Thursday, April 28, 2005


I’m back. Or, more specifically, my keyboard is back. Well, “a” keyboard is back and I’m not even sure “back” is the correct word either because it’s a new one. Right, forget all that – how about this: my ability to type spaces is back. It’s nice. I kind of missed them and I’m glad to be able to have them in my work once again. I feel they really add something to my writing, a certain comprehensibility that I find my readers appreciate.

Enough about that, prelude over. Now for the actual entry:

Over the next few entries, I plan to provide you with several different lists of recommended reading, each from a slightly different standpoint. Today, I bring you:


(and by “young reader” I mean both those readers who are young in age and those readers who are young in fantasy experience).

This list is primarily children’s books, those books that were among the first I ever read. They are (as one would suspect) quick and easy reads (so it’s not too painful if you find that you really can’t stand fantasy after all). Do not, however, dismiss them as children’s books. They ARE children’s book but they’re deep enough to be enjoyed by adults as well.

First, I have to mention the Narnia books:

Author: C.S. Lewis

Series: 7 Books. Starts with: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At leas that was the first one written – ignore the idiots who republished the series in “chronological order.” Read them as the author wrote them (rant for another day).

And right away I’m going to give the lie to one of my earlier statements. I’m not sure I can recommend these books to adults who are not reading them to children. They’re excellent books, but I tried to reread them recently and it wasn’t easy (well, to be more accurate it was TOO easy). However, they were a crucial introduction for me to the world of fantasy and to the world of reading in general. My dad read them to my brother and I when we were little. I strongly recommend every parent do the same. Reading them for yourselves after a certain point in your life might not be as enjoyable.

2. The Kingdom of Prydain Series

Author: Lloyd Alexander

Series: 5 Books. Starts with “The Book of Three”

I understand that recommending series is sort of cheating, because I promised quick and easy reads, but in this case (as with the Narnia books and the next series) the first book does not conclude with a cliffhanger so you can indeed read just one without feeling forced to read the next ones. You will feel compelled to read the next one, but not forced. The title from this series that you are most likely to recognize is “The Black Cauldron.” It’s the second book and, for those of you still confused as to why that title should be familiar, it eventually became a Disney movie. The main character of the series is Taran, an assistant pig-keeper for the enchanter Dallben, and he’s not very happy with his lot in life (although, in defense of the position the pig CAN tell the future). Besides the assistant pig-keeper, Prydain contains, as many fantasy worlds do: a princess, a mighty prince, a terrible dark lord, a wise enchanter, a wicked witch, and several fierce battles between men and things-that-are-not-men (although no dragons). To limit it to that description, however, is a terrible disservice, equivalent to describing your mother’s cookies as made of the same materials as the grocery store cookies. These books are crafted of much finer stuff than such a description implies (including a large chunk of Welsh mythology, among other influences – try to put THAT in a cookie, Kroger!). The characters are fascinating, the story is well conceived, and each book within the series is excellent (moist AND delicious). My favorite is number four: “Taran Wanderer” (and I’ll tell you why once you’ve read it). If you only read six fantasy books ever, these should be five of them.

3. The Dark is Rising Series

Author: Susan Cooper

Series – 5 books – First book can be either “Over Sea, Under Stone” or “The Dark is Rising.” (if you’re only going to read one, I recommend “The Dark is Rising”)

Some people would argue that this series should be that five instead of Prydain. I’m not one of them, but I would say if you’re going to read more than six fantasy books, it might be a good idea to add these to the list. This is another coming of age story although instead of the medieval kingdom of Prydain, it is set in the somewhat less medieval modern kingdom of Great Britain (most of the time). Like Alexander, Cooper draws from many different mythological sources, but first among those are the tales of King Arthur. Again, these books are well crafted, well written, well thought out, and very solid. Also a coming of age story (among other things), although Cooper’s characters go about it in a different fashion than Alexander’s.

4. (Not a series this time) The Princess and the Goblin

Author: George Macdonald

This is an old one, old enough to have had an influence on Tolkien and C. S. Lewis (and some even claim it did, it might even be true). It is one of my favorite stories of all time. This is the sixth book in my “if you only read six fantasy books” scenario. It would be the first book in my “if you only read one book” scenario. It’s another one that my father read aloud to me and one that I have read myself many times since. Foolishly, it is not one I actually own. I had forgotten about it until attempting to come up with this list and now I miss it (and, added bonus, I discovered while searching for the Amazon link that he wrote a whole mess of books I now need to go track down).

So, there you go – I have delivered the first booklist: three recommendations (covering eleven books) and one shout out (covering seven books). Next time I’ll discuss something a bit more adult oriented. If you have specific questions about these books (or others) let me know and I’ll see what I can do to clarify my recommendations without giving away any secrets.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Itneverfails.I starta post(oneachofmysites)that'smultipart andsomethingonmy computerbreaks. Bynow youshouldhavefiguredoutwhatitis thatbroke.Itbrokea few days after myfirstpost (rightaboutthe timeIwasready todo mynextpost). Itriedfixingit,butthat didntwork(obviously)andamonaweirdenoughschedulenow that Ihavenot yet been able to get anewone.Ifiguredenoughtimehaspassed though thatyoudeserveanexplanationofwhy you'regoingto have to wait stilllonger.Sorry. In the meantime ifyou'rebored,check outmy latest addiction(which I blameon Meredith). It'scalled In Passing. ReadMeredith's review foran explanation so youdon'thavetosufferanymoreofthis

Sunday, April 03, 2005


One of the functions I serve among my friends is that of "book recommender." It's a position I'm honored to have, for many of my friends read enough that they can tell the difference between a good book and a bad one. The fact that they return to me after my first few recommendations and ask for more is gratifying. It's also not a very unique position- for pretty much the same reason - more of an exchange really than a position. I recommend something to you, you recommend something to me, we both come off better for it. I like this system, it seems to work. There are, however, a few holes.

The biggest hole is that we've all read different books. While reading different books is usually an ideal situation in such an exchange (that being the purpose, and all), it's not ideal when the "different books" in question are those that formed the very basis for our current reading tastes. Even then it's not so much a hole as an opportunity. So I am going to take this opportunity and run with it. It may take a few installments, but I'll see what I can do.

I like fantasy and I like science fiction. Many of the people who ask me for recommendations never really discovered either. They are, however, open to new experiences so I've been trying to introduce them to those aspects of each genre that I believe they will appreciate. It occurred to me recently, that there are actually two ways to enter into the respective worlds of fantasy and science fiction. One is the way I've been trying to bring my friends in - finding books on the edges and slowly drawing them in from the sides. The other way is the way I came at it - starting with "children's" books and graduating deeper and deeper. It's the difference between learning about a garden from pictures and plant cuttings and learning about it by walking into it.

Perhaps, then, I should be leading my friends into this garden along a path very similar to the one I took. Not tonight, tonight is just the warm up. In my next few entries I'll attempt to apply the benefit of hindsight to my early reading experiences. I'll cull what's worthwhile and relevant to adults and present it with whatever explanations, recommendations, and caveats I find necessary. Some of my favorite books as a child have lost something with time, sadly but the best ones are still good and getting better as I grow older. Those I will present to you so that you may each (as you see fit) discover what led me into this garden in the first place.