The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal 

This book follows a collection of netsuke – tiny miniature sculptures from Japan – from their creation through their various resting places in the display cases of their owners in Europe of the nineteenth century and then modern Japan. What is amazing about this book is how one family – the Ephrussi family – a Jewish family originating from Odessa – came to be so intimately involved with all the famous names and events of 100 years of European history: from Proust through to the Holocaust of Nazi Germany. It is a beautifully written account however it does lack the coherence you would expect from a novel (which it isn’t) or even a biography (which it kind of is) – which would tend to find some clear thread or idea uniting the life it describes. This is just the passage of beautiful things through time: random, at certain junctures glaring with amazing circumstances, and at others hidden away in obscurity.


Mr A

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric

 The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric

“A vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I” this is a fascinating read as well as a beautifully written novel. Utterly different to most novels in that it doesn’t have a protagonist or series of protagonists running through the narrative, unless you consider the bridge itself to be one. However, it is populated with a huge cast of colourful characters whose fears and dreams haunt the bridge for four hundred years. Andric was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. The novel gives the reader a keen insight into the apparent progress inherent in human history: how have things changed for the people of this town since the building of the bridge in 1566? Worth reading if only to appreciate the huge range of possibilities the novel, as a form, has.

Mr A

25 Authors Who Wrote Great Books Before They Turned 25




Picture it: teenage Mary Shelley was on a vacation getaway, with her husband Percy and some of his rambunctious poet friends, like that rogue Lord Byron… and out of the group of legends, it’s Shelley herself who arguably published the greatest work of all at the ridiculous age of 20: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a book that has penetrated our human consciousness. In honor of Shelley’s birthday this month, here’s a list of 25 other writers who created heartbreakingly beautiful work before they could get a discount on a rental car or have their publishers demand an active Twitter account. If you’re 26, get on out of here. (However, interestingly enough, 26 seems to be a magic age for a lot of writers, starting with Thomas Pynchon, which is a whole other list.) Enjoy the depressingly youthful visages and luminous skin below.


Norman Mailer — The Naked and the Dead

Mailer became a star when this book was published. A fictional account of being a solider during WWII, it immediately established the writer’s themes: manliness, misogyny, and war.


Michael Chabon — The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Obviously Chabon was (is), annoyingly enough, the best in class from your MFA class, the one that gets that book deal soon after for his coming-of-age novel. Worst of all? The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is idiosyncratic, dreamy, and great.


Brett Easton Ellis — Less Than Zero

A bright young literary man who was the voice of a nihilistic ’80s generation that just loved drugs, BEE came strong right out of the gate as a 21-year-old college student who knew all about alienation.


Truman Capote — Other Voices, Other Rooms

What a beautiful boy! What an angel on a couch! What a psychopath! But Other Voices, Other Rooms, introduced us to quite the writer, in this story about a young southern boy who is searching, beautifully, for a father.


Zadie Smith — White Teeth

Smith feels like a part of the firmament now, but don’t forget that White Teeth was written when she was a senior at Cambridge, and it handles, nimbly, so many different characters, themes, and experiences in this comic story of immigration and assimilation that it’s surprising to realize she’s not a very old man.


Carson McCullers — The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

This stupid genius was 23 years old when The Heart Is a Lonely Hunterwas published. A story about a deaf-mute in a small town who serves as the fulcrum for everybody’s secrets, it was a wild bestseller as soon as it was released.


Jane Austen — Sense and Sensibility

While Austen’s books were not published until 1811, when she was in her mid-thirties (and, well, blame the era for that one), she wrote the stuff that we’re still reading today and constantly referencing forever, when she was in her early twenties and looked like a dewy young Anne Hathaway. What a jerk! (Sounds like I may have some pride andprejudice, if you know what I mean.)

Midnight in Paris

F. Scott Fitzgerald — This Side Of Paradise

Just an early twenties whippersnapper when this roman a clef came out, FSF was writing about familiar experiences (Princeton, drinking, class, ennui… America) with the urge to impress Zelda. The F may stand for Francis but let’s be honest, it’s probably more like Fantastic.


