Big Read List

gilgamesh bookI’ve returned from DeKalb Illinois, where I was treated royally by Big Read organizers Steve Roman and Edith Craig. Steve and his wife Karen showed me around the downtown and took me out for dinner, then drove me to the Ellwood House, where I addressed the audience about the importance of fantasy fiction and delved into its history.

I promised attendees that I would provide a list of highlights from among the books I mentioned over the course of the talk, and here they are.

kalila-and-dimnaGilgamesh, a prose translation by Herbert Mason (available in multiple printings).

Kalila and Dimna, translated by Ramsay Woods (available in multiple printings).

The Shahnameh (or Book of Kings) translated by Dick Davis.

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison.

My favorite editions of the 1001 Nights are those by Hussain Haddawy and Jack Zipes.

Time and the Gods by Lord Dunsany. This collects six of his greatest short story collections (be careful, though, because there are multiple collections of the same title. If it’s under 200 pages, it is NOT the omnibus). There also are fine tales to be found in his collection The Hashish Man, and other books. He has been reprinted so many times that it’s possible to find a number of “best of” compilations if you poke around a little.

best of lovecraftWolf of the Steppes or Swords from the West are the best introductions to Harold Lamb, depending upon whether you’re interested in reading about Cossacks or Crusaders.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and Suspense has most of my favorite (and most of the important) Lovecraft stories.

The Best of Robert E. Howard, volumes 1 and 2 provide a wide sampling of this author’s greatest work.

In passing I mentioned both Fritz Leiber‘s stories of Lankhmar and C.L. Moore‘s Jirel of Joiry. There have been so many different editions of Leiber’s tales that it’s better to just point you towards the stories I think are most enjoyable, which I did in an earlier post on the web site. Here’s a link. You can find Jirel of Joiry either under that title or under Black God’s Kiss.

There are the wonderful Imaro stories by Charles Saunders, about a hero wandering a fantastic Africa.

I mentioned Leigh Brackett. There are the amazing complete collections from Haffner Press. If you wish to simply sample her work, then Sea-Kings of Mars has about 85% of what I’d consider her very best short fiction — but it’s out of print and very expensive. A more affordable starting place is the second of the Haffner Press books, when Brackett really hits her stride, Lorelei of the Red Mist.

Lastly I mentioned modern speculative fiction authors alive and well and working near DeKalb. These are Jim Butcher, Mary Robinette Kowal, and E.E. Knight.