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FridayFix • Top 5 Books

Another in our continuing series of Top Fives! This time it’s our Top Five Books.

Top5As a reminder, we do this ambush style, where Scott only has about ten minutes before we record to think of his list. So this isn’t meant to be a ‘master class’ on what Sigler thinks you should read, or anything like that.

It’s just books we love, ordered how we thought to order them on this very day. You can trust that these books are truly favorites of ours.

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  1. Evan Hammerman

    My favorite five books, off the top of my head, in no particular order:

    One. Anathem by Neal Stephenson:

    On another planet with eight thousand years of it own history you have to get familiar with, and different languages, and different thought patterns. The payoff is a book that truly gets you thinking, answers a lot of questions SF readers have, and a genuine drop-the-book moment buried in it.

    Two. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser

    Regency England, an inheritance, and characters mentioned in passing on page 200 that become crucial on page 800. And a family tree you have to fill out. A pastiche of every book by Dickens. Ever yell at characters in a book? You will.

    Three. Spangle by Gary Jennings

    Who thought the adventures of a circus in post-Civil War America and then Europe would be so entertaining. To say anymore would spoil it.

    Four. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

    Probably the best thriller written.

    Five. “The Meaning of Night” and its sequel, “The Glass of Time” by the late Michael Cox.

    Lots of surprises in Victorian England in these two books. To say anymore might spoil it. Lots of footnotes referencing books that don’t exist. Buy these two books and read one right after the other to keep the references fresh. And seethe and fume at a G-d who would take this author before he had a chance to write the third book.

    Six. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    Had to include this one. A story in a story about a movie that doesn’t exist about a house that is much more than it seems. Again, lots of footnotes, some with their own footnotes. The way the type is set out on the page forms part of the story. MZD uses typography as part of his story-telling. You have to read it for yourself on dead trees to get the full effect. And read EVERY SINGLE WORD.

    Seven. The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks

    Had to include this one. Off-the-grid mystics who can travel to other realms being chased by an ancient organization that wants to control mankind by removing randomness and by monitoring us with technology. The Travelers are protected by trained assassins called Harlequins. If you are paranoid, you will be even more paranoid after reading this. Also read Sparks, which brings this paranoia to the present day.

  2. NeilColquhoun

    Scott and A

    For what it’s worth here’s my top 5:

    1. The Stand by Stephen King – The start of this book amazed me and conjured up images of what a world could be like if a vast percentage of the human population was wiped out. I’m fascinated by the idea of mankind starting again, or rebooting, or being almost wiped out.
    2. 1984 by George Orwell – I first read this in school and covered the contents as part of the English syllabus, and was blown away by how manipulative governments could be and how frightening advances in technology would affect our lives.
    3. Contest by Matthew Reilly – Why? Because it’s set in the New York City Library where seven members of different species (including one human) compete in a contest to the death. Aliens and killing set on Earth: it would make a great movie.
    4. Weaveworld by Clive Barker – A world set in a carpet. The Seerkind are a race of people who have the ability to invoke magic and combined all of their powers to create a secret world known as “The Fugue” – a carpet into which they wove their most beloved locations, animals, possessions and indeed themselves as a safe haven. Their aim was to avoid persecution by humans (who call them demons and fairies) as well as eradication by a destructive being known as The Scourge. Read it as it’s epic, fantastical, and magical. Oh, and it’s by Clive Barker.
    5. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Just because… it’s good… thought-provoking… powerful… and impressionable on the teenage me.

    And A, I had never heard of your number 1 and 2, so thank you for turning me onto them.

    Kind Regards and Stay Alive

  3. Todd Taylor

    In no particular order, because I can’t order them:

    The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells.

    The White Mountains by John Christopher and the rest of The Tripods series (except the 4th book).

    The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien and the rest of The Lord Of The Rings series (including The Hobbit).

    The Stand by Stephen King.

    Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson and the rest of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever series (including the second series).

    These are books/series which I’ve read over and over again while growing up, so I must really like them!

  4. Scott Gries

    This is a tough one, especially pulling the list from the top of my head. I’m an avid reader and have enjoyed literally thousands of books over the years. I don’t know that the order is true, but here are five of my favorites:

    1. Dragonflight (McCaffrey) – the whole series is wonderful. I got the first three books packaged together when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club at the tender age of 15. After that, I devoured every Pern book that was already out, and the new ones as soon as they were published. Heroism, telepathic dragons(!), coming of age, flying, teleportation, “normal” human conflict, an ancient natural enemy (Red Star) and, especially in the Harper Hall series, music! It really marked my move from essentially books for children to books from adults. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. McCaffrey at a fan convention in CA around 1986, where she seemed perfectly at home amongst rabid Pern fans. More even than the other books on this short list, I have read this entire series (especially the first 6 books) literally dozens of times.

    2. Ringworld (Niven) -perhaps even moreso than the Pern series, Larry Niven’s Known Space universe captured my attention for decades, starting with the first (and possibly best) of the books I read in that realm, Ringworld. Aliens, technology so powerful it might as well be magic, a world with a literally unimaginable (yet calculable) amount of surface area, cultural studies, and more. It really should be a must-read for everyone. There are no books in the massive Known Space universe that Niven has written (he lets other authors play in his sandbox as well) that I have not enjoyed. Niven is the only other author I have met personally (at Balticon, this time, and in the company of a good friend of mine who was a rabid collector of Niven first-editions – in any language – and known to Larry, so I got to spend a bit more time in his company than “regular” fans. He was there with another author, I forget who – Pournell? – who, unlike Niven, was clearly very grumpy and had no desire to be anywhere near the unwashed masses.

