Thursday, July 16, 2009

Building a Comprehensive SF&F Collection

I'm giving a talk next month to an association of Texas librarians on how to build a good, comprehensive SF&F collection. I've given this talk before, restricting myself just to the science fiction genre, and am pretty confident with my list of works (both classic and contemporary) and what I have to say about it. Updating that speech with a few gems from the last year won't be hard. But this year, I'm giving two talks, one on science fiction and one just on fantasy.


I'd really appreciate some suggestions on what fantasy books every library should have. Science fiction suggestions are also welcome, but it's the fantasy list where I'm looking for the most input. Obviously, Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Earthsea, etc..., but we need to get passed these to gems like Mythago Wood, etc... that the audience may or may not have heard of. Obviously, we can't fit everything in, and obviously they'll be subjective differences between one persons list and another, but what I want to produce is a good overview of fantasy fiction with enough of the signposts to pass muster and enough variety for a variety of tastes. I'm hoping for about 150 titles, and I do want a good representation of contemporary authors. I've got a lot of thoughts on this already, but would really appreciate input to help cover any blindspots I may have, as well as to stimulate a good discussion for all our benefits.



The Mad Hatter said...

Some of these are taken from a recent list I created:

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Blue Bear by Walter Moers

Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer(I know this would be SF)

The Myth Hunters by Christopher Golden

The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne Valente

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin(Depends if Vamps go under Fantasy at Libs)

Moonheart by Charles de Lint (I am half way through and I can see why it is an Urban Fantasy Classic)

I also made another list of Steampunk recommendations you might find useful.

Fabio Fernandes said...

Lou, here´s (some of) my humble suggestions:

Little, Big - John Crowley (a fundamental one)
the Gormenghast trilogy - Mervyn Peake
Kalpa Imperial - Angelica Gorodischer (part Fantasy, part Alternate History, totally stunning; and translated by Ursula K. LeGuin, no less)

Hope that helps. I´m on a hurry now, but I´ll try and write a bigger list later.

ObilonKenobi said...

Hey there. I think my suggestions might be a little obvious but here goes:

A Wrinkle In Time
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
American Gods
Songs of Ice and Fire Saga (Incomplete but still good)
His Dark Materials
The Earthsea Cycle
The Baroque Cycle (Fantasy? Perhaps.)
The Last Unicorn
The Princess Bride
The Crystal Cave
Watchmen (Graphic Novel)

Some that are in other genres but I'd abscond for Fantasy:

Ann Rice's Vampire series (Some better than others but still good)
Stephen King's The Stand
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (may not be a fantasy but sure feels like one.)


Harry Potter
Lord of The Rings/The Hobbit
Narnia Series

Old Classic:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Peter Pan
Wizard of Oz
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
A Christmas Carol

Fairy Tales:

Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen
Gulliver's Travels


A Midsummer Night's Dream
Inferno (Dante's)


The Bible
The illiad/The Odyssey

Hope this helps. - Lon

Lou Anders said...

Great suggestions both of you. Gormenghast - doh! Of course!
Hatter - love the Steampunk list!

Pao said...

* Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang
* Battle Royale - Koushun Takami (I think Haikasoru's coming out with a new translation?)
* Ash - Mary Gentle
* Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold
* The Vorkosigan Series - Lois McMaster Bujold
* A Plague of Angels - Sheri S. Tepper
* The Dresden Files series - Jim Butcher
* Nobody's Son - Sean Stewart
* Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

If Graphic Novels count:
* Sandman
* Fables
* Y the Last Man
* Umbrella Academy


More later. It's late ehere @_@

Blue Tyson said...

Bull, Emma - War For the Oaks - [supernatural fantasy]
Cooper, Susan - Dark Is Rising,The - [supernatural fantasy superhero]
Feist, Raymond - Magician - [sorcery fantasy]
Gemmell, David - Legend - [sorcery fantasy superhero]
Mieville, China - Perdido Street Station - [sorcery fantasy]
Moorcock, Michael - Elric of Melnibone etc. - [sorcery fantasy superhero]
Newman, Kim - Anno Dracula - [scary horror superhero]
Rice, Anne - Interview With the Vampire - [supernatural fantasy]
Stoker, Bram - Dracula - [scary horror superhero]
Brackett, Leigh - Sea-Kings Of Mars and Otherworldly Stories - [science fiction superhero]
Howard, Robert E. - Complete Chronicles of Conan,The - [sorcery fantasy superhero]
King, Stephen - Dark Tower The Gunslinger,The - [scary horror]
King, Stephen - Nightmares and Dreamscapes - [scary horror]
Lovecraft, H. P. - Necronomicon - [scary horror]

