The Miriam Black books are known in part for their titles, which always contain birds—because, of course, Miriam develops the ability over the course of the books to inhabit the minds of birds. (That, in addition to her normal psychic powers, which are to see how people are going to die and how to mystically figure out the meanest and most profane thing to say at any given time.) Usually I joke that if I write enough of these books, I’ll end up with Book 17: Booby Nuthatch or Book 23: Rough-Faced Shag. (Actually, wait, that last one is a pretty good title. I call dibs. Dibs!)
So, it seemed appropriate to recommend a list of books whose titles contain some manner of birdliness. (Which I know is not a word, shut up.) Initially, I wasn’t certain I’d be able to pull enough of these out of my hat, but about three minutes into it I had a list that was over ten books long, so I’m going to cheat here and add a handful of unofficial entries to the list: Leigh Bargudo’s Six of Crows, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle books, Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road, Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, plus some classics: Still Life With Woodpecker, A Feast for Crows, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harry Potter and the Goslings of Revenge. Pretty sure that last one is the best in the Harry Potter series, if we’re being honest with each other.
Anyway! Onto the list.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
This is an astonishing fantasy debut by Dickinson, and turns the phrase revenge is a dish best served cold into a profound understatement. It’s wrath-writ-large as Baru Cormorant seeks to undermine the Empire that subjugated her home. It’s just the start of something, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next. Bonus points: a mention of Cormorant, and the third Miriam Black book is called The Cormorant, so it’s like we’re book cousins, or something.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Everybody loves Stephen King’s The Stand, and they damn well should. But for me, the magic of epic horror was first revealed in the form of McCammon’s Swan Song, which plays not off the fear of a world-ending disease, but rather off the fear of nuclear holocaust, with the natural and supernatural horrors that emerge from a ruined America. Bonus points: it’s suddenly all the more relevant, isn’t it? Ha ha ha oh no what have we done. Double bonus points: McCammon also wrote the pre-Revolutionary War mystery novel, Speaks the Nightbird, which is a very good novel that also contains a bird in the title.
Raven by Charles Grant
This is a lean, mean little book about a handful of people trapped in a dinner in a winter storm, pinned there by a gunman who may be something more than—or less than—human. Grant’s prose is sharp and beautiful, a dance floor littered with thumbtacks. This book is also way the hell out-of-print, but you can sometimes find copies at used bookstores. Bonus: readers have sometimes noted that the prose in Blackbirds is spare, but if you really want spare, read Grant, where some of his chapters are literally two words long. (And one of the interludes in Blackbirds is very much an homage to this.)
All The Birds In the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This is a funny, sweet, and occasionally fucked-up book (in the best way possible), and there’s so much to love here—it is in some ways like a much kinder, quirkier cousin to Blackbirds, what with characters who can talk to birds and characters who help people when fate somewhat decrees that they shouldn’t. It’s fantasy! And it’s sci-fi! And it’s humor! And it’s so damn good. Bonus: you can read the first four chapters here at Tor-dot-com.
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
In this Weird West tale, Nettie Lonesome (that name!) kills a dude who turns to dust, and that sets her off on an adventure of freedom and self-discovery that also includes a menagerie of bizarrely bad-ass supernatural monsters—shapeshifters and vampires and oh, a bonus: a snake-man named Chuck, who we’ll safely assume is me, because I am a snake-man whose blood is poison and who will definitely bitecha. Double bonus: Lila Bowen is also Delilah S. Dawson, so when you’re done reading Bowen’s two books in the series so far (the next being A Conspiracy of Ravens), you’ve got more reading to do, hoss.
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to the New York Times bestselling series Star Wars: Aftermath; and the Miriam Black books, the latest of which, Thunderbird, is out now from Saga Press. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy Award–nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. His collaborative comic book project, The Sovereigns, will be released from Dynamite in April. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, TerribleMinds.com, and through several popular ebooks, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and dog.