This morning the newsletter included a link to this article, 14 Books For Anyone Who’s Had A Tough Year. As I read down it with an increasing sense of incredulity, I was moved to look up synonyms for navel-gazing (on which until this moment I thought that my generation had the monopoly) and came across this perfectly delightful word, omphaloskepsis.
When I stopped laughing I decided there was nothing for it but to come up with an, ah, alt-book list, populated with engaging characters, good plots, and brave new worlds. It is the very antithesis of omphaloskepsian and is a hell of a lot more amusing than picking the lint out of your belly button. Trust me, if you’ve had a tough year, these are the books you should be reading.
- Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Butcher is known for his Harry Dresden wizard-in-Chicago series but this six-book epic fantasy is even better. Butcher picks up the lost Ninth Legion from wherever it was wandering around in Scotland and sets it down on the planet Carna, where natural furies can be tamed to give the new settlers magical powers (just go with it) and there is a villain on a par with Sauron. It’s the best lost heir plot I’ve ever read and right now the first book in the series is $2.99 on Kindle.
- Tanya Huff’s military science fiction series, starring Confederation Space Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. Huff writes simply the best alien characters, including the Krai who eat everything, the di’Taykan who f*ck everything, and not forgetting that masterful little ace reporter and pain in Torin’s behind, Presit a Tur durValintrisy of Sector Central News. Great dialogue, and there is a big reveal in the seventh and concluding novel that pays off on every. single. word. you will have read before. The first in series, Valor’s Choice, is also only $2.99 at the moment.
- Kerry Greenwood’s 20-book Phryne Fisher series. A fully enfranchised flapper in Melbourne, Australia, following World War I, Phryne detects crime while driving her Hispano Suiza way too fast, flying her own plane, joining the circus, building an extended and colorful family, and enthusiastically practicing sexual liberation on every handsome young man she comes across. In Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, she brings down a drug ring and delivers an illegal abortionist unrepentantly to the hangman, which latter is a refreshing antidote to the very tired (and very irritating) misunderstood-villain trope of more modern times.
- Kristan Higgins’ five-book Blue Heron series, in which she saves the best for last in Anything But You, which I think might be the best romance novel I’ve ever read (although I’m not sure John Charles down at the Poisoned Pen agrees with me). Connor O’Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn since sixth grade, but Jessica has a younger brother who has FAS, a not-father who is a recovering alcoholic, and a perfectly nasty little rival at work, and she doesn’t have time for anything but a friend with benefits. Every one of the characters is much more than only one thing (like Connor’s father), the dialogue is great (especially the twinspeak between Connor and Colleen) and all you’re going to want to do after you read this book is go to Manningsport and eat and drink in Connor and Colleen’s tavern. Heart-wrenching and heart-warming and just plain good for the health of your heart overall.
There. Thirty-eight novels in four different genres, every last one of them separately or together guaranteed to make you feel better about life in general and your own in particular. I promise.
And then there’s my own Kate Shugak series,
beginning with A Cold Day for Murder,
also at $2.99 on Kindle right now.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.