Best of the Best

The previous post made me think: What are the best books by great prolific writers? I mean, you can hardly tell someone to try CJ Cherryh — you have to give them a pointer toward a particular title that makes a great intro to her work, right? And the same with all those other prolific and super-prolific authors out there.

For me, some would be (in the order they occurred to me):

CJ Cherryh — the Chanur trilogy and Cuckoo’s Egg.

Patricia McKillip — The Riddlemaster trilogy and The Book of Atrix Wolfe and The Changeling Sea.

Martha Wells — The Raksura trilogy, still my favorite of her books so far.

Gillian Bradshaw — Beacon at Alexandria

Guy Gaviel Kay — The Lions of Al-Rassan

Terry Pratchett — Nightwatch

Sharon Shinn — the Safe-Keepers trilogy, The Shapechanger’s Wife

Tim Powers — On Stranger Tides

Ursula K Le Guin — The Tombs of Atuan

Tanya Huff — the Valor series

Any of you have specific title suggestions for prolific authors other than Smith?

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9 thoughts on “Best of the Best”

  1. That’s a somewhat unusual choice for Tim Powers: THE ANUBIS GATES is apparently still his most popular, and personally I rate it behind LAST CALL (which would be my choice, if I didn’t know anything about the person) and DECLARE.

    I have no idea what I’d select for the most prolific SF authors I can think of offhand, Asimov (who was really more of a short-story writer) and Poul Anderson.

    For Heinlein, I actually do have a choice: CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY as his choice juvenile; I’m inclined to think those averaged out better than his adult novels.

    Lois McMaster Bujold has written quite a lot but of course she’s basically a series writer; I suppose you could argue between THE WARRIORS APPRENTICE or SHARDS OF HONOR (unless your target only reads fantasy, in which case it’s THE CURSE OF CHALION). There’s several other fairly-prolific writers I can think of who are similarly easy to choose (e.g. Orson Scott Card, who has actually written a lot.)

  2. Bujold is another: Many people seem to get in to her if they start with the novella Mountains of Morning. If I’m recommending to someone who likes Gillian Bradshaw, I’d start with CHALION. If they like westerns, I’d start with SHARING KNIFE.

    I’ve started at least one person on Pratchett with FEET OF CLAY, but she’s a potter. SMALL GODS, not being part of any of the subseries, is also a decent starting point. But I have the impression it is possible to start anywhere with him. My brother, frex, started with him with one of the middle Tiffany books. (we started our girl on him with the first one, as she was the same age as Tiffany.)

    Tim Powers… Yeah, ON STRANGER TIDES is probably a good place – especially if they like pirates. I like LAST CALL better, and DECLARE so I would probably recommend either. DECLARE, especially if the person also likes spy novels.

    I’m trying to think of other writers with fairly large bodies of work that I still read, and not coming up with much. … For LeGuin, I’d at least consider suggesting LAVINIA.

    Oh, Carol Berg, the Collegia Magica trilogy. The Lighthouse Duo maybe also, but the second is much more interesting (IMO) than the first of that.

  3. I know, I’ve seen the recommendations for ANUBIS GATES over and above all other Tim Powers, too. I don’t get it. It wasn’t that it was a bad book, but …. somehow the setting overpowers the story, for me. And the deal with the protaganist doing things because he knows he did them because he wrote his own biography, removes some energy from the story. IMO, and all that.

  4. For some reason ON STRANGER TIDES stuck with me more than others of Powers’ books. I think maybe I just like the pirates and voodoo elements.

    I certainly agree that CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY is a heck of a lot more approachable than, say, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. But I’d almost be tempted to suggest THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, for Heinlein.

    And yes, Card’s prolific, and I’m sure everyone would suggest ENDER’S GAME. I sure would.

    Elaine — I’ve got a couple of Berg’s down on the TBR shelves — the FLESH AND BONE duology. I did like the trilogy that begins with, I think TRANSFORMATION, but I thought the first book was by far the best for that trilogy.

  5. Don’t think I’m dissing TIDES; it’s still first-rate. It’s also the Powers book that has made by far the largest number of writers say, “why didn’t I think of that?”

    My major hesitation about MOON would be that the lunar slang makes it somewhat atypical Heinlein, and I wouldn’t want to get anybody thinking he was into stylistic experiments.

    Another vastly prolific genre author is Jack Vance: we ought to ask Brett what he’d suggest since he’s a bigger fan than me (and much bigger than you).

    Or, outside genre, P.G. Wodehouse: you’re living proof that starting with a Jeeves book isn’t necessarily the way to go.

  6. Got that right! I have two Wodehouse titles on my Kindle — but not Jeeves books. Jill the Reckless and A Damsel in Distress. I know I like both of those.

  7. Thanks, this is really helpful for my goodreads to-reads!
    The only ones I’d disagree with are that I’d recommend starting Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea series at the beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea, and that another great place to start with Tanya Huff is her stellar short story collection Finding Magic, which can help point you to what of her work you’d like next.

    Here are a few collaborations that let you try out 2 or 3 great prolific authors at once!
    Sassinak by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon
    The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey
    The Shadow of the Lionby Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

  8. You are so right that Hambly is an author for whom you really need to point out specific books; I should have thought of her. A Free Man of Color is my favorite mystery series of all time and I definitely recommend it, but for fantasy readers, I might point to Stranger at the Wedding or Bride of the Rat God — both stand alone and both are really good. And Dragonsbane! That’s possibly my favorite fantasy of hers. But I’d feel required to issue a warning about the sequels.

    Your idea about recommending collections is also good; though I’m not generally a fan of short stories, I do like novellas and you’re right that I’ve discovered several new authors because they were in collections with writers I already knew.

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