Personal Recommendations

LAST UPDATED: 07/21/2004


There are a lot of books I recommend...
There are fewer writers I recommend across the board. Both are in these lists. Keep scrolling. The booklist is long.

The first two writers are my own first readers and first critics, both of whom I've shared a roof with, and I'll guarantee you, if writers can't admire what a writer-friend is doing, that friendship is doomed. These are the writers I trust to tell me when I'm right and when I'm not. We're philosophically very different people, but these two read my books in rough, which requires real trust.


Ring of Lightning, Ring of Intrigue, DAW Books.

Ring of Destiny is forthcoming from DAW, concluding the set.  Read these books!

Get excerpts on her webpage at

red_tri.gif (281 bytes)  LYNN ABBEY

A tale-teller and a historian in one package. If you haven't read one of her books, do! Jerlayne is coming out from DAW Books.

Visit Lynn Abbey's webpage at or get on her maillist,

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) SELINA ROSEN

A neighbor, and one of the few writers who can make me laugh out loud. She's brand-new as a novelist.

Catch Queen of Denial from Mischa-Merlin. Her address: .



I worked with this writer, and can vouch for her Essence of Stone, from Yard Dog Press---Bev knows the Pakistani culture, and has turned it to a very good fantasy, which I hope you may enjoy as much as I did.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes)  MICHAEL MOORCOCK

Where do I start? The man's been writing a long time.

I've reviewed VON BEK in my current books list. But for where to start, I can recommend the Elric stories, which are out under so many titles I find it hard to recall what the current start is. Or GLORIANA or a dozen others. His writing runs from fantasy to speculative fiction in the old sense, to historical, and back again, and much of it involves The Eternal Champion, an endlessly reincarnated figure whose struggle is with and for the nature of the universe. A large topic...and a very good writer. His books are being reissued in the US by White Wolf.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) LARRY NIVEN & JERRY POURNELLE

RINGWORLD, definitely. Niven's writing is heavily driven by concept, and contains some of the most amazing images in science fiction. The Ringworld books are imaginative, even haunting in their scale and their implications of possibilities. I don't think Niven can turn out a bad book. In partnership with Dr. Jerry Pournelle, I'd add, there's something far different than the plethora of collaborations that's plagued the field. Pournelle and Niven together, in books like THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE, are a marvelous combination of technical expertise and storytelling ability.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) DAVID BRIN

Brin is a thoughtful, intelligent sf writer whose latest, if I'm up to date, is BRIGHTNESS REEF. He's a writer who comes up with in, SF: the Literature of Ideas.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes)  ROGER ZELAZNY

Roger has to figure on any list of my favorites. SF or fantasy... sometimes he blurs the line... His LORD OF LIGHT is a classic for the mature reader; AMBER can delight any age. In the older, pre-NASA days, the line between sf and fantasy wasn't that hard-edged and the realm of what we call hard-tech sf just wasn't that distinguishable from planetary adventure, in the perception of a lot of sf readers, except in the attention paid to what little science knew of, say, Mars or the Moon. If you want a look at one of those writers who wrote just before the branching-point, look at Leigh Brackett; and right during...look at Roger Zelazny. His wry wit and beautiful description make the fantastical places of his imagination very visible to us all.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) JANNY WURTS

I'd read her work years ago, when she'd first hit the stands; and I just got the chance to read CURSE OF THE MISTWRAITH. This is a writer worth following---one of those who follows my left-hand-path rule, I suspect. Every time she meets a standard icon of modern fantasy she veers just to the left of expectations---and I'm delighted.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) JACK WILLIAMSON

A question I'm frequently asked is, "What's the first sf book you ever read?" That was probably Burroughs, at a very young age. But somehow I'd fallen away from reading sf for a number of years of my teens. Then I happened on THE REIGN OF WIZARDRY, by Jack Williamson, and I started reading sf and fantasy again. So Jack's wasn't the first sf/fantasy book I ever read, but if I hadn't read it, I might have gone a very different path in life. Jack is still writing, I might add, uses a computer and is looking forward to going on the internet.

red_tri.gif (281 bytes) FRITZ LEIBER

the man who taught me to write. If you've never read Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, you're in for a treat. Leiber never wrote the giant plots, the controversial books, the blockbusters. He was just very, very good at his craft, and slipped information in so deftly you didn't know he'd done it to you. When I was trying to improve my writing I took one of his longest stories and simply marked and mapped how he set up his information. I applied what I learned and sold the very next thing I sent out.


