I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, so it’s not like I haven’t read. But I was recently shocked to realize how much I had not read in the sci-fi and fantasy genres which I enjoy so much in most other aspects of my life.
There are exceptions—most Tolkein, both of Douglas Adams’s series, all the Star Wars novels up through Vision of the Future (Hand of Thrawn second book), a little Foundation, some Michael Crichton (unsure if he’s sci-fi or thriller or both), a little Atwood, the first few Pern books, much of Honor Harrington, and some random books like A Thousand Words for Stranger. Also just recently Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I tried Dune and failed but it also wasn’t a good time for me to be reading anything but my assignments.
Looking over that list, which I just pulled out of thin air, I feel a little bit better. I’ve also read a ton of classic literature, mostly from England, the States, and Russia (Russian novel kick when I was 15). And when I was reading classic literature, I didn’t blow off steam between books with sci-fi/fantasy…for some reason I gravitated to romances and mysteries.
I think now that it might have been because I take sci-fi/fantasy more seriously. My favorite Lit class was “Victorian Literature.” I love society novels. I did my senior Lit project on an element in Anthony Trollope’s novels and had to explore the whole worlds he created. I’ve read Middlemarch three or four times.
I love novels that create worlds and pull me into them. Victorian novels were so much more likely to involve a whole society than a single protagonist (or the ones I focused on were) and the main character might dislike others in their society but they weren’t alienated in the same off-putting way American characters were. Russian novels have infinite plot threads (as do Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels) that so many modern readers seem to have trouble sorting out.
A good sci-fi or fantasy novel does the same thing—it establishes a new world and society. We may learn about it through just one character or through a dozen but it’s part of a wonderful exploration. I love that sorting and discovery.
I’ve begun by reading A Wrinkle in Time and Ender’s Game. The former I liked but I didn’t feel especially connected. I think maybe it’s just a little too much “for kids” even though I didn’t feel like it was talking down to me. Maybe I just haven’t yet identified what didn’t feel right about it.
Ender blew my mind. I only finished it last night and I’m still processing the whole thing. I was annoyed with myself for not reading it sooner but also grateful that I read it at a time where I was really able to appreciate it. I don’t think I’m going to continue reading the Ender series right now, but it was fantastic.
Based on Autumn’s recommendation list, the nearly simultaneous recommendation by @nerdsherpa, and Neil Gaiman’s now-famous statement “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch” (which should have really been a clue that his novels were worth reading), I’m going to start on Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series. I’m actually going to read Corey Doctorow’s Makers first, but that’s because I’ve got it right here with me.