Recommended Reading

Lists of recommended books across a variety of genres and categories. Some of Rhiannon's favourite authors will show up across multiple categories. Some of these recommendations are more detailed than other but as this list is updated more detail will be added. Most of these recommendations were originally published as blog posts and blog commenters have come up with their own recs so if you're interested in a particular category please look at the posts tagged recommended reading on the blog.

Links are all to Amazon but may be to eBooks or print editions.

If you'd like Rhiannon to recommend books across a specific category please use the contact form or social media links.

Hungry for Games

YA novels about games

When I first came up with this list of books about games on my blog it was when a friend showed me some draft text about a futuristic game. I said then that The Hunger Games was about to be a big thing and evryone would be saturated with books about games. This is my, gradually evolving, books about games. I'm restricting this to books I've actually read and would recommend. Feel free to send me more recommendations for more books in this category.

  • Epic by Conor Kostick
    Everyone on New Earth plays the computer game ‘Epic’ and game currency is used in the real world. In a gesture of protest against the system, Erik creates a female swashbuckler character and spends all his ability points on beauty… with surprising results.
  • The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
    When Jamie trespasses in The Old Fort, a group of mysterious robed figures treat him like a game piece and discard him to ‘the bounds’. Pulled from world to world as a pawn of the gamers known only as Them, Jamie eventually makes friends and allies who will help him challenge Them at their own game.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    Katniss Everdeen lives in a post-apocalyptic worldwith limited resources. The Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death.
  • Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes
    In the future, machines and robots perform most jobs. Lisse and her friends are unemployable after graduation and, desperate for something to do, compete in The Game – a secret government initiative. As they learn the rules of the game they discover their government has ambitious plans for solving the over-population problem.
  • Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
    When Johnny plays space-invader style video game Only You Can Save Mankind, the aliens surrender and he finds himself inside the game, where he has to find common ground with the alien civilisation and work out exactly what they’re all supposed to do now.

Adult novels about games

  • The Broken World by Tim Etchells
    The Broken World takes the form of a guide to an imaginary computer game, crossed with a slacker love story. As the walkthrough consumes more and more of the narrator’s time, his life is slowly coming apart at the seams
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    Children are recruited to play war games, preparing for an alien invasion. Will the government find their Alexander before the aliens arrive, or do they have another secret objective?
  • Phoenix Cafe by Gwyneth Jones
    Earth after the arrival of the ‘Aleutian’ aliens is a strange place and Catherine, the human reincarnation of the third captain of the alien ship, a strange person. Through her friendship with human aristocrat Misha Connolly she discovers the Phoenix Cafe with its psychedelic games. But Misha, Catherine and the game itself are not exactly what they seem.
  • The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
    Gurgeh is The Culture’s best game player recruited by Special Circumstances to play the game of Azad in the Empire of Azad to impress the foreign civilisation with the Culture’s prowess. In the Empire skill at the game equals success in life and failure can be deadly.
  • The Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King
    Ben Richards needs money to buy medicine for his daughter and agrees to appear on The Running Man, the Games Network’s most popular, lucrative, and dangerous program.
  • This Is Not A Game by Walter John Williams
    Trapped in Jakarta by a series of disasters Dagmar recruits the international Alternative Reality Game (ARG) community to help her escape. Their involvement inspires her to create a new game but then the real world begins to intrude on the game world.

