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BOOKS

 

A friend finished a book he was reading, and was looking for "something different" to read.  Noting that I was reading an author he was unfamiliar with, he asked me about my "book in hand", and asked for some recommendations -- noting that he was looking for something that was out of his normal reads.

 

So I took a little bit of time, and compiled a list of some of my favorites.  And now, I've expanded that list and posted it here on my web site.  It's mainly here on the theory that, like anything else, we all like to occasionally try something "new".  And the trick to finding a good reviewer is to find one who's tastes are very much like your own.  A good example (for me) is my college roommate.  Our tastes were similar enough that 95% of the time, if he saw a movie he liked, then I'd like it -- and visa versa.  We both saved a few bucks that way, in missing out on the bad movies that one of us saw -- and let the other know NOT to go see it!  Yes, I know... we ALL have different tastes.  And he took me once to a movie which he loved -- and I had to force myself to sit through the entire movie and not walk out on it.  (Okay, there's your other 5%...)

 

My rationale here?  Read though my list -- which I will update from time to time -- and see if you recognize any of my "picks" among your favorite books and/or authors.  You might then want to try some of the other books on my list!

 

BTW -- the "genre" listing is my own interpretation... as the disclaimer says, "your mileage may vary"!

 

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AuthorPoul Anderson


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  The "Flandry" series - "Agent of the Terran Empire", "Flandry of Terra", "Ensign Flandry", "The Rebel Worlds", "A Circus of Hells", "The Day of Their Return", more


Notes:  Anderson is (was?) an excellent storyteller; his style is both easy to read and easy to "picture". I have to admit its been far too long since I've picked up one of his works and set down to enjoy...

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Author:  Isaac Asimov


Genre:  Science Fiction, science fact, and... limericks!


Books:  Literally hundreds of works; I recommend "I, Robot", "Fantastic Voyage", "The Martian Way", "Nightfall and Other Stories", "Asimov's Mysteries", and the "original" Foundation trilogy -- "Foundation", "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation"


Notes:  The man was absolutely incredible -- he could spin a tale, tell a limerick, teach us about anything and everything!  The "Foundation" series is regarded as one of the best of all time, and Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics have become widely known, both within and beyond the genre.

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Author:  Jim Bouton


Genre:  Sports autobiography / "exposé"


Book:  "Ball Four"


Notes:  Bouton was a hard-throwing fastball pitcher, who won 20 games as a New York Yankee in 1963, before injuries forced him to become a knuckleball pitcher. "Ball Four" chronicles his 1969 season with the (then) Seattle Pilots in the American League, and his trade to the N.L.'s Houston Astros.  But throughout the book, Bouton tells "stories" about his days with the Yankees -- and many of the things that went on "behind the scenes" that few (if any) knew about.  As I recall, his story about Mickey Mantle coming to a game drunk and/or hung-over earned Bouton some "death threats".  Many baseball fans though "Ball Four" to be sacrilegious.  But many of the tales are downright hilarious.  If you're a baseball fan -- especially of the late 50's through late 60's -- I'd call it a "must read".

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Author:  Dale Brown


Genre:  Action-adventure


Books:  "Flight of the Old Dog", "Silver Tower" (one of my all-time favorites), "Day of the Cheetah", "Hammerheads", "Sky Masters", "Night of the Hawk", "Chains of Command", "Storming Heaven", "Shadows of Steel", "Fatal Terrain", "The Tin Man", more.


Notes:  In the techno-thriller genre with Tom Clancy (see below), etc.  Brown's "Storming Heaven", published in 1994, had as the principal "bad guy" a terrorist who used airliners to crash into targets.  Yes -- 1994... seven years before 9/11/2001.  Spooky.

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Authors:  Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler


Genre:  Military thriller


Book:  "Fail-Safe"


Notes:  Written during and about the Cold War, "Fail-Safe" is the story about a group of American bombers, on a standard patrol, who mistakenly receive orders to attack the Soviet Union.  Written in 1962, it was made into a movie by the same name in 1964; and while the movie was good, the book was much better.  The ending was very much a surprise to me...

