Gamegrene Book Club


I, for one, am a hugely avid reader, but seem to run out of excellent books to read far too often. Searching high and low for a place to discuss great literature and receive recommendations for new reads, I came up riduculously short. I finally buckled and created a forum for just that purpose. I'm a big fan of science fiction, with fantasy trailing in second, although I'm fairly picky, also. Straight-up adventures have little appeal for me (with a few exceptions), I prefer works with more meaning and potential for application in my own life. I'm also a huge fan of satire and parody in almost any form. Any recommendations as far as new reads? I'll list some of my favorites below:

Science Fiction:
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and its sequels to a lesser degree.
Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga (One of the most moving books I have ever read, although it totally flopped commercially)
Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (A great time-travel story, with interesting theories on Columbus as a man)
Isaac Asimov's Robot novels.
Rober A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. (You grok?)
Douglass Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy. (All five of 'em)
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
Many others that I cannot recall.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, in particular Thief of Time, Small Gods, Night Watch, Thud!, and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels.

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (A very well-written alternate history/fantasy trology set during the Napoleonic Wars, with the addition of Dragon aerial corps on both sides. Series begins with the novel "His Majesty's Dragon").

I am also in the process of reading Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, Thorn trilogy, due to Calamar's vehement recommendations all over this site. Well, what have you guys been reading?

Book I've recently read and liked:
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
George R.R. Martin's Storm of Swords (Song of Ice and Fire No.3)

Paranormal SF: (not so recently)
Michael A. Stackpole's Fiddleback Trilogy (out of print)

Totally unrelated:
Anything by Etgar Keret (good luck finding these)

I've suddenly realized that I've forgotten to mention "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

"People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks and say things like, 'Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."
-from Terry Pratchett's "Guards! Guards!"

In no particular order and as they spring into my mind -

"Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel" - Suzanna Clarke - absolutely fantastic, can't recommend highly enough
"Ash" - Mary Gentle
"Eon" & "Eternity" - Greg Bear
"Footfall" - Niven & Pournelle
"Earthsea Trilogy" - Ursula Le Guin
"Weirdstone of Brisingamen" - Alan Garner (kid's stuff but GOOD)
"Galactic Odyssey" - Keith Laumer (deliciously old-school sci fi)

Have you noticed I'm creeping backwards in time? Whilst I'm on a retro vein -

"Blackmark - Gil Kane - the first ever graphic novel, allegedly - I read it back in the 70's - check in any political correctness and anti-gender-stereotyping sensibilities you may hold at the door and you'll enjoy this pulp yarn! Or maybe I just enjoyed reading it recently for the nostalgia, maybe it doesn't date so well. If nothing else it's interesting.

Ever tried Michael Moorcock's works? They tend to be highly stylised and with more than a little satire and wry humour in them. Though they are not to everyone's taste. The 'Elric' series are almost mandatory reading, but I would also recommend 'The History of the Runestaff' and 'The Dancers at the End of Time'.

Just for the record, I am one of the apparently tiny handful of gamers who finds Pratchett somewhat irritating (though I have only read two of his books...but I suspect that's enough)

Thanks, I'll definitely have to check those out. Out of curiosity's sake, which two Pratchett books did you read? And what do you find irritating?

I will confess to being hooked on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I did enjoy somewhat Fallon's Blood under the name Reagan o'neal.

I am currently reading L.E. Modesett, Jr, Robin Hobb, and Melanie Rawn, almost anything by these three.

FWIW I'm a bigger fan of fantasy than sci-fi.


I read them a while back. I think it was "The Colour of Magic", and "Reaper Man" (which was bought for me).

Perhaps I found them irritating inasmuch as I felt they were too stylistically derivative of Douglas Adams, only not as funny.

I didn't think they were awful (otherwise I wouldn't have read a second book). They just didn't do a lot for me.

Those were some of his earlier novels, and not even comparable to some of his better works. If you're willing to take a shot at them again, may I recommend Small Gods (A huge satire of religious control over the state, which poses some very interesting questions about the nature of people and religion) and Night Watch (parody of city politics and riot/rebellion in the name of "the people"). Pratchett's novels can be very hit and miss, and oft times the only difference between a fan and someone that says "eh, they were all right" is simply which of his books they read first. I'm not trying to force you to like him, I just beg you to give them a second chance.

I started the Eye Of The World this last summer, really enjoyed it, and got about halfway through it when I lost my copy on an airplane in Brasil. My local library is missing it's copy somehow, and am pretty frustrated with the whole situation. I was fairly impressed with the section I read.

Oh, all right then. Everyone deserves a third chance.

(That's what I keep telling my wife anyhow...)

It's really hard for me to pick favoritebooks because different things strike me as awesome at different times. Sometimes I'll think that something is totally amazing and thought provoking only to go back and read it and not have it mean anything on a second run-through.

