Entertain me, entertain me, entertain me
June 13, 2018 4:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm going on a couple of international flights this summer. Please suggest excellent books and audiobooks! Snowflakes inside.

I'm flying to China and to Poland this summer and will need some entertainment. I'm looking for engrossing page-turners, be they literary or science fiction. Can you recommend books and audiobooks I might like? (I recently got into audiobooks and now I'm obsessed, so especially well-read audiobooks very welcome.)

Things I've read and loved:
A Song of Ice and Fire
The Name of the Wind series
The Wool omnibus
The Hunger Games
Imperial Radch trilogy and Provenance by Ann Leckie
Everything Margaret Atwood, NK Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and Nnedi Okorafor have ever written
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Station Eleven
The Toby Daye books from Seanan McGuire
Ray Bradbury

Books that were fine and good:
Commune by Joshua Gayou
Artemis by Andy Weir
The Power by Naomi Alderman
What I could get through of the Dune books before I got bored

Things I don't prefer:
Sexism, racism, homophobia
The Lord of the Rings (I know, sacrilege)
posted by woodvine to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson). Great world-building and a strong story. I've read it several times.
posted by Draccy at 4:49 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker. Fantastic historical fiction meets urban fantasy.
posted by ficbot at 4:54 AM on June 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

You and I have very similar taste in books; Naomi Novik has a book called Spinning Silver coming out in a few weeks; I read an advance copy and it's truly amazing and wonderful and engrossing. Her Uprooted from last year was very, very good, too.

If you haven't read The Golden Compass series, now is the time. I've heard the audiobook is very good, too.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams.
The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.
Most things by Jo Walton.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:22 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you aren't picky about type I would review the Audie Awards for audiobooks. https://www.audiopub.org/winners
posted by aetg at 6:00 AM on June 13, 2018

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn was a really well-read audiobook.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:06 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Otherland series by Tad Williams, so so good (City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass, Sea of Silver Light). The books themselves are kind of doorstoppers, and the audiobooks read by George Newbern are very good so this would be a good series to pick up on audiobook.
posted by lindseyg at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

K.B. Wagers' Indranan War trilogy is a fun and fast-paced space opera where the main character is a runaway gunrunner princess and set in a matriarchal society -- lots of fun, easy reads, well-sketched-out society.

Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy is set in "a fictional world in which many near-omnipotent 'divinities' once ruled over a large continent, imposing their whims on its peoples but also protecting them and allowing them to conquer and enslave the island nation of Saypur. But after the Saypuri found a way to overthrow and kill the divinities, almost all of their miracles ceased to work and the continent was plunged into plague and chaos" (from Wikipedia, which summarizes it better than I could).

It's some of the best worldbuilding I've ever seen. The first book has a little bit of a slow ramp-up in the first third or so, but after that the rest of the books move along at a very nice clip. Highly recommended.
posted by andrewesque at 6:20 AM on June 13, 2018

You need to check out Uprooted by Naomi Novik.
posted by Temeraria at 6:23 AM on June 13, 2018

I really enjoyed listening to the Goldfinch. The story is moving and the narrator is also fantastic.
posted by dame at 6:27 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I only listen to about 4 audiobooks a year, so I'm pulling from a limited sample. I recently enjoyed Becky Chambers' book A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

It was more about respectfully introducing cool alien characters than it was about action scenes. It was more atmospheric than adventurous. I liked it quite a bit anyway. No sexism (although the female mechanic is quirky verging on ditzy). Very broad minded about interspecies dating.
posted by puddledork at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Harry Potter audiobooks are pretty amazing.
posted by something_witty at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2018

My recommendation is the Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and the last one, Revenant Gun, comes out, uhh *checks Amazon*....yesterday!)

Space math and heretics and an ancient general living in the main character's mind--it's good stuff.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2018

Draccy: The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson).

The books get to be a bit of a slog, but if you stick through it to the end (or just skip the later Jordan books, starting around #7 or 8), Sanderson's completion of the series is fantastic -- gone is the braid-tugging and crossing arms under breasts, and instead the characters are all more lively and interesting. My absolute favorite bit is a part where one character creates all these elaborate back-stories for his traveling party as they try to sneak through a town -- it's so very un-Jordan, but makes sense and is so much fun with the modified Sanderson version of the character.

For fantastic audiobooks, I highly recommend Trevor Noah's Born a Crime -- he reads it all, and his voices are a great addition to a captivating story.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2018

I second The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - I found it to be a delightful take on sci-fi. More anthropological/cultural based than hard science and the detail and character building is really fun.

Chaos Walking trilogy: Another YA series I read soon after Hunger Games. It's totally different but great characters, thoughtful social implications, big world building.

On a hunch, have you ever dipped into Neil Gaiman? We seem to have similar leanings (except the zombies part, I like them) and I really like his books. Specifically Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book.
posted by like_neon at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am extremely enjoying The City of Brass, a middle eastern/djinn-themed muslim fantasy novel, to the point of recommending it before I have even finished the novel myself. The audio reading is solid, and the main character, Nahri, is such a delightful smart survivor.

