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I try to make a point of listing what I find to be good fantasy, because there's so much really BAD, derivative, sword-and-sorcery, Tolkien-ripoff stuff out there. One of my favorite authors is Guy Gavriel Kay - sort of alt-histories slightly brushed with fantastical aspects (like The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is set in the equivalent of Middle Ages Moorish Spain).

Syb, what SF authors are you reading? I'm always on the lookout for good current SF, having long since pillaged the canon.
Vesica, I just finished Against A Dark Background by Iain M Banks, which was dense but had a great, fast-moving plot. His 'Culture' series consists of several books taking place in the same (far future or alternate) universe but can also be read as stand alone books.

China Mieville is an excellent SF author. Start with Perdito Street Station; it's the first (I think) of a trilogy taking place in an alternate universe. He could also arguably be categorised as fantasy, and additionally is a self-professed Marxist. He's a great writer and has the best characters. William Gibson's Pattern Recognition is less totally tech-y than his earlier stuff and has a great twist or three.

My dad gave me the Dud Avocado. It's fun but pretty lightweight; the female protagonist is spolied and irritating IMO. It's got some good moments though.

Oh man, House of Leaves. I tried, I really did, and while I did that book consumed me; I even dreamt about it. I couldn't finish it either in the end. Good luck...

I loved the Poisonwood Bible though. Hope you enjoy!

I need a new book. *whines*
I like Mieville. I read Perdido Street Station and The Scar (didn't know there was a third set in the "New Crobuzon" world - I just looked it up, it's Iron Council. Whee, off to the library!) and then went back and read King Rat. Yeah, I'd classify those as fantasy.

Have you read David Brin's Startide Rising and The Uplift War? (Another situation where there are additional books but I wasn't all that impressed with them - those two were really tight and interesting.)
should i get this for the boy? he knows nothing about the sandman, but i want to introduce him to another classic fantasy series. he likes comics, tho not avidly. i want to see him get enthralled, like he did with harry potter, a series of unfortunate events, narnia and tolkien.

any suggestions would be lovingly welcomed.

sad to say, i am having the worst time with neverwhere. it's so dark and menacing. i need a good solid span of time to just finish it. or shelve it and go buy another lighthearted, laugh-out-loud book.
hey mando,
if you're looking for good-quality fantasy, i highly recommend susan cooper's the dark is rising books. philip pullman is also supposed to be great, though i haven't read him. or "wicked" (the book, good lord, NOT the musical), but that may be a little old yet.
I'm reading Neil's collection of short stories. It's really good. I thought the Sandman (although I haven't read them all) series was really awesome, without being too avid comic. I don't know if that helps you any. Does he like Neil?

I recently re-read American Gods again. Loved it. I gave it to my mother, but I don't think she's even gotten around to reading it. I gave it to her, because she digs King so much. I really want to get Good Omens for Christmas. I loaned out my good copy to my ex, and never got it back. Bastard.

Any laugh out loud books any one would recommend lately? I just finished Running with Scissors, but haven't seen the movie yet. I'm just looking for something to break up the few biographies I'm reading. I need just a light read. Re-reading the Harry Potter series just for fun (but only on my commutes back and forth from work each day).

Maybe Fall on your Knees? I get a lot of my reccomendations from this thread. I heart you busties!! smile.gif

There's this awesome book festival going on this weekend with comedians: Larry Miller, Rita Rudner, the guy that wrote Everyone Loves Raymond, etc. But it's too expensive for me to go. Boo. And, I'd have to buy their books. sad.gif It benefits the Jewish Foundation of Atlanta. smile.gif

Oh, one note about Wicked. Do not get the sequel, Son of a Witch. I get the sense that the author may write a third novel, b/c the ending was left very open.
sassy, Fall on Your Knees is amazing but it is NOT a laugh out loud read! I would recommend Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for laughs, I started to read Wyrd Sisters last night for a comfort read.

mando, I would suggest Discworld for your boy too. My boy loves them but he is also working through the Sandman too. David Eddings The Belgariad (followed by The Mallorean) is a fantastic and engaging series and the Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy is amazing. It depends how dark or how lighthearted you want his reading material to be, which do you think he'll respond to more?
Hoo boy. Looks like I'm going to get a run for my money with House of Leaves. Maybe it'll be something I read over time. Or something I read once, don't quite "get," become enraged and throw across the room, and then read again years later after my anger has once again turned to intrigue. (Hm? It sounds like this has happened before, you say? Ever read The Magus by John Fowles? Grrrmph. I think I'm still annoyed by it years later.)

bunnyb - I felt the same way about Middlesex. I wanted to love it, I really did. Now that some time has passed though, I'm finding that it just didn't stick with me the way certain books do when they really resonate with me.

