I’m half a literature student (the other half is used thinking about stuff that doesn’t matter or really mean anything) and so I read a lot of books. However, I’m rather unique among Literature students in that I read outside of the subject. Yes, I know, it’s rather shocking. Or at least it is if you have any experience with literature students. They tend to read exactly what they’re told to and maybe something pretentious like Kafka. Or Jeffrey Archer. Or something.
So this is going to be a list of different authors/series that you really should get your teeth into, as they’re vastly brilliant. There will be the odd graphic novel thrown in here, because some of them are brilliant, and I don’t really care if you think that just because a story is shown through pictures it’s not worth your time. One word; Watchmen. Also the fantasy genre will feature rather heavily, because I find it to be a melting pot of incredible imaginations that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, I’m going to break up my recommendations into genre, and thus streamline the whole process like an angry mechanic trying to make a car that few seconds faster. Except in this case I’m not throwing away anything that’ll slow me down, instead putting it all in clumps to make it more wieldy. Or something.
George R.R. Martin. Widely considered to be the king of fantasy at the moment, Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series is extremely well constructed, creating wonderful policital intriuge and a brilliant sense of attachment to the characters. By showing you both sides of the battlefield, it makes it that much harder to figure out who the bad guys really are. I’ve got my own suspiscions about how it’s going to go, but it’s definitely worth picking up the current 5 volumes.
Steven Erikson. The Homer to Martin’s Vigil, Erikson focuses less on characters and more on his ridiculously complicated and grand story. When I say complicated I don’t mean that it’s very hard to follow so much as it’s almost incomprehensible that one man could hold all those plot lines in his head at once. The man must be a genius or something. If you enjoyed Martin’s books, do give these a try, they’re somewhat more of an aquired taste, but just as good. I hold him on level with Martin.
China Mieville. Taking the steampunk fantasy genre to an entirely new level, Mieville is such an artisan with words that I’m often forced to lean back and take a deep breath and reread a certain passage. He creates such a feast of words that it’s very, very easy to get lost in his worlds merely through how well he paints the scene. Of course the fact that the stories are brilliant and the worlds incredibly well thought out make it that much easier.
Robin Hobb. If you’re looking for a sheer volume of work with a very large capacity to draw you in and make you care about the characters, then Robin Hobb is definitely the woman for you. Her Assassin’s Apprentice series is incredible, as is all the follow ups and spin offs set in the same world. I really don’t want to ruin any part of it for you, so just go read.
Watchmen. Somewhat less cult than it used to be thanks to a film being released next year (hopefully), Watchmen is widely recognised as one of the best graphic novels, if not one of the best stories ever written full stop. Following a series of retired (and some not so retired) vigilante heroes as they try to solve a murder, the whole story is so well constructed, and so brilliantly executed, that you’ll be dumbfounded.
V For Vendetta. Again, the presense of a film based on this work makes it a little more known than it has been, but V for Vendetta is far, far better in it’s original form. while the story is similar, the execution is handled that much better when not restricted by a time limit. Penned by the same writer as Watchmen, Alan Moore, it’s well worth a read.
Fables. Set in a world were fairy tale creatures try to get by in a normal society, this whole series is wonderfully well done, with brilliant twists on classic stories. I have only read a few of these, but thoroughly enjoyed them when I did.
1984. I’m a big fan of Dystopias, and 1984 is the be all and end all of Dystopias. The classic story of fighting against an oppressive regime is told with such depressing cynicism that the ending leaves you as broken as the characters. Our society owes such a debt to this novel, from it’s terrible reality tv shows (Big Brother), to the concepts our (and other country’s) politicians use to manipulate the populace, Orwel was a rather astute genius.
T.S.Eliot. An absolutely superb poet, and one of the few I can actually stand, Eliot creates such a medley of brilliant images and wonderful imagery that you can’t help but enjoy it. Beautiful rythm and addressing topics that are still valid almost a century after he was writing, he’s definitely my favourite poet.
Samuel Beckett. I’m not sure if he really counts as a classic yet, but the absurdist playwright certainly deserves to be. The writer of Waiting for Godot, Beckett uses the absurd to point out the absurdities of mankind in an often hilarious way. While ultimately rather depressing, Beckett’s plays are excellently written and often downright filthy without ever seeming like he’s putting it on.
So that’s pretty much it. I could go on for a few more, but I think that should get you all started rather well. I hope you try at least one recommendation here, and let me know what you think of it.