May 30 2013 9:00am

Announcing Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great

What Makes This Book So Great by Jo WaltonBack in 2008, when we were first preparing to launch, I knew I wanted Jo Walton to be a regular writer for the site. And I knew that Jo, unusually among working writers, is not only a prolific reader of science fiction and fantasy but also an avid re-reader as well. So I suggested she write us a regular series of posts about, not newly-published fantasy and SF, but rather what she’s been re-reading lately.

As you’ll have observed if you’ve been reading, this worked out very well. Jo is a voluble, insightful, and engaging chronicler of her own re-reading, and her posts have provoked some of the most interesting comment discussions this site has been privileged to host. (Thank you, brilliant commenters!) So gradually we began to think about assembling a collection of some of the best of Jo’s posts on Selected from the first three years, What Makes This Book So Great, forthcoming in January 2014, is the result.

Included are discussions of books by authors ranging from Vernor Vinge, Robert A. Heinlein, and Jerry Pournelle, to Ursula K. Le Guin, Connie Willis, and Susanna Clarke. Several long series get examined in strings of essays; in particular, Jo re-reads and discusses all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Miles Vorkosigan” novels, and all of Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” books, in long multi-part considerations. There are examinations of books you’ve never heard of; there’s at least one essay about a book I’d never heard of. There are insightful and (sometimes) irreverent looks at established classics...and several sharp looks at why and how certain works of the sort that George Orwell called “first-rate second-rate books”...are sometimes exactly what we want to re-read. Taken together, the 130 essays in What Makes This Book So Great are a wonderful immersion in the mind of Jo Walton and a fantastic set of insights into what makes SF and fantasy tick.

And Jamie Stafford-Hill’s cover is perfect.

Jo Walton What Makes This Book So Great

Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a senior editor at Tor Books. Read more about him on the About Us page.

Mike G.
1. Mike G.
Very cool news, except January??? So far away...

I'm not a big fan of "repackaged blog material books", usually, but the rereads are so entertaining that I think this book will be well worth it.

Assuming McMillan lets you price the ebook somewhere sane, of course (and release it on time...) :)
James Nicoll
3. JamesDavisNicoll
The ensuing discussions here were often great but I would imagine rights issues would make including those impossible....
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
Well that is (and has been) all sorts of good.
Fade Manley
5. fadeaccompli
That is one amazing cover. And while I tend to buy ebooks these days, I think this is one where I'll want a physical copy for all sorts of reasons, some of them admittedly meta.
S Cooper
7. SPC
I agree, the cover is wonderful, and given the number of times I've gone back and reread Jo's posts and the number of great books I've read because of her recommendations, I suspect I'll be buying this book.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
Will be very interested in seeing what will be included and included from Jo's prodigious volume of posts. I suspect that far less than half will make it into the book. (Indeed - didn't Jo do a celebration of her 500? blog post sometime back? )

I love her comprehensive treatment of certain authors/series - Bujold, Brust/Taltos and Cherryh/Foreigner in particular. I read Cherryh largely because of Jo's recommendation.
Robert H. Bedford
9. RobB
This is terrific, a book full of book recommendations, just what this biblioholic needs.
thistle pong
10. thistlepong
Three cheers to Jo. And I think 130 books is still fewer than Among Others recommended.
Mike G.
11. BrettD
LOVE that COVER! I've only been an occasional reader online, so I'll be sure to pick up a copy.
David Goldfarb
12. David_Goldfarb
I find myself regretting that publication in January 2014 means it won't be eligible for Best Related Work until 2015.
Pamela Adams
13. PamAdams
Congratulations, Jo!!! And yes, love that cover!!!

(and out of curiousity, Patrick,- what hadn't you heard of?)
Mike G.
14. dwndrgn
Jo has led me to quite a few good books to discover and reminisced over books I have read and loved. I think I've read most of those posts now, as they have been posted (and a couple more than once) so I don't think I'd be purchasing the book for myself. However, this would be an excellent gift book - perhaps to someone who is always looking for something new to read or maybe someone new to genre books or just someone who doesn't do a lot of online reading. I will keep the idea of it as a gift for future use!
Mike G.
15. We're all fans of Jo
Yay Tor & Yay Jo!

They really are lovely blog posts --- I've lost many hours to them.

We're all fans of Jo's insights... and her writing aint shabby either!

A related request. Would someone mind answering this comment question:

I posted it in 2011, long after the thread had ended, but I'm still very curious as to the explanation.
Robert Killheffer
18. robkill
Great! Walton's pieces here have been excellent -- will be wonderful to have a nice hardcopy version of a bunch of them. And that cover -- awesome!
Steve Taylor
19. teapot7
Ha! I just noticed this post, a couple of months late, while I was searching the site to find a list of Jo's book reviews!

I'll definitely be buying at least two copies. And the cover *is* excellent.
Mike G.
20. ahsimlibrarian
I got an advance copy and am halfway through. Since I only stumbled on Jo's posts in the last couple of years, I missed many of the early ones.

Reading one after another is a treat. It makes me feel as though I am talking about books with a much more well-read friend! I just finished the Bujold section which is perfect as my book group is discussin "The Warrior's Apprentice" so I was needing to reread myself. I wish one of Jo's recent posts about the Vorkosigan series was in the book, though--the one about which other series and books you might enjoy based on the books/elements you enjoyed--mainly because I want to have that handy in a book rather than in a print-out.

Overall, thrilled with the book and will have to buy it when it comes out for the cover alone! Thanks, TOR and Jo Walton!

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