I like books a lot. Some of them are so good, I could go on forever about them. Kind of the inverse of how some movies are so bad I could go on about them forever. So, in order to constrain myself, I’m going to give you ten, yes, ten, recommendations of 100 words or less.
1: The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn
Many people who like Science Fiction have read Zahn. This is his best book. Set in the future, this is the story of a smuggler entrusted with a piece of alien technology that could reshape the economic landscape. One of many alien races, the Patth, possesses a type of starship drive that is much faster than anyone else’s, lending them total hegemony, until one ends up in the hands of the protagonist-smuggler. The Patth aren’t happy with this development and start a galaxy-spanning chase. This book has the best plot twist ever and is totally underrated, and my favorite book. 1
- The Quadrail Series by Timothy Zahn
Set in a future where all interstellar travel takes place on faster-than-light trains, this series focuses on a private detective who through a mix of chance and luck, ends up as the galaxy’s first line of defense against what is, in my opinion, the scariest antagonist in any story, ever. If you like hard-boiled detective stories and science fiction, this is a good pickup for you. There are five books in the series, meaning that if you like it, you’ll have plenty to read. Aliens, high-stakes, and first-class tickets, oh my!2
- The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
This is a book about water rights and community in New Mexico. No, really. The twist is that the world is just a bit more flavorful than our own. The book is a textbook example of magical realism at play. It beautifully examines the relationship between a poor community trying to survive and the federal government trying to enforce the law, digging into the emotional undercurrents of a family town at war with itself. John Nichols is a radical leftist dude, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He’s written a really good book.3
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
An even better example of magical realism, this book features cast-gold goldfish coming to life and butterflies leaving the wallpaper and flying around the room. It’s an epic, coving dozens of members of the Buendía family across at least seven generations in the fictional but magical town of Macondo. It’s the rise and fall of this family that creates the tension in the story, as the progression of technology fundamentally changes the world in which they live. And, this book features the strangest events ever set to a page, but the world is magical enough to make up for it.4
- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
How do our brains work? I still don’t have a complete understand, but I now have a better grasp on how we can use them to build skill. Coyle debunks the myth that talent overcomes practice, and convincingly explains how the greats become great, tracing the process across multiple mediums from a person’s first steps to their later years of success. If you’re looking for something nonfiction with a bit of science and a lot of practice, positive advice on how to get good at the things you’ve always wanted to be good at, pick up this book. 5
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
This is a young adult novel, and the first of a three-book series. It’s set in a world where technology took a right-hand turn from where it did in ours. Massive airships are the primary means of long-distance travel. It’s more lighthearted than much YA-fiction as of late, while keeping the stakes high. The young protagonist faces off shady passengers and pirates while romancing an heiress way out of his class. A light read, I’ve returned to it multiple times over the years, and the two following novels might be even better. 6
- On Writing by Stephen King
When Stephen King walked up to his agent and publisher and told them that he wanted to write a book that was equal parts autobiography, grammar handbook, and general advice on writing and the writer’s life, they probably looked at him like he was crazy, and then let him do whatever he wants, because he’s Stephen King and everything he touches turns to gold. Even if you don’t care about the writing bits, reading King’s life story is more than worth the cost of admission. If you do care about writing, then this is a must-read.7
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The back of my copy calls this book an “epic,” which I disagree with on technical terms, but calling it what it is, a family’s journey together in uncertain economic times, somehow undercuts the grand scope of the novel. This isn’t a book you read expecting to come out feeling good about yourself or the world as a whole, though it has a chance of transforming you into a more compassionate person. A ton of ink has been spilled explaining what the author is trying to say, but that misses my point. It’s a good read, regardless.8
- Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
This book will probably remind you of Forrest Gump. Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, was at D-Day, Market Garden, Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and was the first allied force to arrive at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. While this is a war book, the focus isn’t on the tactical X’s and O’s. Ambrose’s focus in on the people behind the guns, civilians who had hope they’d survive the war, lost it, and gained it anew towards the end. 9
- The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
I’ve come to expect a lot from T. Pratchett. While there an order you can follow if you wish to read the books in approximately-chronological order, it’s not in or on the books, instead hidden on the late author’s website. By the time I made my way to the first book in the series, I had read a few of Pratchett’s later works, which, were superior in every respect. It’s refreshing to see something that isn’t the best all the way around, reminding ourselves that even when we cross a major hurdle, there’s still room to grow. 10
So, there we have it. Ten recommendations, more or less, all written in less than 100 words. Let me know what you think, both of the format of this article and of the books themselves in the comments below.
Love the format, let’s hear your favorite books in the same way. I’ll even let you copy-paste the first one unless you feel like you need to do a little extra leg-work for a different article featuring the same book.