mitloehn's reading list

A collection of reviews and recommendations, naturally very subjective.

    Fantasy

  1. George Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire +
    (Book 1: A Game of Thrones, Book 2: A Clash of Kings, Book 3: A Storm of Swords, Part 1 and 2)
    Top of the Internet 100 Fantasy & Science Fiction, overtook Lord of the Rings! (Has this ever happened before?) Not without reason. Very good, often cruel and gory, more adult than most fantasy. One grain of salt: switching perspective among some 10 actors after every 20 pages takes some getting used to. It is OK to see the tale evolve from various points of view, but longer sequences would be easier to read. Apart from that, very much recommended. Very little magic, lots of battles and intrigues. Major characters die! Can hardly wait for the final (not yet published, Nov 2001).

  2. Neil Gaiman, Stardust +
    Fairy tale, beautiful, rather short.

  3. Epic of Gilgamesh +
    Not normally found under Fantasy, but it should be. Unfortunately large parts of the 3000+ years old text are lost, yet the remains still make a fascinating read. My translation is by Maureen Gallery Kovacs and contains a good introduction and lots of notes. Very much recommended!

  4. Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment
    Another version of the legends around Merlin and Arthur. A captivating read!

  5. Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
    Three stories set apart by several hundred years in a post atomic holocaust world, a monastry keeping the relics and the knowledge of the lost world, and the slow but inevitable course of history repeating itself. Very much recommended.

  6. Cordwainer Smith, Norstrilia
    Aussi jokes in space. Funny read that has its good moments.

  7. Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark
    Vienna, 1683: the mass of the turkish army slowly advances and threatens the city while much more powerfull dark forces plot against the whole western world - will the wizard, the soldier and the party of lost vikings be able to stop them, with the help of a very special brew of dark beer?

  8. Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates +
    Dark and frightening fantasy, some elements of horror, at least for me. Powers really is an excellent writer.

  9. H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines
    Very little fantasy actually, but truly and rightfully a classic adventure novel!

  10. Micha Pansi, Das Buch der Schlüssel
    Teil 1 der Daimonen-Trilogie. Deutschsprachige Fantasy. Ungewohnt, aber nicht schlecht, obwohl stellenweise etwas kindisch.

  11. Paulo Coelho, Der Alchimist
    Ein sehr schönes, tief philosophisches Werk. Nicht so sehr Fantasy zuzurechnen, obwohl ein wenig Magie vorkommt. Mehr eine Art Märchen. Wirklich gelungen!

  12. Paulo Coelho, Auf dem Jakobsweg
    Nach dem Alchemisten ein herbe Enttäuschung! Das Buch liest sich wie ein ernstgemeinter Reisebericht über den alten Pilgerweg; wenn Coelho allerdings seine völlig unglaubwürdigen magischen 'Erfahrungen' tatsächlich ernst meint, dann zweifle ich an seiner geistigen Gesundheit. Nach der Lektüre des Alchemisten hielt ich den Autor für einen Weisen, nach dem Jakobsweg dann eher für einen der vielen unseriösen Schmehtandler, die auf der Esoterik-Welle schwimmen.

  13. John Norman, Tarnsman of Gor
    Part 1 of many in the Gor series. Probably better known for its female submission theme than for its quality of story telling. However, the counter-earth of Gor is a fascinating world. The hero Tarl Cabot is brought to the hidden planet on the opposite side of the sun by an acquisition ship of the mysterious priest kings, the unseen and powerful rulers of the planet who control progress to maintain a level of medieval technology. The people of Gor live in warring city states and are strictly divided into castes. Tarl is trained as a warrior and sets out to uncover the secrets of the god-like priest kings, naturally not without rescuing several maidens in distress and overcoming lots of foes in the process. The books came out in the sixites and are somewhat hard to get nowadays; I recommend the 'weird bookshelf' (see bottom of this page).

  14. John Howard, The Conan Chronicles +
    Anyone dont know Conan the Simmerian? Probably not. This is a collection of short stories, a few pages each. Not much detail, but lots of imagination. Pitty that Howard did not do more telling there. Still, very recommendable for its fast paced action and concise writing.

  15. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    After so much hype for the Harry Potter series I had to check it out, and I must say I found it nice but not exceptional. Good marketing here.

