Necessary Whimsy: Stop and Smell the Flowers with Pouty Wizards and Centaur Baristas

Ah, spring. Our Oppressive Snow Lords have melted, leaving us with an unfettered optimism and enthusiasm for the great Day Star that will last until it gets “too hot” and we all start complaining about sunscreen getting in our eyes and sitting in our stuffy offices. Then we’ll start to get nostalgic about hot chocolate and sitting by the roaring fire with a book. It’s the human condition, I think, to never be completely happy with what you have. I’m a little jealous of the mighty lizard people—all they need is a hot rock and a couple of bugs and they’re good to go.

What was I saying? Oh, yes, spring! The flowers are blooming, I’m taking two different kinds of allergy medicine, and I’m ready for some whimsy! Spring is a great time for some Necessary Whimsy, because it’s a time of renewal and possibility. It’s hard to not feel a little joy while listening to the birds’ tweet and watching the flowers bloom, right?

For those new to Necessary Whimsy, this is a list of a handful of funny, whimsical, or fun sci-fi and fantasy reads. Feel free to go back and read the old posts if you need more reading recommendations or check out the comments for reader suggestions!


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

So let’s be honest—you can really pick any of Diana Wynne Jones’s books and hit on some immediate whimsy. It’s one of her many strengths. So why pick Howl’s Moving Castle? Because I consider it to be the gateway drug of her books. Howl’s is how many readers discover Diana Wynne Jones, myself included. I’d heard her name bandied about over the years, but hadn’t managed to read any of her titles. I finally jumped in and read Howl’s and of course loved it. To be fair, I have a soft spot for stubborn, nosy, heroines (in this case, Sophie Hatter) who clean when they’re angry and hide their soft underbellies with irritation. (SHE IS ME.) The book is very playful and has a lot of fun with fairytale tropes and curses, which happens to be another thing that I love. Basically, when you start putting your summer reading list together, just write “Diana Wynne Jones” and be done with it.


Moonstruck, written by Grace Ellis and illustrated by Shae Beagle

Many of you may know Grace Ellis’s work already from the comic Lumberjanes (which is also full of fun and whimsy and you should totally read it). In this new project, Grace teams up with newcomer Shae Beagle, whose adorable bubbly art plus Grace’s story telling equals pure whimsy in its natural state. The comic is about young love and wanting to be normal…but also about werewolf and centaur baristas Julie and Chet and their friendships in the creature community. It’s full of magic and adorableness and YOU HAD ME AT “CENTAUR BARISTA.” Also, Janus jokes and angry, punk rock gorgons? It’s like someone made a comic just for me.


Hounded (Book One of the Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne

This one falls more into the “funny” category than the actual whimsy one. When I first picked up a copy of Hounded, the front cover said, “For fans of Jim Butcher,” and usually I don’t agree with those things, but in this case, yes. If you liked Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you’ll likely enjoy Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. There’s a lot of action and cool mythology going on, and Atticus’s dog Oberon is a stitch. The series follows an ancient druid living in modern times getting into shenanigans with various gods, goddesses, vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, and so forth. All this, and Hounded is set in Tempe, Arizona, which is kind of a nice change up, setting-wise.


Atrocity Archive (Book One in the Laundry Files series) by Charles Stross

The Laundry Files is sort of like if you took the original Get Smart and put it in a blender, added Lovecraftian horrors, threw in a bit of The Office and hit frappe. I mean that all as a compliment. The series follows onetime IT consultant-turned-field agent Bob Howard as he investigates occult threats for the Laundry, a British government agency. This series is very witty and funny and certainly weird. Again, I mean that as a compliment. The plot whips from elder gods to parallel universes to bad guys who skip through dimensions, but is balanced nicely by Bob’s cynical deadpan humor. This series has earned a couple of Hugo Awards and been nominated for at least one more to date, and is basically a lot of fun.


And how about we end with a little Necessary Whimsy redux? I mentioned the novella River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey in an earlier post. Well, American Hippo just hit the shelves and includes the novellas River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow and some new stories. I’ve also talked about the graphic novel Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, and in case you missed it, Volume Two is on the shelves. I haven’t read it yet because I’m still working my way through the entire Vorkosigan saga (which I also can’t recommend enough).

What great funny or whimsical sci-fi and fantasy have you read lately? Sound off in the comments so we can all add to our freakishly overwhelming TBR piles!

Pyromantic Lish McBrideLish McBride currently resides in Seattle, spending most of her time at her day job at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. The rest of her time is divided between writing, reading, and Twitter, where she either discusses her desire for a nap or her love for kittens. (Occasionally ponies.) Her debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and was a finalist for the YALSA William C. Morris Award. Her other works include Necromancing the Stone, Firebug, and Pyromantic.


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