Percy Bysshe Shelley — Queen Mab

Shelley only lived thirty years, but he left the world gifts of great poetry. “Queen Mab,” his first substantial work, an epic riff on the Queen, the quality of dreams, and philosophical ideas on death and life. Plus he was played by young, gorgeous Julian Sands in a spooky ’80s film calledGothic. (That’s the late Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley above, too.)


S.E. Hinton — The Outsiders

It takes a teenage girl to write a classic novel about teenage boys, and S.E. Hinton was in high school and just an 18-year-old baby when the book actually came out. Stay gold, ponyboy.


Helen Oyeyemi — The Icarus Girl

Oyeyemi wrote The Icarus Girl in high school instead of studying for her A-levels. It’s a story of a child who sees a ghost, based on Nigerian mythology, messing around with doubles and dopplegangers. In the years since, she’s written five amazing books and she’s not yet thirty. The world is hers, full of spirits and wicked fairy tales, true magic, and we are just lucky to read all about it (and we loved this year’s Boy, Snow, Bird).


Jonathan Safran Foer — Everything Is Illuminated

With 2002’s Everything Is Illuminated, Princeton graduate Jonathan Safran Foer came hard out of the gate, mentored by Joyce Carol Oates, and making it look easy with his post-modern exercise starring “Jonathan Safran Foer” as a young Jewish man searching for the truth about his family’s life during WWII. He continues to take on big topics that other writers have barely addressed (September 11th, the meat industry), get haters, and dominates, along with everyone else in his overachieving family.

emma forrest

Emma Forrest — Namedropper

You can have your Tavi Gevinsons, your Lena Dunhams: Emma Forrest was my precocious young writer who was deadly accurate about just what it’s like to be a girl in the world, and I can still quote quips and insights from her debut, Namedropper, published when she was just barely beyond being the teenage “voice of her generation” journalist in England. (The one about how movie stars used to be better, they used to have hair that was an actual color and what color is Jennifer Aniston’s hair, really? killed me.) Even though I read her first book at the exact time in my life where I could love it with that inimitable teenage ardor, it was great to see that she got better in the intervening years, as her devastating memoir Your Voice in My Head (2013) — at one point due to be a movie with Emma Watson — proved.


Karen Russell — St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

The average hacky young writer takes their stabs at magical realism, but it’s brilliant lights like Karen Russell who can take rare premises — girls literally raised by wolves, a family that fights alligators in swampy Florida — and makes them sing. Rightfully named a MacArthur genius just last year, she’s very sweet as well and she has great hair. She is theworst.


Joyce Maynard — Looking Back

So Joyce Maynard was, I guess, my mom’s Tavi Gevinson/Lena Dunham/voice of a generation? (Well, not my mom, but someone’s mom, for sure.) After her “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life,” where she claimed, in 1973, that “mine is the generation of unfulfilled expectations,” she wrote a memoir about her life until then — and let’s be honest, it could probably be a source for wherever Sally Draper’s going in the last season of Mad Men.


Franciose Sagan — Bonjour Tristesse

We all need a French teen answer to The Catcher in the Rye, and for some, Bonjour Tristesse was it. Eventually made into a film with Jean Seberg at the height of her powers, it’s a story about a seventeen-year-old girl and one summer with her handsome, ladykiller father. Ennui and sexual jealousy ensue.


John Kennedy Toole — The Neon Bible

Sometimes juvenilia comes out into the world. The late John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces was such a Pulitzer Prize-winning hit and instant classic of New Orleans that his first book, The Neon Bible, written when he was 16, got a release, too. It is, of course, about a young man’s coming-of-age in the American south. The Arcade Fire album of the same name is simply coincidental.


Arthur Rimbaud — A Season in Hell

Rimbaud was a case of a writer who only flowered in his teens, spending the rest of his short, sharp life afterwards as an adventurer. His relationship with the poet Paul Verlaine was the inspiration for this seminal work, “A Season in Hell,” a prose poem that has inspired legions of artists, including the surrealists.



W. Somerset Maugham — Liza of Lambeth

Written when Maugham was working as a doctor in, wait for it, Lambeth, it is a short novel about the short life of a teenage factory worker named Liza. It served as the kickoff to a storied 65-year writing career (and a world with one less doctor in it, as he gave it up) that yielded classics like Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge.


