Essential Reading

Okay, Moonlight you asked for this.  I'm trying to avoid listening books that appear on 1001 book lists and the like, and trying to use lesser known works.  Link to my favorite shelf at LIbrarything which is basically my personal canon.

 

1. The fairy tale collections and the Year's Best Fantasy Horror series edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow.   

 

I have lost count of how many authors Datlow and Windling have introduced me to but the list includes - Carter, Gaimen, Zipes, Byatt, and Tanith Lee. The Wolf at the Door Collection has the best version of Cinderella I have ever read.

 

2. The Sunnybank Dog Series by Albert Payson Terhune

APT lived in New Jersey and bred collies.  His most famous book is Lad, A Dog.  But he wrote a series about his dogs as well as fiction.  If you love dogs, you should read him.

 

3. Prefaces to Shakespeare by Harley Granville-Barker

Some of the best Shakespeare criticism.  He also focuses on staging.

 

4. Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur

A beautiful novel set in Iran.

 

5. Dragon Doom by Dennis L. McKiernan

 McKiernan wrote a series, Mithgir, that uses LOTR as a take off and goes from there.  While the first three book were very, very, very derivative of LOTR, Dragon Doom is absolutely stunning.  And heart breaking.

 

6. Nation by Terry Pratchett

Yes, his Discworld series is great, but Nation is his best novel.

 

7.Brick Lane by Monica Ali

I'm pretty sure this novel made a few great book lists, but I can't leave it off.  Ali's book is about the immigrant experience but it also is potrarit of depression.  As someone who has suffered from it from 21 years, this book nails it.

 

8. Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

Everyone raves about Strike or Potter, but this is her best (and most real) book.  It really doesn't get enough love.

 

9. Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy

Like the Datlow/Windling collections, Eltahawy's book introduced me to a great many other writers.

 

10. Duncton Wood Series and Skallagrigg by William Horwood

Horwood's Duncton series runs a total of six books and deals with moles that read and write.  It is closer to Watership Down than Redwall.  His Skallagrigg is about a family bloodline mystery.

 

11. Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

A feminist look at fairy tales and folklore.

 

12. Son of Oscar Wilde by Vyvyan Holland

What the title says.  Holland's account of his family after his father's imprisonment.

 

13. Kuessipan by Naomi Fontaine  and Nirliit by Juliana Leveille-Trudel

 So I'm cheating, sue me.  Fonataine's novel is about life on a Canadian reservation, and Trudel's work is a product of her flying to the Canadian north to teach English.

 

14. Thrall: Poems By Natasha Trethewey

Trethewey was poet laureate for the US a few years back.  This collection is dedicated to her father.

 

15. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Kushner's short novel is about a swordsman who is hired for duels.  It opens beautifully and never slips.

 

16. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

This is a retelling of a Native Alaskan folktale.  

 

17. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Great book about a princess who slays dragons

 

18. I, Tituba by Maryse Conde

Conde's novel is told from the viewpoint of Tituba from the Salem Witch trials.  It's so good that I really didn't mind when she brought in another famous literary character.

 

19. Alamut by Judith Tarr

  This was the first book I read by Tarr, and remains a favorite.

 

20. The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde by Peter Ackroyd

If Wilde had really written a last testament, this would have been it.

 

21. The Amber Gods and Other Stories by Harriet Prescott Spofford

Chopin, Gilman, and Woolf get all the attention.  Spofford is their equal or better, and somewhat overlooked.

 

22. Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

Wonderful novel that is a love story to America and the British Royal family.

 

23. The Princess Novels by Jim C Hines

Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella kick ass.

 

24. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Wonderful, dark retellings.

 

25. Last Tales by Isak Dinesan

This collection contains "The Cloak" which is one of the best short stories in the world.