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Mysteries, secrets and lies

We Were Liars is the best book I've read this year. I have been recommending it all this week and it's also made me think about how many books I enjoy are mysteries. In its honour, here are ten recommended mystery novels.
  • We Were Liars by E Lockhart
    Could be read as YA or an adult novel. The heroine knows something terrible has happened but can't grasp what or why, the answer must lie in at the summer vacation home where she lost her memory two summers ago.
  • Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
    Intensely creepy thriller about a women with a rare form of amnesia which has erased her short term memory and she has to rebuild her identity each day, but can she trust what she learns?
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    Margaret goes visits bestselling author Vida Winter, intrigued by her collection of twelve stories confusing named 'Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation'. The thirteenth tale is wrapped around the mystery of Vida's own life and the disturbed twins Emmeline and Adeline March. Vida must be one of the twins to know their family secrets so well - but which one? Is she protecting someone else or her own deeds.
  • Asta's Book by Barbara Vine
    This is one of my favourite Barbara Vine novels. Asta's book is a diary bequeathed ultimately to Asta's granddaughter Ann after the death if her aunt Swanny. The diary is well known by that stage, a bestseller translated into multiple languages, but could it hold the key to a mysterious murder and a lost child? As Ann unravels the mystery of the diary and the murder together, she learns surprising and uncomfortable facts about herself and her family.
  • Dead Famous by Ben Elton
    Ben Elton is very clever in the way he weaves his plots. In this novel, set on the stage of a Big Brother style reality TV show, you don't even know who has been killed until a third of the way through the book - and there remain the mysteries of how a murder could have been committed in full view of the public and the identity of the killer.
  • Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
    The beginning of this novel is one of the most sinister and mysterious I've read. At doesn't seem like a detective story but a supernatural one and that mood is retained throughout the novel.
  • The Dark Room by Minette Walters
    Heiress Jane "Jinx" Kingsley wakes up from a coma after what appears to be a suicide attempt. She's been jilted by her fiancé, who has since disappeared together with Jinx's best friend Meg. With the help of Dr Alan Protheroe of the Nightingale Clinic she tries to recover the truth from her shattered memories and night time terrors.
  • The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    This narrative is told in the sequence that makes sense for parts - but not all- of the story. Throughout it is a sense of lurking danger and dread. Henry's time travel leaves him so very vulnerable and we know that a tragedy is coming while the details remain obscure.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tart
    Long before The Goldfinch we all knew Donna Tart for this novel. Richard arrives at Hampden College, a poor Californian student who is quickly seduced by the charismatic classics students and their Professor. Desperate to be a part of the group, he misses the signs that will lead to more than one a brutal murder.
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    Laura Chase is dead and her one novel 'The Blind Assassin' has a huge cult following. Only her sister Iris knows what really happened when she and Laura were children and how the novel came to be.

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Haunted Halloween

Celebrating Halloween, here’s a list of spooky books for readers of various ages, to read under the covers with the lights turned up high. These are listed in rough order of the age range that I’d recommend these for, from juniors to middle grade, YA and adult.

  • Which Witch? by Eva ibbotson
    Arriman the Awful, feared Wizard of the North, has decided to marry. But his wife must be a wicked witch skilled in black magic. Belladonna desperately wants to be a wicked enchantress but her magic is hopelessly white. Terrence Mugg is an unattractive orphan with a worm for a pet. This lighthearted read is intended for junior shut has enough humour to keep adult readers engaged as well.
  • The Haunting of Cassie Palmer by Vivien Alcock
    Cassie is the seventh child of a seventh child and her medium mother expects supernatural powers from her. When Cassie experimentally tries to raise a spirit she accidentally raised the wrong one: a sinister man named Deverill.
  • Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr
    This was read to me when I was eight by by class teacher. Perhaps a bit spooky for some eight-year-olds but I loved it. Whatever Marianne draws with a magic pencil she visits in her dreams: a house, a boy, food and toys. But when, in fit of temper, she draws eyes on the stones surrounding the house, her dreams enter a new and terrifying phase.
  • Why Weeps the Brogan? by Hugh Scott
    Wed 4 Years 81 days from hostilities… so reads the clock in Central Hall. For Saxon and Gilbert, though, it is just another day in their ritualized indoor existence. Together they visit the Irradiated Food Store, guarding against spiders. Among the dusty display cases, however, a far more disturbing creature moves. What is the Brogan… and why does it weep? This book works a dark and mysterious way to a dark and devastating conclusion.
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
    I fell in love this book when I was ten and dressed in black and called myself “Arha the Eaten One”. Arha is a child priestess serving the Nameless Ones in tombs under the earth. When a wizard arrives in the catacombs she confronts everything she had learned about herself, the gods and magic. This is an Earthsea novel but it stands alone.
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
    Alison and her brother Roger are spending their summer holidays in Wales. While ill in bed Alison hears noises from the attic above. Gwyn, a local boy, is sent to investigate and discovers a set of plates with a complex floral design around the edge of each piece. Alison discovers that when she traces the design and cuts it out, it can be folded into the shape of an owl. But each new paper owl disappears and so does the design from the plates. This novel builds the tension slowly but surely and its mystery has stayed with me since I first read it as a young preteen.
  • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones
    The ghost knows she is one of four sisters, but which one? She also knows there’s been an accident. As she struggles to find her identity, she becomes aware of a malevolent force stirring around her. Something terrible is about to happen. One of the sisters will die – unless the ghost can use the future to reshape the past. But how can she warn them, when they don’t even know she exists? This is the Diana Wynne Jones book based the most closely on the author’s own peculiar family and is full of haunted echoes of her own past.
  • Transformations by Anne Halam
    This is the second book of a trilogy but it stands alone. Sirato, a child of a mining family, is endlessly criticised by her strict family. Her older teenage brother Holm is indulged in all sorts of whims. Then Zanne of Garth, a Covenanter known for her work to end the poisoned machines of the past, arrives in Minith she begins to uncover a twisted secret beneath the town’s stony exterior.
  • Del Del by Victor Kelleher
    This terrifying story of a child’s personality unravelling, told by his older sister, is one of the most sinister YA novels I have read.
  • Fade by Robert Cormier
    A story about a power of invisibility inherited through the generations and the malign effects it has on its possessors.

