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Topic: Help me! Need a book club recommendation!

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Subject: Help me! Need a book club recommendation!
Date Posted: 8/15/2010 8:09 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
Posts: 326
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I just joined a book club last month and my first pick for a book is coming up next month.

One thing I love about being in a book club is that it often makes me read books that I would never have picked for myself.

In the spirit of recommending something different, I would like to recommend something from the fantasy genre. I am pretty sure it will be the first fantasy book that most of these women have ever read, and I would like introduce them to some good fantasy.

The rule I am struggling with is this: I cannot recommend something that I have already read. So, I need some suggestions! I am ok with recommending the first book of a series (as long as it's a relatively short series...no Wheel of Time, please). If they hate the book, no biggie. If they love the book, then maybe they will seek out and read the rest of the series on their own.

Either way, I need some ideas. Here are the ones that I have already read and are therefore off the list (although I have seriously considered cheating...):

  • R. A. Salvatore:  all of the Drizzt books, The Sellswords, The DemonWars Saga, The Cleric Quintet
  • Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy
  • Stephen Lawhead: The Song of Albion Trilogy, The King Raven Trilogy, The Pendragon Cycle
  • Neil Gaiman: Good Omens, Neverwhere
  • Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files
  • Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell
  • J.R.R. Tolkein: The Hobbitt, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion
  • J.K. Rowling: all of Harry Potter
  • Christopher Paolini: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr (it shames me to admit that publicly, but there it is...)
  • Anne McCaffrey: The DragonRiders of Pern (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon)
  • Jonathan Barnes: The Somnambulist, The Domino Men

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks y'all!!



Last Edited on: 8/15/10 9:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/15/2010 8:39 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Assuming those are also fantasy novels you liked, and also assuming that you would like to like the book you pick for the book club, this is what comes to my mind:

Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey -- Start of a series, and really big, but each volume stands alone well and the eight books in the series are even broken up into trilogies, so it's also possible to only read the first three. There is a fair amount of overlap, in my experience, with Robin Hobb fans and Jacqueline Carey fans, which is why I recommend this; I do have one caveat, though: there is a fair amount of adult content in this one.

Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees -- stand-alone fantasy gem from a time before Tolkien; it's about the only book that I can class with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in its combination of English prosaic lifestyles and English magic that doesn't play by simple rules. Only caveat here is that it's pretty hard to find -- your book club will almost certainly need to get the book online (unless you have a kick-a$$ library system). And incidentally, if your book club is kind of stuck-up about SF/F I'd probably recommend this one first, as it can be read through the lens of British class struggle, or with a Freudian twist, and if it had conveniently been written in the 70s it most certainly would have been a text in support of mind-altering drugs. ;) I'm not saying I endorse those interpretations, but it could be a fun thing for a book club to get into.

The Ladies of Mandrigyn, by Barbara Hambly -- This is sword-and-sorcery (which is where I put the Salvatore) done right. Plenty of action and larger-than-life characters, but a much greater depth to the world-building and a greater awareness of gender and class than is usual in the genre. This is a slightly older book, so it isn't likely to be in your average bookstore, but it should be easy to find online or at a library. Also, this is the same Barbara Hambly that has a mystery series (Benjamin January, set in 19th century New Orleans) and some historical fiction that I know are moderately common book club fair.

A Companion to Wolves, by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette -- This is companion animal fantasy (which is what The Dragonriders of Pern is) done right. Much grittier than McCaffrey's novels, and the names are a nightmare (because they're very much in tune with the Norse mythology that serves as the basis for the world AND because half the characters take new names about 1/3 of the way through the novel) but aside from that it's a brilliant work. Again though, one caveat: there's significant adult content (mostly M/M sex) and something that stops just shy of a rape.

Date Posted: 8/16/2010 9:16 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 1,716
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Depending on how much time you have to read the book, I would highly suggest The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Date Posted: 8/17/2010 10:05 AM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2009
Posts: 438
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Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys is a great novel.  It ties in (very) loosely with American Gods (which is also quite good), but easily stands on its own.  It's somewhat similar in tone to Good Omens, but definitely isn't as much of a comedy; it is almost a thriller.  Like a lot of Gaiman's work, it is about a reality that runs parallel to our own, which might make it more accessable to a group of readers that would normally scoff at fantasy.  Don't get me wrong, it definitely has a heavy dose of fantasy, dealing with ancient African folk gods, but it is essentially a story about family, and would be a good introduction to fantasy for the non-fantasy readers.

If you liked Butcher's Dresden Files, and are a fan of RA Salvatore, I'd recommend Butcher's Codex Alera series that starts with Furies of Calderon.  I find that I like the series better than the Dresden Files.  It's a great series, Butcher is really good at creating a fast-paced action-filled story with a good set of characters.  It may not be the greatest for those readers that might be resistant to fantasy -- it's pretty heavy on sword and sandals action.

Date Posted: 8/17/2010 5:34 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
Posts: 326
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Has anyone read Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion?

Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana   or   The Lions of al-Rassan?


Would either of those be good options? I'm still looking around and those came up as possibilities.

Thanks so much for all of the suggestions so far!  I'll probably keep all of my options open until the last minute. I have one, maybe two, more book clubs to go before I make my pick, so I'll have a better feel for the group by then regarding what they might like.

Feel free to keep the suggestions coming. If nothing else, my own TBR is growing ever more out of control because of them.

Date Posted: 8/17/2010 8:47 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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The Curse of Chalion is awesome. You can't really go wrong with Bujold. But it's very much a genre book -- so people who are dead set against genre writing in general probably won't have their minds changed by it. In other words, it has absolutely no literary leanings. (Of course, if these are people who like *other* genres but don't like SF/F specifically, that should be fine, lol.)

The only Kay novel I've read is A Song for Arbonne, and I was pretty underwhelmed by it, but I've heard since then that most Kay fans are underwhelmed by it, so I'm probably not qualified to comment on his recommendability. ;) Still, I think he has some novels that are practically historical fiction, no magic whatsoever, so they might be a good bet. (And I think, judging from Wikipedia, that The Lions of Al-Rassan is one of them with no magic.)

Random tidbit: both The Curse of Chalion AND The Lions of Al-Rassan are set in medieval Spanish analogues. ;)

Date Posted: 8/18/2010 4:31 AM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2008
Posts: 14,818
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Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys is a great novel.  ..., but it is essentially a story about family, and would be a good introduction to fantasy for the non-fantasy readers.

i've read plenty of fantasy, and i *loathed* Anansi Boys.  if someone had given that to me as an introduction to the genre i'd never have touched another one.  besides disliking every single character in the thing, i vaguely remember the ending was entirely unsatisfactory as well.  [i'd have given up fairly early on, but a friend whose reading tastes i often agree with had said it was great and insisted i borrow it, so i felt i should read it all.]

i loved The Curse of Chalion though.

Date Posted: 8/18/2010 11:14 AM ET
Member Since: 11/17/2006
Posts: 182
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My wife is in a similar book club where a lot of the members have read little or no fantasy.  She picked Brandon Sanderson's Elantris once and a lot of the ladies really liked it,  She is also picking Going Postal by Terry Pratchett this month.  Both of these are categorized as fantasy, but are not typical fantasy.  Going Postal is more of a humorous satire of the real world than fantasy. Elantris is fantasy with a magical power ( a very unique one ), but not traditional elves/dwarves stuff.

Both of these seem to fit the non-series requirement too.  Elantris is stand-alone.  Going Postal is part of Pratchett's bigger Discworld series, but it is also a stand-alone novel and doesn't require reading any preceeding or succeeding books.