Book recommendations needed
September 7, 2016 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by the challenges that I've seen other people set for themselves, I'd like to take a break from reading only books written by white guys.

I know variations of this question have been asked before but I figure this is specific to me and besides, everyone always loves talking about the books that they think someone else will enjoy, right?

Some of my favorite white guy authors: Cormac McCarthy, Harry Crews, Christopher Priest, China Mieville. Also weirdo turn-of-last-century ghost stories from folks like M.R. James, Robert W. Chambers, Ambrose Bierce, and Algernon Blackwood (specifically The Wendigo). I used to really love King and still appreciate when I find that kind of visceral and emotional horror stuff. Likewise I enjoyed John Irving's one book that he wrote until the fifth time I read it under a different name.

Some non-white-guy authors I have read and enjoyed recently: Junot Diaz, Ted Chiang, Sara Gran, Colson Whitehead, Mary Roach, Mary Doria Russell, and of course Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read a short by Tananarive Due and liked it and swore I'd read more of her stuff and never got around to it. Somehow have also never read Octavia Butler.

Books I have waiting for me at my library right now: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and Zone One by Colson Whitehead.

My Goodreads account is linked in my profile if you're on there and want to compare reads or look further into what I have enjoyed in the past. Bonus points for recommending books available in physical form at the New Orleans Public Library since that's where most of my reading material comes from.

Thank you in advance. I look forward to your 1,001 recommendations.

[except for Connie Willis. You recommend Connie Willis, you're dead to me]
posted by komara to Writing & Language (34 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
The first author that jumped to my mind after reading your list of favorites was Flannery O'Connor.
posted by saladin at 11:29 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Margaret Atwood's SF trilogy: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:43 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Last Samurai. I don't care what else you like, you'll like this.
posted by flabdablet at 11:51 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and of course Geek Love likewise.
posted by flabdablet at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Women in horror is something I care about! Two of my favorite recent anthologies have been Women Destroy Horror! and Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. I also endorse Dangerous Red by Mehitobel Wilson, and frankly anything edited by Ellen Datlow, who as far as I'm concerned is one of the best in the business.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:54 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out Kelly Link's short stories. They are delightfully creepy.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 11:57 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

You're on the right track with N.K. Jemisin, and you should definitely check out Octavia Butler (I recently read Wild Seed for the first time, then binged on her novels for the next month).

If you enjoy Ted Chiang, you should definitely check out Jo Walton! She's super-smart, and writes in a variety of different speculative fiction subgenres. Recently I've been loving her Thessaly series, which is about what happens when a time-travelling Olympian god sets up an experimental city on the model of Plato's Republic.

Definitely read Ursula K. LeGuin (good places to start: The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, and her recent short story collections).

If you like Neil Gaiman, you might also like The Golem and The Jinni -- I found it to be an interesting, spooky little tale.

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, is a fairly recent release that got a lot of buzz. I really enjoyed it.

Oh, mercy me, how have I gotten this far into answering your question without mentioning Ann Leckie? Definitely read her Imperial Radch trilogy, beginning with Ancillary Justice. These books are great scifi noir with some really inventive ideas -- there's a reason she won a Hugo and a bunch of other awards for them.

Speaking of the Hugos -- you may find many good suggestions by searching the phrase"alternate Hugo ballot". Because of all the Hugo-related shenanigans in the past few years, there are many folks publishing yearly lists of excellent books by non-white-men.
posted by ourobouros at 11:57 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston is a classic.
posted by soakimbo at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm currently really enjoying The Devourers, by Indra Das. I guess technically it's a werewolf story set largely in Mughal India, but it's also an intense and often horrifying meditation on queerness, history, rape, and colonialism.
posted by EmilyFlew at 12:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel.

I would be amazed if the imagination of an aficionado of weird horror was not captivated by the dark awesome/awful -ness of this book
posted by jamjam at 12:38 PM on September 7, 2016

We're supposedly only 70 percent compatible on goodreads, but your comments about Connie Willis and John Irving seem compatible to me heh.

I think you might take a look at Jesmyn Ward, Kiese Laymon, Yaa Gyasi, Viet Nguyen, Chinelo Okparanta, Eula Biss and Denise Mina.
posted by janey47 at 12:44 PM on September 7, 2016

You'll dig "Sisters of the revolution: a feminist speculative fiction anthology" edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. Maybe! Plenty of visceral thrills and loads by of writers of colour.
posted by Ted Maul at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht
Welcome to Braggsville by Geronimo T Johnson
Mislaid by Nell Zink
Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill
The Last Bad Man by Miranda July
We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirely Jackson
Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier
posted by vunder at 12:49 PM on September 7, 2016

The Street: A Novel by Ann Petry
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:57 PM on September 7, 2016

