22 Books that Define My Reading Taste
This list feels excessive. I was trying to fit something in from each genre/subgenre I read extensively. I say extensively because I will read anything, including cereal boxes. I also picked books that have stayed with me because reading tastes change over time.
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adam’s. This was actually the first book I checked out of my high school library oh so many years ago. I have read it multiple times and never get tired of it. It, and every book in the “trilogy” is perfect science fiction satire.
DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT by Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. This is the first book of the Dragonlance series, based on Dungeons and Dragons. These books are still my favorite fantasy books. Every time I reread them I still cry. These characters have become a part of me. I become disappointed when fantasy books do not live up to these.
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Ann Rice. I found a first edition paperback of this book in a few box of books at my local library not long after it was published (giving away my age here). I love Gothic horror. I also love Armand a little more than Lestat. Don’t judge me. You know who you can judge though? Whoever ruined Queen of the Damned with that atrocious movie adaptation. The need beaten with the book.
THE MAGIC TOYSHOP by Angela Carter. I had to look up the genre of this one. All I know is it is Gothic. That is what matters. I am told it also falls under literary fiction and fairy tales. I will have to think on that fairy tale thing. I’m not sure I’m buying it.
TITUS ANDRONICUS by William Shakespeare. Considered the worst thing he’s ever written. Jokes are made about how bad it is. I love it because it’s not a typical classic, it’s really over the top. I also highly recommend the movie adaptation starting Anthony Hopkins. It is very true to the play even if it is anachronistic. It is brilliant and even more over the top.
GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I will read anything with Gaiman’s name on it. Pratchett is just as brilliant but I gave up on Discworld for the sheer number of books. The title caught my attention because it’s an oxymoron. Omens aren’t supposed to be good. I was sold when the description said the antichrist had been lost. Maybe I’m just a fan of British humor, but this is the kind of thing I love.
READY PLAYER ONE by Earnest Cline. This is one of those books that people either loved or hated. Oddly, I am not offended by the movie adaptation either. Both a dystopia and cyberpunk novel, it’s more present day than years into the future. That, along with all the 80’s references, makes it more real in some ways. I still need to read Ready Player Two.
CENTUARI DAWN by Michael Ely. This book started a trend with me for reading video game tie-ins. This one is based on an old Sid Meier game released in 1999 called Alpha Centauri. It’s like Cavillations but only in space. I am sad that the book series is out of print because I want to reread them.
FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk. This was just a matter of what Palahniuk book was going to go on this list. I love Palahniuk’s writing. He goes places most writers are afraid to and explores the dark side of the human id. Goodreads tells me this is an action book, but I’m not sure I buy Palahniuk as an action writer. Is transgressive fiction a genre?
DEATH A LIFE by George Pendle, I found this in the humor section of the bookstore. It’s really biographical fiction. I’m not saying it’s not funny, because it is. The premise is the Grim Reaper wrote his autobiography. This is one of those books I recommend to almost everyone. This is also the book that made me start telling people the rules for borrowing my books. I loaned it out in pristine condition and it was returned a drink coaster with a broken spine
HEROES IN HELL edited by Janet Morris. This is the first book of a 24 book series. I never did find all the books in this series to read, I may have to make that a goal. The books are out of print, but I am always up for a challenge. That isn’t as bad as it sounds because each of these books is a short story collection. The idea is famous and sometimes fictional people have died and ended up in Hell together. They pick their lives up in Hell where they ended on Earth. This is the book that introduced me to the work of C.J. Cherryh.
HIGHLAND SCOUNDREL by Lois Greiman. There are probably 50 different books with the same title. I particularly like Grieman’s writing and characters. Historical highland (Scottish) romance is my “guilty pleasure” and I have read a number of Grieman’s books. This one I have reread several times though. For me these kind of books are brain candy, and sometimes the brain just needs a light read that requires almost no thought. As an aside, I’ve changed my definition of guilty pleasure. It is anything my husband feels the need to “explain” to someone in public when I am carrying a book around. It’s like, “Excuse me, my reading selection reflects on me, not you. STFU! I am also capable of speaking for myself, thank-you-very-much.” It’s almost like he’s embarrassed when a stranger catches me reading something you couldn’t pay him to read.
SNOW GLASS APPLES by Neil Gaiman. Yes, more Gaiman. I picked this one because I love fairy tale retellings. Snow Glass Apples is in a couple of Gaiman’s short story compilations and it’s on the internet somewhere for free. I sent this one over to my best friend to read and he no longer trusts me when I tell him to read something. I traumatized him. I’m not sure what his problem is because, if you really think about it, Snow White’s prince really was into necrophilia. Gaiman just called it out.
LOOK WHO’S MORPHING by Tom Cho. This book is amazingly weird. Cho is a transgender Asian-Australian author with a PhD in creative writing. He has decided to take that PhD and write fanfiction inserting himself into things like Dirty Dancing and The Sound of Music. This book is low brow but it’s awesome AF.
PUNK 57 by Penelope Douglas. I debated about putting this one on here until I stepped back and looked at the kind of romance that I read. It’s either Historical highland romance or stuff along the line of Punk 57. I want complicated and flawed characters. Life is messy and I want romance that reflects that.
NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book messed me up. The movie wasn’t offensive but it did change the meaning behind the book slightly. I felt better about it when I learned Ishiguro was on set as a consultant. Dystopic (I have a thing for dystopias) speculative fiction. I have seen it listed as psychological fiction. I think that is code for “This book is going to leave you messed up to the point you may need therapy.”
THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath. I decided I needed to pick something that is straight up literary fiction, and depressing, to put on this list. I do read literary fiction but I couldn’t think of anything right off that stayed with me. I found The Bell Jar on a list of literary fiction. I had no idea what it was classified as.
OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg. This is a queer YA romance. This is the kind of YA novel I like to read. This is also the kind of representation that teenagers need. Rafe could be any teenage boy trying to find his place in the world. Ben could be any teenage boy trying to come to grips with his sexuality. Real people with real problems. It’s a nice change over the outcast who is really a special kind of person Cinderella trope that I feel has dominated YA books ever since Twilight and Harry Potter.
ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells. I had to pick something that qualified as hard science fiction and also didn’t want to think too hard about it. I realized recently that when left to my own devices I am picking AI/robot/cyborg books at the moment. I wish I knew why I went through reading phases like this. Anyway, the Murderbot Diaries is an awesome series about a sentient robot/cyborg that just wants to watch soap operas and figure out who it is.
THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula K Le Guin. I know, I know. This book keeps coming up around here but it is my soft science fiction pick. I read it for the first time when I was 9. A lot of the book went over my head at the time. I didn’t have the life experience to understand Le Guin’s thought experiment or its social implications.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margret Attwood. Speculative fiction at it’s best and scariest. I am fond of saying this book is supposed to serve as a warning, not an instruction manual. But yes, I love me some good speculative fiction.