10 Must Read Books

24 09 2009

As something of a bibliophile, the prospect of choosing only ten books to read is a challenge, but then I like to be stretched.

I’ve cheated (but then I always do) by selecting a series of books when one book out of a saga didn’t make sense.

My first rule was to avoid the obvious.  So no Lord of the Rings et al.

I’ve also made the effort to make the list varied.  I would like to think the list could be read by fantasy/sci-fi and urban RPGers alike.  One point about reading these books is that they inspire.  The best inspiration is from outside the genre.  That great sci-fi story, when converted into a fantasy setting, becomes original.  Making it a sci-fi game means some of your players will recognise it straight away.

And players can get an idea for new characters from any story.  In fact, number one on my list forced me to break from my standard character and branch out in a direction I’ve never done before.

So, in absolutely no particular order:

1.  The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

I love fantasy books and I love the hero to be a sorcerer.  Let’s face it, most titles in this genre fit that description one way or another.  This trilogy is based around a rogue/assassin character.  I picked the set up cheap from Borders, not expecting a huge amount from a debut writer.  I was wrong to jump to that conclusion.  Now, all I want to role-play is an assassin type rogue – and I can thank these books for that.  These are very easy books to read and tell the tale of the ‘Night Angel’ and his quest to save a kingdom.

2.  Quantum Gravity by Justina Robson

I have two books in the series – Keeping it Real and Selling Out.  Think glossy Cyberpunk meets Lord of the Rings.  Set in an alternate future, the Quantum Bomb tore away the fabric that kept dimensions apart.  Now humans rub shoulder with elves and demons.  A little harder to get into, but worth the effort. 

3.  The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

These are targeted at the teen audience, which makes them easy and quick to read.  Full of cliches, and you see a lot of things coming, but above all – these books are fun.  Again, bucking the trend, the hero is a Ranger (or an apprentice Ranger at the start of the series).  He does all the hero stuff but the star of the show for me is his gruff master, Halt.  Now that’s a role-playing character!

4.  The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum

Forget the films (the first is loosely based on the first few chapters of book one, but the rest are totally different) and steer clear of the recent additions to the trilogy by Eric Van Lustbader until you’ve read the first ones.  For great plots and excellent characters, these books are great.  They’re dark and gritty and a great read.

5.  The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan

I’ve read Trudi’s other four books, and none compare to this original trilogy.  A great plot, some excellent characters and there are so many RPG ideas that jump out at you whilst you read them.

6.  King Rat by China Mieville

I ummed and aahed about adding this one.  Not my favourite book on this list – and there are books I prefer to this one – but it’s different and it’s thought provoking.  His action and fighting scenes are really cool.  I’ll not explain the story – it’ll spoil it.  The title is a big clue – and it’s set in modern day London.

7.  Storm Front by Jim Butcher

If you only read one Harry Dresden book, read this one.  It’s about a modern day wizard, it’s different to the TV series by the same name – but both are great.  Set in Chicago, Harry deals with the things the rest of us just don’t see – like vampires, werewolves and demons.   And he has a dry sense of humour too.  Written in the first person, I love to read these.

8.  Kingmaker, Kingbreaker by Karen Miller

The two books, Innocent Mage and Awakened Mage comprise this story.  It’s standard medieval fantasy fare in one sense but it has enough originality to keep it fresh.  The villain of the piece is excellent and has inspired more than one baddy in my campaigns.

9.  The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding 

Along with King Rat, this is one for the Cthulhu fans.  Set in an alternate Victorian London, it has undertones of Jack the Ripper but with a more tangible enemy – the wych-kin.  If Hitchcock made a Gothic movie, this would be it.

10.  The Snow Walker Trilogy by Catherine Fisher

A very atmospheric tale, where the heroes aren’t always likeable.  With links to Norse mythology, this is a dark read but relatively easy to get into and once you’re hooked…

Not every book will be to everyone’s taste.  

It is said that good writers are better than bad writers because they read a lot more.  Great writers are better than good writers because they read more outside their genre.  I suggest that GMs and players alike will improve their game-playing experience by reading more outside their chosen genre. 

Try it.  What have you got to lose?




2 responses

24 09 2009

Any of China Meiville’s stuff – even the young adult “Un Lun Dun” are excellent – he’s a wonderful fantasist.

I might also recommend Charles De Lint and Neil Gaiman for the Urban RPG’er, and Steven Erikson and Glenn Cook for those who like Military Fantasy.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is surprisingly good, and would make an interesting RPG setting, mechanically.

Speaking of Erik Van Lustbader, his fantasy series The Pearl Saga and The Sunset Warrior are quite good.

1 10 2009
Ten Recommended Books for Urban Fantasy, Modern Magic and General Weirdness « Held Action

[…] Books for Urban Fantasy, Modern Magic and General Weirdness Last week, Abstract XP posted ten must read books. It’s a varied bunch and care was taken not to include the usual suspects, like The Lord of […]

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