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These Nostalgic Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Transport You to the Good Old Days

Travel back in time with these nostalgic comfort reads.

This collage of nostalgic sci-fi/fantasy books includes The Magicians

There are times when you just want to curl up in your sofa with a novel and feel like a child again, immersed in a magical world that’s filled with action, intrigue, witty conversations and characters who feel like you’ve known them forever. If you’ve been going through a reading slump lately, there’s no better way to fix it than taking a trip down memory lane with a few comfort reads. 

Whether you’ve read these titles before or discovering them for the first time, these sci-fi/fantasy novels have a delightfully nostalgic flavor, reminding you of the wonders of childhood or a yearning for a past that’s long gone but still alive in our memories, while also offering something new. In other words, these books promise to be relaxing and reinvigorating at the same time! 

Among Others

Among Others

By Jo Walton

Reading Among Others by Jo Walton in my sophomore year at university brought back so many memories of wandering through second-hand bookshops and devouring as many SFF paperbacks I could lay my hands on in my teenage years. Written in the form of diary entries by Mori, a disabled 15-year-old girl sent off to boarding school following an incident with her wicked witchy mum that culminated in her twin sister’s death, the novel is steeped in heartbreak and healing. 

Bittersweet and wistful, Among Others is also a love letter to golden age SF, chronicling Mori’s first reactions to the various SFF books she stumbles upon, while also dabbling with magic and fairies in the real world. One of the best and most relatable moments in the book for me was when Mori feels too depressed to stay alive but decides to anyway—just to find out how a particular book will end!

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder

By John Varley

If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted space adventure, you could pick up a copy of John Varley’s Rolling Thunder, the thrilling conclusion to his Thunder and Lightning trilogy. In the third book, we follow 19-year-old “Podkayne” (or Lieutenant Patricia Kelly Elizabeth Strickland), a Martian entertainer who is sent to Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons). She just wants to live her life, but is soon pulled into a dangerous adventure. 

With the main character called Podkayne, several readers have compared Varley’s writing to Heinlein juveniles. So, if a Heinlein homage space opera sounds up your alley, Rolling Thunder is sure to entertain.

The Duke of Uranium

The Duke of Uranium

By John Barnes

The narrative of John Barnes’ The Duke of Uranium unfolds on a 36th-century space station and follows Jak Jinaka whose seemingly normal life is interrupted when he is attacked and his girlfriend (Sesh) is kidnapped. 

It doesn’t help matters when he learns that Sesh is actually a princess and he has been secretly groomed to be a secret agent. With fast-paced action, tons of aliens and a coming-of-age story, The Duke of Uranium is a modern yet retro space opera thriller that promises to be oodles of fun. 

Temple Alley Summer

Temple Alley Summer

By Sachiko Kashiwaba

I actually wish more of Sachiko Kashiwaba’s marvelous work would get translated into English because I read Temple Alley Summer a couple of years ago and it immediately became one of my favorite books and I’m eager for more. If time machines were real, I’d use one just to give my younger self a copy of this book. 

Temple Alley Summer is actually two narratives, seamlessly folded into one—in the frame narrative, we have Kazu who is trying to solve the mystery of his classmate, the ghost-girl Akari, and then we also have an unfinished story-within-a-story whose ending Akari is determined to find out, leading the two kids on an exciting adventure. 

If you love Studio Ghibli movies, slice-of-life narratives and attention-to-detail on local cuisine and folklore, Temple Alley Summer will fill you with nostalgic longing and stay with you for a long time. 

best audiobooks sci fi fantasy The Magicians Lev Grossman

The Magicians

By Lev Grossman

Unsurprisingly, my first foray into the fantasy genre was via series likeThe Chronicles of Narnia. I’d read and reread these novels countless time in my school days. So, when I came across Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, I was in for a nostalgic surprise. 

Grossman’s masterful prose marries the boarding school narrative with the portal fantasy genre, but for adults who are already jaded yet still hoping that there may still be some magic left in the world. 

It’s mature and wistful, dealing with the responsibilities of adulthood, messy relationships with friends and lovers, and the real-world consequences of magic. The novel was followed by two sequels and even adapted to a hit television series. 

best anne rice books

The Queen of the Damned

By Anne Rice

Before Twilight took over the vampire genre, there was Anne Rice with The Vampire Chronicles. The first book in the series, Interview with the Vampire is a melancholy, Gothic masterpiece set in New Orleans and introduces readers to the brooding Louis and the villainous Lestat, while the second book, The Vampire Lestat references the events of the first book while also providing an autobiography of Lestat who persuades his readers with charm and charisma to take his side, ending the book on a cliffhanger. 

But the third book, The Queen of the Damned, gets even more ambitious, picking up from the cliffhanger, switching between time periods and multiple point-of-views to explore the origins of vampires. The plot is gloriously chaotic and all over the place—in the best way possible. Utterly fascinating and recklessly creative, it makes me wish that genre publishers would take on more novels that are experimental but also such rollicking fun.