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The End of the World

Seriously, what is it with Monica Hughes? Why can't anyone remember what books she wrote? If you haven’t read them already here are some books to find: Devil On My Back and The Dreamcatcher, Keeper of the Isis Light. Monica Hughes, people! She deserves to be remembered.

Here are some more Young Adult post-apocalyptic fiction recommendations

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The Female Future

SF titles by women writers

A friend of mine was disappointed to find that almost all the staff-recommended books listed in well-known London SF book store Forbidden Planet were by men. She asked me and some other friends to make suggestions of female authors of SF to propose to the staff of Forbidden Planet and these are the ones I'd personally recommend.

  • Lois McMaster Bujold – Vorkosigan saga
  • Octavia Butler – the Parable of the Talents and Lilith’s Brood
  • Trudi Cannavan – The Black Magician series
    A homeless girl is reluctantly initited into an elite community of magicians, who she fears and respects.
  • Gwyneth Jones – White Queen, first of The Aleutian Series
  • Katherine Kerr – Palace series
    DaggerSpell, first of the Deverry series, Reincarnation across a series of generations in a fantasy world, while one long lived magican tries to make things right.
  • Tanith Lee – Tales from the Flat Earth, The Silver Metal Lover, Drinking Sapphire Wine and Don't Bite The Sun
  • Ursula Le Guin – The Earthsea Trilogy, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed
  • Julian May – Saga of the Exiles
  • Robin McKinley – Spindle's End
  • Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow / Children of God
  • Felicity Savage – Humility Garden / Delta City
  • Sheri S Tepper – The Gate to Women’s Country, The Margarets, Beauty.
  • James Tiptree – Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, moving feminist SF short stories.
  • Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen and sequels, Cat's Paw and sequels

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    SF authors

    Current SF authors (people writing good work right now) who I’d recommend.

    • Greg Egan, author of Permutation City, Schild’s Ladder and Quarantine and other titles
    • Mary Gentle, author of Golden Witchbreed, the White Crow quartet and other titles
    • Peter F. Hamilton, author of the Night’s Dawn Trilogy and other titles
    • Gwyneth Jones, author of the Aleutian trilogy (including White Queen and Phoenix Cafe) and other novels including YA titles as Anne Hallam.
    • Ursula Le Guin, author of The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, Four Ways to Forgiveness and other titles
    • Rachel Pollack, author of Temporary Agency and Unquenchable Fire and other titles
    • Adam Roberts, author of The Snow, Stone, Salt and Gradisil and other titles
    • Michael Marshall Smith, author of Only Forward, Spares and other titles, now writing horror novels under the name Michael Marshall.
    • Neal Stephenson, author of The Diamond Age, The Big U and other titles
    • John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War and other titles

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    SF works

    People sometimes ask me to recommend some science-fiction titles. This is an insto-list of good SF. It has to be alphabetical because it's so hard to rate them on order of quality.

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    Fascinating families

    Earlier this year I read Brideshead Revisited for the first time and to be honest, I was disappointed. I'd heard it was a classic story about someone falling in love with a family. Perhaps the problem was that I didn't fall in love with the characters or find them fascinating at all. Here are some recommended books which made fall in love with the fascinating family portrayed.

