My taste in books is scatter-brained and fickle to put it mildly, but here is a selection of some of the books that for one reason or another remain constants in my reading universe. I don’t do reviews, per se, just small expressions of why I love them, alongside favoured quotes or passages. To let the books and their authors speak for themselves.
If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts – if not, perhaps you will instead share your own recommendations with me?
Kushiel’s Legacy (double trilogy) & the Naamah Trilogy
By Jacqueline Carey
These six books are perhaps the most beautifully written works of fiction I have ever read. With the likely exception of Homer’s Illiad. The plot lines and character galleries are exquisitely complex, intricate and intelligent, rooted half in Earth history and religion, and half in the stunning creation of a society in which Love, in all its myriad forms and expressions, is religion. It is fantasy at its best with heroes, villains, saving the realm and love always in the balance. Classy, adult, LGBTQ-friendly reading that leaves a lasting impression. All 9 books are impossible to put down – and the audiobook versions are narrated to perfection by Anne Flosnik and Simon Vance. I also highly recommend following Jacqueline Carey on Facebook, as she is very interactive with her followers and often promotes events, “ask-a-question”, panels, book signings, conventions and the like of interest to her readers.
“Genius requires an audience. For all his cleverness, Delaunay was an artist and as vulnerable as any of his kind to the desire to vaunt his brilliance. And there were few, very few, people capable of appreciating his art. I did not know, then, how deep-laid a game they played with each other, nor what part in it I was to play. All I knew was that she was the audience he chose.”
Kushiel’s Dart, book 1, first trilogy
“It’s the same questions we ask of our existence, and the answer is always the same. The mystery lies not in the question nor the answer, but in the asking and answering themselves, over and over again, and the end is engendered in the beginning. ”
Kushiel’s Avatar, book 3, first trilogy
“I know what you are. I’ve always known from the beginning, Kushiel’s Chosen. It is folly, to make claim on one whom the gods have marked for their own. And unlike the others, I am no fool, to grasp at that which burns to the touch. What you have given…” she raised one hand, palm upward, the garnet seal dangling at her wrist, “… I hold in an open hand.”
Kushiel’s Avatar, book 3, first trilogy
Through the Language Looking Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages
By Guy Deutscher
How we talk and the words we use shape the way we perceive the world. And this books expertly explains how and why. It is a fascinating and accessible look into the complex way in which language evolved, and how it still today continues to define our ability to comprehend what others see and express. If you have ever found yourself wondering: “Is the colour green the same colour for you as it is for me?” … then this is the book for you.
“Why should color, of all things, be at the center of so much crossfire? Perhaps because in meddling with such a deep and seemingly instinctive area of perception, culture camouflages itself as nature more successfully there than in any other area of language. There is nothing remotely abstract, theoretical, philosophical, hypothetical, or any other -cal, so it seems, about the difference between yellow and red or between green and blue.”
– Through the Language Looking Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages
A Short History of Nearly Everything
By Bill Bryson
This book is a science-based down-to-Earth, witty and easily accessible walk through time and space, literally from the creation of Earth till today, to help you understand the basics of how and why the universe works the way it does. It sounds complicated and stuffy, but then there is a dead rhinoceros in a hallway, and complex theory is translated into tangible analogies, and you’re totally getting it. Even if you (like me) aren’t a science buff at all. That, and every so often, there are just the most thought-provoking quotes that grab you and stay long after you have finished the last page – like the opening quote I have shared below here:
To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and curiously obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, co-operative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence.
Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don’t actually care about you – indeed, don’t even know that you are there. They don’t even know that they are there. They are mindless particles, after all, and not even themselves alive. (It is a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.) Yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single rigid impulse: to keep you you.
– A Short History of Nearly Everything
Other random books and authors I also enjoy:
Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series
When Dan Brown is just a bit too simplistic and formulaic. Berry’s books take history and science and blends them perfectly into a fast-paced, witty and well-cast mystery thriller setting. There are now 12 books in the series and none of them disappoint. The fact that Scott Brick narrates most of the audiobook versions only adds!
Trudi Canavan trilogies
The Age of The Five, The Black Magician, The Traitor Spy and Magician’s Apprentice (related stand-alone novel to the latter two) are all great reads for anyone with a love of well-crafted fantasy and magic storytelling. She masters worldbuilding and character development to a T and even after repeated reads the stories still retain their appeal. The Age of The Five is a particular favourite of mine due to the existential and religious conflicts faced by the main character due to love and personal values.
Preston & Child
The series and stand-alone novels produced by the collaboration of these two authors are amongst some of my most recent explorations. Drawing on the mystery thriller genre coupled with science and history never fail to intrigue. Among my favourites are the Pendergast and Gideon Crewe series – in no small part (I’m sure) due to the skill and artistry of narrators Rene Auberjonois and Scott Brick.
James Rollins’ Sigma Force series
Running out of books from my go-to authors, I decided on a whim to give James Rollins’ mystery thriller Sigma Force series a try – and I haven’t been disappointed. Except perhaps by the fact that it is so difficult to find (and expensive to buy) some of the earlier audiobook versions of these novels. The characters are interesting, albeit a bit stereotypical, but likeable and engaging – and the ‘easy-assignment-turns-into-a-mission-to-save-the-world’ formula always comes wrapped in an entertaining and interesting story arc.
Robert Ludlum’s Covert One series
Covert One mirrors the Sigma Force series as a collection of well-written, engaging and high-paced mystery thriller spy novels. And like Rollins’ books these too can be difficult and expensive to buy in the audiobook version. But they are well worth it. I have no doubt that I will be listening to these books over and over again for years to come.
And many more to be added as and when time permits…