I know you said no mysteries, but the Rivers of London series to me are novels about another world of magic in London, not traditional mysteries. I have read them knowing the plot and it hasn't diminished the enjoyment which is really seeing how Peter Grant learns about and navigates this new world unfolding, and his relationships with the people in it. You really REALLY want the audiobooks for these, the reader is splendid and adds an extra dimension.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Given your list, I would recommend that you give Martha Wells a try. She has multiple fantasy series, often starring older women and people of color (and one series with no human beings at all -- the main characters are polygamous/bisexual shape-changing flying lizard people). Strong character development, creative world-building, and propulsive narrative drive.

I also recommend Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books, which are brilliant stories with lots of interesting women, and while they're set in a quasi-feudal society subject to the whims of evil power-hungry wizards, they're really about science and epistemology. So good.
posted by suelac at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2018

> Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

May I suggest another sci-fi doorstopper, Blindsight, and its continuation, Echopraxia, authored by Peter Watts? The first book is available for free at http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm
posted by ringu0 at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2018

If you liked Seveneves, the 'Baroque Cycle' by Stephenson is... very long?

Terry Pratchet's 'Discworld' series is solid (you can skip the first couple) and the audiobooks are amazingly read (mostly).
posted by porpoise at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2018

If you do want to read Terry Pratchett, I suggest Going Postal as a great entry point.
posted by gideonfrog at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2018

The Baroque Cycle is wonderful, especially if you already like Neal Stephenson (though it does take a bit to get going, so might be good to start before traveling).

Planetfall by Emma Newman is also excellent, and should tick some of your boxes.
posted by quatsch at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2018

My husband has book taste similar to yours, with Seveneves on the nightstand, and is currently devouring Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The first book, the Three-Body Problem, seemed particularly fascinating. It could also be a good fit for a trip to China (apparently the English translation is quite good but still Chinese in prose style).
posted by witchen at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2018

Nthing Becky Chambers, Rosemary Kirstein, Divine Cities, Helene Wecker, Daniel O'Malley, Elizabeth Wein, Naomi Novik. I didn't like all of Martha Wells but I adore her Murderbot stories very much.

I also liked Kat Howard, the Broken Earth Trilogy, all of T. Kingfisher's work (maybe start with her newest, completed, duology), Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, Rachel Aaron, Laura Lam.

For audiobooks: The Rook audiobook is bad; the sequel's is fine. I don't particularly enjoy the Max Gladstone ones but I do like the Becky Chambers ones. I also like the one for An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard.
posted by jeather at 1:34 PM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

oooh you want The Expanse audiobooks - great sci-fi stories, really well read, lots of great characters. Also the discworld audiobooks are really fantastic, just tons of fun.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:33 PM on June 13, 2018

The Goblin Emperor is great.
posted by jclarkin at 8:38 PM on June 13, 2018

The Witcher Saga audiobooks have some masterful & fun narration by Peter Kenny. Bonus: they're Polish and feature lots of Slavic myths & legends.
posted by moons in june at 3:22 AM on June 14, 2018

Nthing Naomi Novik from upstream, but particularly the Temeraire series: basically the Napoleonic Wars with Dragons!
posted by eglenner at 4:17 AM on June 14, 2018

If you liked Station Eleven, Octavia Butler, and Margaret Atwood, you should definitely check out The Passage Trilogy. (A character in Station Eleven actually references it!) It's another apocalypse-and-survival novel written by a literary writer, but this one is three books, and it's epic in the way that George RR Martin's books are (except that this author actually finished his series!)

If you're going to China and looking for something very fun and a bit trashy, I am currently reading the second book of the Crazy Rich Asians series, and it's a lot more enjoyable than I expected. It's equal parts Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, and whatever the Singapore or Hong Kong version of Us Weekly is. It's 100% not representative of "normal" Chinese life but it is giving me an interesting vantage point into a particular aspect of Chinese (both mainland and overseas) culture/society that I hadn't known anything about. And the books are page-turners. I read about half of the first one on a flight last week and I'm already two-thirds the way through the second.

Oh also, this one is a bit more risky, but if you like Octavia Butler, you may enjoy reading Emergent Strategy, by Adrienne Maree Brown, which uses Octavia Butler's worldview as a jumping-off point to talk about a more humane, relationship-based approach to social change. It's not a fun vacation read but as a Butler-lover I really loved it.
posted by lunasol at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing Uprooted: I didn't love-love it, for some reason, but it was certainly a page turner. Can't wait to check out her next book!

Nobody has mentioned The Hazel Wood yet. A wry, down to earth protagonist starts to figure out that her life isn't what it appears. The disappearance of her mother sends her on a quest, and as more and more gothic / fairy tale elements slip into the real world, she decides she must cross over into the fairy tale world herself.
posted by salvia at 5:04 PM on June 17, 2018

Oh, and a fantastic audio book (at least the first half - I quit because it was too riveting at a time I couldn't be riveted) is The Girl Who Drank the Moon.
posted by salvia at 5:08 PM on June 17, 2018

« Older Landlord problems in Chicago suburbs   |   Colorado Gay/Birthday & Hobby Lobby cases -... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments