good place, I agree.

Pam Sargeant - while I did like Venus of Dreams, I don't think there was anything there that made me go back to her.

James Schmitz - I personally would start with Witches of Karres. Wonderful stuff.

Robert Silverberg - Lord Valentine's Castle has been my fave book by him since it came out. I did like a lot of his early stuff too

Clifford Simak - Way Station is great, All Flesh is Grass is another goodie to start with.

EE Doc Smith - Lensman series is a must. Start with the first and read them all.

Christopher Stasheff - The Warlock in Spite of Himself, theres a series of them, read until they quit being fun.

Theodore Sturgeon - short stories mostly but I would read Venus Plus X

Brandon Sanderson - I think Elantris is a better book to start.

Dennis Shmidt - Wayfarer, the first 3 in the series were great, the final one kinda bleh

Michael Stackpole - A Dark Glory War, pretty good fantasy series.

SM Stirling - Island in a Sea of Time is excellent, the Dies the Fire series which is associated I didn't like at all

RA Salvatore - I would start with Homeland. By far the best D&D writer they ever discovered.
Jon Rosebaugh
11. inklesspen
For SM Stirling, I'd recommend The Sky People and In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, two planetary romances about what if all the old pulp ideas about Venus and Mars were actually true.

I second the nomination of Lady of Mazes, but unfortunately, Tor's allowed it to go out of print.
(still) Steve Morrison
12. odaiwai
#8: E. E. "Doc" Smith: "Galactic Patrol". Don't start the Lensmen series with "Triplanetary"; read it in order of publication. And you'd better be used to space opera cliches because Doc invented most of them.

I'm not sure the Lensman Books have aged all that well - there's a whole lot of very rigid moral outlooks there. You'd better be used to 1930's morality as well!

Personally, I find the Skylark of Space books to be a much more pleasant read.

And I'm sure Dr Richard Seaton would be quite happy to have a beer with a Fan while Lensman Kinnison would report a Fan for being a zwilnik.
Lannis .
13. Lannis
Maggie Stiefvater... young adult paranormal romance, and excellent! Start with Shiver.
jon meltzer
14. jmeltzer
@12: But Kinnison _wrote_ trashy space opera stories (Qadgop the Mercotan ... ).
felipe lopez
15. lupercus
a sort of brief aside: in his introduction to Cordwainer Smith's When the People Fell, Frederik Pohl says that it was actually him (Pohl), as Smith's editor, who put the famous titles on the stories.

now, coming back to the subject:

Robert Sawyer, Calculating God

Lewis Shiner, Collected Stories

José Saramago, Baltasar and Blimunda (a historical fantasy, just in case you want to try something different to Blindness)
(still) Steve Morrison
16. odaiwai
@14: but he only wrote them to keep under cover as a narc. (And in the process, he allegedly demonstrated that being addicted to substances was only for those of Weak Moral Fibre and that Superior Persons could indulge without becoming addicted to said substances.)

I'll build a spaceship with the X-metal drive to go and have a beer with Dr. Seaton, but Kinnison's just a narc.

As for the whole Eugenics thing of being the ultimate breeding target of Humanity? Ugh.
(still) Steve Morrison
17. CSmith
Sherwood Smith: Crown Duel is not stand alone in that it actually has a sequel, Court Duel. They are both good, although I started with the Wren books and have fond memories of them. The first one is Wren to the Rescue.
Dru O'Higgins
18. bellman
Saberhagen - I started with the Holmes/Dracula File.

Charles Sheffield - Between the Strokes of Night is excellent.

Silverberg - Has to be Lord Valentine's Castle.

L. Neil Smith - a libertarian author preaching his views in fiction. Start with Probability Broach if you like that kind of thing.

Thorne Smith - Topper.

Zilpha Ketley Snyder - Black and Blue Magic was one of my favorites growing up.

Richard Stark - A pseudonym for Donald Westlake. The Parker novels are dark, and very quick reads. Start anywhere.

Allen Steele - Start with Coyote.

Neal Stephenson - I have to disagree with Jo on this one. Start with Snowcrash.

S.M. Stirling - Start with Island in the sea of time or if you want to start with a standalone, try Conquistador.

Matthew Woodring Stover - Heroes die is a science fiction/fantasy with some really dark elements.
David Levinson
19. DemetriosX
I have to say that, while I really like Silverberg, Lord Valentine and Majipoor have never worked for me. I would either go with something older like Up the Line or The World Inside, or maybe something like Gilgamesh the King or Roma Eterna for something a bit newer. Dying Inside is his classic, but I wouldn't start there.
(still) Steve Morrison
20. odaiwai
Just to go back and grind on the Doc Smith guys again: Dick Seaton invents all of his tech himself (with the exception of the fifth order stuff he gets from the Norlaminians, and even then he's a really quick study.)

Kinnison is issued his Lens and his Primary Beams, just like a cop gets his Badge and his Gun. All of the tech development in the Lensman universe is by secondary characters.

Seaton is a geek. Kinnison's just a user.
(still) Steve Morrison
21. beket
Ah, Shelley.... Hail Mary, Mother of Science Fiction

Shakespeare-- my favorites are MacBeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Henry V (Hank Sank), but the more I think about it, I think Romeo and Juliet might be a good place to start IF you're a teen. All that Twilight-esque teen angst over "love."

And since we're at S, I have to hawk my two favorite romance novelists-- Deborah Simmons and Donna Simpson. Both write Regency Romances, and both are just fun, if sometimes silly. I recommend Simmon's The Devil Earl and Simpson's Lord St Clair's Angel.

I, too, have been using suggestions from this list. Very helpful.
Laura Conrad
22. laymusic
Paul Scott -- I'd start with "The Jewel in the Crown" and read the rest of that series before anything else. ("Staying on" is related to but not part of it.)

John Steinbeck: "East of Eden" is my favorite, but "The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights" is good if you want to stay in Fantasy.

Jane Smiley: I started with "The Greenlanders", which is depressing but wonderful. I think you can start anywhere.
(still) Steve Morrison
23. WarriorofWorry
Jessica Amanda Salmonson, start with "Tomoe Gozen". I'd also recommend Kerri Spering's "Living with Ghosts".
Clark Myers
24. ClarkEMyers
St. Clair/Seabright: maybe Sign of the Labrys - maybe historical interest only.

Shiras surely: In Hiding.

Geroge O. Smith maybe the Equilateral series or maybe something from the Campbell period of psi as Highways in Hiding but that may be of historical interest only.

For the aging fan it was once fun to watch various authors play with what John Campbell might buy but again that's historical and meta interest not the stories themselves.

For Spinrad is it a matter of start early - accepting the somewhat period piece? - and stop or read a representative early work and a representative late work or......?

As befits the letter S in english there have been any number of writers filed under S but although quantity does have a quality of its own that quality is not reader appeal.
Michal Jakuszewski
25. Lfex
Andrzej Sapkowski - Definitely start with short stories. Only the first colliection of Witcher stories - The Last Wish - has been translated into English.

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky - I think the best starting point would be Roadside Picnic, their most famous novel.

Melissa Scott - I would start with Silence Leigh trilogy which is something I would love to see more of - fantasy space opera.

Steph Swainston - Her first novel, The Year of Our War, would be a logical starting point.

Alison Sinclair - Legacies if you prefer SH, or Darborn if you are into romantic fantasy.