Gore Vidal — In a Yellow Wood

In my head Vidal is an old man, but he got his start at 19 withWilliwaw, a novel about a murder on a U.S. Army supply ship. However, try In a Yellow Wood, named after the Robert Frost poem and written at the comparatively wiser age of 22, a story of a man freshly home from war and looking to make his way in New York and Times Square.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Purple Hibiscus

Before Adichie’s TED talks were getting cited by Beyonce and released as ebook standalones (“We Should All Be Feminists,” available now), she was 25 years old and getting nominated for awards with Purple Hibiscus, a book about a fifteen-year-old girl living a difficult and complicated life with a tyrannical father in Nigeria. Adichie’s other books — Half of a Yellow SunAmericanah, among others — also rule.


Graham Greene — The Man Within

Greene may have derided his first novel as “hopelessly romantic,” but you don’t have to agree, despite its silly, Tobias Funke-esque title. A story of a young man, a smuggler, who commits an act of betrayal, it is both luminous and entertaining, a quality that feels particular to Greene’s work.


Evelyn Waugh — Decline and Fall

Waugh’s very first satire, Decline and Fall is the story of a dissolute Oxford student sentenced to dealing with the outside world as a teacher. When he finds true love, madcap adventure will ensue. Waugh, one of the best satirists ever, already had a razor eye for the absurdities of life in this debut.


Anton Chekhov — The Shooting Party

Based on the picture that we have here, his characters weren’t the only ones scrambling for Chekhov’s gun, and in The Shooting Party, it goes off with the death of a young woman and the mystery around who shot her. It was his first and only novel, written at 24, but then again, Chekhov was busy being hot, a doctor, the modern master of the short story, best dead playwright, probably, if I ever get to see a version of The Seagull live (what a jerk! leave some talent for the rest of the world), and the guy that uttered the most quotable quote about plotting of all time.

Ned Vizzini — It’s Kind of a Funny Story

As befitting a few writers on this list, Vizzini got his start as a teenage newspaper columnist (New York Press in this case), which led to his first book, Teen Angst? Naaah… Vizzini hit his stride with 2006’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, a young adult novel about an anxiety-ridden teen’s time in a mental hospital which was made into a 2010 movie with Zach Galifianakis. A young up-and-comer in both literature and as a screenwriter, Vizzini, who suffered from depression, died last year at 32 after an apparent suicide.


Langston Hughes — The Weary Blues

The Weary Blues, named after the titular poem, was the Harlem Renaissance legend’s first collection, published when he was 24 years old. It features a symphony of voices, united by Hughes’ rhythmic work, the beauty and feeling of each of his lines. Start with this one, and realize that we should always be reading the work of Hughes.


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
This is a novel designed for young teenage girls who are into reading novels based wholly on wish fulfilment. However, if you are any other type of reader then this novel isn’t for you. That said, it has received rave reviews: “This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met” – J.K. Rowling, “A delicious, compulsively readable novel about young love and its vicissitudes. What fun!” – Erica Jong, “Much more fun than the reader has any right to expect” – THE WEEKLY STANDARD, “Dreamy and funny…an odd, shimmering timelessness clings to its pages. A thousand and one cheers for its reissue. A +” – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. A more honest review might be: “A mishmash of Austen storylines told by a pretentious and precocious teen whose voice grates as it warbles through a host of clichés and drags us about her petty and childish concerns as well as her shallow and hollow feelings: facile, see-through and sloppy. D-”

Mr A

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever


21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

Speculative fiction is the literature of change and discovery. But every now and then, a book comes along that changes the rules of science fiction and fantasy for everybody. Certain great books inspire scores of authors to create something new. Here are 21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.