Brust, Steven - Book of Jhereg,The - [sorcery fantasy]
Moorcock, Michael - Stealer Of Souls,The - [sorcery fantasy superhero]
Zelazny, Roger - Great Book of Amber,The - [sorcery fantasy]

Barron, Laird - Imago Sequence and Other Stories,The - [scary horror]

Greenberg, Martin H. and Robert Silverberg - Fantasy Hall Of Fame,The - [sorcery fantasy]
Hartwell, David G. - Dark Descent,The - [scary horror]

Poe, Edgar Allan - Gold-Bug and Other Tales,The - [scary horror]
Smith, Clark Ashton - Emperor of Dreams,The - [scary horror]

Lou Anders said...

ObilonKenobi, that's a great list. I'll probably omit fairy tales and works of classic literature like the Twain because the library will already have those in other sections (even if they are fantasy). And I have to decide whether to mix in YA or leave it for another time/talk (or one page of YA?).

ces said...

For the female library users:

Anything by Ann McCaffery & Mercedes Lackey - both have several series, & libraries probably have McCaffery's dragon series & Lackey's Valdemar series.

Christian Berntsen said...

It’s been a while since I’ve read a lot of fantasy, and most of what I’m thinking of you would most likely have on your list or has already been listed above, but I have a couple of suggestions.

Robert Asprin’s Myth series springs to mind if you want to include something with a comedic element into it to mix it up a bit. The series is something in the neighborhood of 14 books long, but I would add the first book at least to the list: Another Fine Myth.

I have yet to read it, but Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is a series I have only heard good things about.

Pao sort of beat me to this point, but given your recent round of comic and graphic novel reviews at, maybe you would want to add a third talk (sometime in the future) centered on sequential stories. I’ve been having a rather good time helping out my fiancé—who is a librarian—build up her library’s graphic novel collection. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at a talk like that. Any chance this or a previous iteration of this talk would be recorded. Even just audio would be spectacular. How do you go about a talk like this? I assume it's more than just giving a list of examples. I find myself with about 1,000 questions. I'd love to hear more.

The new weird reading list is about all I have to add to the fantasy suggestions. I'd probably have been more help with the SF suggestions.

Lou Anders said...

Again, thanks everyone. Between here and my facebook page, we've really got a good base to work from!

Mentatjack - for the SF talk, I assumed a range of familiarity in the audience from active readers to never read at all. So I started out with a short definition of what is SF, and the four "jobs of science fiction" as I see them that make it unique and relevant. I then went by decade, starting (quickly) with Wells and Verne, and going through major periods, major movements and subgenres, up to the present.

am said...

Some Place to be Flying by de Lint (anything by Charles de Lint really)

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Snake Agent by Liz Williams

Shadowbridge by Frost

Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Lou Anders said...

Yeah, DeLint is definitely in there.

Tim Walters said...

I'll think about this more, but the book that immediately leaps to mind is The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt. Published before the Lord of the Rings, and yet even more like modern fantasy than LotR is.

TD said...

Not sure what you mean with "contemporary", but here are some suggestions:

Jack Vance - Either "Dying Earth", "Lyonesse" or "Demon Princess"

Stephen R. Donaldson - Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or "GAP"

Fritz Leiber - Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Patrick Rothfuss - The Name of the Wind

R. Scott Bakker - The Prince of Nothing

Alan Dean Foster - Pip and Flinx or Spellsinger

Robin Hobb - The Tawny Man Trilogy

T. H. White - The Once and Future King

Gene Wolfe - The Wizard Knight

Guy Gavriel Kay - everything... ;)

Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Terry Pratchett - Way too much to choose one novell.

Dave Bush said...

Charles Stross - Atrocity Archives / Jennifer Morgue
Lois Bujold - Chalion Series
Robin McKinley - Blue Sword

Lou Anders said...

More great suggestions. Contemporary means last decade or so as opposed to long dead folk.

Janice in GA said...

Ha, I was going to post Mythago Wood and Lavondyss, by Robert Holdstock. I go back and back to read them.

Lou Anders said...

This is looking like a great list.

Mark Gerrits said...

I'd also add M. John Harrison's Viriconium stories and something by Tim Powers.

The Erudite Ogre said...

