This week our alphabetical look along my bookshelves deciding where to start reading different authors reaches U... and V, because U isn’t very long.
These are my personal recommendations. I don’t read everything, so there are going to be some things missing. Indeed, a friend was teasing me that these posts should be called “What major writer has Jo forgotten this week?” Please add writers you read that I don’t, with good starting places. Feel free to disagree with me or with each other.
U begins with Leon Uris. I hear that Exodus isn’t very historically accurate, but it’s where to start anyway.
Alison Uttley wrote the Little Grey Rabbit books, and I find myself with very strong opinions as to where you should start them, which is Tales of Little Grey Rabbit. These are very old children’s books (though not as old as a lot of what I read as a child—one volume is Hare Joins the Home Guard which makes it solidly WWII) about a rabbit, a hare and a squirrel living in peaceful polyamory among their friends the hedgehog, the mole, the owl and so on. They have lovely illustrations. She also wrote some books for older children, of which the best is A Traveller in Time.
V is a rather better populated letter. A.E. Van Vogt was a Canadian writer of pulp SF noted for its huge ideas and backgrounds. You should start with Voyage of the Space Beagle.
Next comes John Varley, brilliant writer, who you should start with the collected Eight Worlds stories (post).
Gore Vidal wrote a lot of historical novels, and you should start with Julian, which is about Julian the Apostate and is terrific.
Barbara Vine is a pen name of Ruth Rendell, separated for marketing reasons I don’t entirely understand, as it’s never been a secret. They’re crime novels in a different mode. My favourite Vine is Grasshopper.
Joan D. Vinge—start with Psion.
Vernor Vinge is one of the best science fiction writers of all time, and you should definitely start with A Fire Upon the Deep (post).
And lastly Kurt Vonnegut, who you should start with Cat’s Cradle, one of the few funny books about the end of the world that isn’t silly.
Next week, W, and the ethical dilemma of whether I should include myself.
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.