Brian Stableford - I would go with his old SF books The Realms of Tartarus or with his vampire novel Empire of Fear.

Robert Stallman has written only one trilogy. The omnibus edition was caleld The Book of the Beast.

Sean Stewart - I think I would go with Resurrection Man. I loved his only secondary world fantasy novel, Clouds End, but it is fairly atypical for him.
Ron Griggs
26. RonGriggs
For Silverberg, I suggest starting with The Book of Skulls. It shows Silverberg's handling of characters at his best and is a stand-alone work.

Also on my shelf:

George R. Stewart: Author of the post-apocalyptic scifi classic Earth Abides.

Raphael Sabatini: Author of dozens of swashbuckling historical novels. Start with Captain Blood or Scaramouche, which starts with the fabulous line "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

Samuel Shellabarger: Also writes historical fiction of the exciting sort. Start with Captain from Castile or Prince of Foxes.
(still) Steve Morrison
27. Susan Loyal
Tricia Sullivan. I'd start with Maul, and just remark that it's not for the faintheearted. All her work deals with the nature of reality, which always proves slippery.

Kristine Smith. Aliens! Experimental biology! Tranformation! Fire fights! Politics! The Jani Kilian series contains five books and starts with Code of Conduct. Try not to be put off by the covers.

(Personally, I'd start Charles Stross with anything but Halting State, which I think was a great idea that failed miserably. For pity's sake, he had to resort to explaining the resolution of a mystery plot rather than revealing it! I think the Laundry novels are his best. Start with The Atrocity Archives, which is admittedly a little slow to start, but The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum kick it out of the park. I'm deeply fond of his space opera volumes, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise, too.)

@13 Second the vote for Maggie Stiefvater.
(still) Steve Morrison
28. Dr Hoo
No votes for Shatner's Tekwar? :) I would argue the best start for Saberhagen is Empire of the East, a brilliant story that sets the stage for the Swords novels. My favorite Spinrad is The Solarians which is one of those timeless classics of old SF where the idea made the story and the twist in the climax is unforgettable, even 35 years later.
Kate Shaw
29. KateShaw
One of my current favorite series is by Lisa Shearin. Start with Magic Lost, Trouble Found, a rollicking, fun fantasy.

I love Kidnapped by RL Stevenson, but I first read Treasure Island as a kid and really enjoyed it.

William Steig has a number of excellent books available for young people. My favorite when I was a kid, and one that I've read aloud successfully to classrooms of squirmy third graders, is Dominic, a whimsical story about a dog who plays the piccolo.

Caroline Stevermer has a pretty wide range. Her post-apocalyptic YA River Rats would be a good place to start for readers who are more into SF than fantasy. It's also a fantastic book.

For sort-of-related nonfiction, I've recently discovered Karl P.N. Shuker, a zoologist who's written several books about cryptozoology and similar topics. I recommend The Search for the Last Undiscovered Animals, which was the first of his books I picked up. It's well-researched and fascinating.
Steve Oerkfitz
30. Steve Oerkfitz
Sean Stewart-I would start with Galveston

Cordwainer Smith-Get the NESFA Collection-well worth the price. The Baen collection is cheaper but suffers from the atrocious cover art which Baen specializes in.

Lucius Shepard-His first 2 story collection The Jaguar Hunter and Ends of the Earth.

Peter Straub-Koko or Ghost Story

Dan Simmons-I love everything he does but his Hyperion Quartet is a good starting place

Robert Silverberg-Dying Inside, A Time of Changes and Up the Line are among my favorites.

E.E. Smith-Couldn't read him when I was a teenager and can't imagine I could now. Not only dated but just very poorly written even by pulp standards.
Simon Southey-Davis
31. Glyph
The Concrete Jungle, in the Laundry series, was the story that got me reading Charles Stross. It's helpfully available to read online here at Golden Gryphon. If that runs a little slow, The Jennifer Morgue is a rollicking love-letter to the James Bond franchise, Laundry-style.

The remainder of Halting State, after the first few pages, has been hanging around on my To-Read List for a while now...
(still) Steve Morrison
32. joelfinkle
With Dan Simmons, the Hyperion books may not be to your taste -- ramblic wild epics that they are. If you would like something, say, like what happens if Stephen King wrote Dandelion Wine, read Summer of Night and you'll find the children from that book show up in a number of his other books.

Lessee, what else?
Louis Sachar: Holes. Whimsical fantasy for YA. The movie did it justice, but the book is almost poetically beautiful in its prose.

Robert Shea and Robert Anson Wilson: The Eye in the Pyramid -- start of their Illuminatus Trilogy, some of the weirdest fiction ever written (or is it fiction?)

For Bruce Sterling, I'm more fond of his earlier works such as Heavy Weather. If you can read about the goats there and not roll on the floor, you don't understand extrapolation of technology or humor.

Please remember that S.P. Somtow also wrote under his full name, Somtow Sucharitkul. If you like lightweight stuff, hit The Aquiliad, if you prefer heavy, go with The Light on the Sound, the start of his Inquestors series.

Looking forward to Tiptree, Tolkien and Twain.
(still) Steve Morrison
33. Kvon
Delia Sherman has written some beautiful feminist fantasy. I'd start with The Porcelain Dove. A fairy tale told from the point of view of a servant/observer.

Stephanie Smith wrote a couple lovely fantasy stories about grieving several years ago, start with Snow Eyes.

I enjoy Wen Spencer's Ukiah Trail series about a not-werewolf fighting invading aliens, start with Alien Taste, but I don't think she's closed off teh series.

For Pamela Sargent I would start with her short stories too, such as The Best of Pamela Sargent.
Lenny Bailes
34. lennyb
The thing about Bruce Sterling is that a lot of his novels are pioneering attempts to tackle very real social/scientific issues that aren't going to be going away any time soon. Generally, they're also readable stories as far as having characters you won't completely forget about five years later (although maybe the characters and plots aren't so good that you'll be able to recapitulate word for word). Anyway, I think he's someone worth flagging for newbies because *his work has substance.*

SCHISMATRIX, early in his career, tackles bio-engineering issues in a projected intellectual battle between mechanists (believers in human augmentation through mechanical prosthetics) and shapers (who favor biogenetic mutation).

ISLANDS IN THE NET, written pre-Bush & Cheney, was an attempt to create a vision of a sensible, progressive future where leading edge corporations are managed by employees. Child care, humane ethics, and education are recognized as essential givens for a liveable and productive American future.

HOLY FIRE (1996) is a serious look at the social problems that life extension technology is going to bring into the 22nd Century. Who will get the treatments and what will their impact be on society. I think it's his best book, with a kind of Herman Hesse/Siddhartha sensibility about the Wanderjehr concept (post-college journeys of self-discovery). It also has some thoughtful geek toss-ins for librarians about preserving electronic information/dealing with the evolution of file formats in computer technology.

DISTRACTION (1998) is a near-future political/social romp.


About Robert Sheckley: I loved his work, he was a core shaper of 20th Century science fiction, but I'm not sure how much most of you will enjoy his stuff today. Us old fogeys will never forget him. When we remember his science fiction short stories, we think about O'Henry. Don't know whether any of you ever think about O'Henry, now. A couple of years ago I led a lengthy discussion of his novels and short stories for Potlatch, a west-coast literary s-f convention. Notes here.

