Books For Which I Am Thankful (An Early Thanksgiving Post)


My regular week off from MW coincides with Thanksgiving week, which is convenient, because I will be traveling with my daughter to look at colleges in NY and New England, so I wouldn’t really have time to post anyway.  But that means that my Thanksgiving post comes a week early this year.

As always I am thankful for so much — I’m a very lucky man.  I love my family, and they seem to love me back, which is always good thing.  I enjoy my job, and have had a successful year, revolving around the release of THIEFTAKER, which has done well both commercially and critically.  And I have friends and colleagues here at MW and elsewhere whom I respect and care about a great deal.  Are there things I would like to improve in my life — in particular in my career?  Of course.  I’m not claiming that all is perfect.  But as I say, I have much for which to be thankful.  And I hope that all of you can look over your lives, balance the good with the things you’d like to change, and feel that you are, on the whole, doing well.  I would also add that this year I am acutely aware of the blessings my family and I enjoy, and I offer my support and warm wishes to all who are still without heat and power in the wake of Sandy, as well as to those who are struggling to feed their families and make ends meet in this tough economy.

But for today’s post I wanted to write about books for which I am thankful.  These are not necessarily new books.  Some of them are quite old, actually.  But all of them have shaped my writing life in some way.  And so, in no particular order . . .

I am thankful for THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which introduced me to fantasy and the idea of “alternate worlds.”  Upon reading Tolkien, I knew that I wanted to read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on.

I am thankful for the DUNE books by Frank Herbert, which introduced me to written science fiction, and showed me that there was way more to SF than “Lost in Space” reruns.

I am thankful for the first and second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson.  I read these in my late teens, and though I found them disturbing and dark, though I hated Covenant himself for the terrible things he did, I found the books intriguing, challenging, and gripping.  They opened up new fictional possibilities to me — never before had I encountered a “hero” like Covenant, and in so doing, they made me want to write.

I am thankful for the Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay (THE SUMMER TREE, THE WANDERING FIRE, THE DARKEST ROAD) which to this day remains one of my favorite trilogies of all time.  I am also thankful to Kay for TIGANA, A SONG FOR ARBONNE and, most recently,  YSABEL.  Kay writes magnificently, he creates memorable flawed heroes and heroines, and villains who are both terrifying and sympathetic.  His worlds are rich and real and lovely.  Early in my career, I tried to emulate his writing style.  Now that I feel more comfortable with my own voice, I simply admire it.

I am thankful for AMERICAN GODS, ANANZI BOYS, and NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, which are so much fun to read, and which have inspired me to try new elements of voice and plotting and worldbuilding in my own work.

I am thankful for ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, by Orson Scott Card, which I still go back and re-read on a regular basis.

I am thankful for the Tamir trilogy by my friend Lynn Flewelling (THE BONE DOLL’S TWIN, HIDDEN WARRIOR, THE ORACLE’S QUEEN), which may be the best fantasy series that you have never read.  I am thankful for the Illumination trilogy by my friend Terry McGarry (ILLUMINATION, THE BINDER’S ROAD, TRIAD), which is so beautifully written that every time I go back to the books I wonder if maybe I should just give up writing, because I will never, ever be as good as Terry.  I am thankful for Faith’s Jane Yellowrock books, A.J.’s Will Hawthorne duology, Misty’s MAD KESTREL, Carrie’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, Lucienne’s Latter Day Olympian books, and Catie’s Inheritors’ cycle, because working with authors whose work I respect is one of the greatest gifts I can imagine.  I am thankful for Kalayna’s books, and John’s, and Mindy’s, because, while I haven’t read them yet, I intend to soon, and I know that I will enjoy them immensely.

I am thankful for Paolo Bacigalupi’s THE WINDUP GIRL,  Kat Richardson’s GREYWALKER, and Patrick Rothfuss’s THE NAME FOR THE WIND; for Michele Lang’s LADY LAZARUS, Mary Robinette Kowal’s SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY, Alethea Kontis’s ENCHANTED, E.C. Ambrose’s ELISHA BARBER, Max Gladstone’s THREE PARTS DEAD, and new books by dozens of other writers, because I cannot help but be impressed and, yes, more than a little motivated, by the excellent work being done by so many younger authors.