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Author:  Edgar Rice Burroughs


Genre:  "Pulp" science fiction (science fantasy)


Books:  (The "John Carter of Mars" series, and year they were written):

   1917 - "A Princess of Mars" / 1918 - "The Gods of Mars" / 1919 - "The Warlord of Mars" / 1920 - "Thuvia, Maid of Mars" / 1922 - "The Chessmen of Mars" / 1928 - "The Mastermind of Mars" / 1931 - "A Fighting Man of Mars" / 1936 - "Swords of Mars" / 1940 - "Synthetic Men of Mars" / 1948 - "Llana of Gathol" / 1964 -" John Carter of Mars" (compiled short stories, written 1941-43)


Notes:  Burroughs is better known as the creator of "Tarzan".  I was attracted to the first book by Frank Frazetta’s cover art (check him out on the Internet if you’re not familiar with him or his style) -- and soon found myself "hooked"!  This description was written by Stanley Wiater, and was found on Amazon.com’s website:
   ""A Princess of Mars" is the first adventure of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who unexpectedly finds himself transplanted to the planet Mars.  Yet this red planet is far more than a dusty, barren place; it's a fantasy world populated with giant green barbarians, beautiful maidens in distress, and weird flora and monstrous fauna the likes of which could only exist in the author's boundless imagination.  Sheer escapism of the tallest order, the Martian novels are perfect entertainment for those who find Tarzan's fantastic adventures aren't, well, fantastic enough.  Although this novel can stand alone, there are a total of 11 volumes in this classic series of otherworldly, swashbuckling adventure."

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Author:  Martin Caidin


Genre:  Science Fiction, military adventure fiction


Books:  "Marooned", "Whip", "Aquarius Mission", "The Final Countdown", many others


Notes:  "Marooned" and "Final Countdown" were both made into movies. "Whip" is about an American medium bomber unit in the Pacific during World War II, and was a thoroughly entertaining read.  I believe Mr. Caidin also has written factual books about World War II, but I have not acquired any of them... yet...

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Author:  Orson Scott Card


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  The "Ender" series - "Ender’s Game", "Speaker for the Dead", "Xenocide", "Children of the Mind"; also, "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus" -- and many more


Notes:  I couldn’t put "Ender’s Game" down!  However, to me,"Speaker for the Dead" bogged down in places, but stay with it, as it builds the base for the third and fourth novels in the series.  I would say the same about "Pastwatch" (bogging down in places), but it's one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read -- a very unusual mix of sci-fi and history, involving time travel and Christopher Columbus... and the ending is a really interesting stretch of the "what could have been"!

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Author:  Tom Clancy


Genre:  Action-adventure


Books:  "Patriot Games", "Clear and Present Danger", "The Hunt for Red October", "Red Storm Rising", "Cardinal of the Kremlin", "The Sum of All Fears", "Debt of Honor", "Executive Orders", "SSN", "Without Remorse", more.


Notes:  Like Dale Brown (see above), Clancy had a 1994 novel ("Debt of Honor") where an airliner was used as a weapon against a building...  His 1996 book "SSN" was written from the video game, which (as I understand) he helped to develop.  Also, "Executive Orders" picks up exactly where "Debt of Honor" ends, making it one long (2,000+) page story.  "Red Storm Rising" is set within the storyline of Sir John Winthrop Hackett's "The Third World War" (see below)

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Author:  Arthur C. Clarke


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  the "2001" series ("2001:  A Space Odyssey", "2010:  Odyssey Two", "2061:  Odyssey Three", and "3001:  The Final Odyssey"); "Sands of Mars", "Prelude to Space", "Islands in the Sky", "Childhood's End", "Against the Fall of Night", "A Fall of Moondust", "The Fountains of Paradise", "Tales from the White Hart", many, many more


Notes:  One of the "grand masters" of science fiction, Clarke's works vary in length from short story to full-length novels. Some are VERY thought-provoking, and almost all are "good reads". The movie treatments of "2001" and "2010" are well-known; "2001" follows the book fairly well, while "2010" is far better in book form.

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Author:  Harold Coyle


Genre:  Military fiction


Books:  "Team Yankee", "Sword Point", "Bright Star", others


Notes:  "Team Yankee" is Coyle's best known work, and is set within the events of Hackett's "The Third World War" (see below).  It described modern ground combat so well, it became the basis for a popular video game.  I thoroughly enjoyed "Team Yankee" -- and when I loaned it to a former co-worker and didn't get it back, I went out and bought another copy!

