My favorite stories are exciting, otherworldly adventures that also manage to reveal insight into the human condition. I am drawn to characters with complex emotional lives, especially when they tend to make really poor decisions. At the end of the day, though, if it has swords and spells, it's probably on my reading list.
An untraditional, mystical story about the last of the tricksy magicians, and the huntress who wishes to defeat them. Each page is a work of art.
A wholesome story about a little wizard with big feelings who wants to help those in need. And maybe, one day, he'll be recognized for his work, and the townspeople will crown him Harvest Hero! Or perhaps he'll always remain the town's good-hearted laughingstock. A beautifully written and illustrated, feel-good story with an ending that will make you say, "Awwwwwww!"
Dorothy is descended from Greek legend Pandora, and as such, her family tree is defined by ancient mistakes. When Dorothy's mother chooses to forsake their community of immortals, she releases another box of misery upon their little world. These not-quite-gods, not-quite humans are forced for the first time to confront death, to confront grief, and to choose: to stay on Earth forever, or to rejoin the gods in Olympus. This is a story of friendship, of loss, and a story that expertly grapples with the meaning of suffering. A magical tale set in a little corner of our world, where a ladder reaches past the clouds and brushes the land of gods.
From the author of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch comes another action-packed, middle grade fantasy novel infused with Japanese culture and mythology. Tessa Miyata is a girl trapped between two worlds, both literally and figuratively. In America, she's seen as Japanese, but in Japan, she's seen as American. When she accidentally destroys a family heirloom, an evil samurai god is released, and she must flee into another realm: a hidden part of Tokyo known as the City of Legends. But she has no way to return home, and even if she did, an angry god awaits her there. Middle grade magical realism and portal fantasy are always so satisfying when done this well. Deities, spirits, and myths abound!
A fantastic entry-point to epic, sprawling, heroic, Robert Jordan style fantasy. Sanderson is the master of satisfying endings and fleshed-out magic systems. His Stormlight Archive series is the quintessential example of this, and his most ambitious project yet. This book will break you down and build you back up again. Speak again he ancient oaths!
Beautifully composed fantasy, all centered around the life story of one compelling character: Kvothe, the Bloodless, the Kingkiller. Rothfuss has taken notes from LeGuin's Earthsea series in both magic and worldbuilding, but this story shines due to its mysterious, troubled protagonist. What's more, the way he writes about the arts, particularly theatre and music, will evoke as strong emotions in you as if you witnessed the performances yourself.
In a world with overactive tectonic plates, humans have developed sessapinae, organs which detect impending earthquakes. Some few, known as orogenes, can redirect and even generate tectonic activity. At its core, this is a dystopian fantasy story about people who have to fight for the same respect others are given without question. The narrative is uniquely told, as Jemisin plays with form. This book and its two sequels won the Hugo Award across three successive years; Jemisin is the first to ever achieve this.
The show took over pop culture for nearly a decade, and even with the series incomplete, the books are still worth reading. Small moments in the show are given time and context, which highlights the story's depth. The politics, relationships, and worldbuilding in Westeros are unmatched by most other fantasy worlds. All of this in addition to Martin's rich prose make for a fantastic literary experience. Even if you skipped out on the whole GOT craze, it's not too late to give this book a shot.
The original wizarding school story, long before Harry Potter, long before Name of the Wind. But moreover, this is a story about a boy trying to discover who he is, and fighting an unnamed evil within himself. So much is mystical about Earthsea. In this world, power lies in the true names of things.
My favorite middle grade novel of all time. Join orphans Prospero and Bo as they sneak around the streets of Venice, Italy with their secretive leader: the Thief Lord. Identities are revealed, magic is discovered, and a family is found. This book has lots of tension, but its also cozy and sweet in all the most satisfying ways. And the setting of Venice is so vivid that it's practically a character of its own.
Coraline is as near to a perfect novel as you can get. Neil Gaiman wrote this story at fifty words a night, and it shows. His prose is intentional, concise, and deeply evocative. The film adaptation, as incredible as it is, couldn't possibly match the power of Gaiman's writing here. At one point, Coraline tells a story about her father, a wasp nest, and the true meaning of bravery. This section gave me goosebumps to read, and I think about it often. You can finish this book in an hour or two. Don't miss out on this middle grade horror perfection!
