Whether you read hardcovers, paperbacks, or on a Kindle (which is how I do most of my reading these days), books are a wonderful thing to bring along when you're traveling with kids. And if you find yourself in a comfy chair, or on a sunny beach... well, a book can come in handy too.
The Warlord Chronicles, by Bernard Cornwell
The Winter King, Enemy of God, and Excalibur, are the three titles in this trilogy by prolific author Bernard Cornwell. This is his take on the King Arthur-story, and it is an excellent, and in many ways very original version of what might have happened. A real page-turner, and a great peek into life in ancient Britain as well.
The Iron King: Book 1 in "The Accursed Kings"-series, by Maurice Druon
Druon's books about the medieval French kings are solidly based in history, but they are also very much page-turner-fiction. I first started reading them because George R.R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire (AKA Game of Thrones), recommended them and cited them as inspiration for his own stories. Murder, intrigue, love, war... it's all here. These are the titles available in English right now, with another (The Lily and the Lion) being released later this year.
- The Iron King
- The Strangled Queen
- The Poisoned Crown
- The Royal Succession
- The She-Wolf
The Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov
Asimov's books about The Foundation are classic science-fiction. There's rollicking space adventure, a Galactic empire, rebellion, space battles, alien planets, and a search for mankind's "mythical" origin-planet. I am a self-confessed sci-fi lover, and this series of books is always worth a read, or a re-read. The titles in the series are:
- Prelude to Foundation
- Forward the Foundation
- Foundation and Empire
- Second Foundation
- Foundation's Edge
- Foundation and Earth
The Earthsea Quartet, by Ursula K. Le Guin
This year I re-read Ursula K. Le Guin's books about Earthsea. I loved these books as a teenager, and found that they have stood the test of time: the prose is still exceptionally beautiful, the stories are gripping, and the characters original and believable in the midst of dragons and magic. They are a great reading experience for both young adults and adults.
Red Shift, by Alan Garner
To quote the sales blurb: "Three separate stories, three utterly different lives, distant in time and yet strangely linked to a single place, the mysterious, looming outcrop known as Mow Cop, and a single object, the blunt head of a stone axe: all these come together in Alan Garner’s extraordinary Red Shift." This book by by Alan Garner is a twisting, trippy and hard-to-describe tale that winds through three different historical times, all set in the same place. It's a story that I first read in my teens, but it has stayed with me over the years. Fantasy/history/poetry... there are shades of all three in this story.
Life, by Keith Richards
This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, regardless of rock'n'roll stardom. Keith Richards knows how to spin a tale, and his life story - from the post-war bomb-craters of Britain, to the heights of Rolling Stones' fame - is a page turner. There is lots here about his love of music, his relationship with Mick Jagger, and much more. This is a book I'd recommend to anyone, whether they're a fan of Keith's music or not.
It's So Easy: and other lies, by Duff McKagan
Biographies by rock'n'roll legends must include tales of debauchery, and this one does but that's not the main focus of the story. Written by the bassplayer for Guns N' Roses, this is a very well-told story about working your way up to the top of rock'n'roll, while simultaneously destroying yourself with drugs and fast-living. The redemption is that he does emerge on the other side, alive. And along the way, there's a lot of inside-stories from the Seattle music scene, as well as Guns N' Roses behind the scenes. If you have any interest in the music of the late 80s and early 90s, this is a must-read.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks
I found this book very hard to put down, and while I liked the movie based on the book, the book is indeed a very different kind of story. Yes, it's about mankind surviving (with difficulty) a zombie-infection, but there's a lot of depth and humanity in the stories here. Each chapter is a short story, with a different person talking about what happened to them during this "near-Armageddon". It's very well-written, and easy to read.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - by Laura Hillenbrand
This story about a man who survived years of starvation and torture as a prisoner of war during World War 2 is an extremely gripping true story. It's made even better because it doesn't just speak about his captivity, but how his life was affected by that captivity, and how he eventually manages to overcome the pain and darkness it left him with.
Cloud Atlas: A Novel, by David Mitchell
A real mind-twister of a story, this book weaves together storylines about several different people in several different times: past, present, and future. The essence of the story is about how we affect people around us, and how we are shaped by the past and can influence the future by how we choose to act. It's science fiction-ish, with real heart and soul and poetry.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
"From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon..." Yep, Tina Fey made me laugh out loud (literally) throughout this book. It's insightful, hilariously funny, and piercingly truthful.
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Without a doubt this is my favourite Dickens' story. (Well, this and A Christmas Carol!) Adventure, love, mystery, French Revolution, secrets, lies... Dickens doesn't get much better than this.
Song of Ice & Fire, by George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin's massive, raw, and often shockingly brutal fantasy-tale is a real marvel. It might not be for everyone - the unflinching brutality and the way characters you care about tend to die turns some people off - but there's a real power and originality in Martin's writing that is extremely engaging. Now, if he'd only finish writing the next installment already....Titles in this series so far:
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords
- A Feast for Crows
- A Dance with Dragons
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
In my opinion, Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of revenge is one of the best revenge stories ever told. It's a sprawling and rich story, with so much tragedy, heartbreak, love, sorrow and redemption that it's enough to take your breath away. I've re-read this book a few times, and it always reminds me that some classics are classics for a very good reason.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Funny, hilarious, and absolutely gloriously original - Douglas Adams' take on science fiction, science, and the universe is a modern classic. This is a book for adults that young adults might also find irresistible. The "trilogy of four books" makes for great reading anytime, anywhere.