The Poisonwood Bible, OTOH, just keeps getting better and better and better. I'm going to be very sad when it ends. (As a side note, I LOVE when the explanation for a book's title isn't obvious from the beginning, and I just read the section from which the title was taken...brilliant and funny and sad.)

sassygrrl - It totally depends on your sense of humor, but one of my all-time favorite laugh-out-loud reads is The Acid House by Irvine Welsh. It's a collection of short stories plus a novella, so it's great for reading on your commute or while traveling. It can get vile and disturbing, but if you appreciate wicked, twisted humor, you might enjoy it. smile.gif
The only experience I have with Pratchett was Good Omens. But, I liked it. I also really like Welsh. Thanks for the reccomendations ladies!!
Ah, Good Omens is the best of both worlds: Pratchett AND Gaiman! I recently bought the boy a copy so I may have to borrow it from him.

Funnily enough, I was going to suggest Welsh too but realise he's not to everyone's taste. Glue was really good as was Porno (the sequel to Trainspotting) and Marabou Stork Nightmares was very disturbing. The problem I have with Welsh is that they all run into the same for me, I can't remember which book is which but I know that I enjoyed them all. On the Scottish Lit front, I need to suggest Alan Warner's The Sopranos again as it really does rock.

sesame, The Poisonwood Bible is being added to my to-read-in-the-near-future list! That and Ian McEwan's Atonement and Fanny Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe.
mando - what bunny said: pratchett and eddings. and sandman (I think that was all I read when I was danny's age). I remember reading susan cooper too and loving it, but I think I was a bit younger (although each to thier own). The Sterkarm Handshake books are good. He might be a bit old, but Anthony Horrowitz is brilliant (The Falcon's Malteser) and I can remember loving John Wyndham about the same time.

sassy - christopher brookmyre, one fine day in the middle of the night (add him to the list of scottish authors too bunny!). Utterly hilarious crime novel... sick, twisted and so so so funny.
Ha, I've had Atonement and Angela's Ashes sitting on my shelf for months. I will get to them eventually, just not any time soon!
I've been thinking about the evolution of literature, along with that maxim about artists not being appreciated in their own time. If you look over the comics publications of the last 20-25 years, there are a lot of groundbreaking ideas in them. Would comics be considered the insightful literature of our time?
Mando - The Sandman series is fantastic. Really beautiful and smart and exciting. I read them when I was around eighteen, and still haven't stopped thinking about them, oh, fifteen years or so later.

I'd also recommend the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials series (I haven't read it yet, but have only heard rave reviews).

For laugh out loud funny, the first name that always comes to mind is David Sedaris, but if you've exhausted his supply, I just started David Rakoff's newest, and have laughed out loud several times already. It's called Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems. All personal essays.
mando i'm gonna go ahead and re-recommend "the dark is rising" series just in case my post gets overlooked. very narnia-esque, but for a little older audience.

bunny, i read "the comfort of strangers" a few years ago and it upset me so much i've refused to read any ian mcewan since. am i really missing out?

and sesame, i too was very annoyed by the magus! i never even finished it! lord, i couldn't stand the female character. i think when men try to write about their dream woman it just comes across as incredibly unappealing to actual women who try to read it.

laugh-out-loud books that are still a good read, sassy? the cheese monkeys by chip kidd is brilliant, imho. especially good if you like art or design. if you enjoy playwrights i'd recommend david ives--he's hilarious, though he seems to be typically discovered by everyone in college so you may already have read him.
i second that. susan cooper is genius; i have the dark is rising series and have re-read it, oh, twenty or thirty times. philip pullman (though linguistically more complex - very sophisticated both writing and idea-wise) is also wonderful.

mouse, i dunno if you're missing out...i used to love ian mcewan and now i can't get excited about him. when i read atonement i felt myself thinking "'s a modern novel...about people's emotional problems...which are faintly depressing...and very articulately related...but half my mind is still thinking about the mac and cheese i had for lunch" (sorry, ian). i do NOT feel the same way about julian barnes - even though parts of arthur & george were a bit of a plod, he's still genius.

oh, and mando - he will love ursula k. le guin's earthsea trilogy. i promise. also less difficult reading than pullman.
oh shit! i totally forgot about earthsea. DEFINITELY earthsea. and other leguin--some of her short stories are fantastic.
mouse, I don't know - I haven't read any McEwan, Atonement is just one of many on my to read list (currently sitting at 35 in the pile).