Next year's Potlatch Book of Honor will be EARTH ABIDES by George Stewart. Another oldie but goodie. Way back around 1950, Stewart created the archtypical post-disaster s-f chronicle of the fate of human civilization. If any of you were intrigued by the last episode of BABYLON 5 (recognizing in it, Joe Straczynski's homage to A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, or if you liked/know about Kim Stanley Robinson's THE WILD SHORE or Pat Murphy's THE CITY NOT LONG AFTER, you may want to check out the Stewart novel.

OK, back to grading papers now, and thank you Jo, for continuing to keep the gateway open.
Phoenix Falls
35. PhoenixFalls
Let's see. . . one that I don't think has been mentioned yet is:

R.A. Salvatore -- not as bad as I expected when someone gave me one of his omnibuses for Christmas, so if you want some generic sword-and-sorcery read his Dark Elf Trilogy; if you like that, then pretty much all of his other stuff is also for you. :)

And ones that have been mentioned but which I would start elsewhere with are:

Sharon Shinn -- while I agree that The Safe-keeper's Secret (and the other two books in that world) is a bit more serious than her other works, I don't think Shinn does serious well, and if I had started with it I don't think I would have read on. I usually recommend people start with her first novel, The Shape-Changer's Wife, or the romantic science fantasy Archangel. Every series she's ever written, though, has palled for me at some point, and my favorite is actually her stand-alone sf mystery Wrapt in Crystal, which is a beguiling mix of police procedural, religious philosophy, and romance. :)

Sean Stewart -- I know it's atypical for him and marketed YA to boot, but I loved Nobody's Son more than I can say.
Joe Romano
36. Drunes
Jo: I’d disagree about starting Dan Simmons with “Hyperion.” I think “Ilium” was a much more interesting concept all around. Also, I agree with @18: bellman. I’d start Neal Stephenson with “Snow Crash,” too. I think it’s his most accessible book.

@29: KateShaw – Glad to see another William Steig fan here. I fell in love with him through the eyes and ears of my daughter many years ago. You can’t go wrong with any of his books, but I’d start with “The Amazing Bone” or “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.”

No one’s mentioned Darrell Schweitzer yet, co-editor of Weird Tales for a number of years. “The Mask of The Sorcerer” is one of my favorite fantasy books, especially in the way the power of words becomes a reluctant sorcerer’s ultimate weapon.

Another overlooked writer is Victoria Strauss. Start with “The Burning Land,” a fantasy with strong, but very interesting, religious overtones.

A few people have already mentioned Bruce Sterling. I’d start with “Schismatrix Plus” which, I think, contains all of the Shaper-Mechanist stories. Sterling also co-wrote “The Difference Engine” with William Gibson, another good starting point for either of them.
Rf P
37. readforpleasure
Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Jennifer Stevenson - I love Trash Sex Magic, so I'm delighted to learn about Sean Stewart. I've never found anything else in that style of wild magic/magical realism ready to burst in through the cracks of civilization. (Though I just read Terri Windling's The Wood Wife, based on your post here.)
(still) Steve Morrison
39. EmmaPease
The good Saki short stories should be a must read.

Besides Sredni Vashtar I would also suggest Tobermory

"The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. Mrs. de Ropp was the ground plan on which he based and detested all respectability"
(still) Steve Morrison
40. twirlip
I think there are two kinds of people: those who should start reading Neal Stephenson with Cryptonomicon, and those who should start with Snow Crash. I'm one of the former: Snow Crash was fun, but too cartoonishly over-the-top for me to really love, whereas Cryptonomicon benefits from being tethered to the real world.
Madeline Ferwerda
41. MadelineF
E. E. "Doc" Smith: I'm also of the opinion that the Lensmen stuff is the best (the plots are about the characters doing things, not just rattling around the universe). And Triplanetary doesn't show Smith to his best, so I agree, Galactic Patrol is the way to go.

As for the "oh it's so dated" line, feh! Far more excusable to see that stuff in something written 80 years ago than something written today. Plus, you get neat cultural detritus like the belief in heroes who could do practical science/engineering stuff like mining (the bit where Costigan escapes from a flooding mine is effing brilliant)... And then there's this baffling bit where the heroes work to have democracy voted out in favor of a strong kindly dictator... Bwa? Anyway, it's all very interesting.

Melissa Scott: I like Five-Twelvths of Heaven better than anything else I've read of hers, but I haven't read Point of Honor yet. Anyway, the 1st Silence Leigh book is fascinating space opera fantasy with good characters in a neat three-way marriage.

Wen Spencer: A Brother's Price is a darling book about a romance in a world where there is 1 man for every 20 women or so. The men are kept protected and traded in marriage, and our plucky hero wins Princesses to wife in a world of early 1800s technology. I think I've read one other Spencer book so far, Tinker, which had just plain creepy sex/lack of consent issues.
Justin Levitt
42. TyranAmiros
For Brandon Sanderson, I recommend one of the stand alone novels first. I personally enjoyed Elantris more than Warbreaker, but YMMV. Either give you a good feel for how he writes and major themes in his works: the connection between magic and names, between magic and religion, and the strength of human agency in affecting change.

No one else has mention my favorite YA sci-fi author William Sleator. I think Interstellar Pig is his best known work, and it's not a bad place to start. A few other really good titles: Into the Dream, the Boy Who Reversed Himself, House of Stairs.
(still) Steve Morrison
43. Nicholas Waller
re Spufford - I read and enjoyed his Backroom Boys, and there've been some good reviews for his just-about-out Red Plenty: a "strange, risky and compelling book, effectively a collection of short stories with the Soviet economy of the 1950s and 60s as its theme" - which on the face of it sounds rather unpromising... It's a kind of half-fiction, half-fact work. Another review here.
(still) Steve Morrison
44. firstgentrekkie
I liked Fred Saberhagen's "Old Friend of the Family" series, and I can't imagine mentioning Nevil Shute without recommending "On the Beach," one of the most chilling post-WWIII stories I've ever read,and "A Town Like Alice," because it's completely different from "On the Beach" and has terrific female characters.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
@24 - very strong second for Shiras' In Hiding, which might be my favorite SFF short story/novella ever. I read it in a collection of the best shorter works of science fiction as of the mid-70s (along with Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll, Sturgeon's Macrocosmic God, etc.) Tremendous story of a psychiatrist asked to evaluate and seemingly normal elementary school age orphan and heads off into interesting directions. Bonus that Shiras is a woman and one of the pioneers for her gender.
Her novel Children of the Atom won awards as well but is not as good as the In Hiding.

@various - re Sanderson, I'm a WoT guy so I've read all of his work. I'm surprised no one (I think) has mentioned the Mistborn trilogy, which is his best work. The first book in particular is wonderful. Note that his short story Firstborn is entertaining and is available for free on Tor.com. It marks one of his few forays into SF. Also note that the first book in his new series, The Way of Kings, is out soon and there are lots of free chapters available on Tor.com as well.

Rob
Peter Stone
46. Peter1742
William Browning Spencer writes books on the horror/fantasy border. His books, and many of his short stories, contain a lot of humor. You should start with one of his two best books:

Resume with Monsters, in which the hero (an office worker) discovers that our large corporations are really controlled by creatures from the Cthulhu mythos, or

Zod Wallop, in which the author of a popular children's book finds that the creatures from his book are coming to life.