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Author:  Michael Crichton


Genre:  Science Fiction (but in some cases, just barely)


Books:  "The Andromeda Strain", "Westworld", "Jurassic Park", "Sphere", "Airframe", more


Notes:  The first two listed are among my all-time favorites, but I found “Sphere” to be somewhat disappointing.  Nonetheless, Crichton’s works are well worth the time to read.

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Author:  Clive Cussler


Genre:  Action-adventure


Books:    "Iceberg", "Raise the Titanic!", "Vixen 03", "Night Probe!", "Deep Six", "Cyclops", "Treasure", "Dragon", "Sahara", "Inca Gold", "Shock Wave", more.  (However, an opinion  -- if it isn't in the "Dirk Pitt" series, don't bother!)


Notes:  When Cussler is good, he is very, very good -- "techno-thriller" and "spy" stuff, often with a distinct "Indiana Jones" adventure / archeological flavors.  "Vixen 03" is one of my all-time favorites.

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Author:  Gordon Dickson


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:

    The "Dorsai" series - "Dorsai!", "Necromancer", "Soldier, Ask Not", "The Tactics of Mistake", "The Spirit of the Dorsai", "Lost Dorsai", more.


   Also noteworthy:  "The Alien Way" and "The Outposter".


Notes:  "The Tactics of Mistake" was the first of Dickson’s works I came across, and is on my all-time favorites list.  My only caveat about Dickson is that many of his books seem to borrow the same storyline -- after you’ve read a few of his works, he becomes predictable.  But quite enjoyable nonetheless.

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Author:  Frank B. Gilbreth


Genre:  Biography


Book:  "Cheaper By the Dozen"


Notes:  Written by the son of motion-study pioneer Frank Gilbreth (who's name spelled backwards is "therblig", which is used as a measure of motion in the field of motion-study), it is a biography of a family of two strong-willed, somewhat unconventional, but thoroughly likeable (if not loveable) people -- and the twelve children that become "The Dozen".  Don't bother with the movie (esp. the Steve Martin movie, which bears NO resemblance to the original) -- get and read the book!

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Author:  Sir John Winthrop Hackett


Genre:  Military fiction


Book:  "The Third World War - August, 1985"


Notes:  This book, written in 1979, seemed all-too-plausible at the time -- although Hackett still had Iran under control of the Shah, rather than the Ayatollah, and thus on "our side".  Presented from several different viewpoints, from the individual through strategic levels.  Harold Coyle's "Team Yankee" is set within and happens at the same time as "The Third World War", and Tom Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" is set "just after" Hackett's book

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Author:  Robert Heinlein


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  (among my favorites): "Starship Troopers", "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", "Stranger in a Strange Land", "The Glory Road", "The Past Through Tomorrow", "Time Enough for Love", many more.


Notes:  Quite possibly my favorite author of all time.  His works vary widely, from short stories to long novels; the last two listed above comprise most of his "Future History" series, with "The Past Through Tomorrow" being (mainly) shorter stories but set in the same “timeline”. Some of his earlier works are widely regarded as “juvenile” -- I believe he was writing for younger audiences, aiming to bring them into the sci-fi “fold” as their comprehension level increased.  "Starship Troopers" is probably my all-time favorite book, while the other three listed are pretty near the top, and "Stranger in a Strange Land" is widely regarded as one of the best sci-fi works of all time.  Some of his later works seem to become muddled and disjointed, but "Job:  A Comedy of Justice" was unlike nearly anything else I’d ever read, and quite enjoyable.

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Author:  Frank Herbert


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  The "Dune" series of six books -- "Dune", "Dune Messiah", "Children of Dune", "God Emperor of Dune", "Heretics of Dune", "Chapterhouse:  Dune".  Several other books written.


Notes:  "Dune" is one of the best sci-fi books of all time; I had some trouble "getting into" the book, but once I did, I almost couldn't put it down.  The five "sequels" were not as good; in fact, by the time I finished "Children of Dune", I couldn't go any further.  Some have told me I needed to "stick with it" and read them all.  Maybe... someday...  I read two of his other works and was not impressed.  But we all have different tastes...  And despite what negatives I've noted, "Dune" is a "must read"!!