  16. Stephen Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Lord Foul's Bane, The Illeart War, The Power That Preserves) ++
    Unusual fantasy: a bad hero! Thomas Covenant is meant to save The Land, but with his lack of faith in the beautiful world he was summoned into he seems to do more evil than good. Good plot, convincingly told.

  17. Marvin Peake, Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone. +++
    Probably not on the fantasy rack in the local bookstore, unfortunately. No magic; nevertheless, lots of bizzare things happen to the 77th earl of Gormenghast within the picturesque, and partly decaying, castle of his ancestors, as he tries to grow up sane in body and spirit.

  18. Ursula LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Fartest Shore. ++
    Three parts that can each stand alone. Very good story-telling that can be read again and again with new meaning discovered every time.

  19. Robert Rankin, The Brentford Triangle. +++
    This is a trilogy with five parts up to now. Lots of beer (Guiness?), lots of fun, and lots of strange rituals, all in a London suburb. We meet Brentford characters in other Rankin books, too (Nostradamus Ate My Hamster, Raiders of the Lost Car Park, etc). I read most of them, so should you, even if it's not strictly fantasy, since the setting is 20th century.

  20. Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic. ++
    The Discworld Novels. Lots of fun, not on the most sophisticated level, though; nevertheless an epic, which is still evolving. Each novel can stand alone, however, lots of paralleles are missed that way. The first two are the best.

  21. Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana. +
    A good story masterly told.

  22. Allan Cole and Chris Bunch, The Kingdom of the Night. +
    Bloody, cruel. I must get the first book in the trilogy.

  23. Adam Nichols, The Pathless Way. +
    A shaman story, lots of magic, some of it too much to believe; even in a fantasy book magic should still be something very special, seldomly used.

  24. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. +++
    I guess every fantasy fan knows this book anyway.

  25. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. +++
    The adventures of Bilbo Baggins, introducing several characters from the Lord of the Rings. I got the version illustrated by Alan Lee, and I can wholeheartedly recommend to spend the extra money, it's definitely worth it!

  26. Terry Brooks, The Tangle Box. +
    An unusualy twisted fantasy plot, almost no action, more of an inner journey.

  27. Brian Bates, The Way of Wyrd. ++
    A christian monk comes to understand the world in the celtic (?) shaman way. Everything is connected to everything else, in the world (wide) web. Hmm. We witness his personal journey through the teachings of his master to his awakening. Philosophy and religion in a fantasy book. Maybe I got it wrong, and this is meant in earnest, as new age stuff. I hope not.

  28. Clifford Simak, Enchanted Pilgrimage.
    A story that starts fantasy as usual, but evolves towards some strange twists.

  29. Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara.
    A Fantasy classic, unfortunately with the usual disapointing ending. The follow-ups are not as good.

  30. Harry Harrison, The Hammer and the Cross.
    Fast-paced, cruel. The time is the invasion of England by wild norman tribes who go about their bloody business with a vengeance.

  31. David Gemmel, Waylander. +
    A simple plot, told in a simple way. Satisfying.

  32. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarilion. ++
    Stories around the Lord of the Rings, all the stuff that the heroes talk and sing about at the camp fire.

  33. Raymond E. Feist, Magician. +
    Title says it all: the life of a magician, teachings, deadly exams, coming to power. All set in the Japan-like Feist world.

  34. Raymond E. Feist, Daughter of the Empire.
    Almost no magic, lots of politics, in a Japan-like setting.

  35. Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree.
    First part of the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy. A modern Fantasy classic. Nothing new, really, but well done.

  36. Robin Hobb, Assasin's Apprentice. +
    Good fantasy stuff, although a bit to much on the magic side.

  37. Tad Williams, The Dragon Bone Chair.
    Followed by Stone of Farewell, Storm. I did not read the final volume of this epic (how many hundred pages?).

  38. Morgan Llywelyn and Michael Scott, Silverhand.
    Your average fantasy epic; this is volume one. Not bad, though.

  39. David Gemmel, The Legend of Deathwalker.
    Not as good as Waylander, to simple-minded, but still nice reading.

  40. C. S. Lewis, The Cronicles of Narnia.
    Children's stuff, on a high level.

  41. C. S. Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy.
    The history of mankind, the struggle of good and evil, in the early history of three planets. Lots of nice scenes.

  42. Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King.
    The legend of Arthur in another new light. No Magic at all, lots of politics and bloody war business.

  43. Patricia Briggs, When Demons Walk. -
    When magic is used all the time, it's nothing special anymore, and looses its - magic.