These are books which clearly inspired a generation of authors, and made a huge splash either in publishing success or critical acclaim. Or both. And these are in no particular order.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

1) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The first (maybe only) science-fiction-comedy-multimedia phenomenon, Hitchhiker’s was a radio drama before it was a book, and the book sold 250,000 copies in its first three months.The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

Ted Gioia comments on Adams’ hilarious book about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, the survivor of a destroyed Earth, across the universe:

No book better epitomizes the post-heroic tone of sci-fi than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As the name indicates, a certain louche bohemianism permeates its pages. This is star-hopping on the cheap, pursued by those aiming not to conquer the universe, but merely sample its richeson fewer than thirty Altairian dollars per day. You can trace the lineage of many later science fictions books, with their hip and irreverent tone, back to this influential and much beloved predecessor.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Verne’s whole career is full of works that have inspired generations of authors — but this tale ofthe underwater adventure of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus has also had a profound effect on science, and inspired real scientific advancement.

In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

Verne translator and scholar F.P. Walter added:

For many, then, this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveler Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favorite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

3) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney

Sam Anderson prefaced his interview with Samuel R. Delany with this praise for Dhalgren‘s impact:

In the 35 years since its publication, Dhalgren has been adored and reviled with roughly equal vigor. It has been cited as the downfall of science fiction (Philip K. Dick once called it “the worst trash I’ve ever read”), turned into a rock opera, dropped by its publisher, and reissued by others. These days, it seems to have settled into the groove of a cult classic. In a foreword in the current edition, William Gibson describes the book as “a literary singularity” and Delany as “the most remarkable prose stylist to have emerged from the culture of American science fiction.” Jonathan Lethem called it “the secret masterpiece, the city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive.

Dhalgren has remained popular through the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. It was also dropped by Bantam, the original publisher, because of its willingness to tackle LGBT themes despite the fact that the Bantam version sold over a million copies and went through 19 printings.

And most of all, this is one of the books most often mentioned when authors mention works that spurred them to invention and boldness of experimentation with form.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

4) Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Author Terry Brooks explains why this book made a whole genre possible:

I think I can safely assert that virtually every writer of fantasy working in the field today who began writing after the publication of the RINGS trilogy owes a debt to Tolkien. He may not have invented the form, but he provided it with its most important model in modern times and every writer is aware of its various components. Ask them. Few will dispute me. Moreover, the material has impacted writers working in other categories of fiction as well, not so much by its content as by its form and style. Not a month goes by that I don’t read at least one interview or review that credits J.R.R. Tolkien with contributing to a writer’s current work.

Cover art by Barbara Remington.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

5) War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

In his book about The War of the Worlds, a seminal look at an invasion of Earth by Martians, author Brian Holmsten states:

Since 1898 the War of the Worlds has been translated into countless languages, adapted by comic books, radio, film, stage, and even computer games, and has inspired a wide range of alien invasion tales in every medium. Few ideas have captured the imagination of so many people all over the world in the last century so well. It is a tribute to H.G. Wells that his story of alien conquest was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of the best.

The 1927 American reprint, it can be argued, was one of the touching-off points for the Golden Age of science fiction. It inspired John W. Campbell to write and commission invasion stories — which also prompted authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein andJohn Wyndham to do the same.

Image by My Reckless Creation

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

6) Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation is a sweeping tale of pyschohistory and the battle for the intellectual soul of a civilization. and According to the BBC:

The Foundation series helped to launch the careers of three notable science fiction authors of the succeeding generation. Janet Asimov sanctioned these novels, which were published in the late 1990s: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin.” And without a doubt it launched the imaginations of countless other writers.

It is also worth mentioning that the Foundation series won the 1966 Hugo for best all-time series. An award that has not been given out since.

And this book’s influence goes beyond science fiction: Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky classified Asimov “among the finest of modern philosophers,” and Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman describesFoundation as his version of Atlas Shrugged, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.”

Cover art by Don Ivan Punchatz.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

7) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The first science-fiction work to enter the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list,Stranger sold 100,000 copies in hardcover and over five million in paperback. Kurt Vonnegutgloated on Heinlein’s behalf, on the occasion of the novel’s 30th “birthday,” calling it “a wonderfully humanizing artifact for those who can enjoy thinking about the place of human beings not at a dinner table but in the universe.”