I was supposed to read Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy for class but didn't because I found it hard to get into - I was bored and found it very simplistic. It may have been because it was for uni and I'll attempt Le Guin again because I've heard so many good things.

That's reminded me, actually, Danny may enjoy Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.

Still reading Middlesex although been distracted by Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal that is shaping up to be a good, quick but engaging read.
Ian McEwan's writing has changed quite a bit over the last 20-odd years IMO. Where Comfort of Strangers and The Cement Garden are short, dense and pretty disturbing, Atonement, Amsterdam and Enduring Love are much slower paced, more thoughtful. I liked those three a lot but really disliked his most recent, Saturday, which deals with Sept 11 from a UK perspective.

Bunnyb, I have to say I read Angela's Ashes compulsively then threw it across the room. It was like some weird kind of literary crack--oddly readable but really miserable. I was reading it while writing my master's thesis which may explain my schizophrenic reaction. smile.gif

I did like Notes on a Scandal though. The movie is out next spring, I think... stars Cate Blanchett as the younger teacher.

Magickal, do you mean comic books/graphic novels, or comic writing, like Sedaris?
I read Angela's Ashes years ago (it's faerietails who has it on shelf) and agree that it was compulsive but despairing!

I think Judi Dench is playing the older teacher, Barbara. There are several movie adaptations of books coming up; Keira Knightley and James McAvoy are starring in Atonement (KK is also in adaptation of Barrico's Silk which I read a few weeks ago and there's the film version of Eragon too).
I suspect Danny would love Sandman. If he's at all his mom's kid, the dark-and-quirky would be right up his alley. Although I loved Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, I suspect it's a little young for him. Pullman's great; too long since I read Earthsea to remember. It's very much old-fashioned fantasy, that I do know. When I was his age I was reading Silverberg, Asimov, Niven, Pournelle, etc.

Come to think of it, a SF modern classic I'd recommend for younger readers is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Its successors, Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide are equally good but much deeper/more mature.
mouse - thank dog someone else found The Magus as irritating as I did. Honestly, I commend you for not finishing it! I hated all the characters and their "mysterious" (arrogant), "eccentric" (self-indulgent) ways, yet I felt somehow compelled to finish it. What with all the literary references and psychological jibber-jabber, I felt like the dorky kid in junior high trying to figure out what all the cool kids' inside jokes were about. Curious, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and I guess they made a movie of it in the late '60's that was SO awful, "Michael Caine himself has said that it was the worst film he had been involved in, because no one knew what it was all about. Woody Allen is quoted as saying that if he could live his life all over again, he'd do "everything exactly the same – with the exception of watching The Magus." Heehee. Vindicated. smile.gif

if you're looking for more sci-fi and less straight fantasy, he might like the "changeling" series by roger zelazny.
I just read Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn. It was fabulous!! I read it in a day and half b/c I couldn't put it down. Just started reading Running with Scissors, it's good but all the reviews mention how hilarious the book is, and I am not finding tons of humor in it. There are a few dark comedy bits here and there, but I'd hardly call it hilarious. Still very good, though.

I think I am going to read Stranger Than Fiction, next.
lit-related aside: one of my students just pointed out me that people like harry potter BECAUSE it's all on the surface. duh! i had conveniently overlooked that in my apollonian demands...and am now envisioning an article: "harry potter and the postmodern ideal." biggrin.gif (for someone else to write, not me)
such wonderful suggestions, thank you one and all! i'm not really sure whether my kid really is a fantasy/sci-fi fan ... i think he just leans that way gently, with his reading. but i'm going to go with the sandman, because it's an impressive-looking gift ... ... and because I want it ... hee.

i'm picking up with neverwhere again. because i'm a neil gaman fan at heart, i just know i am.

speaking of neil ... he's in little rock (as per, his blog). they've had some bad storms. i'm worried. sad.gif

and he's exactly 3 months to the day younger than i am! not sure why that matters. probably because i assumed he was much younger. because, well, everyone usually is much younger than me.
i just finished david rakoff's "don't get to comfortable" and it's brilliant. simultaneously depressing, hopeful and fucking hilarious.