Lewis Shiner, Glimpses, is the best rock music fantasy ever written.
Pasi Kallinen
47. paxed
I don't think the following authors have been mentioned, but I can't say if the books are a good starting point, as I only have one book of each of these authors:

Martin Scott - Thraxas and the Sorcerers

Nancy Springer - Chains of Gold

Shanna Swendson - Enchanted, Inc.
(still) Steve Morrison
48. nviper
I found a little known gem. "Exodus of the Phoenix" by Robert Stadnick.
(still) Steve Morrison
49. David DeLaney
First let me note that, as intimated at the end of my R comment, there are FAR TOO MANY authors of SF and fantasy who start with S. We'll see if this comment needs to be split in two to post...

Fred Saberhagen has written a good many books and series. The Berserker series, about future space-operatic defense against giant life-hunting-and-destroying machines from a long-past war, can be started almost anywhere, but _Berserker_ was the first, a collection of stories. The Ardneh/Swords series seems to be set in a fairly standard fantasy setting, with tweaks, but the backstory gets complicated; the Empire of the East portion starts with _The Broken Lands_ but has also had its first three books collected in _Empire of the East_, while the Swords series starts with _The First Book of Swords_ (conveniently). He also wrote a series of Dracula books that starts with _The Dracula Tape_. Or one could try the standalone _The Veils of Azlaroc_.

Michelle Sagara started writing under that name, switched to Michelle West for a while, and is now back as Sagara ... and, okay, I uncompromisingly recommend everything she's ever written that I know of. (All of which is fantasy.) Her The Sundered series, about the Servants of the Bright and Dark Hearts, and the human Lines that serve their war, starts with _Into the Dark Lands_, under Sagara; her Sun Sword series is under West and starts with _The Broken Crown_, while the Hunter duology in the same world (which includes mages, the godborn, demons and their city, and is ... not as complex as Erikson's Malazan setting but it's NOT simple) starts with _Hunter's Oath_. Finally, her Elantra series, centered around one particular human recruit in the police-department analogue of a multiracial city (the Hawks), starts with _Cast in Shadow_.

Jessica Amanda Salmonson - start with _Tomoe Gozen_, agreed. Starts a trilogy about a female samurai / ronin (based on a real warrior-woman) in a Japanese-myth-filled setting. Much darker than Hughart's Master Li novels, but still well worth reading.

Brandon Sanderson ... well, you can't START him with the third-last Wheel of Time book, really. But you can try his _Elantris_, a standalone novel, or _Mistborn_, which starts a trilogy; he tends to write fantasies with fairly original magic systems.

John Scalzi - You could also start with his fairly stand-alone _Agent to the Stars_.

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough has written various 2-4-book fantasy series, short fiction, and edited some anthologies. Try her series that starts with _Song of Sorcery_, or _The Godmother_.

Dennis Schmidt (not Shmidt) was the _Wayfarer_ author; Zen / martial arts space opera.

James H. Schmitz - Start with _The Witches of Karres_ or _Agent of Vega and other stories_. Another 'everything he wrote was good' writer.

Franz Joseph Schnaubelt I'm mentioning just because he wrote _The Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual_.

Martin Scott has written a series of books about a private investigator in a generic-ish fantasy setting that starts with _Thraxas_.

George Selden wrote children's books; _The Cricket in Times Square_ actually starts a series (which, like Oz, many people seem not to know about). You can also try his stand-alone _The Genie of Sutton Place_.

Dr. Seuss, Theodor S. Geisel. One Seuss, two Seuss; read Seuss, true Seuss! Children's fantasy in a fairly pure (and wackily illustrated) form; start almost anywhere, but _The Cat in the Hat_ is canonical, as are _Horton Hears a Who_, _How the Grinch Stole Christmas_, and _The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins_...

Jack Sharkey and Todd Strasser each wrote an Addams Family book. Sharkey's is _The Addams Family_, from 1965, long before any of the movies; Strasser's is _Addams Family Values_, the novelization of the second movie.

Bob Shaw - Agreed on _Other Days, Other Eyes_, which is a fixup novel containing several shorter stories about "slow glass". One can also try _A Wreath of Stars_, a standalone about a different type of lens that turns out to be able to detect neutrinos... and what happens when odd things start being visible through it.

Michael Shea writes fantasy with a particular flavor of demonic influences, Underworld levels, and sorcery that's _somewhat_ like Jack Vance's Cugel series (he actually wrote one authorized novel in it, _A Quest for Simbilis_) but has its differences. I like it a good bit. Start with _Nifft the Lean_.

Charles Sheffield. Yet another read-them-all-they're-great author, SF this time. _The McAndrew Chronicles_ or _The Compleat McAndrew_ collect stories about McAndrew, a genius whose inventions tend to lead straight into space opera. _Sight of Proteus_ starts a series about biofeedback-enabled human shapechangers, while _Between the Strokes of Night_ is space opera about a very DIFFERENT form of FTL (?) travel and its galactic-societal consequences. He also wrote a series involving mysterious alien space artifacts which starts with _Summertide_.

Will Shetterly wrote a couple of books in the fantasy setting of _Cats Have No Lord_, and with Emma Bull also edited the Liavek shared-world series, starting with _Liavek_.

Susan Shwartz has written several fantasy novels and edited some anthologies. I'll recommend starting with her _Silk Roads and Shadows_, a novel about a journey over the Silk Road in a mythological setting.

Robert Silverberg's possibly most-known series at present is Majipoor, about a giant planet with several races including humans on it, ruled by a political/dreamcasting system including the Coronal, the Pontifex, and the Lady of Dreams; it starts with _Lord Valentine's Castle_.

Clifford Simak - Oh dear. I think everyone should start Simak with _City_. I really do. (A collection of stories about the future of mankind, the Dogs, the immortal robot Jenkins who serves the Webster family, and the gradual abandonment of cities and, later, the Earth.) Get a version that has the final story, -Epilog-, in it.

Barbara Sleigh (co)authored a series of books about two British children and their adventures with Carbonel, which starts with _Carbonel, King of the Cats_ - which contains one of the best concise-and-mysterious children's-book-magic invocations I've ever run across: "Prism, Schism, Solecism. Spectrum, Plectrum, Bright electrum. Knelling, Belling, Wishing spelling!"

Louis Slobodkin wrote a variety of children's books, but one series in particular was about a visitor from the planet Martinea, dubbed "Marty" by the boy who encounters him on Earth and helps him search for the missing power source (Secret Power Z) for his flying saucer in the first book, _The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree_.

Clark Ashton Smith wrote fantasy/horror/SF, some of it directly in the Cthulhu mythos and some in other pulp-type settings. I have _Zothique_, collecting a set of fantasy stories about the far future of Earth when Zothique is the last inhabited continent, but you could probably start pretty much anywhere.

Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) - You can also start with either of the collections _Best Of Cordwainer Smith_ or _The Instrumentality of Mankind_. He didn't actually write all that much: the novel Norstrilia (originally in 2 pieces) and 32 short stories, says Wikipedia. Which is an EXTREMELY great pity, because once you've read all there is you'll want to know MORE about that timeline, and there isn't any more. I _highly_ recommend his works, even if you're not that much into science fiction.

Dodie Smith - I'd say to start with _101 Dalmatians_; as Jo noted, its sequel _The Starlight Barking_ is SF ... but it's not very good SF, and not that good a story either. I was rather disappointed after I finally found it again and reread it.