As far as sci-fi goes, the titles mentioned above are all fantastic, the only books I would add would be
Dune by Frank Herbert
TheGolden Age Trilogy.
Some of the Star Wars books are way amazing, but its kindof hit and miss with them.

The list for fantasy books could go on forever, but some that I have just finished recently that are worth a shot are
The Garden of the Stone Set by Victoria Strauss
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind (its long, and I can't take to much of it at a time, but it still has a good drive and plot)

If you are interested in Arthian legend at all The Squires Series by Gerald Morris is a must. They tell the legends of King Arthur's Knights in a way that won't put you to sleep. Also along with that idea is I Am Mordred, which is seriously one of the most amazing books in the world.

As for other odds and ends
From the Corner of His Eye - Dean Koontz
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
She - Haggard

Its pretty hard to find something that I really don't like, seriously my list could go on forever.

I'll put in a nod for Dean Koontz. For pure storytelling and plots that swing easily into roleplaying, he's hard to beat. Best Reads include Odd Thomas, Midnight, Phantoms, and Fear Nothing.

The Forbidden Borders Trilogy by W. Michael Gear is pretty good Sci-fi.

Almost anything by Alan Dean Foster. His works span sci-fi, fantasy, satirical, serious. One of the most underated and prolific writers of our time. His novels include the Last Starfighter, Splinter of a Mind's Eye, and Spellsinger.

The Casca novels (out of print) by Barry Sadler. These historical fiction novels are awesome reads. They can be read completely out of order (although I would recommend starting with the Eternal Mercenary). It's about the roman soldier who stuck the spear in Christ and is cursed to wander the Earth "...until they meet again." Very cool.

Author Steven Brust, especially his Vlad Taltos novels. Another series that you do not have to read in order.

Dave Duncan's Reluctant Swordsman trilogy and his King's Blades (also King's Daggers) are very good.

If you need more, let me know!

Wow, this is great. A list this size should last me a good year or so to complete. Thanks, everyone!

As a side note, I can't believe I left out the Dune series in my list. I have a great love for Dune itself, although the sequels seem to gradually get worse and worse.

"You want to be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does that make you feel?"
-From Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye"

Let me know what you think.

"You want to be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does that make you feel?"
-From Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye"

What do you think of Tad Williams so far?

I like his style a lot. You can tell that his story revolves around his characters living in a tulmultuous world rather than the characters existing to narrate the story. Williams's characters are especially well-thought out, and have personalities that are very much their own. I also love how he has taken familiar fantasy elements (i.e., elves/drow) and made them new and interesting (i.e., the Sithi/Norns). The beginning of The Dragonbone Chair seemed a bit long and arduous as I was first trekking through it, but looking back i can see that the long introduction was neccessary to completely show Simon's development throughtout the course of the novel. All that being said, I'm only about 100 pages into Stone of Farewell, and am looking forward to more great things.

"You wanna be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does that make you feel?"
-From Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye"

One of the things that I like best is that each character faces realistic and usually bad consequences for their decisions. There are no great escapes and the endings are usually bad. It just seems more realistic to me than something like Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.

I was originally introduced to these books by playing a character in a pick up game with a large group of rather older gentlemen and ladies. Unknown to me, they were playing the storyline from Memory, Sorrow, Thorn. I was asked to join because of my age. I played Simon (Seoman).

When the (surprisingly short) campaign was done, they gave me the Tad Williams novels to read. I was astounded! That was one of the coolest campaigns ever! And I was the perfect patsy. I played a complete loser who had to grow up under extraordinary circumstances. the game was remarkably faithful to the books.

I hope that you love the story as much as I do!

Sounds like something I'll definately have to give a shot at.

I agree though.... It seemed to me that both Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms were to 'convenient'. I'm not a big fan of books where the characters don't have to sacrifice or do anything to get what they want. That's not how it is, you can never get something for nothing.

So as long as these books aren't like that, I think that I'll like them.

Lorthyne, you're scaring me. I read that first post and thought that I had somehow written it myself, aside from the (few) books on there that I haven't read or (in the case of the Pern novels) didn't like. Then you had to go and say that about Terry Pratchett, which heightened the effect. I will add, though, that I always prefer to reccomend starting with Guards Guards rather than Night Watch, since Night Watch - though superior - is more fun when you are more familliar with the character of Sam Vimes. Maybe that's not such a great reccomendation to someone who isn't as fond of his earliest stuff, though, as seems to be the case with lurkinggherkin.

Anyway, here's some additions to the list:
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is a wonderful and hilariously funny time travel story.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is another wonderful time travel story with some of the same characters, and it is possibly the darkest, most depressing book I've ever read.
Both are absolutely terrific.