  44. Glen Cook, The Black Company. -
    Somewhat confused, I didn't get the main thread.

  45. Robert Jordan, The Dragon Reborn -
    Part of the Wheel of Time Series. I get the feeling that while I read hundreds and hundreds of pages nothing much is actually going on.

  46. Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule. --
    I stopped midway after another feminist-minded attack on beloved fantasy cliches. I really hate gender-benders.

  47. David Eddings, Pawn of Prophecy. -
    Followed by Queen of Sorcery, etc. Aimed at general audience (?), but actually children's level, esp. as far as erotic and other human relationships are concerned.

    Science Fiction

  48. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. +
    A science fiction classic by a master of the art. Good plot, good writing, believeable and fascinating.

  49. Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game. +
    Good plot with surprising turns, and still credible; only the parts dealing with Ender's brother and sister are somewhat weird and don't add to the story.

  50. Terry Pratchett, Only You Can Save Mankind. +
    Not strictly SF, but a weird and touching plot that casts a new light on computer games. Funny too, but not in Pratchett's Discworld type of humor which (so I was told) is a bit too cheap for some readers.

  51. Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad : Fables for the Cybernetic Age. +
    Fairy tales of robots, and humans who build them.

  52. Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash. -
    Lots of imagination and fast-paced action are Stephenson's strong points, but he seems to be unable to turn his plot into convincing narrative for more than a few pages at a time. Again and again some character does or says something so stupid that all sense of immersion is lost. Especially painful are the passages where details of cyberspace and programming are concerned; such a lot of plain nonsense makes me wonder whether the author has ever done anything else with a computer except word processing.

  53. Isaac Asimov, The Golden Age of Science Fiction (Collection)

  54. Robert Rankin, Sprout Mask Replica

  55. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

  56. Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man

  57. Lewis Carrol, The Annotated Snark (ed by Martin Gardner)

  58. Robert J. Sawyer, The Terminal Experiment

  59. Giovanni di Boccaccio, Das Dekameron

  60. Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination

  61. Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone

  62. Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melnibone

  63. Frederik Pohl, Gateway

  64. Robert Rankin, The Brentford Chainstore Massacre

  65. Fritz Leiber, Ill met in Lankhmar

  66. Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree (Book I of The Fionavar Tapestry)

  67. Alfred Bester, The Stars my Destination

  68. Dan Simmons, Hyperion

  69. Joseph Heller, Catch-22

  70. Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

  71. Morgan Llywelyn and Michael Scott, Silverhand (Book I of The Arcana)

  72. Robert Rankin, Nostradamus ate my Hamster

  73. Gregor von Rezzori, Maghrebinische Geschichten

  74. Iain M, Banks, Use of Weapons

  75. Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

  76. C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station

  77. Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds

  78. Ray Bradbury, I sing the Body Electric

  79. Richard Wilhelm (Übers., 1990): I Ging. Eugen Diderichs Verlag, München.

  80. Ansen Dibell, Orson Scott Card, Lewis Turco, How to write a Million, Robinson Publishing, London 1990

  81. Clifford Simak (1990): Enchanted Pilgrimage, Madarin Paperbacks.

  82. Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (A Discworld Novel)

  83. Lois McMaster Bujold (1994): Mirror Dance. Baen Books, Riverdale.

  84. M. Nakayama (1979): Best Karate - Heian, Tekki. Kodansha, Tokyo.

  85. Christopher Priest (1996): The Prestige. Touchstone, London.

  86. Jonathan Carrol (1991): The Voice of our Shadow. Futura, London.

  87. Allan Cole, Chris Bunch (1993): The Far Kingdoms. Ballantine Books, New York.

  88. George R. R. Martin (1997): A Game of Thrones. Bantam Paperback, New York.

  89. Neal Stephenson (1993): Snow Crash. Bantam Paperback, New York.

  90. A. M. Hommes (1997): The End of Alice. Anchor, London.

  91. Jack O'Connell (1997): The Skin Palace. Pan Books, London.

  92. Kent Harrington (1997): Dark Ride. ST. Martin's Paperbacks, New York.

  93. Neil Gaiman (1998): Neverwhere. Avon Books, New York.

  94. Thomas Pynchon (1995): Gravity's Rainbow. Pengui Books, New York.

  95. Jorge Louis Borges

  96. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Other Fiction

  97. Laotse, Tao-Te King
    Das Buch vom natürlichen Lauf der Dinge, ein wunderschönes Werk von tiefer Weisheit. Und ich maße mir ein Urteil an: mir gefällt es sehr! Ich habe meine persönliche Interpretation: meiner Ansicht nach meint Laotse mit dem Tao ganz einfach die Naturgesetze. Trotzdem ist es sehr lesenswert, was er alles dazu zu sagen hat, wenn auch die altertümliche Sprache und die Übersetzung aus dem Chinesischen sicher nicht zur Verständlichkeit beitragen und viele Deutungen offen lassen.