    3. Nine Princes in Amber (Zelazny) – a fantasy novel this time, but not wizards and fireballs and such, almost magic realism (kinda). The royal line of the “true” reality has the ability to move between an infinity of parallel worlds (or are they creating those worlds based on their desires? It’s a question the series hits regularly) and we follow one of the sons of that line as he tries to return home (to Amber) after waking from a coma (with amnesia) on what looks suspiciously like our world. Another of my original purchases from the SFBC. The first series of 5 books is the best, in my opinion. The second 5 books are all good, and I’ve read them a few times, but they don’t have the same feel as the original series to me.

    4. Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Weis/Hickman) – pure D&D style fantasy (literally, since it’s based on Dungeons and Dragons), I devoured this book and all its kin, as I was at the beginning of my own explorations of fantasy role playing games, especially D&D. If you like D&D, you probably have already read these books. The first two trilogies (Chronicles and Legends) of the Dragonlance world are my favorites – the first because it shows the progression of power of the main characters; the second because of the interplay of the twin brothers. Unlike the first three selections, I can’t recommend every book in the Dragonlance universe as worthwhile reading. Some of the other books later in the years get bogged down and more than a little predictable. More TSR marketing than a real attempt at storytelling. The first six books are well worth the time, though, if it’s your type of genre.

    5. This is the hardest one of the list. The first four were easy, but I have SO many favorites I’ve read and re-read over the years. I’ll go with something off-genre for me, Neil Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Real-world story (no magic, no future tech), with parallel story lines running in both current day and the midst of WW2, heavily focused on cryptology (communication, especially), Nazi war gold, computer nerd turned jungle adventurer(?), survive-almost-anything marine private, it’s hard to find anything I don’t love about this book. His follow-on-series, the Baroque Cycle, was also awesome (as is pretty much everything he writes, Snow Crash, Seveneves, etc.), and much much longer, and I really loved the main character’s interaction with the best science minds of the 17th century, including Newton!

    So many other awesome books to choose from (mostly SF/F), so little time. Myth Inc., Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Heechee Saga, the GFL series (and I am NOT a sports fan), The Dark Tower series, even the Harry Potter series (which I initially avoided as just another tween fiction series).

    One note on A’s Top 5: Winter’s Tale was another one of the early books I purchased in my teens. Over the years, I tried many, many times to read it. It remains one of the few books I’ve started (at least 5 times), that I didn’t complete. I can’t really say why, but it completely, utterly failed to draw me in and I finally gave up about 20 years after I started it. (Dayworld was another one like that, although eventually I DID finish reading and quite well enjoyed it, but that took almost 30 years!)

  5. Shelba Pittman

    I want to say this is a really hard topic for me, but if I have to pick 5 favorites….
    #5 451 Fahrenheit by Ray Bradbury, this was one of the first distopia books I every read as a teenager and it warped my mind, but in a good way. I’ve been a big fan of near-future distopia since then.
    #4 Infected by Scott Sigler. I love the story and the characters, and just thinking of chicken scissors gives me chills to this day. Scott really knows how to paint a mental picture. If there was sex in this book it would move up my list.
    #3 Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. This is the first Sookie Stackhouse book and Charlaine and I grew up very similarly, so I really love and understand the main character, I see myself in her.
    #2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lea, see there are awesome people in the south.
    #1 Ender’s Game by Card, need I say more?

  6. jokerdas

    All my top 5 books are fiction. In alphabetical order by author!

    On a Pale Horse – Piers Anthony. (First book of the Incarnations of Immortality series.)

    The Gunslinger – Stephen King. (Again, Dark Tower series is another favorite, so ALMOST any of them could be on this list.)

    Seize the Night – Dean Koontz. (The second book in the Moonlight Bay trilogy, but in my opinion the superior of the two so far, because hey, who doesn’t love mischievous, genetically altered, lab monkeys?)

    Infected – Scott Sigler. The first actual horror book that made me wince, (and still does) when I read it!

    Dragon Wing – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. (Although the Death’s Gate Cycle series as a whole is one of my favorite series, and any of the books could have been on this list.)

  7. Amiko

    “Człowiek, o którego upomniało się morze” by Czesław Centkiewicz & Alina Centkiewicz (the biography of Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. I read this in Estonian translation: “Mees, keda kutsus meri”)
    “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo
    “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
    “Dune” by Frank Herbert
    “The Dark Tower” (series) by Stepen King

  8. Forcefullsoul

    Some really great insights and books mentioned in the podcast – they made me realise how our understanding of the universe can really impact our reading preferences. I had never thought about it in that way.

    My top 5 books tend to change every few years.

    My Current Top 5 Books (excluding the FDO):

    1) “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers – page turning read, characters and plot that is compelling.

    2) “The Shambling Guide to New York City” by Mur Lafferty – excellent take on monsters and supernatural creatures and their undercover existence.

    3) “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – the first book to make me laugh out loud, repeatedly, in public!

    4) “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman – fantasy, romance and humour – told by a superb story teller.

    5) “In the Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco – historical detective story fiction. Shows the post Dan Brown crowd how it should be done.

    Aarrrgghh – I want more than 5 books.

    Comments welcome.

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