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Where to start vs If I could read only one....

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Devor, Jan 6, 2022.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Title says it all. For your favorite author or series where would I start reading? And separately, if I know that I can only read one book, ever, which should it be?

    They're very different questions. That introduction book probably isn't their best, and it might not offer a clear idea of what comes later on because it's busy avoiding spoilers and big reveals. Instead it's about getting into the series.

    But maybe I know that I'm not going to get into the author or the series. I might know - or think I know - that I'll only ever read the one book, and I just want a clear idea of what the series or the author is all about. And in that case I wouldn't mind missing some backstory but not too much.

    For example, for Harry Potter you'd have to start with book 1, Sorcerer's Stone, but if you'll only ever read one book, you might do better picking book 4, Goblet of Fire. The first brings you into the magical world while the fourth gives you a better idea of what the series is really capable of.

    Which would it be for some other other authors?
  2. I assume you have already read all the classics? so you are looking for something new/maybe obscure?

    for classics- like Narnia- its a series but I'd probably have you read "The Horse and His Boy" if you could only read one as it stands alone the best.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I came to this question looking specifically at the work of Steven Brust, but I'd rather people answer it broadly instead of worrying about my reading habits specifically. Beyond the big three (LOTR, Harry Potter, GOT), my reading has been all over the place, so I've been trying to come up with a clear plan and plug in gaps. I've actually just started Malik's Dragon's Trail, finally. But you know, answers that aren't useful to me might be useful for others.
  4. Ok. I love Brust and have read pretty much everything he has written. (but get the point that this can be general). For him it depends upon what you are looking for: obviously his Dragaera stuff is the best known and realized, but he changes styles and points of view throughout- for some this can be jarring - and reading Taltos vs The Phoenix Guards - they are both good but in very different ways and its more about the reader and their preferences than about which one might a more realized piece of work. both are equal but very different.

    For a Brust like experience I'd look at Glen Cook, The Black Company, Empire of the East/Dread Empire, Starfishers (very good sci-fi), Garret P.I.

    To start, I'd probably just go with the title and first book of The Black Company. If you like that then you will like everything. Garret is very different (more comedic- but also good), If you could only read one, I'd probably go with "The Tower of Fear" which is a great stand alone book by Cook that really puts all his strengths into one solid fantasy novel that really grabs you and holds on. as you say, in a series things can be left hanging and not delivered until later- but in this he just gives his all in one solid book.

    other series: Of course Moorcock: Elric and every other thing he has written. But to start- Go with "Sailor on the Seas of Fate" or the "The Weird of the White Wolf"
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2022
    Devor likes this.
  5. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

    My favourite authors vary with genre. But where to start? For crime novels, I'd suggest Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. As for SF books, I'm a bit torn. Maybe Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's End, or possibly Clifford Simak's Time is the Simplest Thing. And when it comes to fantasy novels, it has to be Michael Scott Rohan's Chase The Morning.
    skip.knox likes this.
  6. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

    I liked Malik's dragon trail. So far ive liked any book ive read from someone on the site. I think its been like three of four of them.

    for any series. I always start with book one. But i do think its true writers get better over time and book ones are usually them at the beginning of their craft. Unless they write a lot of short stories, if you want a feel for an author, and they written a lit, maybe pick up something other than their debut series. Otherwise. Book one for me.
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    The first series that comes to mind is Keeper Chronicles by J.A. Andrews - epic fantasy, character driven. It's a trilogy, telling one overarching story, but each book features its own main character, and it's own completed story. This means each can easily be enjoyed and understand on its own, without the other two.
    If you were to only read one of them, I'd suggest the second: Pursuit of Shadows
    My review here: Series Review: The Keeper Chronicles

    I'd also like to mention the Yarnsworld books by Benedict Patrick - grim fairytales, but not grimdark. There are currently five books in this series. Each is a standalone, and the only thing that connects them is that they take place in the same setting - except the fourth one, which is loosely connected to the first. My favourite is probably the third one: Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords
    My review here: Series Review: Yarnsworld
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I certainly would recommend The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. I won't venture outside fantasy, for that's too huge a topic, and I'm guessing you meant fantasy.

    Maybe Dragon Riders of Pern?
    Devor likes this.
  9. The Last Unicorn is a seminal work. top 5 for me. Pern also. I am going back in time to think on those that really hit me hard. Keeping to the more fantasy leaning, though it blurs- perhaps more then than now as I am not sure they were so concerned at that point. Pern was sci-fi actually, so was darkover (marian zimmer bradley)_ and also was even Shannara - Planet of the Apes style. Dune is also fantasy, even while established in sci fi.

    But to go 'pure' fantasy: Elizabeth Moon, Deed of Paksenarrion.

    for fantasy with a bite: Guy Gavriel Kay: don't start with the Fionavar Tapestry which may be his most well known. its not his best - still searching he was there (but still good- go back to that after the others). Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, The Lions of Al-Rassan. full on best fantasy ever written. From there I'd say Under Heaven is his next best work.
    Devor likes this.
  10. got another that I love:

    Lawrence Watt-Evens.

    his books often (like terry pratchett..but I prefer Watt-Evens even though he is far less well known) take on fantasy as not just a great story- but using comedy and farce to get something real. there was a time that whatever LWE was publishing I was in line and also sharing out to friends.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Thanks for the answer. So if you had to pick a single book for him which would it be? He's next on my reading list and I'm still confused about which to pick. Don't worry about what I might like or not. Let the work stand on its own.
  12. sorry to be slow: there is absolutely no reason not to start at the beginning with Jhereg.
    Devor likes this.
  13. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, the first book (Nine Princes in Amber) would do as it pretty much has a full story arc in itself, as part of the larger arc, but my favorite in the series is The Guns of Avalon, the second book, which could be read in isolation, without benefit of the first book and, again, has a complete story arc.

    But for standalone by Zelazny, I would say A Night in the Lonesome October.

    As far as Brust, I think that Dragon would suffice as if I had to pick only one by the author.
    joshua mcdermott and Devor like this.
  14. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

    If I was down to one, may as well be the Bible or an encyclopedia, or something similar...

    I think if I was down to one, I would just assume not have any. I could just write my own in the sand I would guess ;)

    Maybe the Silmarillion, cause I don't see taking the time to memorize all those events and places otherwise.

    If it exists, maybe something like the DC universe from day 1 to today.
  15. because its not on here and it should be: Gene Wolfe

    all his stuff is mind bending- and sometimes a bit tough to grok- but if you had to pick ONE: The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

    trust me and give it a shot. then you can read the rest.

    Zelazny: I'd go with Jack of Shadows (1971). maybe not his most recognized but its fun and irreverent, clever, dark, and thoughtful- and gets you into how he thinks-its Amber on steroids in one book.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2022
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  16. Luís Santana

    Luís Santana Troubadour

    by Donald Maass (2012).

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