Recommended Reading List


Most of my close friends, and even some that aren’t so close, know me as a bit of a book worm.  Seldom does a day pass when I don’t spend quality time with my Kindle or an old-fashioned paperback.  So, it’s not surprising that some of the most common questions I get from folks are as follows:

What are you reading? 

What are your favorite books?

Which books do you recommend for me? 

So, I thought I’d make a blog entry and start directing people here.

For the first question, “What are you reading?” I tell people about this amazing book site for readers called where I track all of the books I’m reading on our Kirby Howell Profile, along with what my writing partner, Jessica, is reading.  We love it and encourage everyone to join up, friend us and get reading so we can all discuss what we’re currently reading there!

Now, as far as my favorite books go, I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to know that I genuinely love classic scifi, but I also branch out quite a bit.  I have two favorite writers of all time: Douglas Adams and Jane Austen.  My favorite Austen book is, by far, Pride and Prejudice.  I love the plucky Elizabeth Bennet who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and tell off a rude Mr. Darcy when he’s being a bit of a jerk, and the love story that ensues.  And my favorite Douglas Adams book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.   My first experience of this book was as an audio book.  One notorious winter in the South (I believe it was ’93), we had a snow storm of epic proportions and were trapped inside our home on the top of the mountain for nearly two weeks.  Luckily, we had recently stocked up on batteries, and my father gave me his audio books to keep me company in the afternoons.  That’s when I first met Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox and came to understand the true importance of always traveling with a towel and never being subjected to Vogon poetry.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read each of these novels, and still, to this very day, pick them up at times when I want to go to my happy place.

And now we get down to a more complicated question, “Which books do you recommend for me?”  To this, I always ask, what kind of books do you like to read?  Reading is such a highly subjective thing, that it wouldn’t make sense to recommend a Heinlein book to someone who loves historical fiction or a Colleen McCullough book to someone who loves horror.  Once we’ve narrowed down the field a bit, I generally give the following answers based on the particular areas of interest.

Scifi: (My FAVORITE category) Start with the greats.  Robert Heinlein, my favorite of his is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Phillip K. Dick.  And for the modern day classics, I always love anything by Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Troy Denning, Aaron Allston, Michael A. Stackpole, Walter Jon Williams and Matthew Stover.  If you’re a younger reader, or buying for a young reader, Heinlein also has a host of YA books worth checking out.

Historical Fiction: Anything by Colleen McCullough.  I’m particularly fond of her First Man in Rome Series.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700’s.  Also, big shout outs to Ken Follett and Margaret George.  Also, Jessica has read John Jakes’ Kent Family Chronicles, Homeland, and his North & South Series and tells me they’re definitely worth a read.  None of these listed are light reading, though, and aren’t meant for youngsters.

Fantasy:  Again, I say, start with the classics.  The Hobbit is one of my all time favorites.  The Harry Potter Series, of course, and for adults into heavier lifting, The Game of Thrones Series.  Also, it’s a niche within this broader category, but for folks like me, who like King Arthur era reads, try The Once and Future King, Le Morte d’ArthurKing Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and The Mists of Avalon. (These last few are more suited to mature readers)

Dystopian Future:  The Time Machine, Ender’s Game, The Road, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Hunger Games Series, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut, and for anyone who lived during any part of the 80’s, Ready Player One.

Vampires:  For the YA bunch, I recommend The Last Vampire Series by Christopher Pike, and of course, Twilight is always fun if you’re looking for a more romantic bent in the genre.  For the adults, read The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.  Jessica also really enjoyed The Passage, but I’ve yet to pick it up.  I also enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though it’s a bit slow for some modern audiences.

Chick Lit: Anything by Jennifer Weiner, though her first book, Good in Bed is my favorite from her.  The Stephanie Plum Series (hilarious books), The Time Traveler’s Wife… and I guess that’s really all the chick lit I can think of!  I’m not as well-versed in this category as others.

Horror:  For adults, I’d go with the early Stephen King stuff.  Honestly, take your pick of anything he wrote in the 80’s.   Also, I’m just beginning to read H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tales of horror.  I’ve only cracked the surface of his works, but so far, I highly recommend his stuff.  Start with Dreams in the Witch House.  For YA, I grew up loving Christopher Pike’s scary tales.  I believe most, like Chain Letter, Die Softly, The Midnight Club, etc… are still available, or at the very least, can be found in second hand book stores.

Classics:  Every book ever written by Jane Austen.  Seriously.  All of them.  But start with Pride and Prejudice.  Also a shout out to Little Women, Robert Louis Stevenson and all of the short story compilations by Edgar Allan Poe.

Children:   Anne of Green Gables (actually this whole series is awesome), Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, The Ramona Series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (and basically anything else by Beverly Cleary).  Jessica also re-reads Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Series at least once a year and always recommends them for young readers.  And for the slightly older YA reader, I always loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  There are many more that belong on this list, but they escape me at present.

Legal Thrillers/Crime: The Client, A Time to Kill, The Millennium Trilogy (i.e. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels), No Country For Old Men, The Lincoln Lawyer (actually the Mickey Haller series isn’t bad, but I thought the first one was by far the best).  The Southern Sisters Mysteries – these are hysterical books written by a woman from my home town in Birmingham and have such humor and sass.  They’re murder mysteries where two charismatic, little old ladies from Birmingham set about figuring out who done it.  The series has just found its way on the Kindle and is now widely available again.  Also, The Kay Scarpetta Series, and I hear that David Baldacci’s Camel Club Series is quite good from my father, but I’ve yet to read those.  Most of these I’d recommend for adult readers or very mature teens.

Star Wars Books:  (Yeah, I’ve read most of them.  So sue me!) Start with the Heir to the Empire Trilogy and the subsequent Thrawn Duology.  These take place a few years after ROTJ.  The New Jedi Order Series is quite good and features the kids of Han & Leia in more prominent roles.  I also enjoyed the comedy of the X-Wing Series.  And for YA readers the Young Jedi Knights Series is incredibly fun.

Western:  One of my favorite books of all time is in this category, though it’s probably the category I read the least.  Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  It didn’t win the Pulitzer for nothing!  Also, I’m just beginning to read Elmore Leonard, who’s quite prolific in this genre, and he’s absolutely wonderful.  So just about anything you can get your hands on by him.

Humor: Douglas Adams, Douglas Adams…. and oh, uhm… anything by Douglas Adams.  Start with The Hitchhiker’s Guide Series and then move on to The Dirk Gently Series.

I’m sure there are many many more books I could recommend beyond these, but for now… this is my list of recommendations!

Happy reading, folks!

Dana (1/2 of Kirby Howell)

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