We often hear people complain about the amount of mediocre fiction that has flooded the market in recent years, and I suppose there is some truth to this; there is a lot of junk out there.  But the fact is, there are some marvelous books being published by big presses and small ones, in epic fantasy and urban, in science fiction and horror.  These are hard times to be a writer.  There is no doubt about it.  But this is also a great time to be a reader.  And I am thankful for that.

What about you?  What five titles are you thankful for this holiday season?

David B. Coe

24 comments to Books For Which I Am Thankful (An Early Thanksgiving Post)

  • Mikaela

    I am thankful for the fact that my favorite authors keeps on writing, despite the uncertainty of the market.

    I am thankful for that libraries exist, and that I can discover new authors and books.

    When it comes to books…
    I am thankful that I have a bulging TBR pile, filled with interesting books.
    Despite this, there are some books I looking forward too ( Ok, a lot of books):
    – Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis
    – Enchanted Ever After by Robin D Owens
    – Collared by LA Kornetsky.
    – Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

    Oh, and I am very thankful for headache meds, since I need them with all this drilling. Grr.

  • D&D boxed set and AD&D. Yeah, I know they’re not exactly the type of books you were thinking, but the game made me want to make up fantasy adventures, which quickly translated into wanting to write stories.

    Another would be The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It was one of the first full, massive novels I’d ever read, and I begged Mom to buy it from the store, which she did when at the time we had very little grocery money to spare.

    I made a friend in high school because of the Elric of Melnibone novels from Michael Moorcock. Evidently, he’d left the last book in the series, Stormbringer, in a classroom. I found it and started reading it and got hooked. He’d noticed me with the book and asked where I got it and I told him. We walked home talking about Elric and D&D and that was that. I later bought the series and others from Moorcock.

    Every novel that my late Aunt Judy let me borrow. She became part of one of those book clubs and was big into fantasy and sci-fi. When she and my cousin finished a book, I read it too. I entered some fantastic worlds through my weekends with them.

    Honestly, if I could pick the five things that influenced my desire to write instead, it would be Mom, my aunt, The Elfstones of Shannara, D&D, and my 9th grade English teacher, Dr. Macioci, who looked at a nerdy and shy kid’s journal entries that were supposed to be about fun vacations from school and other such things I never really experienced due to family hardship, and instead found stories about my D&D character I made up, then talked to me about them and told me that I should give thought to becoming a writer. His words were the final push.

    Though it’s not picked up, my first finished novel (I know that sounds conceited, but bear with me), which proved to me that I COULD do it, I could complete a full novel and polish it until it was something I was proud of and confident enough to take the leap and send off.

    Thankful for all the books I’ve read from the Magical Words gang too, which I would probably not have found, strangely enough without my connection to the RPG world. When Christina contacted me to look at something they were working on called Rogue Mage, I was introduced to that world and then all of you, which is one more thing, even if just related to books, that I’m thankful for.

    Sorry, more than 5, but I’m thankful for nearly all the books I’ve read and it’s so hard to choose.

  • TwilightHero

    I am thankful for the entire Wheel of Time cycle, all of which, except the latest, I have read at least twice. (I plan to reread the latest sometime soon, as it happens.)

    Okay, okay, specifically: I am thankful for book one, The Eye of the World, also the first I ever read in the series. Borrowed it at age eleven, and finished in four days. It blew my mind. Never before had I come across a book with so much depth, that truly felt like there was an entire world hidden in its pages. The epic storyline didn’t hurt either 😛 While my tastes have changed somewhat, and I doubt I could pull off something of that magnitude anyway, detail-wise – maybe in another twenty or thirty years lol – it remains one of the most influential books of my childhood.

    Books five and six, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos, which I now realize don’t have the best pacing, but which still have two of the most climactic, plot-twisty, action-packed endings I’ve ever read, examples of the kinds of endings I aspire to. (And for the introduction of Lews Therin, an example of quirky, memorable dialogue throughout the series. I swear, the insane voices in people’s heads always get the best lines.)

    Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, for its concise writing style and well-thought-out plotting – two things I also aspired to, and have since found I might actually be able to pull off. 🙂

    And for Brisingr, by Christopher Paulini, the third of his Eragon books, as an example that you can be young(er) and still tell an entertaining, well-written story.

    I’ve read The Oracle’s Queen, incidentally. The concept of Brother both scared and intrigued me. I enjoyed it 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment, Mikaela. And thanks for those titles — books to add to my TBR pile.

    Daniel, I wasn’t thinking of any certain kind of book — if those books were important to you, then they’re worthy of a mention. That is the only criterion that matters. And there is nothing conceited about commenting on your first finished novel. As I’ve written here before, ambition is good.

    Twilight, thanks for the list. The Wheel of Time books have been formative for so many people. I’m sure you won’t be the only person to mention them here.

  • I couldn’t get it down to just five titles, but here’s a list of some of the books I’m thankful for.

    1. The Trixie Belden mysteries started my lifelong love of mysteries (and my obsessive need to own every title in a series)

    2, Kim Harrison’s series, The Hollows. These were the first urban fantasy novels I read. Loved them so much I looked for similar titles, which led me to many other great writers, including Faith and Catie’s books, which led me here and on to even more great books by all the contributors.

    3. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh), and Code Name Verity (Elizabeth E. Wein) because they made me think and feel and cry, and completely forget I was reading a book.

    4. Books by Neil Gaiman, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Robbins, Margaret Atwood, and Ursula K. Le Guin (among others) for creating new and imaginative worlds and showing me new ways to think of stories and writing.

    5. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are all books I read and loved as a kid/teen, then had to reread umpteen times in my years as a HS English teacher. I’m thankful they hold up to repeated readings so I can still love them all these years later!

    6. Every other book I’ve ever read. Even the ones I didn’t much like as a reader taught me something as a writer.

  • I’m grateful for Roger Zelazny’s Amber series and for Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, for showing me that fantasy didn’t have to be all rainbows and happy endings. Sometimes the story works best when it’s coming from darker places.

    I’m grateful for Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence, for creating an exceptional story using the tools of fantasy and spirituality, and for showing me that protagonists didn’t have to be orphans or abuse victims in order to be powerful.

    I’m grateful for Frank Herbert’s Dune, which I only read to impress a boy I liked. I haven’t spoken to that boy since high school, but the awesome story Herbert wrote has stayed with me to this day.

    I’m grateful for William Gibson’s Neuromancer, for taking science fiction to that next level without getting hung up on rockets and stars. Science is all around us, and we don’t need to leave the ground to find it.

    I’m grateful for Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates, for inspiring me to write books that make readers feel the way I felt. I hope someday to create something as layered and marvelous as he does.

  • Megan B.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, for being the first book to make me want to write my own stories.
    The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett, for being awesome and providing me with many hours of enjoyment.
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman, for being beautiful and magical.
    Any and every Beverly Cleary book I read as a child, for making me laugh.
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’engle, for captivating me as a child and warming my heart when I read it again as an adult.

    I might come up with a different list if I thought it over for a while, but these are the books that came to mind.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    The Xanth series for serving as an introduction to the lighter side of fantasy than The Lord of the Rings, which I really hadn’t been ready for.

    The Shannara and the Belgariad series for giving me uber-traditional fantasy to immerse myself in and build my core book-identity around.

    Numerous Dean R. Koontz novels for serving as an excellent bridge between what I was reading and what my parents were reading.

    The Dresden Files for giving me so many hours of mutual story enjoyment with my husband.

    and “Casket of Souls” for reminding me (again!) why Lynn Flewelling really is my favorite author.

  • Oh so many books – many of which you guys have already named. I’ll add that I’m thankful for the many modern authors whose take on the Arthurian legends led me back to the medieval sources, especially Thomas Mallory’s Morte DArthur. I’m thankful for Anne McCaffrey, the Dragon Lady, and Piers Anthony’s surreal and delightful Incarnations of Immortality series. I’m thankful for the many, many authors whose work I tore through so fast in junior high and high school that I now forget their names and titles, even though scraps of their stories still come back to me in dreams.

