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The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors You Love Recommend Their Favorite Books

These books have inspired the best of the best.

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  • Photo Credit: Jaredd Craig / Unsplash

Searching for your next read? Take a page out of a sci-fi or fantasy author's book! 

The Portalist reached out to iconic writers to find out what you should read next. See the reads recommended by science fiction Grand Master Joe Haldeman, The Dark Elf Trilogy author R.A. Salvatore, Deryni author Katherine Kurtz, and other titans of sci-fi and fantasy below! 

Add these authors' recommended reads — and their own books – to your library today. 

R.A. Salvatore recommends...

The Dead James Joyce

The Dead

By James Joyce

Drizzt author R.A. Salvatore shared his love for James Joyce's The Dead:

"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

"If there's a better-written paragraph in the English language than this last one from James Joyce's The Dead, I've never seen it. And that last line gives me goosebumps."

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Sarah Zettel recommends...

Watership Down Richard Adams

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

Sarah Zettel, author of the Queens of Camelot series and Fool's War, has a soft spot for a classic by Richard Adams.

"Easy one. Watership Down by Richard Adams.  Some of the best world building you are ever going to find in any novel anywhere.  And pitch perfect created folklore."

Joe Haldeman recommends...

Love on the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Forever War author Joe Haldeman offered a wealth of recommendations. 

Haldeman's favorite books include Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

Haldeman also recommends Good-bye to All That by Robert Graves and The Best of the Best, a collection of stories from Gardner Dozois’s various anthologies. As for what he's reading right now, Haldeman has been turning to Fitzgerald: 

"Right now I’m on a Fitzgerald kick, but I guess in a larger context he qualifies as an archaic specialty. (And in fact if I were to come across almost any Fitzgerald story outside of any context, I would probably say “What the hell is this?”) But that’s true of many modern fiction writers."

Alyxandra Harvey recommends...

The Wood Wife Terri Windling

The Wood Wife

By Terri Windling

Alyxandra Harvey's fantasy series The Drake Chronicles and The Witches of London Trilogy combine the everyday and the extraordinary with fantastic results — much like her own favorite books. 

"Terri Windling's The Wood Wife and Charles de Lint's Memory and Dream are 2 of my all time faves."

Alan Dean Foster recommends...

The Lost World

The Lost World

By Arthur Conan Doyle

Sci-fi and fantasy author Alan Dean Foster pens adventures in extraordinary worlds — and holds a special place in his heart for an iconic adventure story by Arthur Conan Doyle. 

"I first read it as a young teen. It immediately gave a boost to my burgeoning desire to travel and see the world. The characters are unforgettable. Furthermore, the book is as much about the joy of science as it is about adventure and excitement. It flows as easily as a river, alternating beautiful slow sections with roaring rapids. For a tale written so long ago it holds up astonishingly well.

Many years later I visited all the locations described in the book.  Some are much changed, others very little.  No dinosaurs roaming the Venezuelan tepuis, alas."

Tim Powers recommends...

More Than Human

More Than Human

By Theodore Sturgeon

World Fantasy Award-winning author Tim Powers recommends three unmissable sci-fi and fantasy novels:

"[More Than Human] is one of the three or four best science fiction novels I've ever read, and I bet I've read it twenty times, at least.  The characters, and the situation they're in and what they do in it — and Sturgeon's incomparably beautiful writing — never fail to captivate me.

"Adept's Gambit," by Fritz Leiber, in the collection Swords in the Mist. Leiber was one of our best writers, and in this "sword and sorcery" story he produced real literature — while at the same time being wonderfully funny and colorful and suspenseful.

The Hour of the Dragon (also published as Conan the Conqueror), by Robert E. Howard. In the (vain, as it turned out) hope that a British publisher might be interested in a book of his, Howard put all the best melodramatic and bravura qualities of his Conan stories into this novel — if you read only one Conan story, this is the one to read. It's one of the best fantasy novels of the 20th century."

David Nickle recommends...

Pandora in the Congo

Pandora in the Congo

By Albert Sánchez Piñol

Bram Stoker Award-winning Canadian horror author David Nickle is no stranger to horror fantasy. He recommends three novels that will delight fans of the macabre and mystical.

"Thanks to an excellent screen adaptation, Piñol is very well-known for his pseudo-Lovecraftian novel Cold Skin, but his thematic follow-up Pandora in the Congo is a delight and deserves at least equal attention.

It's a wild, saucy and on-point take on the African adventure novels of the sort that Edgar Rice Burroughs used to write — complete with lost civilizations, a hollow earth, and a doomed, interspecies romance. There's also a turtle, who copes with the loss of her shell as well as any of us would.

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Director Roman Polanski made very few changes when he filmed this elegant little book that mingled gaslighting, Satanism and mid-20th-century obstetrics, and why would he? Levin wrote a nearly perfect — and subtly terrifying — novel about Rosemary Woodhouse, her terrible husband and her nosy neighbors. I love this book.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. No one has written a more effective novel of a haunted house than did Jackson in her 1959 masterpiece. The book tells the tale of a group of psychic researchers who lose themselves in the awful stillness of Hill House, where, as Jackson writes, "silence lay steadily against the wood and stone ... and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Katherine Kurtz recommends...

Dragons of Heaven

The Dragons of Heaven

By Alyc Helms

Fantasy author Katherine Kurtz is beloved for her medieval Deryni series, which marries history and fantasy in a vividly-realized world. She recommends one of her latest favorite reads:

"One of the best books I've read of late is The Dragons of Heaven, a first novel by Alyc Helms. I first met Alyc at, I think, a Philcon, when she was on her way to take up graduate studies in anthropology and folklore. She was still an aspiring writer in those days, but there was some spark that connected us, and I let her pick my brain for several hours. (It was the Sunday afternoon of the convention, and she even came along when one of the con folk offered to take me out to see some of the sights of Philadelphia.) 

I lost track of her for a while after that, but a year or so ago she got in touch and asked if she could send me a copy of The Dragons of Heaven.  After congratulating her, I said she could, and she did—and it was a very fine book, indeed.  I'm now reading an advance copy of what I think is her third book, Mask of Mirrors, in collaboration with another author, and it's marvelous.  No dragons in this one, but her flair for language and writing fascinating characters and creating a unique world are all there, better than ever.  Definitely an author to watch and enjoy!"

John Varley recommends...



By Joseph Heller

John Varley is the award-winning author of sci-fi novels Titan, Millennium, Red Thunder, and many more. He recommends a novel that had an immeasurable impact on his life.

"As a science fiction writer, when I am asked what the most important book in my life has been, I am tempted to say Red Planet, by Robert A. Heinlein. It's expected that it be an SF book. But it is really a close second. When my junior high school librarian, Arthur Green, put that book in my hands in the 7th grade, it set the course of my life.

But another book, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, may actually have saved my life. When I read the ante-penultimate sentence, "Yossarian jumped," I jumped, too. I vowed that unless our shores were actually invaded, I would never serve in the military. They weren't, and I didn't. I re-read it every five years or so."

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Featured photo: Jaredd Craig / Unsplash