Book Reviews (c) 1996 by C.J. Cherryh

A personal reading list, since so many people ask me.

Subject to update, of course.

Books I really like, Characters I'd like others to meet; and authors I'm really fond of. No spoilers in this list: just a notation on what I like about the books.

What do I read?

It's one of my most frequently asked items at cons, even outpacing in frequency the ever-popular Where do you get your ideas?

But maybe it's the same question.

What broad categories do I read? SF, fantasy, historicals, technical manuals and periodicals. Add in: histories of the truly odd aspects of daily life of various periods.

Lately I'm on a reading binge: I've got an optometrist that lets me see what I'm doing. For the last five years I haven't been able to read except on the computer; and now I can see a printed page, and I'm actually buying books.

I'll break this list into several parts: 1) what I'm reading now...or lately. 2) books or authors I've read that I recommend: my personal picks of the stuff on the shelves over the past several years: I'm not the organized sort of reader that reads what's latest. 3) the good stuff that people coming into the field ought to read in order not to miss out: the seminal books. 4) good research sources.

The numbers don't mean a thing about how well I liked what: they're just the order in which I remembered to include them. There is no order within a section whatsoever, no ranking.


I'm giving up on numbers...they're only confusing....

Elizabeth Peters Crocodile on a Sandbank, et al. Fancher had been recommending Crocodile for years, and I finally read it. An absolute howl. We got the next, the next, the next--- We got sincerely hooked. Now we're fighting each other for possession of the next one. If you like detective stories, humor, and Egypt, these are your cup of tea---set in the early days of archaeology, and, amid the humor, quite spot on re the trials and tribulations of archaelogists.

A number of you readers kindly wrote and suggested Patrick O'Brian's sea stories...and for those of you who, like me, enjoy Hornblower, or Sharpe's Rifles, or any of the type, or even like water...all right, dear readers, you have led me into a set of books numbering in excess of ten...starting with Master and Commander, and I am firmly, expensively, hooked. Great books. Good writer.

At 10 dollars a volume with lots of volumes, one can go broke on these books, but they're keepers: quaintly written, but they grow on you. As the land-bound kid who memorized the entire rigging of a clipper ship from the encyclopaedia at age 8, and dreamed of oceans...well, I'm enjoying myself. A person unversed in nautical terms will be quite asea with these (ow! did I say that?) but I've stayed up much too late finding out whether the Sophie is going to outrun its pursuer.

City of Bones by Martha Wells. You know how those SFBC books sometimes arrive and you don't remember ordering them? This one had lain on my shelf for a while, but I picked it up, read into it and was solidly hooked. The writing reminds me a little of Fritz Leiber, and if you know my opinion of Fritz Leiber, that's a high compliment. I was convinced enough to go out and get Element of Fire by the same author (Tor) and see the same story-handling in that book, too. I think City of Bones reads more smoothly, but both are good stories.

Paula Volsky. Interesting writer. Good gift for dramatic images....what the field calls sense of wonder.

Cadfael, by Ellis Peters [aka Pargeter]. For those of you who like the mediaeval, mysteries, or just a good yarn, I recommend the twenty or so books in this set, starting with A Morbid Taste for Bones, published originally in the UK and then in the US by Warner Books. For those of you who like to dive into a completed series and immerse yourselves in a fully conceived world for a long, long read, enjoy. Brother Cadfael is a Benedictine monk in a very chaotic period of English history, and murders and mayhem have an added historical background.

Judge Dee by Robert van Gulik. You can guess I've been on a mystery kick for a while. I enjoy the ones that have historical background, and these do. The detective is a Chinese magistrate.


J.R.R. Tolkien: I re-read LOTR now and again because I like it. I've also read the notes, which I find fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by the inclusion of one of C.S. Lewis' criticisms of Tolkien, which reminded me what literary criticism can look like when a person trained in the classical school goes at it.