Here are some other ideas:

Elizabeth Hand: Mortal Love

William Morris: The Sundering Flood

George MacDonald: Lilith

Hope Mirlees: Lud-in-the-Mist

Lois McMaster Bujold: The Curse of Chalion

Terri Windling: The Wood Wife

Jeffrey Ford's The Shadow Year (just won the Shirley Jackson Award)

P.C. Hodgell: God Stalk

R.A. MacAvoy: Tea with the Black Dragon

Garth Nix: The Abhorsen Trilogy

Jane Yolen: Briar Rose

Kelly Link: Magic for Beginners

Harlan Ellison: Shatterday

Gene Wolfe: Peace (While perhaps not as essential and fantastic as the New Sun and Long Sun series, it is a book thatat merits inclusion for its intricacy and its take on reality and memory)

Jim H. said...

Echoing mentatjack, I'd love to see how you present these. Are slides/materials from previous talks available anywhere online?

Lou Anders said...

Nope. I could make a quicktime presentation of the Powerpoint and upload it to YouTube but it wouldnt have sound.

TD said...

Damn, I nearly forgot:

Daniel Abramahs - Long Price Quartett
(absolutly freaking awesome literature)

David Anthony Durham - Acacia (Still only book 1 of 3, but it's REALLY good!)

Ursula K. LeGuin - Lavinia

Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski - He's actually really good and even I might not have given him a Gemmell award, he deserves more translations.

South American writer Liliana Bodoc. I think she's not translated into english yet....

SuzySF said...

One must have: Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series - very complex,and dark. It might not be for everyone, and I've only made it up to book 5 (of 7, so far), but every one has been a completely involving read for me.

Jerry House said...

Good Omens - Prachett and Gaiman

Repairman Jack

Jorge Luis Borges

Kid's fantasies: E. Nesbit, Hugh Lofting, Edgard Eager, L. Frank Baum, Joan Aiken, etc.

Jack Vance

Manley Wade Wellman

Cartoons? Comic strips? Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson, Pogo

word verification: menst -- why ration it?

Beque said...

Anything by Patricia McKillip, but particularly Winter Rose and Solstice Wood.

Memory said...

I'll add my voice in support of Guy Gavriel Kay. All his books are worthwhile, but I'd say Tigana is a must-have for any library's fantasy collection.

And I don't think anyone's yet mentioned Ellen Kushner's Riverside books: Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings.

Lou Anders said...

Okay, how bout recent works (last few years), anyone?

Anonymous said...

Here are some of my favorite series:

Incarnations of Immortality series - Piers Anthony

Sword of Truth series - Terry Goodkind

Wheel of Time series - Robert Jordan

Shadowrun series - various

Forgotten Realms series - various

Godwars series - Angus Wells

Guardians of the Flame series - Joel Rosenberg

Deryni series - Katherine Kurtz

Lord of the Isles series - David Drake

Belgariad series - David Eddings

Dancing Gods series - Jack Chalker

Recluce series - L.E. Modesitt

Landover series - Terry Brooks

Thieves World series - various

Janice in GA said...

Last few years? Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books (Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith.) Awesome books.

The Name of the Wind is a great debut -- remains to be seen if he can sustain the quality over time.

And of course George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.

Nell said...

Hi, Lou! Here via Joe Mallozzi's blog.

My favorites in the fantasy world are definitely:

Xanth series by Piers Anthony
Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony (sci-fi, too!)
Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony
Dark Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop (and companion books)
The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Wicked/Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
The Lost Years of Merlin series by TA Barron
The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart

If you're interested in childrens fantasy, I highly recommend anything by Bruce Coville (again, has sci-fi, too) and Tamora Pierce novels.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lou -- here from Joe M's Blog

My sci fi/fantasy list would include:

Mark Ferrari The Book of Joby

Jasper Fforde
The Big Over Easy
The Eyre Affair

Michael Flynn Eifelheim

Naomi Novik Temeraire Series

Justina Robson Keeping it Real Series

Patrick Rothfuss Name of the Wind

Mary Doria Russell
Children of God
The Sparrow

Brandon Sanderson Mistborn Series

Mary Stewart Merlin Series

Dan Simmons Hyperion Series

John Scalzi

Jonathan Stroud Bartimaeus Series

Karen Traviss Wess'Har Series

Connie Willis
The Doomsday Book
To Say Nothing of the Dog

F. Paul Wilson Repairman Jack novels (or anything else)

Gene Wolfe Book of the New Sun Series

Robert Charles Wilson Spin

David Weber Honor Harrington Series

Scott Lynch Gentleman Bastards Series

Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore

Anything by Elizabeth Moon, especially The Speed of Dark

George R. R. Martin Song of Ice & Fire Series

Madeleine L'Engle Time Series

David Gemmell's Troy Series

Walter M. Miller Jr.
A Canticle for Leibowitz

Lois McMaster Bujold
The Sharing Knife series
Chalion Series

Kage Baker The Company Series

Tobias Buckell Ragamuffin Series

Anything by Octavia Butler

Susan Cooper Dark is Rising Series

Jeff P said...