E.E. "Doc" Smith - It is quite correct to note that when reading the Lensman series, one should not read _Triplanetary_ first, as it contains MASSIVE spoilers for the entire rest of the series. Save it for last, actually; start with either _First Lensman_ (which is itself something of a prequel) or _Galactic Patrol_. His _The Skylark of Space_ series starts with that book, and is also unabashed quickly-growing-in-scope space opera; his other long series was actually due to Stephen Goldin after the first novel, the Family d'Alembert series, about a Space Circus that's a cover for interstellar espionage for the Empire, and starts with _Imperial Stars_.

George O. Smith - Either find _The Complete Venus Equilateral_, which collects a series of stories about a manned communications-relay satellite and its engineers, or _The Fourth 'R'_, about a machine that can provide instantaneous memorization and the boy who inherits it.

Julie Dean Smith wrote a series about what happens when the King's daughter gets saddled with magic she's not supposed to have, starting with _Call of Madness_.

Raymond Smullyan writes books on mathematical logic, logical puzzles, and retrograde chess analysis, among other things. Try his _What Is the Name of This Book?_ for an example of the second, and _The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes_ / _The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Nights_ are not to be missed, even if you don't like chess much; the methods of figuring out what has to _have happened_ previously in various positions are fascinating.

Thomas E. Sniegoski has recently started a fantasy/detective series about Remy Chandler, an ex-Heaven-ated angel, in a setting somewhat like that of the In Nomine roleplaying game (but not really too near it). It begins with _A Kiss Before the Apocalypse_.

Maria V. Snyder's series starting with _Poison Study_ is only a few years old at this time, and continuing, about Yelena's adventures with her burgeoning magical powers and the accumulating plots and acquaintances that swirl around her.

Midori Snyder has written several fantasy novels; try starting her with _New Moon_, first in a trilogy.

Another vote for S.P. Somtow / Somtow Sucharitkul, and the Inquestor tetralogy (starts with _Light on the Sound_) and the standalone _Mallworld_.

Ryk E. Spoor (Sea Wasp) has been writing space-operatic-type books for several years now; start with either _Digital Knight_ or _Grand Central Arena_. (He's also working on a novel about Polychrome, the Rainbow's Daughter, because it won't leave him alone to let him write other things; he's not sure where it might possibly be publishable, though. Points for you if you know who she is without checking.)

Nancy Springer ... start her with _The White Hart_, I believe.

Olaf Stapledon - _Last and First Men_ and _Star Maker_ are both far future space-opera tours de force. The former traces the human races through their various evolutions and in-system movements, till it ends up with the Eighteenth Men (I think) on Neptune; the latter explores the universe through telepathy and a form of astral projection, culminating in a mass mind networked across the entire universe _including_ the minds of the stars and nebluae. And then it peeks at the universes before and after this one... Luckily I own a volume that contains both. Some of the earlier examples of Future Histories, though each contained in one novel rather than spread over many stories.

Christopher Stasheff wrote a plethora of novels about the planet of Gramarye, its psionic-powered witch and warlock inhabitants, and the family of Rod Gallowglass, the Warlock of the title. They start with _The Warlock in Spite of Himself_ and go on for almost thirty books. He also had a much shorter (and unfinished) series about a touring-space company of actors, which begins with _A Company of Stars_.

You can also start reading Neal Stephenson with _The Diamond Age_, a nanotech / cybertutoring / growing-up novel.

Another recommendation for Rex Stout - his works are mysteries, not SF or fantasy ... but Nero Wolfe is an archetypal detective character, who, like Mycroft Holmes, tends to solve the case without ever leaving his brownstone. Archie Goodwin is his assistant, runner-about, and gatherer of clues and suspects. The novels do loosely follow a timeline, but you can start nearly anywhere; as jmeltzer@8 notes, starting with any of the several three-cases-in-one collections is probably best. (_Three at Wolfe's Door_, _Homicide Trinity_, _Trio for Blunt Instruments_, etc.)

Charles Stross has an EXCELLENT series about The Laundry, the British secret department that keeps other-dimensional horrors from invading and keeps local mathematicians from publishing the particular details of math that can summon them, which starts with _The Atrocity Archive_, and a series about a not-young-anymore lady who gets transported to a parallel world and gets involved in its rather-more-feudal politics and the network of other worldwalkers between there and here, that starts with _The Family Trade_.

Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeus trilogy, mentioned above, starts with _The Amulet of Samarkand_.

Anton Strout has recently begun writing about psychometrist Simon Canderous and the Department he works for to help contain supernatural incidents; start with _Dead To Me_.

Theodore Sturgeon... here's another Disagree; just about everything he ever wrote is good, but you HAVE to start, I think, with _More Than Human_, a fixup/collection novel whose middle part is _Baby is Three_, about a gestalt organism made up of people with various metapowers. It's ... it's ... just read it.

S. Andrew Swann (Steven Swiniarski) finishes out my list ("FINALLY!!" - hush, you), and writes SF. You could start his various series at any of _The Dragons of the Cuyahoga_, _Forests of the Night_, or the recent _Prophets_.

--Dave
jon meltzer
50. jmeltzer
There are a few Nero Wolfes that the first-time reader needs to avoid. Personally, I think the first book "Fer-de-Lance" is one of the weaker ones, and I wouldn't start with it. More importantly, one needs to get the basic formula down before reading about the exceptions: Wolfe doesn't leave the house on business, Archie does the legwork, all is revealed at a meeting of suspects in Wolfe's office, and never, never interfere with Wolfe in the orchid rooms. Though Wolfe does go out occasionally and sometimes runs into a crime then (such as when he's at a dinner of orchid fanciers), ones like the Zeck books and "Black Mountain", where Wolfe gets pissed off enough to get out of his chair, are, while some of the best, not the places to start.
rick gregory
51. rickg
Stross: Start with Accelerando if you're an SF fan, if you're a horror fan start with Concrete Jungle. Halting State was a good read, but won't expose you to the Charlie's imagination in the same was as these will. That opinion might be because I don't particularly like near-future 'SF'. And yes, Accelerando starts off in 2010 but trust me, it gets out there pretty fast.

Sanderson: Mistborn is a good starting place too. Although it's a first book in a series it stands on its own.

Neal S: Snow Crash. Cryptonomicon is Neal indulging his own interest in the subject of cryptography and, unless you share that interest, is tough sledding. To an earlier commenter who liked that Cryptonomicon was rooted in the real world... yes, and that's why I disliked it. AS that person said, this will almost certainly depend on the reader.

