D&D General The ENWorld Summer Reading List - Nomination Thread


Limit Break Dancing
So I thought it would be fun to put together a summer reading list for those of us at ENWorld: a list of 12-20 books, each highly recommended by the staff and members of ENWorld. Something that would let folks add their favorites to a list (each book in its own thread), and let folks vote for their favorites.

I asked for nominations, and you guys really came through with over a hundred of them! As you recommended your favorites, and upvoted/downvoted the rest, several titles floated to the top of the list and some sank to the bottom. And after things quieted down for a week, I picked the top vote.

But this isn't over! One book does not a Sumer Reading List make! (And I think I finally got a handle on how to do this "choose a book from the list" thing, using the Question feature of the software. I know it's not a perfect system, previously I was going to compile a short list from this larger list, but that had its own problems. Anyway...) Pretend you are browsing a bookshelf at the library. "Hmm...this book looks interesting...this one too...this one doesn't really look interesting...ooh I love this book!...ugh, this one looks boring...this one looks good..."

We will be reading "The Book of Three" by Lloyd Alexander first, beginning on Friday April 30th. This list here will still be active, and people are still invited (encouraged, even) to recommend more books, and upvote/downvote the books already nominated. Perhaps you decide that Lloyd Alexander is the bee's knees and you want to recommend more of his work? Maybe it changed your mind about a different book? Maybe you didn't care for his work all that much, and don't want to read more? Use those up/down arrows to inform the list.

Another book will float to the top, and it will be the next one selected...probably around the second weekend of May.

Here's the rules:
  • Nominate a fantasy fiction book you would recommend to a stranger. It should be something that might inspire Game Masters and players alike, in whatever tabletop roleplaying game they are running. It can be classic fantasy fiction ala Tolkien, it can be space opera ala Star Wars, it can be dark fantasy, gritty fantasy, fantasy horror, modern fantasy, whatever you like.
  • Please list only one book per post. This includes trilogies and series! Don't put "All of the books in the Xhaslafqagrgg series, by Famous J. Author." Post each book in its own comment, even if it means creating 20 different posts. Please and thank you. Don't force everyone to downvote an entire catalog just because of one single book.
  • Tell us a little bit about it. You nominated it for a reason, so sell it to us! It's helpful to include a link to the book's website, some reviews, or maybe some cover art. Not everyone is going to automatically recognize your book on name alone, especially if it's recently-published...help your nomination get the votes it deserves.
  • Please don't duplicate any nominees. If you see your favorite book already listed, don't make another post for it! Just click the up-arrow and recommend another book instead. UPDATE: Check the "Current List of Nominees," below, to see if your book has already been nominated.
  • Remember the goal. The goal here is to create a list of fantasy novels, each highly recommended by the good people of ENWorld, from a variety of genres. We're looking for books that will inspire and spark the imaginations of players and GMs alike, giving us fodder for adventure. And who doesn't love a good book? This isn't just a popularity contest, there aren't any winners, this isn't a bookworm's humble-brag, and there's no prize for "best book" or whatever.
Thanks in advance!