And this book’s influence (and that of Heinlein’s other books) can’t be overstated. Arthur D. Hlavaty refers to Heinlein as a prototypical science-fiction author, saying:

One of the ways human beings organize the world is by prototypes. We define a set as a typical example and a bunch of other things that are like it. For instance, when I was growing up, the prototype Writer was Shakespeare, the Artist was Rembrandt, and the Composer was Beethoven.In that way, Robert A. Heinlein has been often been taken as the prototype Science Fiction Writer, and as changes and new paradigms shake the field, he still sometimes represents the science fiction of the past.

Writer Ted Gioia looks at Stranger in a Strange Land‘s main character as a prototype for other similar characters in SF, saying: “Smith is more than a character. He is prototype of an alternative personality structure. The question of whether we can remake the human personality from the ground up.” To date, there have been 28 editions of this book.

Cover art by James Warhola.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

8) Dangerous Visions, Edited by Harlan Ellison

This series helped launch the careers of almost every major author of the New Wave. The first volume included Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard. In his introduction to the 2002 reissue of Ellison’s anthology, contributor Michael Moorcock wrote of Ellison’s collections:

He changed our world forever. And ironically, it is usually the mark of a world so fundamentally altered—be it by Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson, or Kate Millet—that nobody remembers what it was like before things got better. That’s the real measure of Ellison’s success.

“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best novelette. Philip K. Dick’s “Faith of Our Fathers” was also nominated for best novelette. “Riders of the Purple Wage” a novella by Philip José Farmer tied for the Hugo Award. Samuel R. Delany got the Nebula for Best Short Story for “Aye, and Gomorrah…” Harlan Ellison was given a commendation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing “the most significant and controversial SF book” published in 1967.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

8) Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke himself had reservations about this novel, yet it sold out its first printing, 200,000 copies, in just two months after publication. Author Jo Walton writes about the first book to feature benevolent aliens who try to help the human race evolve:

Science fiction is a very broad genre, with lots of room for lots of kinds of stories, stories that go all over the place and do all kinds of things. One of the reasons for that is that early on there got to be a lot of wiggle room. Childhood’s End was one of those things that expanded the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to possibility. Clarke was an engineer and he was a solidly scientific writer, but he wasn’t a Campbellian writer. He brought his different experiences to his work, and the field is better for it.

Childhood’s End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

Artwork by Neal Adams.

9) Ringworld by Larry Niven

Sam Jordison of the Guardian had this to say about Ringworld, the masterpiece that is centered around around a theoretical ring-shaped space-habitat:

Larry Niven’s 1970 Hugo award winner, Ringworld, is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels of the past 50 years. As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all subsequent space operas (Iain M Banks’ Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns are just two), the book has helped generate a multi-billion-dollar industry.

To add to this Jonathan Cowie, who wrote Essetial SF: A Concise Guidecalled Ringworld “a landmark novel of planetary engineering (for want of a better term) that ranks alongside the late Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville.”

10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Jo Walton, again, comments on this novel about interstellar diplomacy and anthropology:

The Left Hand of Darkness didn’t just change science fiction—it changed feminism, and it was part of the process of change of the concept of what it was to be a man or a woman. The battle may not be over. What I mean is that thanks in part to this book we’re standing in a very different place from the combatants of 1968.

In 1994 literary critic Harold Bloom included it in his Western Canon of Literature, going as far as to say, “Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

11) Neuromancer by William Gibson

By 2007, this cyberpunk classic had sold more than 6.5 million copies. It’s been adapted into almost every genre, and it’s responsible for introducing numerous terms, and, arguably, the idea of the internet. The Encyclopedia of NewMedia calls Neuromancer more important than On the Road in its cultural influence, and credits its formative influence on subsequent media, fromWired magazine to The X-Files, to the internet itself. After the initial inventions of the ARPANET, Paul T. Riddell writes, the internet took shape due to “impressionable students reading [Gibson's] stories and novels; instead of whining and complaining after reading Robert Anton Wilson, they read Gibson and thought, ‘You know, we can do this.'”

Neuromancer was the first novel to win all three of the major science-fiction awards —- the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K. Dick Award for paperback original.

12) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

According to the New York Times, Stephenson’s look at the way humans interact with digital worlds has a well-earned reputation for prescience:

Snow Crash was published way back in ancient 1992 and laid out many of the attributes of today’s online life, including the Metaverse, a virtual place where people meet, do business and play, presenting themselves as avatars. If you’ve ever played wildly popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, or visited the virtual communities of Second Life, you can get a chill thinking about what he saw back before the popularization of the World Wide Web.”

Despite the reputation of his book, Stephenson is pretty reluctant to take on the title of “Seer” saying in the same article, “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

13) A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

From its first publication in 1996, this book and its sequels helped spur a new, darker revival of epic fantasy that turned the genre’s expectations on their heads. In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords, editor Henry Jacoby, a philosophy professor at East Carolina University, speculates about the series’ popularity:

Readers often cite the moral complexity of the novels as a key part of their enjoyment, alluding to characters painted in “shades of gray.” Previous works of epic fantasy tended to operate with a straightforward moral compass where the antagonist was some variety of evil “Dark Lord” and the protagonists were defined by their opposition to this evil character based on their obvious moral goodness. In contrast, Martin’s series has been written with no dark lord to speak of. …Martin’s choice to keep his eyes on the very human characters, with their very human flaws, was done well enough to win him legions of fans who appreciated the so-called “gritty realism” of the narrative.

Fantasy author Mark Lawrence agrees:

He showed what fantasy could be. Real people who didn’t carry a particular flaw around like an attribute rolled up in a role-playing game, but who were complex, capable of both good and evil, victims of circumstance, heroes of the moment. Heroes in gleaming mail could suffer from corns without it being a joke. That’s a big part of his secret – EVERY ONE IS HUMAN – get behind their eyes and nobody is perfect, nobody is worthless.

14) Kindred by Octavia Butler

John C. Snider, editor at scifidimensions described Octavia Butler’s celebrated novel as:

A dark fantasy novel that drills down into the prickly core of American history: slavery. This novel, in which a young middle-class black woman finds herself shuttled between 1976 California and antebellum Maryland, has become a classic of SF&F and required reading in both women’s and African-American studies. But don’t be fooled – while Butler’s fiction appeals to feminist and minority demographics, it’s not propped up by that appeal. To read Octavia Butler is to read good literature – period.

Octavia Butler was also the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship also known as the Genius Grant. And in 2012, hundreds of thousands of copies of Kindred were given away for World Book Night.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

15) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

The Spotlight Review explains the importance of this epic series of wizards and muggles, beloved by people of all ages:

They are the standard by which every child or teen-oriented book is viewed. Passed on by dozens of publishers, who all have lost billions of dollars in doing so, Harry Potter radically changed the landscape in the publishing industry. Before Harry Potter, children and teen books were considered a worthy area to publish, but it wasn’t a very lucrative one. After Harry’s rise to dominance over the entire publishing world, suddenly every firm began accepting similar book proposals in the hopes that another diamond in the rough could be found. It’s been harder than previously thought. There have been some promising books, but none that have captured the hearts and minds of millions.

Harry Potter has been translated into 57 different languages, even Latin and Ancient Greek.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a YA classic about a young woman who battles for her life and ultimately her civilization’s fuutre in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. NPR reports that, “Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time, but the success of The Hunger Games has spawned a whole new crop of books set in a grim future where an authoritarian regime is just begging to be overthrown. They are aimed straight at a teenage audience.”

Right now, more than 26 million copies are in print in the United States.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

17) Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The growing trend of climate-focused science fiction, and a greater attention to future problems in general, owes a lot to this great book about the very real problem of future food shortages. In this biopunk SF novel, Emiko is a humanoid GM organism, who is enslaved as a prostitute in Thailand. She yearns for an escape. Niall Harrison, judge of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2006 and 2007, writes:

Emiko is a stepping-stone to that future; and by the logic of The Windup Girl, so are we all. From our point of view, it’s hardly an optimistic conclusion but it is, in The Windup Girl’s terms, a very human one, and I can’t recall another novel that has articulated the same vision of what it means to be human in the present moment with the same force. It’s that vision that insists that Emiko is human, and that she remains bound at the end of the novel: because we remain bound, and she is us; because at least for now, science fiction remains bound; and because, quite probably, so does our world.