Outside of the SFF realm, if you want good mental floss spy thriller stuff, Daniel Silva. Almost any of the Gabriel Allon books (there are 9) work, though I'd start earlier in the series so you have some context.
(still) Steve Morrison
52. a-j
Ah, my beloved R L Stevenson - 'Kidnapped' and 'Treasure Island' are both good starting points. 'The Master of Ballantrae' is weird and very satisfying and if you're trying 'Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde' remember that the first readers did not know that they are the same person, it's an almost twist ending. You can score pedant points for pronouncing it Dr Gee-kull, not Jeck-ull as the former is the standard Scottish pronunciation, the latter American.
'Dr Suess's ABC' and the sublime 'Green Eggs And Ham'.
Robert Silverberg - 'Across a Billion Years' or 'The Alien Years', the latter takes the 'Childhood's End/V/Independence Day' cliche and works it brilliantly. The former is a fun quest novel featuring a group of far future archeologists.
Saki - 'Tobermory' is a great jumping off point, or 'The Lumber Room'.
Allen Steele - 'Orbital Decay' is from his left of centre days, not so fond of the 'Cayote' books. Too Randian for my taste.
Dorothy L Sayers - 'The Nine Tailors' is a great start point, so too is 'Murder Must Advertise'.
Rosemary Sutcliff - with all respect, I would actually warn people off 'Eagle of the Ninth', it's one of her weaker books. 'Frontier Wolf', 'Warrior Scarlet', 'Song for a Dark Queen' or 'The Lantern Bearers' are all great. My personal favourite is 'The High Deeds of Finn MacCool'.
(still) Steve Morrison
53. a-j
Ah, my beloved R L Stevenson - 'Kidnapped' and 'Treasure Island' are both good starting points. 'The Master of Ballantrae' is weird and very satisfying and if you're trying 'Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde' remember that the first readers did not know that they are the same person, it's an almost twist ending. You can score pedant points for pronouncing it Dr Gee-kull, not Jeck-ull as the former is the standard Scottish pronunciation, the latter American.
'Dr Suess's ABC' and the sublime 'Green Eggs And Ham'.
Robert Silverberg - 'Across a Billion Years' or 'The Alien Years', the latter takes the 'Childhood's End/V/Independence Day' cliche and works it brilliantly. The former is a fun quest novel featuring a group of far future archeologists.
Saki - 'Tobermory' is a great jumping off point, or 'The Lumber Room'.
Allen Steele - 'Orbital Decay' is from his left of centre days, not so fond of the 'Cayote' books. Too Randian for my taste.
Dorothy L Sayers - 'The Nine Tailors' is a great start point, so too is 'Murder Must Advertise'.
Rosemary Sutcliff - with all respect, I would actually warn people off 'Eagle of the Ninth', it's one of her weaker books. 'Frontier Wolf', 'Warrior Scarlet', 'Song for a Dark Queen' or 'The Lantern Bearers' are all great. My personal favourite is 'The High Deeds of Finn MacCool'.
Alison Sinclair
54. alixsin
Well, that does it. I am so changing my name to something beginning with Q.
(still) Steve Morrison
55. David DeLaney
And it turns out if you type "space opera" enough in a single post, it temporarily becomes a meaningless genre.



--Dave
(still) Steve Morrison
56. David DeLaney
DANG IT, Tor. I give up. Using the less-than sign does not cause one to appear in the posted material; neither does l t ampersand, or l t ampersand semicolon, despite bbCode saying it DOESN'T use them. The middle one of those produces perfectly good less-than signs in the PREVIEW but not in the actual POST. Ditto for greater-than signs and g t . So I give up; it's curly-brackets for you, though they are not at ALL the typography I wanted to use.

{ inserts mental picture of Hobbes saying "Space opera. Space opera space opera space opera, space opera!" and Cookie Monster replying "and what ELSE starts with the letter S? Space Opera! Nom nom nom nom!" }

--Dave, frustratedly
Estara Swanberg
57. Estara
I have no idea where you would have shelved her but there's Rosemary Edghill's older pen name eluki bes shahar and her excellent Hellflower space opera trilogy starting with the book of the same name

The author's first SF novel and the first part of a proposed trilogy, this involves Butterfly St. Cyr, an interplanetary smuggler (her contraband ranges from philosophy texts to an undefined item called "never-you-mind"p . 15 ). Butterfly's life goes askew when she finds herself entangled with Valijon Starbringer (or, as Butterfly calls him, "Tiggy Stardust"), a young member of the alMayne (colloquially called "hellflowers") royalty. Butterfly is in possession of a sentient and illegal computer called a Library, named Paladin, whose existence she must go to great lengths to keep secret. Further, she has been coerced into doing a job involving a second Library, one not nearly so genteel as Paladin.


And a grand fantasy world which most readers won't have heard about, with epic fantasy in the best sense and questions of coming-of-age, war, society, prejudice, love, hate, forgiveness, guilt and taking responsibility for errors are Ann Somerville's Darshian Tales, starting with Kei's Gift.

Darshian is a vast land, inhabited by a peaceful, rational society where people with extraordinary Gifts are common, and life is lived according to strong ethical principles.

Kuprij is made up of a thousand crowded islands – thrusting, ambitious, war-like, driven by a booming population and a desire to bring its religion and its laws to the whole world. Twenty years ago, it conquered south Darshian, now it has greedy eyes on the north.

The war brings Kei, a gentle, fun-loving healer from an isolated village, into collision with Arman, an embittered, honourable general, a man trapped in a loveless marriage and joylessly wedded to duty. The fate of two nations will rest on these two men–and somehow they must not only learn to overcome their own personal difficulties, but bring peace with honour to their countries. If they fail...many innocents will die.
(still) Steve Morrison
58. ofostlic
Melissa Scott: 'The Kindly Ones' is an excellent start for her SF, but in my experience it's relatively hard to find in secondhand stores (I should perhaps just upgrade to this internet thingy and not rely on physical shops). A good alternative is 'Burning Bright'. I didn't think the Silence Leigh books were as good. Agreed on 'Point of Hopes' as a starting point for her fantasy.


Joel Shepherd. An Australian writer, but his books are starting to be available in the US. Start with 'Crossover', which is hard SF and has two sequels.


Sean Stewart. Yes, 'Mockingbird'. And leave 'Galveston' to last. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and it's the only one I haven't reread. I must try 'Trash Sex Magic' if it is similar to Stewart.
Arthur D. Hlavaty
59. supergee
Robert Shea: nifty historical novels. Start with his first, Shike
(still) Steve Morrison
60. a-j
For George Bernard Shaw, I would say that either 'Arms & The Man' or 'Pygmalion' are possibly easier starting points before moving onto 'Saint Joan' and 'Caesar & Cleopatra'.
Oh and apologies for posting twice above. My computer went weird on me.
(still) Steve Morrison
61. OtterB
Lots of good stuff here. I've gone off to order a copy of The Kindly Ones; I loved Point of Dreams and Point of Hopes but have never read any of Scott's other works.

I also loved Zilpha Keatly Snyder's Black and Blue Magic as a kid, but when I tried rereading it, it didn't age well for me. But The Egypt Game and several of her others are still fun.

Doc Smith. I enjoyed the Lensman series and still do, even if Kinnison is a bit uptight. And I liked Skylark, and I liked the Family D'Alembert although they got weaker as they went on. But I don't think anybody's mentioned my personal favorite, Spacehounds of IPC. Probably fits the "planetary romance" category. Includes man and woman stranded on an uninhabited-by-humans planet while the man recreates the technology to allow them radio contact with the outside ... good aliens and bad aliens ... I find it fun.

I second the suggestion of Lisa Shearin's series that begins with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. Kick-ass but not obnoxious heroine who's attached to her (pirate, excuse me, seafaring businessman) family, in an intriguing magical mess without having been stupid about getting there, and sharing the stage with an interesting set of secondary characters.

Wen Spencer, I thought Tinker was fun (somebody else mentioned consent issues in the romance ... I can see it but I didn't interpret it that way as I read it). Really like the Ukiah Oregon series beginning with Alien Taste. Ukiah himself makes that series for me, in his his relationships and struggles with what it means to be human. He's got to be the most likeable hero ever raised by wolves and adopted by lesbians. But I also recommend her space opera Endless Blue. I found it slow starting but worth sticking with; I loved it from the moment the heroine appeared, and was hoping there would be sequels.