117 Recommendations, Alphabetical by Author

(last updated: 4/30/2021)
Aaron, Rachel. "Nice Dragons Finish Last."
Aaronvitch, Ben. "Rivers of London."
Abercrombie, Joe. "A Little Hatred."
Akers, Tim. "Knight Watch"
Alexander, Lloyd. "The Black Cauldron."
Alexander, Lloyd. "The Book of Three." (Currently reading, April 30-May 14)
Anderson, Poul. "The Broken Sword."
Anderson, Poul. "The High Crusade."
Arden, Katherine. "The Bear and the Nightingale."
Asprin, Robert Lynn. "Another Fine Myth."
Bardugo, Leigh. "Six of Crows."
Bear, Elizabeth. "Karen Memory."
Bester, Alfred. "The Stars My Destination"
Behrsin, Chris. "A Cat's Guide to Bonding with Dragons"
Boyett, Steven R. "Ariel."
Brennan, Marie. "A Natural History of Dragons."
Brett, Peter V. "The Warded Man"
Brooks, Terry. "The Scions of Shannara"
Brooks, Terry. "The First King of Shannara."
Brust, Steven. "The Phoenix Guards."
Bujold, Lois. "The Curse of Chalion"
Bujold, Lois. "Penric's Progress."
Bujold, Lois. "The Sharing Knife" Trilogy
Bull, Emma. "The War for the Oaks."
Bunn, Cullen and Owen Gieni, "Harrow County: Countless Haints."
Butcher, Jim. "Furies of Calderon"
Butcher, Jim. "Summer Knight."
Butler, D.J. "Witchy Eye"
Carey, M.R. "The Girl With All the Gifts."
Catling, Brian. "The Vorrh"
Cherryh, C.J. "The Dreaming Tree."
Cherryh, C.J. "Fortress in the Eye of Time."
Cho, Zen. "The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water."
Chupeco, Rin. "The Bone Witch."
Clark, Susanna. "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell."
Clarke, Susanna. "Piranesi"
Cole, Nice and Jason Anspach. "Forgotten Ruin."
Cook, Glen. "The Black Company."
Cook, Glen. "Old Tin Sorrows."
Cook, Glen. "Sweet Silver Blues."
Cook, Glen. "The Tower of Fear."
Corey, S.A. "Leviathan Wakes."
Correia, Larry. "Destroyer of Worlds."
Crowley, John. "Little, Big."
Dickson, Gordon R. "The Dragon and the George."
Eisenstein, Phyllis. "Sorcerer's Son."
Emrys, Ruthanna. "Winter Tide."
Reikson, Steven. "Gardens of the Moon."
Flint, Eric and Walter H. Hunt. "Council of Fire."
Freer, Dave. "TOM."
Gaimen, Neil. "The Ocean at the End of the Lane."
Gerrold, David. "Legend."
Greenwood, Ed. "Grand History of the Realms."
Hobb, Robin. "Assassin's Apprentice."
Hughart, Barry. "Bridge of Birds."
Ireland, Justina. "Dread Nation."
Ishiguro, Kazuo. "The Buried Giant."
Jackson, D.B. "Time's Children."
Jacques, Brian. "Redwall"
Jemisin, N.K. "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms."
Jordon, Robert. "The Eye of the World."
Kay, Guy Gavriel. "Tigana."
Koontz, Dean. "Odd Thomas"
Lawrence, Mark. "Prince of Thorns."
Leckie, Ann. "Ancillary Justice."
Leckie, Ann. "The Raven Tower."
Lee, Fonda. "Jade City."
LeGuin, Ursula K. "Gifts"
LeGuin, Ursala K. "A Wizard of Earthsea."
Lockwood, Todd. "The Summer Dragon."
Lynch, Scott. "The Lies of Locke Lamora."
McGuire, Seanan. "Every Heart a Doorway."
McGuire, Seanan. "Middlegame."
McGuire, Seanan. "Rosemary and Rue"
McKillip, Patricia A. "The Riddle-Master of Hed"
McNeil, Carla Speed. "Sin-Eater."
Meiville, China. "Perdido Street Station."
Moers, Walter. "The City of Dreaming Books."
Moon, Elizabeth. "The Deed of Paksenarrion."
Muir, Tamsyn. "Gideon the Ninth."
Nazarian, Vera. "Cobweb Bride"
Nix, Garth. "Sabriel."
Norton, Andre. "Quag Keep."
Norton, Andre. "Witch World."
Novik, Naomi. "Spinning Silver"
Novik, Naomi. "Uprooted."
Nuttall, Christopher G. "Schooled in Magic."
Okorafor, Nnedi. "Akata Witch."
Ostertag, Molly Knox. "The Witch Boy."
Pratt, Brian S. "The Unsuspecting Mage."
Priest, Cherie. "Boneshaker."
Pullman, Philip. "The Golden Compass"
Rajaniemi, Hannu. "The Quantum Thief."
Rice, Morgan. "Realm of Dragons"
Ringo, John. "There Will Be Dragons."
Rosenberg, Joel. "The Sleeping Dragon."
Rowley, Christopher. "Bazil Broketail."
Saberhagen, Fred. "The Second Book of Swords."
Salvatore, R.A. "Archmage."
Salvatore, R.A. "Hero."
Salvatore, R.A. "Maestro."
Sanderson, Brandon. "The Hero of Ages."
Sanderson, Brandon. "Mistborn"
Sanderson, Brandon. "The Way of Kings."
Sanderson, Brandon. "The Well of Ascention"
Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann. "The Healer's War"
Schwab, V.E. "A Darker Shade of Magic."
Shannon, Samantha. "The Priority of the Orange Tree."
Spencer, Wen. "Tinker."
Stevenson, Noelle. "Nimona."
Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Fellowship of the Ring."
VanderMeer, Jeff. "Annihilation."
Watt-Evans, Lawrence. "The Lure of the Basilisk."
Wheeler, Jeff. "The Queen's Poisoner"
Williams, Tad. "The Dragonbone Chair."
Wooding, Chris. "Retribution Falls."
Zelaney, Roger. "Jack of Shadows."
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Limit Break Dancing
This will be the first book we read, beginning on Friday April 30th. Grab your copy and meet us over in the discussion thread!