    I’m thankful for the many other creative writers in my department because this morning in faculty meeting in we agreed that creative work would continue to count as scholarly output. I’m especially thankful for Ralph Carlson who is not only a brilliant poet, but has been a kind friend and colleague to me for the last six years. (He was named one of the five most underrated Vietnam writers of our age.)

  • ajp88

    Cue the broken record, but I’m thankful for A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons above all this holiday season. No series has ever captured my mind so completely as these books. When I reread them now, they overwhelm all of my senses from the first cold, cold prologue to the roiling black flames filling a gladiatorial bowl near the end of the latest. There’s a number of fantasy series that I love and reread, even repurchase, but nothing is as gritty, sensual, gut wrenching, beautiful, or shocking to me as these books. I’ll be rereading them again during Thanksgiving, and I simply cannot wait.

  • I could come up with way more than five books, several of which have been written about already, so I’ll just give three book-ish things.

    1. I’m thankful for Chaucer and Shakespeare because they, classics though they are, were popular writers writing (GASP!!) genre fiction. It’s a great reminder that genre fiction is incredibly important and fantastic in a literary sense, not just in a “well, isn’t that nice that the plebes read something…”

    2. Clive Barker’s “The Theif of Always.” I reread this every few years. It’s YA (a little bit before that became a full-fledged category), and I read it when I was about 15, and it was the book that made me want to be a writer. It would take me another 12-13 years before I’d actually think I could be a writer, which brings me to ….

    3. I’m thankful beyond words for my writing partner Sarah. Without her, I wouldn’t never have had the courage to believe I could be a writer (that is, write for publication). When I suggested all those years ago that we ought to try our hand at writing, I mostly meant “you’re all smart and a good writer and stuff, so I’ll just get a deathgrip on your coattails and we’ll be off!” I had so much fun and finally got the courage to write a novel of my own, too. But without her support and belief, I wouldn’t have written a single word–not even written for myself. Because we decided to do this writing thing, I’ve met fabuous people (the folks here among them) and written amazing stuff. I don’t for a second regret one moment I’ve spent writing, even if it nevers comes to publication. Lots of authors have influenced me, and made me want to write, but if it weren’t for Sarah, that desire would never have changed to the will to write, to the courage to submit, and the confidence to keep writing and submitting. 🙂

  • SiSi, I’m so glad that Kim’s books brought you here! Thanks for the list.

    Misty, I have not yet read THE ANUBIS GATES or Gibson’s book. But I will.

    Megan, I love many of those books, and my girls were nuts about Beverly Cleary.

    Hep, Lynn truly is a wonderful writer. The Tamir books are outstanding, and she also happens to be one of the nicest people I know.

    Sarah, have you ever read the unfinished version of the Arthur legends that John Steinbeck worked on? Wonderful.

    AJP, the Martin books are another choice that I’m sure others share. Thanks for the comment.

    Emily, I think it’s great that your collaboration with Sarah has been such a positive experience. I’ve only collaborated once — with Stuart Jaffe — and it was fun and went well. But it presented new challenges that I hadn’t anticipated.

  • quillet

    I am thankful for Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, because it was the work that made 13-yr-old me want to write — and write like ~that~.

    I’m thankful for Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the first of which inspired my love of fantasy and the second of which has repeatedly reaffirmed my faith in it.

    I am thankful to Lois McMaster Bujold, who sets the bar breathtakingly high with every book she writes; yet instead of discouraging me, it makes me want to try harder, harder, harder.

    I am thankful for all six of Jane Austen’s novels, for showing me what superb characterisation looks like.

    I am thankful for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, for growing in wisdom as it has gone along and for showing me that “funny” and “insightful” are better when served together.

    (Hmm, that turned into a list of authors instead of titles. Hope that’s okay.)

  • I could probably write an entire blog on books and how they influenced me…and I haven’t updated in a while. 😉

  • Razziecat

    It’s very hard to pick individual books, but I have to say I’m grateful to particular authors.