And I guess Michelle Sagara will be included in the W's as Michelle Sagara West. But the newest Chronicles of Elantra is just out, the best yet IMO.

Oh, and Dorothy Sayers. I know Nine Tailors is supposed to be one of her best, but I really never liked it very much. I'd recommend starting with either the short story collection Lord Peter, or perhaps with Murder Must Advertise, which is my favorite outside of the core Peter-Harriet books.
Paul Andinach
62. anobium
James H. Schmitz:

If you are at all spoiler-sensitive, do not begin with T.N.T: Telzey and Trigger -- it comes chronologically after both Telzey Amberdon and Trigger and Friends, and openly mentions various things it assumes you know already, including the big plot twist from the latter. It's worth reading, just -- after the other two, okay?

I'd advise against starting with The Witches of Karres, too: I know there are people who started with it and loved it, but if I'd started with it I might never have continued. You might be more like me than like them.

The one I did start with was Telzey Amberdon, which seems to have worked; though I think the one I liked most was The Hub: Dangerous Territory.
Rich Horton
63. ecbatan
My pet mainstream writer whose name starts with "S" is W. M. Spackman. Start with An Armful of Warm Girl, but actually the easiest way to get his stuff is in The Dalkey Archive Press edition of The Collected Fiction of W. M. Spackman. The novels are all quite short, and the later novels, from Armful on, are generally of a piece -- the plots feature lighthearted adultery, usually between a man in his 50s or older and a somewhat younger woman (the ages range from the late teens to the 40s through the various books). The primary delight of the novels is the prose -- as somebody wrote, "confectionary" -- a breathless, elegant, supple, sheerly gorgeous stream of words -- wry and purposely affected dialogue, ardent descriptions (usually of the inexhaustible charms of beautiful women) -- and constant movement. For some tastes the prose might be too affected, too arch -- though not for me. For many tastes, including mine, if I let it bother me, the plots and situations and characterizations are very classist, arguably sexist, and full of wish-fulfillment. The general mood is comic, though the novels can turn meditative and somewhat melancholy at times. Most of his books date from the '70s and '80s (late in his life), but his first novel, rather different, is Heyday, from the '50s.
Chris Tierney
64. chris.tierney
Neal Stephenson:
Most people here have suggested Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon (except David @49). Personally, my favorite of his is Diamond Age and that's always what I recommend.

Snow Crash was the first thing I read by him and I still like it, but when I reread it now the first few chapters always sound obnoxious to me. And the whole effort overall feels uneven.

Cryptonomicon is great, but the length might be off-putting, particularly if one is not sure about his style yet.

Diamond Age is a more approachable length, and I think it has a lot of the strengths of Snow Crash with a more enjoyable voice and characters.

It worked for my wife and dad (who both have gone on to read everything but Anathem so far), and I just passed it on to my sister-in-law to try.
(still) Steve Morrison
65. reddwarf
I second Darrell Schweitzer for Mask of the Sorceror which is brilliant, and Joel Shepherd's Crossover trilogy is pretty impressive too.

I can't believe that no-one has mentioned Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children fantasy trilogy - did it not make it over to the US?

I would also recommend Kristine Smith's Code of Conduct SF books about a gentically changed woman and her efforts to keep the peace between humans and aliens.

Sherwood Smith's & Dave Trowbridge's Exordium SF books are out of print but well worth looking for - start with Phoenix in Flight.
(still) Steve Morrison
66. Elaine Thom
I can't believe that no-one has mentioned Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children fantasy trilogy - did it not make it over to the US?

It did. I remember reading the first one. I remember nothing about it. (checks web for summaries) oh, it was that one. It felt shopworn and unconvincing when I read it.
I remember really not swallowing what was going on with the girl.

FWIW.
John Adams
67. JohnArkansawyer
Hilbert Schenck wrote three perfectly brilliant stories for F&SF in the late seventies: "Three Days at the End of the World", "The Morphology of the Kirkham Wreck", and "The Battle of the Abaco Reefs". I especially recommend the last to all military SF fans for a little roughage in their diet. All three stories are in Wave Rider. Bringing them back into my memory puts tears into my eyes.

I'm going to second Lucius Shepard's Life During Wartime and suggest Deserted Cities of the Heart for Lewis Shiner. Read them together, in fact.
Liza .
68. aedifica
The only thing of Thomas Scortia's I've read was a collection of short stories, Caution! Inflammable!; I can't say whether it's a better place to start than anything else he's written, but it's a very good one.

Steven Saylor writes mysteries set in ancient Rome. I haven't read them all, but I'd say you could either do chronological order and start with Roman Blood (which I can't remember reading, so I don't know whether to recommend it), or start with one of my two favorites, The Venus Throw or Arms of Nemesis. There are some interesting threads about slavery and freedom in ancient Rome running through the books. (And I see he's got another one coming out at the end of this month.)
Michael Ikeda
69. mikeda
Thought I'd mention Sonia Singh's Goddess for Hire about 30-year-old Maya Mehra who learns she's the latest incarnation of the Goddess Kali.
David Dyer-Bennet
70. dd-b
Sorry I'm late :-). But I can't resist a Doc Smith discussion.

odaiwai@20: Kinnison does actually invent some of the tech. He comes up with the idea for the antimatter weapons himself, and he (and Worsel) guide the conference of the very top minds in civilization that bring them to reality. That's not being "just a user".

For that matter, he has the idea of using the lens for more than previous lensman have, and goes back to Arisia for more training (knowing that no lensman has ever before gone back; that's a fairly brave move!).

AND he is deeply involved in making the Z9M9Z a working command center instead of a disaster area.

While I love the series, I do see most of the same problems you do -- the moral absolutism, the anti-drug message which doesn't apply to smoking, the unchangeability of the basic personality of, apparently, everybody.

The Arisian breeding program could be viewed as creepy, but hey, the Arisians are as gods to us. At least it operates on a proper evolutionary timescale! And Kinnison doesn't know about it, remember, which means much of the damage it might do him (feeling superior) isn't happening.

Now, what's creepy is thinking about Worsel, Nadrek, and Tegonsee's perfect soul-mates that they're carefully being kept from ever meeting. I don't see why, either; wouldn't high-level races from those other stocks also be good for the universe? They'd be so smart they wouldn't have conflicts with the Children of the Lens, would they?

Now back to everybody, and the question of reading order.

The problem is, the book texts we have today derive from the Fantasy Press hardcovers. Those were published in the order Triplanetery, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, etc., with footnotes and introductions and things that give away lots of things. The magazine versions didn't have that apparatus, but the books do. So neither reading them in book publication order or in magazine publication order gives you anything much like the experience of reading the original magazine stories in publication order.

Furthermore, Triplanetary has some very weak stories, and the strongest stories have essentially nothing to do with the Lensman universe. That makes it a VERY bad place for people to start if they're at all uncertain. (I find the Atlantis story light but amusing, the Roman story surprisingly good for its view of what being a gladiator really entailed, the WWI story slight, the WWII story first-rate, the WWIII story slight, and the actual novelette "Triplanetary" also rather slight.)