Georgette Heyer: various. Billed as a romance writer, but I like the historical aspect, and I'm a reader who likes the Hornblower novels. The texture and the detail is fascinating. These have gotten tagged as women's books' and I disagree.


1. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov. The robot stories, which have affected, I swear, how everybody sees robots.

2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. The largest gravitational influence in the world of fantasy. It's a read and re-read.

3. Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein. I read this when I was about 13 and it stuck with me forever.

4. Star Man's Son, Andre Norton. Another I read very early: absolutely vintage Norton. If anyone wants to introduce a young person to reading sf, Andre Norton is a very good place to start.

5. Elric, Michael Moorcock. Part of the Eternal Champion universe. Any of Moorcock's books are worth the trip.

6. Clifford Simak: pick a title. A very thoughtful, innovative writer.

7. Leigh Brackett: The Ginger Star, among others. So Mars is a desert and the canals are fantasy. Read it any way you like...this is a writer too good to pass up.

8. C.L. Moore: another writer who used Mars as a backdrop. And who also wrote fantasy. Marvelous images.

9. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Fritz Leiber...out under a multiplicity of titles, but start at the first. They're wonderful. This is the writer whose command of plot and pacing are so transparently beautiful no one ever realizes how very, very good he was. When I took apart one of his stories to see how he inserted information, and applied what I learned to my own writing, I sold the very next book I wrote.

10. The Bloody Sun, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Go back to the beginning and start there. A rich and well-detailed world. Heritage of Hastur is one of the best, but start earlier to get a picture of the world.

11. Soldier, Ask Not, Gordon R. Dickson. The Dorsai novels, a story of soldiers, honor, and duty.

12. Alan Garner, a writer for young people, but adults will be charmed.

13. Lloyd Alexander, another writer for young people, but if you've missed his work, find it. An adult will like it too. The Black Cauldron.

14. SHE, H. Rider Haggard. A writer of the early fantastic: lost continents, lost worlds. My favorite is his Viking piece, Eric Brighteyes.

15. Three Hearts and Three Lions, Poul Anderson. Or anything else by this very good storyteller.

16. Lord of Light, Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny. A very, very good lot of books. Hearing him read was a treat. He had a beautifully wry sense of humor and an ability to laugh at situations that most people can laugh at only in retrospect.

17. The Mote in God's Eye, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. This isn't a collaboration, it's a partnership, and they're good.

18. The Dragon and the George, Gordon R. Dickson. A fantasy. One of a kind.

19. Ringworld, Larry Niven. A good springboard to a lot of good books of carefully crafted worldbuilding and very interesting concepts. The concept of the Ringworld is a wonderful idea.

20. The Once and Future King, T.H. White. Gorgeous. Source of the musical Camelot and of The Sword In the Stone. I read it to my brother when he was quite young, and as a kid's story, it's great...especially the first part. The kid can grow into the last sections, which are for adults.

21. Dune, Frank Herbert. I avoided reading Dune for years because I was busy with my own novel set in a desert. When I finally did have the pleasure of reading the set, I was dismayed to learn that we had the same name, Duncan, for major characters. It must be something about deserts. I also happen to like Dune and God Emperor of Dune best of all the lot. God Emperor to me was a very convincing portrayal of an immortal with a mortal brain, probably the best on that theme that's yet been written.

22. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman. One of those books I wish I'd written: time, space, and an unforgettable view of war.

23. Jack Vance, The Dirdir, the Chasch, and the Pnume; there are so many, and they're so good.

24. Katherine Kurtz, the Deryni novels. A very textured look at an alternate middle ages, with the kind of color and realism that puts depth behind the characters and the politics. The questions of good and evil herein are very interestingly handled.

25. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke: take your pick of Clarke's novels. They're remarkable and stylistically unique. I sat up all night reading this one.

26. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement. Clement builds planets in absolutely fascinating detail, and doing a story on a planet where you can't have humans interacting with the residents is a very good piece of writing as well as a marvelous piece of world-building.