    For Andre Norton, whose book “The Time Traders” lit the writing spark for me.

    For Tolkien, who showed me where the real world & fantasy intersect.

    For Carol Berg, whose books leave me breathless with excitement and joy.

    For Patricia McKillip and Judith Tarr, whose words inspire me and bring beauty into my life.

    That’s five, but there are so many more!

  • Quillet, I LOVE the Mary Stewart books. My wife and I used to read them to each other. And I’ve finally read some Jane Austen this year, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Daniel, go for it!

    Razz, authors are good, too. And Carol Berg, in addition to being a wonderful writer, is an incredibly nice person. She is another of Lucienne’s writers.

  • sagablessed

    lavendergreen magic by Andre norton, a wizard of earthsea by LeGuin, The Bloody Sun by MZB (my first Sci-fi novel ever), Mists of Avalon by MZB, and DragonSong (my second sci-fi novel ever) by McCaffery.

  • sagablessed

    Oh, and the WitchWorld Novels. Those got me wanting to write. Lord Foul’s Bane was my fourth novel ever.

  • Ken

    Only 5 huh? Ok here goes:

    1. I am thankful for Tom McGowan’s Sir MacHinery. This is the one that started it all for me.

    2. Like David, I am thankful for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for much of the same reasons.

    3. I am thankful to Jim Butcher for creating Harry Dresden. It wasn’t my introduction to Urban Fantasy (The RPG Shadowrun did that for me…In Spades!) but Jim never fails to be both engaging and vastly entertaining. He’s one of the writers that inspires me to write.

    4. I am thankful for The Name of the Wind…actually for Patrick Rothfuss in general. The man makes me want to write…on the off chance that I might be as half as brilliant as he is.

    5. Finally, I am thankful for The Dragonlance/War of the Twins trilogies by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. They completely hit me in the right place at the right time.

  • Donald, Wizard of Earthsea has long been one of my favorite works, as was DragonSong.

    Thanks for the list, Ken.

  • fallen_saint

    Good idea.

    I am thankful for Sharon Kay Penman and her historical fiction about the crazy Plantagent family. Here be Dragons, Lionheart, When Christ and his Saints Sleppt. Those books are wonderful and easy to forget to sleep.

    I am thankful for Brian Jacques’s Redwall that introduced me to fantasy as a 8th grader. At the time it looked like the biggest book in school library. I knew I had to conquer it.

    I am thankful for Harry Turtledove’s alternate history novels. How Few Remain, American Front, Center Cannot Hold. I would not know as much about how real people [fictional I know] are affected by conflict and peace time.

    I am thankful for picking up Clash of Kings by George Martin. I know it is the second book and did not read the first one until after the 3rd one. I was just being stubborn. He taught me that no one is safe in books so hold onto your favorite characters while you still can.

    I am thankful shout out for letting me learn sleep is overrated, Michael and Jeff Shaara, David Coe, Stephen Lawhead, Micheal Stakpole,, Jack Whyte, Jennifer Fallon, Dave Duncan, Robin Hobb, John Jakes, Wilbur Smith, Steven Erikson Patrick Rothfuss…I could go on forever like many others.

  • sagablessed

    Ken, I just started to read Name of the wind, lol!

  • I can’t limit it to books – I’m gonna have to list authors:
    1- Frank L. Baum’s Oz books (all 13 of ’em) – my introdution into fantasy.
    2 – Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books – my introduction to science fiction.
    3 – Mika Waltari for taking me into the past and making it personal.
    4 – William Shakespeare for teaching me to appreciate poetry in prose.
    5 – Marion Zimmer Bradley for her Fantasy Magazine (and for publishing my first professionally sold short story!)

  • Fallen_Saint, many thanks for the mention, and the list. My older kid tried the Redwall books and couldn’t really get into them. But I know lots of other young readers who adore them.

    Donald, I just finished NAME OF THE WIND, and loved it.

    Lyn, thanks for the list. MZB’s magazine was marvelous for readers and writers alike. Losing her and the stories she found for us was sad for all in the business.