This week our series of where to start reading different authors gets to T.
This is a list of my personal recommendations for where to start reading writers I read, it’s not comprehensive and it doesn’t attempt to cover writers I don’t read, have read from the library and forgotten about, have lent to my friends and family so they’re not on the shelf, or otherwise neglected. Please add these authors yourselves, along with sensible suggestions for where to start reading them. Also, don’t hesitate to argue with me, or with each other, if you think there’s a better place to start.
With Tacitus, you definitely want to start in internal chronological order with The Annals of Imperial Rome, and work forward, even though he wrote the other way around, constantly going back into history to find the causes of what he’d already written.
For William Tenn, I’d suggest starting with the NESFA volume Here Comes Civilization, a collection including Of Men and Monsters (post). Or you could start with the other NESFA volume, Immodest Proposals. Tenn wrote wryly funny clever SF short stories. I started with “The Liberation of Earth” in the Best Penguin SF collection when I was about six, and I’ve been collecting his collections ever since.
Sherri Tepper has written a lot of very good SF. I suppose the best place to start is The Gate to Women’s Country, which is an example of the “civilized women in city, rough men in wilderness” genre, but very cleverly done. Or you could start with Grass which starts a loose series. Tepper’s an excellent writer who really draws you into her worlds, but she doesn’t seem to like people very much, which I find offputting.
Lisa St Aubin de Teran writes memoirs, and memoirs thinly disguised as novels. I find her quite addictive. The best place to start is definitely Slow Train to Milan, which is nominally a novel. If you like that, you will like the others.
Josephine Tey wrote very English cosy mysteries. You should start with The Daughter of Time, which is about a Scotland Yard detective in hospital trying to solve the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. If you already like cosy mysteries and you haven’t read any Tey, try Brat Farrar which I think is her best book. (Incidentally, if you like my Small Change books, it is possible to read all of Tey as occurring in that universe.)
D.M. Thomas is a British literary writer, start with The White Hotel, which is a weird but brilliant book about the Holocaust.
Amy Thomson is a terrific SF writer, start with her first novel Virtual Girl (post) or whatever you can find, it’s all great.
Thucydides’s The Peloponessian War is a classic in all senses of the word.
James Thurber—start with The Thirteen Clocks, which is weird satiric fantasy.
James Tiptree Jr. is another writer who should be started with her short fiction, not her novels. Try the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, which is in print, or any other one you happen to find.
If you haven’t read J.R.R. Tolkien, go as fast as you can and buy The Lord of the Rings and read it now, quickly, this afternoon, before somebody spoils it for you. With most of these books it doesn’t matter whether you ever get around to reading them, but this is the best book in the world, and you can only read it once for the first time. Make it today, you’ll be glad you did. You can read The Hobbit first, but you don’t have to. (Incidentally, if you have kids, do not deny yourselves or them the pleasure of reading them LOTR aloud when they are six or seven.)
Sue Townsend is an English writer who has been writing the diaries of Adrian Mole since he was thirteen and three quarters in the early eighties, on to the present where he is in his forties and having prostate problems. I can’t offhand think of any other books that do this—she can’t have planned it in advance, because they cover events that hadn’t happened yet when she started writing. They have covered life as a loser in England over the last thirty years and aren’t finished yet. They’re funny and sad and clever and I have read all of them. Start with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, and go on from there.
Anthony Trollope takes up the next three physical shelves, and single-handedly accounts for me thinking T was going to be another long letter. Many people start Trollope with The Warden, which is the first of the Barchester series, but I suggest starting with a good standalone novel rather than committing yourself to six books. The one I’d suggest as characteristic and standalone is Is He Popenjoy? But Trollope’s very best book is Phineas Finn, and though it’s part of the Palliser series it can be read alone.
Harry Turtledove writes alternate history. His short stories are wonderful, or for a novel I’d suggest starting with The Guns of the South (post) or the fast moving Crosstime books, starting with Gunpowder Empire.
Lisa Tuttle writes brilliant creepy fantasy—start with The Mysteries (post).
Next week we’ll be doing U and V together.
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.