  98. Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow. ++
    London, 1942. The probability that a give square mile of the city will be hit by a certain number n of V2 bombs today is e -l l n / n! , where l is some small positive constant, say 0.5, if you have ten days of observation, nine squares, and 45 hits during that time in all squares together. The Poisson distribution is a good approximation for the distribution of rare events such as these. However, there are a few men in a special and very secret branch of the ARF who are convinced that they have a better estimator than conventional statistics can provide. It involves the somewhat busy love life of one of their comrades, the American Slothrop, who during the course of months of his station in London has affairs with girls all over the city. Strange thing is, it seems that in each and every case a few hours after their liaison that square is hit. To the Pavlovian researchers at ARF it is quite plain that Slothop's amourous reflex is somehow conditioned on a stimulus preceding the flight of another German rocket. It is therefore paramount to the war effort to discover the exact nature of that connection, at any cost whatsoever.

  99. Christopher Priest, The Prestige. +
    Gripping story about the feud of two stage magicians at the turn of the century. Elements of fantasy and horror.

  100. Arthur C. Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes. +
    This collection is subtitled 'All four Novels and 56 Short Stories'; Observe the great detective gathering a wealth of information on even the most minute clue. Not totally believable in every case, but still fun.

  101. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
    Interesting.

  102. Karl Vettermann, Barawitzka segelt nach Malta. ++
    Die Barawitzka-Bücher sind Pflichtlektüre für jeden österreichischen Fahrtensegler. Neben Malta gibt es noch Die Irrfahrten des Barawitzka, Barawitzka und der Taiwan-Clipper, und Barawitzka und die See-Amazonen. Sie sind alle ziemlich gut, allerdings wohl eher etwas für begeisterte Segler. Vettermann ist selbst ja bald nach dem letzten Band auf sehr typische Weise ums Leben gekommen, beim Pinkeln während einer Nachtfahrt; wer benützt schon das Bord-WC?

    Non-Fiction

  103. Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine. +++
    The new science of memetics inspired by Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene. For the last five billion years natural selection provided the only driving force for evolution: plants and animals compete for survival. With the human ability to imitate a second replicator enters the stage. Similar to the primeval soup that gave rise to proteins an almost infinite number of ideas, points of views, melodies, and everything else that can be copied keeps boiling in billions of brains. The memes compete for survival in our minds, transmitted by humans imitating each other and thereby providing the evolutinary driving forces of variation and selection. Memes which get themselves copied a lot are successful, others die. Intelligence is largely copying, the Self is nothing but illusion.

  104. J. N. Walker, Chess Openings for Juniors. +
    Very good introduction to essential chess openings.

  105. B. Hölldobler, E. Wilson, Journey to the Ants. Harvard University Press, 1995. +
    Fascinating introduction to the life of the ants. A strong motivation for further readings in myrmecology, the study of ants.

  106. Gighin Funakoshi (1973): Karate-Do Kyohan. Kodansha, Tokyo. +
    A nice introduction to Karate with emphasis on the Kata, which are described in great detail. The only point to criticise is the use of English terms rather than the more concise Japanese ones for the techniques.

  107. Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do.
    Somewhat confused, I don't see the point of this material, it's like an unstructured collection of notes.

  108. Yip Chun, Danny Connor (1993): Wing Chun Martial Arts, Samuel Weiser.
    Another rather unstructured text, what exactly does it mean to convey?

  109. R. L. Wing (1988): The Art of Strategy - A New Translation of Sun Tzu's Classic The Art of War. Doubleday, New York.

  110. Thomas Cleary (Transl., 1991): Sun Tzu - The Art of War. Shambala, Boston.

    Other Media

    Text, but not in the form of a book printed on paper.

  111. Geoff Ryman, Subway Novel. +
    Take a look at this interactive novel. Kind of hypertext, with a twisted touch that lets you spin your own story as you read on.

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