We seem to have similar tastes, and I really enjoyed Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. So maybe you will too.
posted by curiousgene at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

A few more possibilities:

Yoko Ogawa - Revenge (cleverly interlinked stories with macabre elements) and The Diving Pool (three novellas with a dash of psychological horror).
Leena Krohn - Tainaron: Mail from Another City (sort of a distant cousin to Calvino’s Invisible Cities).
Isabel Allende - The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna (not a million miles from García Marquez).
The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Amelia B. Edwards - enjoyable mid-Victorian ghost stories.
Sylvia Townsend Warner - Kingoms of Elfin (coolly fatalistic fairy stories for adults, most with unhappy endings).
posted by misteraitch at 1:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.
posted by mkultra at 1:56 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My recommendation is almost always going to be Haruki Murakami. I'd start off with 'After Dark' before and if you like it go for '1Q84.' Also anything by Kurt Vonnegut or Sherman Alexie.
posted by TheSillyman at 2:14 PM on September 7, 2016

I'd skip Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to start with Fifth Season if you can. I realize that libraries are fickle things.

For Butler, I'd start with the story Bloodchild.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:06 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out Barack Obama's reading lists. His choices have introduced me to a lot of non white and non male authors.

Here are some authors I've loved reading recently that I think you'd enjoy and who I believe were not mentioned yet: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (esp The Thing Around Your Neck), Maya Angelou (I know Why the Caged Bird Sings), anything by Nadine Gordimer or Joan Didion, Katharine Ann Porter (Ship of Fools), Sherman Alexie, Ursula Hegi (Stones from the River), Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things.)
posted by bearwife at 4:07 PM on September 7, 2016

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2016

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
A Toss of the Lemon by Padma Viswanathan
A History of Seven Killings and The Book of Night Women, both by Marlon James
posted by holborne at 5:33 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
posted by nickggully at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2016

Books by non white guy authors that I've enjoyed and are similar to things you like:

Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis
Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy, particularly the second book, The Year of the Flood. Her Handmaid's Tale Is also fantastic dystopia if you haven't read that.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. If at all possible, try not to read anything about it ahead of time--it's a better experience that way, I think.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:51 PM on September 7, 2016

Aaand I just actually saw the but about your GoodReads profile and you've already read my Atwood suggestions. Oops! But perhaps that means I'm on the right track...

So in penance, here's another: Lauren Groff's Arcadia.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2016

You might enjoy Jennifer McMahon.

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante. I love this book so, so much.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:30 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try Lauren Beukes.
posted by Gotanda at 7:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Definitely Zadie Smith and Hillary Mantel. You could try Diane Johnson and Muriel Spark too, not much heard of lately but both excellent. And Kate Atkinson.
posted by Skipjack at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2016

I have been recommending The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride to anyone who will listen. It's hilarious and wonderful.
posted by RedEmma at 8:46 AM on September 8, 2016

Maybe the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant: Feed, Deadline and Blackout since you like horror, and even people who don't like zombies (me) found these books cool and compelling. I would not state that her prose style has a lot in common with China Mieville, but her books have a similar progressive political flavor and diverse casts of characters.
posted by puddledork at 12:40 PM on September 8, 2016

Thank you all. At the beginning I was going to go through and reply to each post: "Oh, I've meant to read them" or "That sounds wonderful" and all that, but then it got to be too much, and do you really need to know anyway?

I appreciate all of your input. This should keep me busy well beyond the turn of the new year.
posted by komara at 8:46 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm actually taking the exact same challenge right now! I'm an avid (female) sci fi reader and writer, but I realized all of my favorite SF authors were white dudes. So here are some of my favorites I've read lately:

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney, Sorry, Please, Thank You by Charles Yu, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, and various short stories by Aliette de Bodard and Ted Chiang.

Also, if you're into podcasts and short science fiction, I'd highly recommend Escape Pod. It's a great way to find new authors (how I found the last two in my list) and they even have a time period (a month or two?) every year in which they specifically only feature womyn and non-binary writers, called "Artemis Rising".
posted by LonelyOnes at 1:20 PM on September 25, 2016

I'm not going to check in for every book, but I wanted to say specifically:

The Devourers? 100%, A+++, would read again. Off to go buy a copy because apparently the library will want this one back.
posted by komara at 9:04 PM on September 28, 2016

One last follow-up before my ability to comment here times out:

I've finished up Station Eleven and loved it - five stars. I have sitting on my desk at home The Golem and the Jinni, and on my desk at work Beyond Black. Waiting for me at the library is The Three-Body Problem.

What I'm trying to say is: thank you all for your recommendations. What I've read so far has been great, and I'm sure this list will keep me occupied through the holidays. Thank you again.
posted by komara at 7:37 PM on October 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

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