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Authors:  Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:

   The "Dune" pre-trilogy -  "House Atreides", "House Harkonnen", "House Corrino"

   The "Dune" pre-trilogy, pre-trilogy" -  "The Butlerian Jihad", "The Machine Crusades", "The Battle of Corrin"


Notes:  Brian Herbert is the son of Frank Herbert (the author of the "Dune" series), and is actually (in my opinion) a better author. The first "pre-trilogy" leads up to "Dune", while the second "pre-trilogy" is set about 10,000 years before "Dune" but bridges the gap between "history as we know it" and the "Dune universe". I have yet to read "The Battle of Corrin" -- it's available in hardback, but I'm waiting for the paperback -- cheaper!

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Author:  Dan Jenkins


Genre:  Sports / humor (fictional)


Books:  "Semi-Tough", "Dead Solid Perfect", "Life Its Ownself", others I haven't read.


Notes:  "Dead Solid Perfect" is very loosely based on the PGA Tour, while the other two are "NFL" books.  Practically no basis in "real" reality, but Jenkins lampoons (and harpoons) many things that need it.  And if you're a sports fan, you'll laugh yourself all the way through them, especially "Semi-Tough".

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Authors:  Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey


Genre:  Military / political thriller


Book:  "Seven Days in May"


Notes:  Another 1962 book made into a movie in 1964, "Seven Days in May" chronicles a plot by the military to take over the United States, in order to stop the President from signing a treaty with the Soviet Union to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.  Once again, the movie is good, but the book was better.

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Author:  Keith Laumer
   some books written with William H. Keith


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:  "Bolo:  Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade", "Rogue Bolo", "The Compleat Bolo", "Honor of the Regiment", "The Unconquerable", "The Triumphant", "Bolo Brigade", "Last Stand", "Bolo Rising", "Old Guard", "Bolo Strike", "Cold Steel".  Laumer also wrote the "Retief" series -- I've read two or three and liked them, but didn't pursue the whole series.


Notes:  A "Bolo" is a self-aware / sentient "tank" -- although some Bolos came to be the size of a football field!  It seems that I recall reading (from a note by Steve Jackson) that Steve Jackson Games' "Ogre" / "G.E.V." draw heavily from the Bolo series.  Some of the books are collections of shorter stories, some are two or three "novellas", and some are full-length novels.  Some stories aren't quite as good as the general lot, but overall, another of my all-time favorite series.  Also of note -- "The Glory Game", originally written as a "novella" and later expanded into book form.  Some of the "expansion" is relatively weak, but the "meat and potatoes" are about as good as it gets.

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Author:  David Lewis


Genre:  Science Fiction


Book:  "Common Denominator"


Notes:  Originally published in ANALOG (sci-fi/science fact magazine), I believe this was also published in book form.  Not overly long in its original publication -- my guess is 70-100 pages -- about a "fighter" pilot in a space navy, and his battle with both his opponents (especially an alien "ace" he's pitted against) and his companions -- other pilots who want to knock him off his "ivory tower".  If you can find it, get it!

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Author:  Alistair MacLean


Genre:  Action-adventure


Books:  "The Guns of Navarone", "Ice Station Zebra", "The Satan Bug", "Fear is the Key" (another of my all-time favorites), "Where Eagles Dare", "Breakheart Pass", "Goodbye California", more.


Notes:  An action-adventure author, with several of his books made into movies (none of them as good as the books, although "The Guns of Navarone" wasn't too bad...).  LOTS of plot twists, double agents, heroic deeds, back-stabbing villains, etc.  Good edge-of-the-seat stuff.

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Author:  Richard Marcinko


Genre:  Action-adventure


Books:  "Rogue Warrior" (autobiography), "Red Cell", "Green Team", "Task Force Blue", "Destination Gold", more

 

Notes:  Marcinko was a Navy SEAL in Viet Nam, who later had some trouble with the IRS... but it didn't stop him from becoming a best-selling author.  Action-adventure in the "para-military" vein, written in the first person, with liberal applications of profanity (he's particularly fond of the "F"-word).  A very different writing style, as he occasionally "stops" the action to talk to the reader or the editor -- kind of like a "freeze-frame" while he explains what's going on or some pertinent point.  However... once you've read three or four (or five) of his fiction books, they all start to sound somewhat the same.  Very entertaining nonetheless -- despite the "however" I've just mentioned, I've purchased -- read -- and enjoyed all of them!

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Author:  Groucho Marx


Genre:  Auto-biography


Books:  "Memoirs of a Mangy Lover" (excellent!), "Groucho and Me", "The Groucho Letters"


Notes:  I was lucky enough to obtain these as a three-book set (in paperback, naturally).  His writing style is almost exactly like his speaking style; as you read the words, you can hear Groucho’s voice in your "mind’s ear".  If you find Groucho amusing, you will definitely enjoy these books.

