Harry and Jon and ____
September 29, 2012 10:44 PM   Subscribe

My non-reader boyfriend enjoys Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire because he easily became so invested in the characters. He doesn't care so much about literary value; he just wants characters that he can care about and journey with, and when they feel grief or happiness, he wants to mourn for them or celebrate with them. What should he read next?

Series are preferred. Huge, active fandoms are good - he loves the ASOIAF community and participates regularly on the Westeros forums. He won't read it if the characters and their arcs aren't compelling, even if the prose is gorgeous or the setting is fantastic. His birthday is coming up, and I'd really like to find a third love to at least tide him over until season three of Game of Thrones.
posted by goosechasing to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
I actually really enjoy Michael Connelley's books because of this. Most follow detective Harry Bosch, newer ones are about lawyer Mickey Haller (with some Bosch crossover). They are easy to read and have engaging plots as well. I would start with The Lincoln Lawyer.
posted by radioamy at 10:50 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Discworld. He'd likely get into Vimes most easily, and can branch off to discover about other characters from there. You don't have to read Discworld books in order at all, but sometimes it helps to follow one character's thread. The fandom is huge, and sort of quietly active. If you go looking for it, it's there. There were/are rumors of a tv show happening at some point, but I'm unsure if those were ever substantiated. If that happens, you can expect a fandom surge.
posted by Mizu at 11:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

Discworld, certainly. Lots of characters to love, and the villains tend to be memorable.

Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, American Gods, and others are all terrific.

The Chronicles of Amber is another good bet. It's a bit dated, but it doesn't show too badly.

I've recently enjoyed the heck out of the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey a lot more than I should have.
posted by porpoise at 11:14 PM on September 29, 2012

Patrick Rothfuss' Kingfiller Chronicles. And all of Neil Gaiman's books.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:16 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Kingkiller, not Kingfiller...I'm not sure what a kingfiller would be, but I bet it can't be good.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:16 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Good Omens, then Chronicles of Amber in that order.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:25 PM on September 29, 2012

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

And there's always Lord of the Rings if he hasn't already.
posted by zadcat at 11:26 PM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Lisbeth Salander is a very intriguing character, plus, if he likes the first there's two more to read then.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:41 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lois McMaster Bujold, either the Naismith series, or Chalion, or the Sharing Knife. They all sucked me in.
posted by Marky at 11:45 PM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

How about The Eyre Affair and its sequels or The Chronicles of Chrestomanci?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:51 PM on September 29, 2012

Dresden Files. Lev Grossman's Magicians books. Black Company series.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:57 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since he'll read children's/YA, I'm gonna toss The Chronicles of Prydain into the ring. It was the first series that made me cry. It was when Fflewddur Fflam burned his hated and beloved harp to keep his party warm, leaving the one string that will not break no matter how outrageously he lies. *sniff*
posted by xyzzy at 12:16 AM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I feel weird mentioning it twice in one day on two different AskMe’s, but Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series fits: amazing characters, worldwide fan base, fast-moving stories, and twenty books.
posted by migurski at 12:22 AM on September 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yes, Lev Grossman's Magicians series! We've (mostly) all been beanplating college students right? If he'll read YA, maybe try Dan Wells' John Wayne Cleaver series. It's really engrossing.
posted by undue influence at 1:12 AM on September 30, 2012

He might enjoy The Hunger Games trilogy since he likes Harry Potter. Less magic, but still a coming of age story amidst a difficult and dangerous world.

Seconding the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. The seventh novel was a bit self indulgent, but the characters are definitely the strong point in this series.
posted by katyggls at 1:20 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Liaden Universe series, starting with Agent of Change. The SF Site blurb is on point: "You may never care about a cast of characters more or await their return with more anticipation."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:35 AM on September 30, 2012

Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy and assorted stand-alones has some great characters.
posted by anansi at 3:23 AM on September 30, 2012

I would definitely second The Chronicles of Prydain. I read those and loved them as a child. I recently re-read them as a grownup and marveled at how compelling the characters still are to me, thirty years later.

Also in the Books For Young People That A Grownup Can Love: the Bartimeous Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. The first one is the Amulet of Samarkand. They're all narrated by a absolutely charming, wisecracking demon...
posted by yankeefog at 3:58 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dune, by Frank Herbert
posted by DWRoelands at 4:14 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Generally, I'm going to say he should stick to YA. Most YA is written around the story, not the prose. I've had a much harder time finding that with "adult" fiction. Specifically, I'll say Hunger Games. It's written from a female perspective, but all the guys I know who picked it up tore right through it.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:12 AM on September 30, 2012

I can't argue with the Hunger Games recommendations, but the same author has another series - with five books in it. It's called the The Underland Chronicles - with characters that I grew to just adore. I read them first to make sure they were ok for my son and fell in LOVE. Great characters and a great universe. Not so much an active fandom but still, fantastic books.
posted by lemniskate at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2012

Nthing the dresden files. Book 14 comes out at the end of November, so there's lots to read, a massive active fandom, and you really get to know and care about the characters.
posted by zug at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I'm saying this, but given:

He doesn't care so much about literary value; he just wants characters that he can care about and journey with, and when they feel grief or happiness, he wants to mourn for them or celebrate with them.

Drizzt. The writing gets worse the further you go....
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:23 AM on September 30, 2012

The Wheel of Time. People seem to love it or hate, but it has all of the things you could want.
posted by Silvertree at 7:24 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Belgariad, a 5 book series by David Eddings was really enjoyable and fits your description. My husband says Divergent is along the lines of The Hunger Games, but even better. Two of the 3 book series are out so far.
posted by ms_rasclark at 7:24 AM on September 30, 2012

(Maybe Dragonlance too -- the Chronicles, Legends and Tales.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eddings over Jordan any day and every day, although by the end of the main story arc of the Belgariad/Malloreon, and definitely in the sequels, Eddings writing was almost parodying itself.