The Windup Girl tied for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel with China Miéville’s The City & the City. In the same year it also won the Nebula award along with the John W. Campbell award.

Cover art by Raphael Lacoste.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Michael M. Jones explains what makes this book distinct from previous works of military science fiction:

The Forever War is a masterpiece of military science fiction and social observation, applicable on numerous levels. While some aspects might be far-fetched, there’s no denying that it’s a powerful work. William Mandella is no career soldier like many of the military SF heroes out there; certainly not like Johnny Rico in Starship Trooper. He’s just an ordinary guy who gets drafted, and has the bad luck to actually survive the war.

Haldeman won Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards for this book, and along with Heinlein’sStarship Troopers, it helped inspire generations of more realistic military SF authors.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

19) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Salon’s Michael Schmidt writes about the way Vonnegut changed the war novel by using aspects of science-fiction:

Doris Lessing calls him “moral in an old-fashioned way . . . he has made nonsense of the little categories, the unnatural divisions into ‘real’ literature and the rest, because he is comic and sad at once, because his painful seriousness is never solemn.” His acknowledgment and expression of the nuanced nature of experience makes him “unique among us; and these same qualities account for the way a few academics still try to patronize him.” As though what he does is easier than the resolved plotting of more derivatively artful novelists.

After a school tried to ban this novel, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered 150 free copies of the book to students in Rockville, Missouri.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

20) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ray Walters at explains why this book was influential on not just literature, but also science:

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely related fictional stories depicting humanities struggle to flee from the potential of nuclear war on Earth to try and find refuge on the Red Planet. Many of the ideas Bradbury put forth in the novels seemed fantastical at the time, but modern day efforts to explore Mars smack of the science fiction writer’s vision of what it would be like to visit there.

While Bradbury is seen primarily as an author who had a profound effect on his literary genre, in reality his reach has been much wider. While his novels may not be required reading in our schools anymore (which blows my mind), his ideas are talked about everyday with the people uttering the words usually not knowing the origins of the topics they are discussing. Ray Bradbury will certainly be missed, not just for his amazing science fiction writing, but also for his visionary foresight into cultural phenomenons.

NASA put a burned DVD containing The Martian Chronicles on the hull of the Phoenix Martian Rover.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

21) Dune – Frank Herbert

Scott Timberg at the L.A. Times says Frank Herbert’s epic novel, in which noble houses battle for control of each others’ planets, was not just massive but ground-breaking:

Writers had imagined life on other planets and written of environmental catastrophe. But the scale of Dune was unprecedented, comparable, as Arthur C. Clarke said at the time, only to “The Lord of the Rings.”

It’s not quite New Wave — which developed in the late 1960s — not an antecedent to cyberpunk, nor a precursor to the recent space-opera renaissance. “It’s some kind of singularity,” says Latham.

“Dune” both channeled and stoked a greater environmental consciousness in SF: Important later novels by Ursula Le Guin, John Brunner and Octavia Butler looked at planetary ecology.

Dune won the Hugo award in 1966 as well as the very first Nebula award.


14 Fantastic Stories From The New Yorker Archive You Should Read This Summer


The New Yorker has made all of its archives going back to 2007 available onlineuntil the end of this summer. Here are the best New Yorker fiction pieces from the past seven years that you can read right now, for free.p


1. “Midnight in Dostoevsky” by Don Delillo

"Midnight in Dostoevsky" by Don Delillo

Timothy Hiatt / Getty Images Entertainment

National Book Award-winning novelist Don DeLillo tells a compelling and mysterious story about storytelling itself and the nature of truth in this story about two college friends who walk around campus, obsessively observing and discussing the people in their lives.

Read it here.

2. “Black Box” by Jennifer Egan

"Black Box" by Jennifer Egan

Pieter M. Van Hattem/Vistalux / Via

Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad, makes a strong case for Twitter fiction with an eerie and compelling story of a woman spy, told in 140-character bursts.

Read it here.

3. “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” by Junot Díaz

"The Cheater's Guide to Love" by Junot Díaz

Nina Subin / Via

Junot Diaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, describes a breakup and its difficult aftermath from the perspective of a cheater trying to change his ways.

