I had an idea to change this Recommended Reading post from the last time I did it back in November. I liked the idea of containing a short fiction work since shorter works sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve. I also think it’s good to look at both newer works and older works, that way people may find something older that they haven’t read, as well as the opportunity to discover something new.
Going forward, I will break up these Recommended Reading posts into three categories:
Something Older – Not necessarily classics, but books that are at least a few years old that have either stayed with me, or I’ve re-read recently and realized how great they are.
Something Newer – These are newer books (within the last 2 years) that I think are worth reading.
Something Shorter – Short fiction that stands out. I’ll try to keep the length anywhere from flash to novelette.
I think breaking the list down like this gives a good variety. Someone can then choose the type of book or story they are looking for accordingly. I’ll also probably limit them to one recommendation each per category, but try to make these posts more frequent.
Here is the list for today’s date.
Something Older – Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler
This is one of my favorite novels. It may be my favorite overall, so I might as well mention it sooner rather than later.
Barney’s Version is a novel with incredible depth. You can re-read it over and over and marvel at the language, the complexity of the characters. It has everything–emotion, pain, crudeness, comedy.
Barney Panofsky is a wonderful character who is difficult to love, but easy to be fascinated by. He’s an aging man in Montreal looking back on his crazy life, all his troubles.
There’s a wonderful style to Richler’s narration which leads to great revealing moments throughout the story. The fictional footnotes employed are brilliant.
This is a novel to put on the bookshelf, one to go back to every couple of years.
I read this the other day after seeing a mention of it in the comment’s section on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, which by the way is probably the best daily blog about writing.
I finished Playing the Short Game in about two days even during all the chaos of Christmas. It should be essential reading for anyone pursuing submitting stories in the short fiction markets.
The book isn’t about the craft of writing, although there’s enough on the philosophy of rewriting and how much to do, and that section is quite helpful related to craft.
The main focus, however, is the business of writing short fiction. Douglas Smith has firsthand experience. And the book covers just about every aspect–cover letters, markets to choose, copyright, selling to foreign markets, selling audio rights, reprints, etc.
There’s a focus on genre specific fiction, but there’s plenty to apply to submitting to non-genre markets too.
If you’re serious about writing short fiction this is the best read out there. I wish I had the chance to read it sooner.
Something Shorter – “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele – Clarkesworld
I read this one today actually, and it inspired this blog post. Steele (of no known relation) is always a terrific storyteller and he frames the narrative in this tale beautifully.
Told in the first-person, the focus is a third-party character and how he slowly descends into madness due to life on Mars.
Instead of turning dark, this tale takes a wonderful fun turn. It has great themes about the importance of fiction.
It’s a reprint from Asimov’s in 2010, but Clarkesworld has it available. Go check it out.