Metropolitan by Walter John Williams, a true Urban Fantasy as the actual functioning magic is generated by city infrastructures and is treated as a utility.

Fred Saberhagen's Dracula books, Dracula Tapes and the Holmes Dracula File.

The Golden by Lucius Shepard

And I'd include Brin's Practice Effect because of the way it portrays a world where the rules are, at a fundamental level, very different.

ces said...

Paolini's dragon series.

Janny Wurt's series Wars of Light & Shadow.

Jennifer Roberson's series Karavans. (two out so far)

The Dunns said...

Easily one of my favorite contemp fantasy series is Jordan's Wheel of Time series (all written within about the last 15 years, I think).

Marc @ Angry Robot said...

Hey Lou,

Some from my personal canon...

Mark Helprin - A Winter's Tale
Peter S Beagle - The Inkeeper's Song
Ian R MacLeod - The Light Ages

just about anything by Jonathan Carroll, Graham Joyce

Marco @ Angry Robot

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Randy from Joe M's blog

I'd have to say R.A, Salvatore's series, the Drizzt books or the Cleric quintet.

There's also the Ed Greenwood Elminster set.

Don't know if this counts as purely fantasy or not but Swan Song was a very powerful read for me.

Lou Anders said...

I think this is a very comprehensive list! Thanks everyone.

If I can figure out how, I'll make a YouTube of the slideshow. It won't have sound (or maybe it will) and upload it here in August.

Anonymous said...

Moorcock's Elric saga is a must-have, IMHO, since the character has has such a strong influence in pop culture, from music in the 70s, to RPGs, to 'Elricoids' popping up in recent times in such places as Fullmetal Alchemist and Hellboy II.

However, one cannot include Elric without acknowledging Moorcock's inspiration for the character: Monsieur Zenith the Albino, by Anthony Skene (or any of the Sexton Blake stories in which he appears). Though more of a pulp fiction thriller, Zenith is the character that gave birth to Elric, and Elric to so many others.

Moorcock has written his own Zenith stories in The Metatemporal Detective - a bit of steampunkery that blends Skene's pulp fiction with Moorcock's fantasy.

Through these three (Monsieur Zenith the Albino, the Elric saga, and The Metatemporal Detective) you see the near-complete evolution of one of the greatest fantasy characters ever written.

In my humble opinion, that is... ;)


Anonymous said...

I'll be keeping an eye on this as I'd love a copy to give to the person that buys the books at our library.

Cheers, Chev

p.s. Aren't you going to include Fast Forward? :-)

Lou Anders said...

Yeah, I will include some Pyr titles, but I really will try and be restrained. So things like River of Gods, which is already being spoken about as part of the SF canon, and which is very much representative of the new, non-western global SF perspective, I can put in without any guilt or shame. I firmly believe it is a landmark in the history of the genre. I would have no problem recommending Joe Abercrombie as part of the new fantasy, in a list that would include Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfus, Branden Sanderson, et al. So they'll get a page to themselves as "the new breed" or something.

George said...

I don't think these have been suggested yet:

Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique and Hyperboria (story collections
Lord Dunsany, The Charwoman's Shadow
William Morris, The Well at World's End
James Branch Cabell, Jurgen

Foots said...

Don't underestimate great books which were 'intended' for children. I would always include the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander - classics which very few have heard of except for disastrous (and not representative) Disney animation many years ago which should be bured with lots of toxic waste :)

Anonymous said...

I might have missed these, but I didn't see them offhand.

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Weather Warden Series by Rachel Caine

Loved them both!

Linda Davis

Mike said...

Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and it's sequels.

And a big no to Robert Jordan!

aussiedog said...

Hi Lou - Just skipped over here from Joe M's blog to leave my two cents worth ... my nomination:

"The Once and Future King" by T.H White - one of the best versions of the King Arthur tale (imho, of course!)

Oops - I guess 1939 is not contemporary enough for the list (lol) so ....

ANY of Jim Butcher's books (Dresdin Files or the Alera series)

Lou Anders said...

T.H. White! Doh!

Keith McCray said...

Diane Duane - the Door into Fire series (sorcery fantasy), and her Young Wizards books (YA urban fantasy)

George R. R. Martin - the Dragon Knight series

Patricia Mckillip - The RiddleMaster of Hed

David Weber - The Bazhell series (3 so far)

Nick O'donohoe - The Crossroads trilogy

Don Callander - The Pyromancer series

My little contribution.