"The Book of Three," by Lloyd Alexander. Book One of the "Chronicles of Prydain" series. One of the finest kid-lit fantasy novels I can remember (and probably first one I ever read.)

I'd nominate the whole series, honestly, but I'll just put the first book up for the sake of brevity. The most famous book in this series is probably "The Black Cauldron" (Book 2), since it was made into a Disney cartoon.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780805080483
Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Services
Paperback, 190 pages
Audiobook narrated by James Langton, 5:03:00.
Available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle format on Amazon.com, and at public libraries everywhere
Support your local indie bookstore

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet, so I'll nominate The DragonBone Chair by Tad Williams. Great book (and series). Characters written so you actually care what they are doing and what happens to them. He has a really great take on a fantasy world as well.



Swamp Cryptid
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, book 1 of the Ninth House series

This one is just pure fun, in my opinion. Gideon is a foul-mouthed reluctant hero in a world in which there are necromancers in space. It's wall-to-wall snark, swords, skeletons, and spaceships.

From the Tor publishing website:
"Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead."
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I admit I get a bit defensive over Terry Brooks. Not just because he was one of my earliest authors I read, and not because he's a genuine great guy, but every time I hear "he just ripped off Tolkien", I always feel the need to mention how yes, but no more than Tolkien ripped off existing myth and folklore ;) In both cases, such a statement woefully understates each's accomplishments.
This isn't the thread for a detailed discussion but that's rather unfair to Tolkien, no? :p Tolkien spent decades analyzing and synthesising myth and folklore with a specific goal in mind. Terry Brooks did a pretty basic Tolkien-derivative which was partly inspired by a common-in-the-1960s misunderstanding of LotR (that being that it was distantly post-apocalyptic and set on Earth). I have no objection to Brooks (who seems terribly nice indeed!) or his presence of this list, though he does have the dubious distinction of being the very first fantasy author whose writing made me give up on a book (one of the Shannara sequels). I remember intentionally leaving it behind in an airport when I was 14 or 15. Of course another Terry, that being Goodkind was the even more dubious distinction of being the first author I read whose book was so awful I literally tried to throw it out the window in disgust (I missed).

I support your Tad Williams recommendation. He's also very, very Tolkien-derivative, but I feel like he modernizes and broadens things a lot more, and it's more like a mash-up of Tolkien, TH White and anthropology stuff.

My top recommendation would have been Gideon the Ninth. It's a crime that I'm the first person to upvote it, as it's an absolutely amazing book and a wonderful combination of fantasy, SF, murder mystery, and so on, and extremely funny but also grounded enough to be taken seriously. As that's taken though:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:

It's basically a heist novel set in a fantasy Amsterdam/London in a sort of 1800s-ish but very much not "Victorian" or "Steampunk" setting. It's almost like a cyberpunk novel in a lot of ways, but the main this is it's really good. If you read a blurb about or heard it summarized you might go "Oh god sounds generic...". I know I did. But a friend said it was actually extremely good, and it is. It has a single sequel so you're not committing to a huge multi-book narrative or something too. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who liked say The Lies of Locke Lamora (this actually, I daresay, a bit better than that).


Having loved ‘Jonathan Strange’ it’s hard to think of a book that I’ve been more excited about before release. But this exceeded my expectations.

The first two sentences of the book‘s blurb was enough to spark an interest in me as a Planescape fan...

‘Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant.‘


Limit Break Dancing
"The First King of Shannara," by Terry Brooks. A prequel to the entire Shannara series...a great starting point for folks who are new to the Shannara works.

Okay I admit it: I'm a superfan. I could list all 30-something books from Terry Brooks here, easily, but I won't. I'm just going to list a couple of my favorites and see where they land. :)

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Swamp Cryptid
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, book 1 of the Inheritance Trilogy

I personally loved Jemisin's writing style, which is very evocative in its imagery, and also the twist she puts on the "unknown royal heir" trope. Her world-building is tremendously rich, and the mythos of the series is unlike many other books I've read.

From N.K. Jemisin's website:
"Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky, seat of the ruling Arameri family. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate — and gods and mortals — are bound inseparably."
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Swamp Cryptid
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, book 1 of the Expanse series

This is another book that takes a little while to get going, but I think it's well worth the effort. One of my favorite crunchy sci-fi series (and later made into a TV series I keep meaning to watch), it's a sprawling look at how we might expand into the rest of the solar system, and how the structure of our society could shape the divisions and politics of that future. Also existential threats from beyond. Because what's sci-fi without an existential threat from beyond? ;)

From James S.A. Corey's website:
"Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship’s captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history."
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