Read it here.

4. “The Christmas Miracle” by Rebecca Curtis

"The Christmas Miracle" by Rebecca Curtis

Rebecca Curtis, author of Twenty Grand and Other Tales of Love and Money, brings us on a pitch-dark and hilarious Christmas vacation with the family, during which cats die, the exact wrong things are said, and terrible secrets are dredged up.

Read it here.

5. “The Dungeon Master” by Sam Lipsyte

"The Dungeon Master" by Sam Lipsyte

Robert Reynolds / Via

Sam Lipsyte, Guggenheim fellow and author of Homeland, follows a group of teen outcasts as they become obsessed with the game of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the mysterious Dungeon Master, an older teen who frightens and fascinates them.

Read it here.

6. “Embassy of Cambodia” by Zadie Smith

"Embassy of Cambodia" by Zadie Smith

Henry S. Dziekan III / Getty Images Entertainment

Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, follows Fatou, a woman from the Ivory Coast who works as a maid for a wealthy Pakistani family in London, as she navigates life in a foreign land and examines her place in society.

Read it here.

7. “Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders

"Escape From Spiderhead" by George Saunders

Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images Entertainment

George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and Pastoralia, takes a foray into mind-bending science fiction with a story full of exotic drugs and unethical experiments, as told by a human lab rat who is faced with impossible moral dilemmas.

Read it here.

8. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” by Nathan Englander

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander

Jason Kempin / Getty Images Entertainment

Nathan Englander, author of the PEN/Malamud Award-winning story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, takes inspiration from Raymond Carver in telling the story of two married couples as they share a bottle of vodka, discuss their lives and their Jewish faith, and play a fraught childhood game.

Read it here.

9. “Year’s End” by Jhumpa Lahiri

"Year's End" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Evan Agostini / BuzzFeed

Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection The Interpreter of Maladies, follows Kaushik, a college sophomore who has to come to terms with his father’s remarriage after his mother’s death.

Read it here.

10. “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” by Denis Johnson

"The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" by Denis Johnson

Cindy Johnson / Via

In a story that is personal yet epic, National Book Award-winner Denis Johnson describes fascinating moments from the life of Whit, a middle-aged man facing mortality. In Johnson’s telling, every life is strange; every life is important.

Read it here.

11. “Amundsen” by Alice Munro

"Amundsen" by Alice Munro

Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro leads us through the recollections of a young teacher who is courted by a doctor until their romance falls apart, in a story about the complexities and mysteries of love and memory.

Read it here.

12. “In the South” by Salman Rushdie

"In the South" by Salman Rushdie

Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images Entertainment

Salman Rushdie, author of the Man Booker Prize winner Midnight’s Children, describes the odd couple friendship between Junior and Senior, two neighbors who don’t seem to have anything in common except being 80-something years old.

Read it here.

13. “Good People” by David Foster Wallace

"Good People" by David Foster Wallace

Keith Bedford / Getty Images Entertainment

David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, gets inside the head of a young Christian man, who sits with his pregnant girlfriend in the park as they agonize over the decision to get an abortion.

Read it here.

14. “Roy Spivey” by Miranda July

"Roy Spivey" by Miranda July

Paul A. Hebert / Getty Images Entertainment

Miranda July, author and director of Me and You and Everyone We Know, recounts how an ordinary woman meets a movie star during an airplane flight, a deceptively light and funny story that is also about the regret and missed opportunities latent in any life, no matter how good.

Read it here.

This is, of course, just a list of 14 short stories. There is an incredible amount of fascinating fiction to be explored at The New Yorker’s new website

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurty

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtyThis is a great novel, but when you read reviews of it such as you begin to wonder why it is and how it is. What is it that makes this novel so affecting? It is deeply sad and moving, but also quite life affirming. The story itself, as well as the setting, is not promising. Nothing happens. Thalia, a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere, is grim and bleak. Maybe it’s the characters, who all labour beneath that universal human destiny, that draw the reader in. Or maybe it’s the slightly folksy way the story is told, where the omniscient narrator has a distinctive voice and character, one who is just as caught up in the story and how it is turning out for the central characters as the reader is. A great read.


Mr A


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