bunnyb, i read earthsea aaaaages ago (age 11 or 12 i think--though i was a pretty precocious reader) and i remember finding them difficult to get into, but once gotten into, brilliant. leguin is pretty high-minded too when it comes to underlying philosophies--it's not all on the surface like narnia but she has some profound universal truths, for lack of a better term, too. her short stories, as well, are excellent. she's crazy in the best way. buffalo gals and other animal presences is an amazing collection, though it looks kind of hard to find now. stories (fiction) include topics such as the language and hierarchy of ants, conscious vegetation, a story told from the point of view of a lab rat character, schroedinger's cat, and talking shit. and i don't mean that last one in the sense that she writes about gossiping.

what are y'all's favorite guilty pleasure authors? mine is stephen king.......i actually think he's quite often brilliant. *shame*
stephen king's a guilty pleasure? i think he has quite the solid prose style...

hmm guilty pleasures... maybe a little VC Andrews? smile.gif
guilty pleasures....definately VC Andrews and Anne Rule! i know what you mean about SOME stephen king books though.
hehe.....well, now i don't feel so guilty smile.gif "carrie" and "the girl who loved tom gordon" are pretty amazing stories both.....AND the shining......and don't even get me started on "different seasons" (the collection of novellas that include "shawshank redemption", "apt pupil" and "the body" which "stand by me" was based on). but he definitely has a rep as being just a "horror writer". though i totally enjoy his cheesy horror stories too.

as for the REAL guilty pleasure (of which there is no denying the shame)? those totally melodramatic novels for pre-teen girls. like "six months to live" or "the face on the milk carton". soooo badly written, sooo soaked in overdramatic sentiment, soooooooooo like candy. MAN. also, preferably read while eating a bag of chee-tos so you feel even more awesome and horrible at the same time.

i know all of you have now lost whatever respect you may have had for me.
I *made* my sister watch "The Shawshank Redemption" with me about a year ago - she had never seen it, thought it was absolutely not something she'd be interested in, and she loved it - and THEN I told her it was based on a Stephen King story.

I loved pretty much all of his stuff up 'til The Tommyknockers, and I still read The Stand about once every 18 months or so. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
I went through a major Stephen King phase as a young teenager and I loved It and Insomnia and his "non-horror" fiction is amazing. John Grisham and John Irving are often lumped in with King (although very different) and classed as "fluff" reading although the former's early thrillers are very engaging and I've only read A Prayer for Owen Meaney but I loved it.

Hmmm, "gulity pleasure" reads? erotica probably (although Anais Nin has a great literary status)! any of my light, enjoyable reads I suppose: Pratchett's Discworld, children's lit (although Harry Potter has a lot of merit and should never be guilty reading unless reading it when a deadline's due or something!), and I have been known to sample some chick lit every 18 months or so - I am selective, however, Marian Keyes springs to mind and I'm going to read In her Shoes soon.
I went through a Stephen King stage too, when I was like 12 to 14. I read Cujo, Tommyknockers, Thinner, Chirstine, well tons of his books really. At the time I thought he was great. But as I got older, I grew out of his work.

Right now I as engrossed in Stranger Than Fiction, by Chuck Palahniuk. I am just fascinated with the way man's mind works.
Heyer. every time. oh, the fluff reading i do... my guilty reading is mostly chicklit, although it tends to be the same authors again and again (heyer, katie fford, erica james). I never went through a stephen king phase... although i saw him on newsnight yesterday and what he was seemed interesting. I think the rep as a horror writer puts me off as I'm dreadful with horror.

i did, however, go through a phase of reading those overly saccharine-sweet pre-teen/early teen novels. oh yes. and mills&boon. *goes to stand with mouse in the corner of shame* (omg, I remember the face on the milk carton)

I try not to have any guilt in my pleasures – I do academic work on genre fiction and have even written about the online slash porn that I love, so I'm all about owning one's less-than-prestigious loves! Anne McCaffrey is my dodgy-fluff-light-reading though.

That said, when I was a teenager I loved the melodramatic young-girls-dying books, and I know that if I were to come across one now I would probably still love it, in exactly the way mouse describes... and that would be a bit of a guilty pleasure, for sure.
Mickey Spillane! Energetic prose, counterrevolutionary politics, lurid fantasies of freedom as the liberty to beat someone up, something for the authoritarian in all of us. From the fifties, the golden age of subversiveness!
Ooh, Ursula K. Leguin! When I was a young teen, The Left Hand of Darkness was popular, because it's feminist (what if everyone was both sexes) and slash-y as well, since she has two 'men' sleep together! LOL

I was always a couple years ahead of my "age level" in reading.

