As someone who has spent decades readings all sorts of books, I have an ever-changing list of favorites. When I was younger, I loved mysteries but I’ve switched to science fiction and some fantasy in recent years. I’m pretty picky about what I read, though. I want a strong story, relatable characters, and innovative ideas are a huge bonus, especially with science fiction! What are your favorite books?
A Wrinkle in TIme by Madeline L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is the first book on the list because it’s the first book I remember reading that grabbed me in such a way that I thought about it, contemplated its weird message, and wanted to read more books like it. I still have clear memories of reading this book 40 years ago and thinking WOAH!! I remember writing a book report about it, and it was a very detailed report because it resonated with me so much. I credit this book with my lifelong love of science fiction.
The Lord of the Rings
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read and listened to the Lord of the Rings. I read this book for the first time when I was in middle school and was absolutely mesmerized. One reason I love this book so much is the rich history of Middle Earth.
House of Rain
I love nonfiction books, especially books about the natural world. Craig Childs is one of my favorite authors, and House of Rain inspired me to visit several Anasazi (also called ancestral Puebloan) archaeological sites. This book is like a lyrical adventure novel, taking the reader through history and to different sites all over the ancient world.
The Expanse (entire series) by James S.A. Corey
I love me a good space opera, yet ones I like are hard to find since military scifi isn’t my thing. This series sucked me in right away, and I devoured the books. I love this series so much I also bought the audiobooks and have listened to them twice. There are essentially three trilogies with an overarching plot that is hard to describe without spoilers. But the entire series revolves around 4 characters who are real, likeable, and flawed. They live on a space ship 200 years in the future at a time where all of the outer planets have been colonized and humans live Mars, the Moon, and on various asteroids and moons of Jupiter. I love stories that feel real, and this story really does. It’s currently my #1 favorite series ever, which is saying something since it knocked Lord of the Rings out of the #1 spot after 30 years! The first book in the series is titled Leviathan Wakes. The final book in the series, Leviathan Falls, comes out in 2021 and I’m SO EXCITED.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This book just made me happy. It’s a story about a group of humans and aliens living together on a spaceship in the far future, traveling around to different worlds, meeting new people, and doing new things. It reminds me of a book version of the TV show Firefly. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet just a fun read with likable characters and a fantastic story.
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Murderbot is my role model. It just wants annoying humans to leave it alone so it can consume its media. Murderbot is an introverted cyborg that manages to free itself from slavery with an evil corporation and meets up with a cool group of humans. Murderbot is more human than most people, making the Murderbot Diaries not only a great story, but brings up cool philosophical questions about what it means to really be human. The first book is All Systems Red.
Natural History of Dragons (entire series) by Marie Brennan
I love natural history in the real world, so I really love this alternative history take on a Victorian world where dragons are real. A young woman who loves natural history can’t pursue it as a career because she’s a woman, and in Victorian times women are only supposed to be interested in children and their homes (blech). But Isabella manages to pursue a life of studying dragons, along with many memorable characters. We get to visit many parts of this imaginary world with Isabella, enjoy her rebellious nature, and learn about the world. This five-book series is hugely enjoyable, and I loved it so much I also bought all of the audiobooks which are equally marvelous.
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
One night in New England, the stars and moon disappear. This book follows three children as they grow up and try to figure out what happened to the stars and the moon. The answer is one of the most creative stories I’ve ever read. This was the first book by Robert Charles Wilson I ever read and I loved it so much I’ve since read all of his other books. He’s an amazingly creative storyteller. This is book 1 in a trilogy, but it’s enjoyable on its own.
Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mystery novels
Back in the days when mysteries were my favorite genre, I discovered Tony Hillerman’s novels set on the Navajo reservation. The characters are amazing: real, flawed, interesting, and mostly Navajo. I learned so much about Navajo culture and religion from these books. The mysteries are engrossing and keep you guessing until the end, a rare feat in mysteries, at least in my experience. I enjoyed these books and their descriptions of the Four Corners region so much I started going out there to explore for myself.