Jvstin Tomorrow said...

One book not mentioned already: Silverlock, by John Myers Myers

Shirt'n'Tie said...

Hi Lou (AKA The Pulse!!)

Been out of the loop for a couple of weeks, so just caught up on the list thing. Having skimmed through most of the suggestions, I think my library nominees are covered. Did anyone mention the excellent Kage Baker and the Garden of Iden?
Also, and this may be totally out of left field, but as a kid I loved the Fighting Fantasy Series....(A. Jackson et al) These were kinda role playing books in which you dictate where "the hero" (ie you) take the narrative. Not technically a book and not technically a game....just a left of field suggestion. In trying to get my Console-addicted nephews interested in SF, it worked a treat.

Best to you...and look forward to Mr M's Short story!!!!


Shirt'n'TIe said...

Hi again Lou

Meant to add also, "Small Minded Giants" by Oisin McGann.
Has anybody mentioned The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer?

Best to you!


Anonymous said...

Try searching your local library's catalogue for something like books from the Necroscope series and you'll see a trend librarians need to figure out how to counter. They'll have lots of recent publications from a series, but haven't replaced the worn-out and lost copies from the foundation of the series. I just gave one example, but I've encountered this repeatedly.


Sandra said...

I don't think anyone's mentioned the DragonLance series by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, or The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger yet. For kids I would recommend the So You Want to be a Wizard? series by Diane Duane, Gray Magic (sometimes called Steel Magic) by Andre Norton, The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, and the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer.

I also want to second the recommendations for the Wheel of Time series, the Terry Pratchett books (my favorites are Equal Rites, Thud, and Mort), Good Omens, American Gods, The Once and Future King, Redwall, etc. Oh, and Brian Jacques (the Redwall author) also has another children's series. I'm not sure what the series is called, but the first book is called Castaways of the Flying Dutchman.

Sandra said...

Oh, and I also wanted to add The House of the Scorpion, a children's science fiction novel by Nancy Farmer.

Anonymous said...

Here's my suggestions in terms of contemporary fantasy. Some have already been said, so consider them a x2 recommendation ;)

Steph Swainston - The Year of Our War
China Mieville - Perdido Street Station
Jeff VanderMeer - City of Saints and Madmen
KJ Bishop - The Etched City
Neil Gaiman - American Gods
R. Scott Bakker - The Darkness That Comes Before
Steven Erikson - Gardens of the Moon

Shirt'n'Tie said...

HI again Lou

Has anyone mentioned Michael Scott's "The Alchemyst / Nicholas Flamel" Series. Book 3 out now "The Sorceress"..

Best to you!


sha37 said...

Hello Lou –
I am also here via Joe M. Blog. Although I am not the biggest Fantasy reader here are my recommendations.

The Chronicles of Narnia & Until We Had Faces by C.S. Lewis

The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie

Night Angel Series by Brent Weeks

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny

Dragon Series by Donita K. Paul

The Host by Stephanie Meyers.

K. A. Cartlidge said...

Strange - I see no mention of C. J. Cherryh's Chronicles of Morgaine.

Bizarre oversight, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I would also suggest the shared Universe covered by CJ Cherryh called Merovingen Nights. Also her Chanur series is also quite noteworthy. On a lighter note, I would suggest Glen Cook's Garrett detective series and on a darker note, the Black Company books. I would also suggest that Simon Green's Hawk and Fisher stories would also fit nicely into the fantasy genre.

Anonymous said...

In no particular order, Lou:

TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay (actually, anything by Guy Kay but TIGANA is the ur-text of shades-of-grey modern fantasy)
MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
Pretty much any Eternal Champion book by Michael Moorcock but you'd go a long way to beat THE WARHOUND AND THE WORLD'S PAIN
A SHADOW IN SUMMER by Daniel Abraham
Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels
AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
Robert E. Howard's CONAN stories
Anything by Tim Powers
Anything by Terry Pratchett (but I favour WEIRD SISTERS)

Lou Anders said...

Great list. And yes, Powers!!!

steven said...

pretty much anything by Gene Wolf. He has a collection that came out recently, full of short stories that he himself apparently selected. if you haven't read anything by him, you should- his work usually defines 'literate' fantasy/sci-fi to me and most can be quite unconventional and challenging, in a good way. You'd like it, you big dork.
This is Steven G from San Francisco, good to see you're doing well!

steven said...

gene wolfE. doh.

Lou Anders said...

I've been trying to tack you down for years. None of your old emails work. Where are you? What are you doing? Get in touch with me!

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