The Book Nook:
Mainstream and Other Genre Fiction:
These books are listed in no particular order, but the newest to be added
to this list are going to be placed at the top. (So that repeat visitors don't have
to keep scrolling through this.)
Look at the Science Fiction Recommendations or the Fantasy Recommendations
- Barbara Hambly: A Free Man of Color. Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, this is
a fascinating study of life and society in those times. The protagonist is an educated
black man drawn into a murderous mystery, for which he comes to be blamed. Hambly is known for
her fantasy works; here she branches out into historical research. An excellent book.
- Rosemary Edghill: Speak Daggers to Her. A
mystery/occult thriller set in Manhattan. The protagonist, Karen, must
solve a murder, tracking through various occult biways (the flakes, the
serious, and the less-than-well-intentioned) to find her killer. Very well
done. There are two good follow-up books, including The Bowl of Night. They can
be read separately, although the set of three has just been re-released under one cover, as
Bell, Book and Murder.
- Tony Hillerman: The Blessing Way, Coyote Waits, the Dark Wind,
Dance Hall of the Dead, The Fallen Man, The First Eagle, The Ghostway,
Listening Woman, People of Darkness, Sacred Clowns, Skinwalkers, Talking God, A Thief of Time..
(These are the thirteen of his books I've read so far.) Detective mysteries set on and around
Hopi and Navaho reservation land, written by a fellow who's done his homework, and
who respects the people he writes about. These books can be read independently. (Since writing
this, I now believe I have obtained and read all of the Hillerman Navaho novels, leastwise those
pubbed in paperback editions. They're worth it.
- Robert Shea: Shike. Excellent historical novel of early Japan, and one
which can be read on several levels. (I named my cat after the protagonist, Jebu.)
- Robert Shea: All Things Are Lights. Again, this book is
readable on several levels. Set in France at the end of the Cathar heresy, which
was stomped out by force, the novel follows a French troubadour as he gets intangled
with his love of a Cathar woman and with the Knights Templar.
- Salman Rushdie: Midnight's Children, Satanic Verses. Neither
book is an easy read, but worth it apart from a desire to make a statement
about the rough form of Islamic censorship. The books are set in a culture not
familiar to most Americans; the imagery is inspiring.
- Tom Robbins: Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the
Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume. Whatever Robbins
sets out to talk about is done in amazing metaphoric style. The visual
effects of his language are incredible. The story lines are, well, a bit
implausible, but something works quite well anyway in the above novels. (I think he
lost it in Skinny Legs and All, but that's okay.)
- Anne Rice: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat. Those
classic Rice vampire novels, dark mood pieces, angst, and the rest. These ones are handled
well; the language is rich and stimulating. After these two, though, I find that something went
downhill; the writing of these became A Job, and no longer an exploration.
- Chaim Potok: My Name Is Asher Lev, The Promise, The Book of
Lights. His books tend to depict a coming of age of characters in Orthodox
Judaism. They're well-delineated and their internal growth is believable.
- Peter Hoeg: Smilla's Sense of Snow. A thriller with a
uniquely-drawn and quirky female protagonist who hails from Iceland.
Well-written (and translated from the Icelandic). Set in Denmark, mostly.
- Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. Well-researched
novel set in a medieval monastery; a murder mystery with philosophical asides that
form an important framework behind the whodunit.
- Lillian Braun: The Cat Who... books. Light fluff mysteries,
but everyone needs a hobby.
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Last Updated: August, 1999