It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn towards warm and cozy, hearth and home, and the giving of gifts to those we love and appreciate. I toyed with the idea of putting up a list of books to recommend for holiday reading and gift-giving, but finally I decided to concentrate on two single suggestions – one for science fiction lovers, and ones for those who enjoy epic fantasy works. Why just two? Well, even though I read a lot, my genre of choice is fantasy/science fiction -that’s where my heart really lies. So I wanted to share some of my most favorite of all works with you, just in case you want to share the joy.
So here you go – my all time highest recommendations in science fiction, and in fantasy.
For Those Who Love Science Fiction
There are so many good books out there in the science fiction genre; it’s really hard to even consider narrowing the field down to just one. I actually start hyperventilating just thinking about it. But if I was going to buy a work of science fiction for someone who loves science fiction, the choice is clear: something from The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey.
All the books in this series are simply superlative. The sixth book of the series (there are nine planned), Babylon’s Ashes, was just released this week, which means that there are deals aplenty for the previous books, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. If your recipient has never read one of The Expanse books, then by all means, get them Leviathan Wakes, the opening volley in this sweeping space soap opera. (The books really should be read in order for their full impact.)
But if your recipient is familiar with the books, there are other ways to spread The Expanse cheer. In 2015, the SyFy network unveiled the first season of The Expanse television show based on the books. The show is also spectacular, in part because writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who collectively make up the persona of James S. A. Corey) are writers/executive producers of the television series, ensuring that the adaptation would be top notch. The acting and production are also very, very well done. The first season is available on Blu-Ray, DvD or via any of a number of streaming services, and while you probably won’t find it at your local Best Buy, it’s readily available for order at any of the major retailer’s sites. Or, if your recipient is already familiar with the television show, you could give them the soundtrack to the television series, if they have iTunes (I don’t think it’s available in hardcopy).
Then there are the novellas. There are five novellas so far (well, two short stories and three novellas), with three more novellas planned for the future. These novellas go deeper into some of the side stories of The Expanse, such as The Butcher of Anderson Station, which fills in the backstory of Colonel Fred Johnson, who became the de factor leader of the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance), or The Churn (my personal favorite), which gives insight into Amos Burton, one of the main characters in The Expanse series.
So, lots of options. Lots of possibilities. And if the person you’re gifting already has anything and everything regarding The Expanse – congratulate them for being wonderful human beings! Then shoot me a message and I’ll find something else to suggest – there are, literally, hundreds of books I could easily recommend.
For Those Who Love Fantasy
Another really hard one, because yes, once again, there are just too many to choose from. But if I had to narrow down to one, I would go with Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.
Not only is The Name of the Wind a beautifully written and thoroughly engaging book, but it’s the start of a series of books, known as The Kingkiller Chronicle, that is poised for great things – so right now is a wonderful time to jump on the Patrick Rothfuss bandwagon, if you haven’t already.
The Name of the Wind recounts one day of remembrances by Kvothe, a man whose name has become legend, who is known as the Kingkiller. A Chronicler has come to set down Kvothe’s story in his own words, and Kvothe has reluctantly given the scribe three days to capture it all.
On the first day, Kovthe speaks of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his feral year following the loss of his parents and his time at university learning prestigious but suspect magic. The series continues with The Wise Man’s Fear, set on the second day of remembrances, as well as a third book, tentatively titled The Doors of Stone (which has yet to have been given a publication date).
So why The Name of the Wind? Well, first off, as I’ve said, it’s beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. While you meet Kvothe after he’s backed away from the world to become “just” an innkeeper, his memories of his past life are vividly recounted, proving to be both tragic and thrilling (and often humorous). Patrick Rothfuss has the wonderful capacity for tickling our funny bone, making our pulse pound and touching our heart, often all in the same scene. His Kvothe, as with so many of the supporting players in his tale, becomes not just a fantasy character on a page, but a living, breathing, breathtaking person in his own right, and the world in which he moves is crystal clear even as it is filled with mystery and danger.
I’m apparently not the only one to think this way. The Name of the Wind – and in fact, The Kingkiller Chronicle – has been tapped to become the trifecta of modern entertainment: a major motion picture (possibly series), a television series, and a video game, even though the third book has yet to be released. (A novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is part of the canon, as well, and Mr. Rothfuss has alluded that more might be coming down the road.) One might be dubious of such an ambitious treatment, except – except! – recently it was announced the Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author, composer and star of the take-the-world-by-storm Broadway musical Hamilton, has signed on as creative producer and musical mastermind for the project. I’d say that gives it instant legitimacy. It certainly gave me a big boost of hope!
On top of all that, Patrick Rothfuss is a stellar human being. Still living in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, he has wrapped his wit, his humor, his delectable speaking voice, and his enthusiasm for stories and life (and the many friends that he has gathered from the writing community), into a powerhouse philanthropic force known as Worldbuilders, a nonprofit organization benefiting Heifer International, which is a charity that works with communities worldwide to help end hunger and poverty.
Great books and a toe hold into great works, both social and altruistic? What could be better than that? Especially at this time of year, when so many of us set aside our cynicism in order to seek out peace, joy and love for all.
Happy reading to all!
~ Sharon Browning