And the whole retread Tolkien aspect of both might be a bit much for some folks (although Eddings' take was more creative, and then Jordan mined Tolkien through Eddings, it seemed to me.)

Maybe Richard Morgan? Takeshi Kovacs is a pretty compelling character, at least for the first couple books.

Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy would probably work too.

And although there isn't the same kind of fandom as above (be it Dragonlance huge or otherwise) maybe Scott Lynch -- The Lies of Locke Lamora, although I haven't ventured the sequels yet.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time - he sounds like a prime candidate! I've been rereading them now that I am a grownup, and am finding that characters you want to follow is probably its chief merit. Jordan was not god's gift to prose artistry or even literary sophistication, but excelled at creating way too many characters and plotlines (if you liked song of ice and fire, you'll love....). As a plus, the series will finally end soon, and there is a monstrous fandom. Also there's like 14x 800 page books to read, so it'll keep him off the street for a while.
posted by Theophylactic at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2012

Seconding Bujold. I have never cared about characters so much.

He probably should start with Miles Vorkosigan as that series has the same characters as they grow and change versus different characters in the shared world of Chalion. If he likes participating in fandom there is a Bujold listserv and a fairly active discussion on the Baen publishing forums.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:25 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vorkosigan books is a great idea. Also, Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books - these are slightly looser series like discworld that you don't *have* to read in order.
posted by Theophylactic at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2012

I'll second Dune. A nice long series with long-running characters. And if literary merit is no object, there are also the prequels.

Jack Vance's Dying Earth tales.
The Hyperion Cantos

Book of the Long Sun
Prince of Nothing series.
Wayfarer Redemption series.

Is Lord of the Rings too obvious?
posted by freejinn at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2012

N-thing The Dresden Files, a big, ongoing series that my non-reader husband enjoys. Big forum space too, at the author's website.
posted by PussKillian at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2012

I got really into the characters in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. The first one is City of Bones. (They are YA, but fantasy action, like Harry Potter.) Also, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout & All Clear by Connie Willis (the latter two being a series/one really long book). If he likes humor with a pinch of mystery, The Spellman Files (and sequels) by Lisa Lutz have awesome characters. (And the second book is even better than the first, which was pretty great to begin with.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2012

Bujold's fantasy books-I much prefer them to the Vorkosigan.

Stephen King usually does a great job creating story and compelling characters. Dark Tower series, and The Stand are especially good for this.

And my personal favorite-Robin Hobbs' Assassin series.
posted by purenitrous at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2012

Seconding the Aubrey/Maturin series. As some wag said, it's "Jane Austen for men", so your boyfriend will probably like it. No idea what kind of fandom exists around it, though.
posted by Quietgal at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2012

Nthing the Aubrey/Maturin books. There are somewhere near twenty of them, so it's possible to share in Jack and Stephen's adventures for a very long time.
posted by killdevil at 4:25 PM on September 30, 2012

One more vote for Dragonlance.
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:31 AM on October 1, 2012

I've suggested this one before in another AskMe, but defo defo the Chaos Walking trilogy starting with The Knife of Never Letting Go. It's ALL about characters and I would say it's quite a bit more grown up than Harry Potter, but doesn't quite get into ASOIF territory. It's a totally gripping read and it reminds me of the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I also highly recommend. Todd reminded me of Lyra quite a bit.
posted by like_neon at 4:42 AM on October 1, 2012

Marie Brennan's books are excellent. I'm sure there's a name to the series, but I will direct you to the first of the three books instead because I don't know it: "Midnight Never Come."

Also look into Jacqueline Carey's "Kushiel" series. It is epic fantasy with strong religious themes, and has some of the most incredible characters I've ever read. There are romance plots as well thoroughly interwoven into the story, and a portion of each book involves sex scenes, but it's not trashy by any means, nor would I consider the books to be romance novels in any way. The first book contains more of that than any of the others by a good margin though.

Also check out Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" and following novels, particularly "Ender's Shadow."

Oh, and Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn" series. I read the first book in two sittings, and was about a third of the way through the second book when I misplaced it, and haven't picked it up since. The first book was brilliant though, and the second was well on its way to developing the protagonist into a character I really enjoyed (in the first book I was honestly more interested in a couple of the secondary characters).
posted by Urban Winter at 9:05 AM on October 1, 2012

Oh yes definitely the Dark Tower books. The characters are the best part of the series. They're well-developed and its difficult not to identify with them as you go through the series. My mom and I have always discussed Roland, Jake, and Susannah as if they were people we actually knew, just didn't see very often, because we've always felt like we did know them.

And I'll nth the Kushiel/Namaah series, as well. There are parts of those books that infuriate me (some long stretches of terrible writing and problematic racial themes), but I got so into the characters after the first couple books that I kept reading anyway. There are actually 3 trilogies spanning several generations, and while I prefer the second trilogy, it's definitely worth starting with the first because it provides the foundation for the rest of the series. And 9 books is certainly a good, long read.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
posted by stampsgal at 8:28 AM on October 3, 2012

Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn stars a tourrettes afflicted, neurotic PI trying to solve the murder of his erstwhile older brother/father figure while he's surrounded by sheer incompetence, pretense, and the occasional mindful meditator. The best thing about it is that Lethem wrote the whole thing in first-person.
posted by dubusadus at 11:49 AM on October 3, 2012

« Older Unsolved Mystery of the Disappearing Print Ink   |   Reapplying to a job you're still underqualified... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.