When all is said and done I have to come down in favor of reading Galactic Patrol first, from there through to the end, and then First Lensman. FL was loads of fun seeing him set the basis for lots of things I'd been seeing in the earlier-written books, getting shown the back-story. And you don't get that fun if you haven't already seen "zwilnick" in common use as an unexplained term, or heard about Zabriskan Fonetmas, or seen Kinnison visit the planet Trenco. And then read Triplanetary if you feel like it.

I first read them starting with GP (a long LONG time ago; more than 40 years). I think I read Triplanetary before First Lensman, but I was solidly hooked and that was fine.
(still) Steve Morrison
71. ULTRAGOTHA
I don't think I'd suggest Nine Tailors as a place to start with Sayers. Even after re-reading it several times I have to nail the dang plot down each time to remember who did what when.

Though I agree that if one starts with Whose Body one has to remember this is her first book and she gets much better, so keep reading.

The cricket in Murder Must Advertise didn't confuse me. I think she explained it well. Though I am a bit of an Anglophile and wasn't reading it cold. This is my favorite of her Wimsey books.

Don't forget the short story collection Lord Peter. Lots more stories about LPW than the novels.

I found it interesting to read the script for he play Busman's Honeymoon (that Sayers also wrote) and compare it to the book.

Keep reading beyond Busman's Honeymoon at one's peril. I don't really have a problem with the difference in writing styles of Walsh and Sayers. I do have a problem with Walsh introducing elements that Sayers never even contemplated.
(still) Steve Morrison
72. filkferengi
William Sambrot--If you can find it, _Island Of Fear And Other Science Fiction Stories_ is excellent.

Mary Saums has a couple of fun mysteries out, starting with _Thistle And Twigg_.

Then there's Blake Savage's unforgettable _Assignment In Space With Rip Foster_ .

_The Harem Of Aman Akbar_ is a fun standalone by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.

Roger Schlobin & the inimitable Irene Harrison wrote _Andre Norton: A Primary & Secondary Bibliography_, still available from Nesfa Press.

Maggie Sefton's knitting mysteries are fun. Start with _Knit One, Kill Two_.

Adam Selzer has written some fun, snarky ya, starting with _How To Get Suspended And Influence People_. _Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps: True Tales of an Accidental Ghost Hunter_ is also fun.

Mike Shepherd's Kris Longknife books are excellent. The first is _Kris Longknife: Mutineer_.

My favorite of Josepha Sherman's excellent fantasies is _King's Son, Magic's Son_.

Linnea Sinclair writes good sf with romance elements. _The Down Home Zombie Blues_ is a standalone that gives a good feel for her style.

Caroline Dale Snedeker wrote excellent historical middle grade ya. If you like ancient Romans, _The Forgotten Daughter_ is excellent; for whaling-era New England, _Downright Dencey_.

Elizabeth George Speare won the Newbery for _Witch Of Blackbird Pond_, but her other books are excellent, too.

Julia Spencer-Fleming's excellent mystery series starts with _In The Bleak Midwinter_.

Although most famous for _Heidi_, Johanna Sypri wrote many other books, some of which are up at Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/s#a2491 .
Maria Lopez
73. Gagner
Interesting, but dude... make the posts shorter
Clark Myers
74. ClarkEMyers
Then there's Blake Savage's unforgettable _Assignment In Space With Rip Foster_ .


Oddly I remembered it as the gray and no more a planet than Pluto.
Estara Swanberg
75. Estara
Some clarification on Sherwood Smith - the current edition of Crown Duel - whether in print or in ebook format- includes Court Duel (- as it should).

Only the revised ebook edition of Crown Duel also includes some additonal viewpoint scenes from the point of Shevraeth after the story itself.

Not only that, the book now has a legitimate prequel that ties in the story with the larger world saga of Sartorias-deles (and Inda - 800 years in the past of that timeline - and Senrid - published by Norilana books): A Stranger to Command tells the story of how Vidanric became the Shevraeth that Meliara knows in Crown Duel and where he got his military skills in particular (from the country that Inda's actions helped keep alive those 800 years till Vidanric's time).

Norilana has published A Stranger to Command in print, as well.
Soon Lee
76. SoonLee
Re: Neal Stephenson

"Snow Crash": specifically the first chapter which I first encountered in a gaming magazine which made really want to read the rest.

Charles Sheffield: "Georgia on my mind" is one of my favourite novelettes. Sheffield was fairly prolific at novel length & most of the books are well worth searching out. I would start with "Between the strokes of night", though you'd not go wrong with any of David DeLaney's suggestions @49.
Greig Christie
77. treefell
I haven't noticed it mentioned above, but "Only Forward" by Michael Marshall Smith is one of my favourite books. His other science fiction under that name is of a pretty decent standard. He wrote a series of increasingly barrel scraping thrillers under the name Michael Marshall too.
Joe Romano
78. Drunes
One more -- Frances Sherwood, a writer of historic fiction. Her third novel, "The Book of Splendor," is a beautifully written fantasy about Emperor Rudolf II, a young Jewish woman, and the Golem of Prague.
(still) Steve Morrison
79. ka243
I don't understand why Brandon Sanderson isn't in the main part of this article as he is one of Tor's NYT bestselling authors.

Going to agree that Mistborn is the best place to start brandon sanderson (unless you've read the wheel of time up to the gathering storm in which case you need to read the gathering storm).

I really like everything brandon has written in the fantasy genre but mistborn: the final empire (book 1) and the gathering storm are my favorite books by him so far. Mistborn is a stand-alone novel as well as the beginning of a finished 3-book series.

Of course, if you want to check out his writing without paying anything, then you can download warbreaker for free on the site. Personally, I bought the book because I find reading ebooks on screens to be less comfortable than reading real paper books.

By the way, the podcast he does about writing is also fun to listen to: www.writingexcuses.com.
Jo Walton
80. bluejo
KA243: He's not in the main part of this because I have never read his books. That kind of fantasy is not one of my favourite things, and I haven't picked up anything of his. And while this site is Tor.com it is not "All singing all dancing Tor promotion all day" it's much more "People talking about stuff they actually like". So, outsourcing here -- you like Sanderson, you're talking about him, that's much better than me pretending to like his books!

(I stress "his books", because from what I have heard about him as a person he sounds lovely. I'm not just saying this. I happend to hear something excellent about him as a person yesterday from a mutual friend.)
(still) Steve Morrison
81. ka243
Sorry, I hadn't understood that this was only a list of books that you, the author, had actually read so far. Got it now.
As tor.com is a Sci-Fi and Fantasy focused site (mainly) and this list was on that site, I imagined most of the prominent Scifi and Fantasy authors writing today would be on the list.

I recommend you try one of Brandon's books because I think he's a good enough writer to interest readers even who don't usually read the fantasy genre. I saw you enjoyed Patrick Rothfuss's work even though it is fantasy.

By the way, Have you ever listened to the writing excuses podcast before? It won a parsec award last year as best writing-related podcast.
Brandon runs it with 2 other authors: Dan Wells (Horror) and Howard Tayler (Sci-fi cartoonist). Since each episode is only 15 minutes long, you can easily listen to it on the way to or from work. All of them are very good writers-I read Dan's stuff even though I don't generally like the horror genre and quite enjoyed it.
As a reader, I enjoy the podcast for the literary commentary, the humor (these guys are very funny) and the look I get into the way they write.
It seems like a very rich resource for writers as well.

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