So this week’s installment of our consideration of where to start reading a new author reaches the prolific and diverse letter R. These are my personal recommendations, based on what’s on my bookshelves, and not intended to be comprehensive or unbiased. Please add other authors and other opinions in comments to help make this better — but don’t just list names, give reasons.
My R shelves begin with the historian and travel writer Jonathan Raban. The best one to start with is Bad Land, about the settlements of the badlands of Montana and the Dakotas.
Arthur Ransome wrote a series of children’s books in the thirties about British children messing around in boats in the Lake District, on the Norfolk Broads, and elsewhere. They’re very well written, wholesome, endearing, and not at all fantastical. I remain remarkably fond of them. Start with Swallows and Amazons, there’s no reason to read them out of order and anyway it contains one of the best telegrams ever.
Mary Renault wrote a handful of contemporary (1930s) novels, and historical fiction set in ancient Greece. Anything of hers is worth seeking out. I suggest starting with The King Must Die, the story of Theseus, which is the most like fantasy.
Ruth Rendell is a British crime novelist. I think I have read everything she has written, under her own name or as Barbara Vine. You can start anywhere really—she has a series of books about Inspector Wexford which are kind of becoming SF in the way he doesn’t age as the world advances, but you don’t really need to read them in order. Most of her books stand alone. If I have to suggest a starting place, try Some Lie and Some Die. But really, just get whatever’s on the shelf next time you’re in the library.
Mike Resnick—start with The Dark Lady: A romance of the far future.
Jean Rhys wrote an interesting fanfic of Jane Eyre called Wide Sargasso Sea, about the early life of the first Mrs. Rochester. It’s very depressing, and so are her original stories.
Keith Roberts—I suppose you really ought to start with Pavane, but I am very fond of Molly Zero (post).
Madeleine Robins—start with Point of Honor (post).
Joan G. Robinson wrote When Marnie Was There, which was one of my favourite books when I was six.
I wonder why Robinson is such a popular name for writers? There’s also Spider & Jeanne Robinson, who you should start with Stardance.
Michael Scott Rohan, British fantasy writer, very good, not much published in the US—start with The Anvil of Ice.
Phyllis Rose writes nonfiction—her Parallel Lives, examining Victorian marriages, is brilliant.
Kate Ross wrote four Regency mysteries they get better as they go on, but they ought to be read in order, so start with Cut to the Quick.
Patrick Rothfuss only has one book out, though I hear he’s working hard on the sequel, so start with The Name of the Wind (post).
Bernice Rubens is a Welsh Jewish author who is remarkably weird. I started with A Five Year Sentence, which is about somebody who has done what she’s told all her life and is prepared to kill herself upon retirement, but then is given a five year diary, which she sees as an instruction to live five years. Then she starts writing things down in it, things she hasn’t done and which she must do. It is much weirder than it sounds from this, and it’s also un-put-downable—which is also the case for most of her books. If you like oddness and don’t require the fantastical, try her.
Kristine Katherine Rusch may be best known as an editor, but she’s also a terrific writer. Start with Alien Influences.
Salman Rushdie—definitely start with Midnight’s Children (post).
Eric Frank Russell—start with Next of Kin (post).
Geoff Ryman—I think there are lots of potential starting points depending what you like, but the Tiptree winner Air (post) is very good and very accessible.
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.