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Author:  Farley Mowat


Genre:  Biography / Autobiography


Book:  "The Dog Who Wouldn't Be"


Notes:  Mowat, who I believe was also a sportswriter, wrote a tale of his growing up in the Canadian provinces -- and of his remarkable dog, Mutt, "The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (a Dog)".  A wonderful tale, especially if you like dogs in any way, shape or form.  This book is definitely worth seeking out!

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Author:  Larry Niven
   often wrote in collaboration with Jerry Pournelle, another excellent writer (see below)


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books and Notes:  Several "series", but I mostly recommend the "Tales of Known Space" series.  Some books are compilations of short stories, some are novels:  "World of Ptavvs", "A Gift From Earth", "Protector", "Neutron Star", "Tales of Known Space", "The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton", more.  Also, the two books in the "Moties" series: "The Mote in God’s Eye", and "The Gripping Hand" are wonderful reads.  "Ringworld" is another of the "all-time greats" in sci-fi, and while I enjoyed it, I liked many of his other books better.  "Protector" is very near the top of my all-time favorite list -- the ending literally made my hair stand on end!  But don’t skip ahead to that ending... read all the way through, and let the ending come to you in the way it was intended!  Another recommended read is "Lucifier’s Hammer", about a comet on a collision course with Earth -- VERY well done!

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Author:  Jerry Pournelle
   often wrote in collaboration with Larry Niven (see above)


Genre:  Science Fiction


Books:

   The "Janissaries" series - "The Janissaries", "Clan and Crown", "Storms of Victory"

   The "CoDominium" series - "A Spaceship for the King", "West of Honor", "The Mercenary"

   The "Falkenberg" series - "Prince of Mercenaries", "Falkenberg’s Legion", "Go Tell the Spartans", "Prince of Sparta".  

 

Notes:  The three series I've noted are a science fiction / military blend, but very well done.  I also recommend "Inferno" (co-written with Niven).

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Author:  Albert Payson Terhune


Genre:  Animal story


Books:  "Lad:  A Dog"


Notes:  This book, written in 1919, is the story of a collie named Lad.  Originally published as short stories, the book links them all together. A great book for dog lovers, and a very pleasing read.

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Author:  Harry Turtledove


Genre:  "Alternate History" -- science fiction / semi-historical / action-adventure mix...


Books:  Two series I'd recommend:

 

   WorldWar / Colonization:  "In the Balance", "Tilting the Balance", "Upsetting the Balance", "Striking the Balance", "Second Contact", "Down to Earth", "Aftershocks" -- one more ("Homeward Bound") currently being written.  An alien invasion of Earth, beginning in 1942 during World War II.  The aliens (who refer to themselves as "The Race", but are despairingly called "Lizards" by humans -- who are then referred to as "Big Uglies" by the aliens) are more advanced than the humans... but NOT that much more so.  And not only are there SO many more humans, but they do their darnedest to catch up to The Race's technology...  while each side discovers that in some way, they are not so different after all...

 

  Fantastic Civil War / Great War / American Empire:  "How Few Remain", "American Front", "Walk in Hell", "Breakthroughs", "Blood and Iron", "The Center Cannot Hold", "The Victorious Opposition", "Return Engagement", "Drive to the East", more being written.  Based on the premise that the South wins their independence in the American Civil War, then moves forward from there.  Many "historical" figures appear in the books -- some are rather prominent, others seem to be "merely" background characters.  And while they are generally in their "historical" roles, how Turtledove adapts them to his storyline really adds to both the "flavor" and the enjoyment of the series.


Notes:  Turtledove's style takes some getting used to -- but once you get into it, his books are VERY entertaining. He jumps" from character to character to character... sometimes weaving together nine or ten different storylines into the same general timeline. Sometimes, separate storylines come together... and sometimes, "major" characters die, ending a storyline.  New ones always seem to take their place...


  Another book of Turtledove's I'd highly recommend is "Guns of the South" -- a "stand alone" book, with time travelers giving Gen. Robert E. Lee all of the AK-47's he needs to let the South win the Civil War... and then follows though to find out what the time traveler's ulterior motives were.  An excellent book!

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