    • The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
      Based on Mitford's own eccentric upbringing and full of her quick wit and laconic style. After reading this I read everything Mitford I could get my hands on.
    • The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley
      Set during the Second World War, this follows the stories of five cousins who we meet on holiday at their aunt and uncle's house, known for its camomile lawn, about to take part in 'The Terror Run', a night time race along a cliff path. Oliver, Calypso, Polly, Walter and Sophy and their friends and relations are followed through the course of the war as they grow in unexpected directions.
    • Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
      The first of a multi branching narrative but it entirely stands alone. Katherine is introduced by her Professor Jacob Goldman to his family and falls for the beautiful slim and serious Roger with an embroidered butterfly on the back pocket of his jeans. But the whole family fascinates Katherine and she becomes over invested in their lives and struggles to find her own independent self.
    • A Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh
      An Inspector Alleyn detective story but one in which Alleyen falls into the background behind the brilliant and eccentric Lampreys who treat murder like a parlour game and admit openly how ridiculous they are.
    • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
      An artistic family rents a dilapidated castle and when new neighbours move, Cassandra's sister Rose is ready to fall in love with the eligible older son. As Cassandra narrates the budding romance she tries to ignore her own worries. But is Rose really in love or just pretending because she wants what love will bring her.
    • The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy
      Ariadne "Harry" Hamilton is quiet and owlish, a quiet seventeen-year-old, overshadowed by glamourous older sister Christabel. Christmas in New Zeland is a beach holiday for the family at Carnivale's Hide: one with unexpected guests, three of whom resemble characters from Harry's novel. This magical realist novel is firmly rooted in the story of family relationships.
    • Wise Children by Angela Carter
      The dancing Chance sisters are illegitimate children of the theatrical royalty Hazard family. The song-and-dance girls tap dance their way through the family's fortunes and disasters.
    • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones
      This is the one of Diana's novels based the most closely on her wn eccentric family. But which of the four girls we meet is the ghost? Unravelling the mystery is essential to surving their childhood.
    • Ballet Shoes by Noël Streatfeild
      The three adopted Fossil sisters have to train for the stage in order to make a living and vow to revive the family fortunes. Pauline is an actress and Posy is a dancer's daughter but Petrova the middle sister only just tolerates her dancing for the sake of the family.
    • Out of the Ordinary by Annie Dalton
      Molly writes a mock advert for 'Quests Undertaken' and finds herself and the family foster children drawn into the magical mystery of a very strange child.

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    Rhiannon's influences

    There's a "10 books that have influenced me" meme going around on Facebook at the moment. I feel that I've done this before but possibly at live events rather than online, so for posterity, here are mine.
    • The Changeover, Margaret Mahy
      This book is in the genre I like best, "realist magicism" as I call it, set in the real world but with the supernatural creeping in around the edges. Its mixture of magic, romance, and horror was exactly what I loved as a teenager and I still love it today.
    • Archer's Goon, Diana Wynne Jones
      I could have picked over half Diana's books as influences but I've chosen this one because of how very funny it is. Seven sorcerer megalomaniacs are secretly running the town and using Howard's family in their plots and schemes. But the joy of it is in the comedic chaos of the story.
    • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
      All the romance of living in a castle tempered with the realism of its discomforts, together with a plot about books, about realism, loyalty and betrayal.
    • The Dancing Meteorite, Anne Mason
      I loved this book so much, I must have read it a hundred times, but no one ever name checks it except me. An SF novel with a heart, reminiscent of Louise Lawrence.
    • DragonSong, Anne McCaffrey
      As an adult I am less attached to Anne McCaffrey but I still think that the three Menoly novels are her best Pern fiction, perhaps because they are at one remove from the dragons at the centre of the series and deal with characters who are less powerful and influential than the dragon riders.
    • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
      There's something about the family domesticity of this book, dated as it is, that rings completely true. Jo's fury with Amy when her sister wrecks her book, Meg's overdoing the makeup and borrowed clothes, Amy's contraband limes. I still reread this and its sequels and find things I didn't notice as a child and a teenage reader. Now I understand why Jo chose to marry as she did.
    • The Weathermonger, Peter Dickenson
      Post apocalyptic before it was trendy, I loved this book so much that I said when I grew old enough to have my own cats I'd name them Shadow and Ghost after the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and Ghost that appear only briefly in this plot.
    • Sister Light Sister Dark, Jane Yolen
      A clever format which casts doubt upon the story's reliability, an invented mythology and world, and an original and inventive magic system.
    • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
      At age ten I was obsessed with this book. I identified more with Tom than Huck who is only a cameo character int his book. Tom's world with its litter of treasured items is seductive: the doorknob he gives a s a love token, the marbles he trades for coloured tickets, the miscellaneous found treasures and trash - that's what I loved about this book. I even had my own hoard of similar items kept in a cigar box in true Sawyer style.
    • Homecoming, Cynthia Voigt
      A more modern family narrative than Little Women and a much more powerful drama. This book and its many sequels are contemporary writing at its best. The characters are contradictory, not falling neatly into any stereotype, and committed to each other with a strong family bond.

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    Classic Children's Fiction

    Another list of recommendations, this one is for authors of classic children’s fiction.

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