Even if you've seen the movie, this book is more than worth the read. Mark Watney's fatalistic sense of humor works exceedingly well with the constant life-threatening situations that arise from being stranded on Mars. Andy Weir wrote this book as a labor of love for a small, niche audience, and his passion for the subject matter shows. The science is so complete and plausible, which adds only more depth to the novel.
The sun is going supernova. Earth has already burned to a crisp. Humans must leave the star system, or perish. Remarkably complex, action-packed middle grade science fiction. For kids (and adults!) interested in space, interplanetary travel, and technology, Last Day on Mars is a perfect fit. The first entry in a series that's epic in scale.
Finance is taught in school as a hard skill, as a science. Housel believes that this is a mistake; our economy is governed by human emotion first and foremost. Here, he offers a guide to the soft skills of money management. Learn how to feel emotionally secure in your financial decisions.
Abercrombie's characters are awful people who make awful decisions in a bleak world. For this, he's often compared to George R.R. Martin. However, he's unique in that he also infuses a dark, sardonic humor throughout his narratives. I didn't turn a single page without a snort of laughter. The First Law trilogy starts here.
If you love Kiki's Delivery Service, read this book. Join Eva in her quest to protect the coastal town of Auteri and earn the rank of Novice Witch, even though she only has a pinch of magic. Pets, potions, and delicious food all play key roles in the charming adventure Julie Abe crafts in her debut novel.
Optimism is the new realism! Don't believe me? Let Bregman convince you. He contends that humans are inherently good--and he backs this claim through historical, psychological, and biological lenses. This is my favorite nonfiction book, and one of the most formative in my worldviews.
This collection of essays is a wonderful resource for all writers and humans. Take everything one step at a time. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Be intensely interested in the world around you. Lamott reflects on the basic principles of the craft in such ways as will benefit even experienced storytellers.
In this retelling of Sleeping Beauty, the hero is trying to keep the villain asleep. This is a quiet, sad story about earnest people trying to act with love in the face of pure evil. Kingfisher's prose is simple and pithy, making for an easy, insightful read.
A dystopian fantasy world where ash rains from the sky. A magic system that feels like science. And over this backdrop, the plot of Ocean's Eleven meets that of My Fair Lady. Mistborn was my introduction to Brandon Sanderson, and, I would contend, remains his best "self-contained" story to date. That is to say, while there are many other entries in the series, I felt deeply satisfied by the end of this novel. Nearly every plot thread is closed; or at least, it feels that way on a first read. The rest of the trilogy manages to contextualize this book in a way that only adds to its brilliance. If you're curious about Brandon Sanderson, if you've heard about his incredible skill in writing endings ("Sanderlanches"), start here.
This is my favorite book of all time. Period. Full stop. I have faith that I will remain unchanged in this opinion for the rest of my life. As you've probably heard, this is the ultimate revenge story. But it's also so much more than that. It's a snapshot of 1800s France and Italy. It's full of intrigue, and for every question presented, there's an answer whose cleverness will send goosebumps across your skin. It boasts some of the most interesting, believable, constantly changing characters in fiction. By the end of this book, you would defend many of them with your life. Others, quite the opposite. For over 1300 pages, Alexandre Dumas not only held my attention, but rewarded me for paying attention. No detail is spared, and yet, every detail is important. At times, the book might feel meandering. Trust in Dumas, for everything mentioned remains entirely relevant, even if you don't see it right away. And when the importance of certain events become clear, it's satisfying in an unparalleled way. Read this version. Unabridged, and the Robin Buss translation. If you think you might read an abridged version, read Buss's introduction to this one first. You'll be convinced by his passion for this story he's translated masterfully.
"[Vonnegut] dares not only to ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it." The blurb on the front of this book makes a big promise. Vonnegut does not fail to deliver. Beyond the years of reading Harry Potter and Ranger's Apprentice, Vonnegut was my first love in reading. He opened my mind to philosophies of naturalism and humanism. And while he offers absurd narratives, they revealed more truth to me about life and living than anything else at the time. Upon a reread, this book holds up. The narrative is complex, the settings are varied, and the characters are deplorable yet pitiable. This book will continue to surprise you with the quality of its offerings from start to finish.
No one does humor quite like Pratchett. This book is Hot Fuzz meets Monty Python, and yet, it doesn't lose any depth for its hilarity. For every joke, it offers also a profound observation about the silliness of our day-to-day existence. GNU Terry Pratchett!