Changing Planes is a wonderful series of short stories by Ursula K. LeGuin that occupies that odd realm halfway between SF and Fantasy. The basic premise is that while you're between planes at the airport, waiting for your next flight to come in, you actually are quite literally between planes of existance and can travel through them at will. Each story is about the inhabitants of a different plane.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Charles Sheffield is a very interesting and well-researched look into the far future.

I was going to stick the Golden Age trilogy in here, but then I saw that Wroe already got to it. And there was me thinking I was the only one who had ever read those...

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller is a classic, and while it isn't SF or Fantasy, it has a style oddly reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Absolutely brilliant book, but while it is hilariously funny it is also extremely dark.

The Callahan Chronicles is a collection of three books, each of which is a collection of short stories by Spider Robinson. The first book is called Callahan's Crosstime Saloon and is an acceptable substitute for having all three together. The short stories are science fiction set in a quite remarkable bar known as Callahan's Place. Full of wicked puns.

Bears Discover Fire is a collection of unusual and amusing short stories by Terry Bisson.

I'd like to add Guy Gavriel Kay to the list - starting with Tigana. As for Robert Jordan, I got sick of the Wheel of Time at the fourth book but really enjoyed the first two. I have been drifting from high fantasy to semi-historical stuff like Bernard Cornwell.
Stepping out of the fantasy genre I would also recommend Heart of Darkness by Conrad, Silas Marner by George Eliot, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. There really is some great RPG material in all three.

stop! stop!
I'll never be able to read all the recommended books if you continue to add to the list. :)

Add to this the zero chance that I'll find any of these books at a local library, and I'm looking at a huge investment of both time and money...poor me.

Just in case you ever get a chance to give it a shot, I would recommend that you pull through four five and six of Robert Jordan's series. Like you I was impressed with the first three then found the next three all bogging and not quite as interesting as the first ones. It comes out of it again later on in the series. His most recent addition to the series is totally amazing, at least in my opinion.

Sorry, zip, but I just thought of another addition to my list.

Graham Shelby's 'Knights of Dark Renown'. Though it is now out of print so you'd need to get hold of a second-hand copy.

Historical fiction set in the time of the second crusade. The accepted historical picture of events has changed a little since it was written but it is still a ripping good read. I love Shelby's portrayal of Raynald of Châtillon, my favourite crusader character - portrayed as something of a buffoon in "Kingdom of Heaven".

Most public, and many college, libraries have a function called Inter-Library Loan. The cool part of this is that if they can find a library that has the book, they will borrow it from that library, then lond it to you. For Free. And with computers and networks and all this new fangled jumbo, it's hard to find books they can't get.


I wonder if this network streches international borders, as libraries here mostly keep books in Hebrew. Most of the books mentioned in this list were never translated. Except for the Discworld books, probably.

What's that they say about great minds? Something about thinking alike. Another strange coincidence--I actually read Catch-22 this last summer. I found it very entertaining in its own manner, but a little too dark, and, well, raunchy for my tastes. But I suppose it's not any worse than Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, which I've also read.

"You wanna be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does that make you feel?"
-From Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye"

Aye, this collection is getting large, which is both exciting and depressing. We all do our best to keep up though, eh?

"You wanna be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does that make you feel?"
-From Paul Simon's "Hurricane Eye"

I really dislike Catch 22. Mostly because it seems to me like the whole book is comprised of two sentences. There can't be more than two periods in the whole book!
It was exhausting to read...Yossarian does not finish a single thought withought jumping to 3 other tangents, all using BLOODY COMMAS!

phew...I'm ok now.

I did like slaughterhouse 5, though.

I absolutely loved Catch 22! The sequel, 'Closing Time', wasn't so hot though.

Hey, Zip, ever heard of Simon Louvish? I can heartily recommend 'The Therapy of Avram Blok'....though it is a bit disjointed and postmodern so maybe best to steer clear if that sort of thing doesn't appeal....!

I wasn't overly fond of Silas Marner myself. Heart of Darkness was better - not one of my favorites, but better.

I wasn't overly fond of the first Wheel of Time book either, but I can be pretty picky these days when it comes to fantasy.

Sorry... Adding one that I forgot. "Embers" is one of the most amazing books I've ever read.

A great book for any GM to own is Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds. It provides endless ideas for political and economic intrigue, as well as serving as a sorta "charlatans handbook" when it comes to coming up with good scams and schemes to let loose on your setting. Tulips Mania in particular sounds lik esomething one of my old players would have come up with back in the day with his halfling Charlatan. Ah Magus Vanghelm...we miss you so.

Oh boy, do I love reviving dead topics or what!

But I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Snow Crash yet. It's a cyberpunk novel about a hacker named Hiro Protagonist who carries around two samurai swords and delivers pizzas. It also contains ancient sumatran mythology, a mafia, and a large number of harpoons. How could it not be awesome?

Sounds like its definately worth a shot... who's it by?

Neal Stephenson

He also wrote a book called The Diamond Age that kicked major ass in my opinion.