27. Dying of the Light, et al., George R. R. Martin. This writer handles the language and the imagery beautifully.


1. Andrew Duggan, Three's Company. Search the old, old books for this one, which isn't sf, but Roman historical.

2. Frank Yerby, various. Look them up. This is from before historical' meant romance. He's tough, he's interesting, he's a fine storyteller.

3. Arthur Conan Doyle: The White Company; not "just" a Sherlock Holmes writer.

4. The Trumpeter of Krakow, Eric Kelly, won the Newberry Prize in 1929, I'm told. Unforgettable.

5. The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea, etc, Mary Renault: very, very good Greek myth historicals, and this is my field of study. These are the ones I'd recommend to those who want to understand this period.

6. Thomas Costain, The Black Rose, The Pageant of England...want a short course in painless and memorable history? Read the latter, in particular.

7. I, Claudius and My Shipmate Hercules, Robert Graves. Both wonderful...and the neat thing is...the more you know about the classics the more wonderful they are.

8. Otto of the Silver Hand...beautiful book. I must have been ten when I read it, and the illustrations in the only edition I ever saw were beautiful.

9. Sherlock Holmes, etc. by Conan Doyle. If you like them, you like them, and I do. I consider them period pieces. I don't read enough mysteries to make a category.

10. Dracula, Bram Stoker. Still very readable.

11. Rouse's translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Others are too poetic. Unfortunately I haven't found a translation I approve for the Aeneid, which is the book that taught me to write.

12. Juvenal and Julius Caesar. 2000 years of readers can't be wrong. Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius.

13. The Epic of Gilgamesh. It's the first.

14. Samuel Shellabarger, various. They require patience, but they're the source of many swash-and-buckle movies that are now classics.

15. A handful of very good video miniseries: I, Claudius, Elizabeth R; The Six Wives of Henry VIII; Charlemagne; Poldark; The Smuggler; Upstairs, Downstairs and some of the Jane Austen movies have been good. I say, with tongue in cheek, that I don't go to movies that don't have costumes---but by that I mean that my taste runs to historicals.

For one thing---today is only today, modern is only modern; but history is thousands of years, in which there's a vastly greater selection of characters, manners, events. I enjoy history the way I enjoy science fiction: life can be so much wider and more colorful if we look at more than the current moment.


1. Oscar Seyffert Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Everything you ever wanted to know about Greek myth. Due to a strange convention of the classics field, such books are often called dictionaries when in any other field they would be termed encyclopaedias.

2. Oxford Dictionary of Classical Antiquities.

3. Time Life Great Ages of Man: a series of books with excellent information and excellent illustrations.

4. National Geographic books of all sorts.

5. Science News (weekly)

6. Scientific American Magazine

7. Archaeology

8. Military History

9. Astronomy

10. National Geographic

11. Aviation Week

12. X-raying the Pharoahs; what's inside the mummies and what can forensic science and x-ray turn up that we didn't know about them?

13. Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology: a rapid running survey of myths of various countries.

14. J.B. B ury's History of Greece; huge and detailed, a little dated, but a very good one-place source. If I have to fault it on anything, it's a tendency to believe Herodotus.

15. The Visual Dictionary shows pictures with words as labels

16. The Encyclopaedia of How It Works; shows the inner workings of all sorts of things.

17. Carey's History of Rome; like Bury, but for Rome.

18. Life and Death of a Druid Prince; deciphering the life and times of a bog burial, grisly but fascinating.

19. Home of the Heroes, and other titles: a series of excellent archaeological texts put out by Macmillan, which have enough pictures and enough plain language in the text to let a person who hasn't had years of archaeology delve deeply into what is known about such as the ancient Greeks, the Scythians, and others.

20. The Daily Life in...Ancient Britain, Ancient Egypt, etc. These wonderful books give a good picture not of the kings and queens but of ordinary people going about their lives.

21. The Ancient Engineers, L. Sprague deCamp. Highly readable and interesting view of the ancient world.

22. Connections, the series. If you love history you'll love it; if you've been bored to tears by somebody insisting you learn dates in lieu of the whys and wherefore of history, give history another chance with this book. The only better thing would be if they could somehow string the politics of history together as well as they have here, in the history of science and invention.

23. The Encyclopaedia of Faeries, a good collection of northern European myth and folklore.

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