Love Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, (Louise Fitzhugh with her great drawings and female lead characters) and really loved Eleanor Estes -- the Melendy's and The Witch Family.

Speedy! You have been missed! Boobie squishing hug except you have no boobies -- or DO YOU?
I adore Le Guin and the Left Hand of Darkness, but Estraven and Genly Ai only sleep together, they don't have sex... I was listening to a podcast interview with Henry Jenkins the other day where he said they had sex and that was one of the initiations of slash, but it isn't true!
Okay -- *implied* !
just finished salman rushdie's shalimar the clown. It was absolutely brilliant.
"For us to meet sexually would be for us to meet once more as aliens. We had touched, in the only way we could touch. We left it at that." (Left Hand of Darkness 249)

Not implied! But I will give you the intense emotional connection "between men" (though at the moment of sexual near-contact Estraven *is*, and is perceived by Genly to be, a woman) and, having just read the climactic scene again where Genly realises his connection with Estraven through sexual tension (though the connection is based on their difference, on recognising Estraven as a women as well as a man and therefore as an alien, rather than the man Genly always misread him as before), it is intensely similar to many emotional climax scenes in slash fic.

If Le Guin were writing this today, I am pretty sure she would have them have sex and become partners.

Sorry, I've written too many papers about this stuff... smile.gif
Yes, EXACTLY. If she were writing it today...
and, that is the problem I have with academic endeavors.

I have been a voracious reader ever since I learned how to read. I wrote my first story when I was six years old. I dug up literature and poetry that were not "children's" at all, by age thirteen or so.

And yet, I never like classes on these subjects very much.

"What does this poem MEAN?"
It could mean a great many things.

And, what does the exact text say and what does this study or authoritative critic say that it MEANS.

Trust me, we girls were extrapolating sexuality in our brains when we read Left Hand of Darkness.

Sometimes what it means can not be found under a microscope. No criticism of you, though.
I get off on critical analysis; on examining the social and/or textual structures that define the meaning we take from a text. I don't demand to be taken with authority, I just like to discuss... You are welcome to your nonanalytical fun, I should go back to my paper-writing anyway. smile.gif
Oh, hey, that can definitely be fun, too!!

I'm not thinking of reading as fun so much as thinking of it as an entry to another world, a quiet world dictated by the writer. mood, setting, atmosphere, facts o daily life, and a sense of risng above time, placce, and social definitions.

Ever read anyy Samuel Delaney?

Oh, hey, that can definitely be fun, too!!

I'm not thinking of reading as fun so much as thinking of it as an entry to another world, a quiet world dictated by the writer. mood, setting, atmosphere, facts o daily life, and a sense of risng above time, placce, and social definitions.

Ever read anyy Samuel Delaney?
I wrote my MA thesis on Samuel Delany... wink.gif
I'm reading "nausea" by Sartre. I don't get it.
bunny, don't hit me, but i gave up on neverwhere for the time being. sad.gif

but to redeem myself, i picked up american gods. smile.gif

but i read little children first. unfortunately i didn't love it as much as many of you did. i was disappointed by the rather abrupt ending. i do want to see the movie, but i wish they cast someone else as todd. i think kate is perfect casting, though.
re the critical analysis... it killed poetry dead for me (maybe that was the teacher, though... and effing Thomas Hardy) but I enjoy it with a lot of prose. I've got to want to discuss it, though. There's something fascinating about picking apart a text; you're seeing into someone's mind, but that sight is affected by your own personality.... *ramble ramble ramble*

mrfj, satre always seemed so gloomy to me... mind you, i don't think i ever got zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance either.

I did it that way round, mando. american gods is a longer read, but a better work that neverwhere, imo. although i'm re-reading stardust.
mornington, I thought zen and the art... was agonizing. The only part that appealed to me was the father/son road trip plotline which, as you know, you could only access ittermittently between miles of pseudo-philosophical pschyobabble. I suspect the college friend that recommended it to me as "the greatest thing I've ever read" of having read only one book.
mando, don't worry, I'm hugging you instead! I haven't read Neverwhere but LOVED American Gods! Did anyone hear that Shadow's getting a sequel?

morn, the Rushdie is on my wishlist. I adore Midnight's Children.

I have a love/hate relationship with poetry ... I found that the longer I studied the less it became about what could be read into the text and that disappointed me as I find poems to be puzzles that need to be solved (and some do remain unsolved).

If you can believe it, I'm still chugging my way through Middlesex although v close to finishing.
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