Everyone’s first time ought to be memorable; it ought to spark passion inside you and leave you wanting more…
Wait, what did you think I was writing about? I’m writing about the first time you read a book, especially the first in a genre. Seriously, sometimes I’m worried about humanity.
Okay, seriously, sometimes I wish there had been some master list to help me choose the best books to start with. Well, not that it really would have mattered, for there were no online books back then (there wasn’t even an online when I started reading) and our library was very limited. But seeing as we’re living in a brand new world where you can have almost anything your heart desires if you have a pc and access to the cyber-realm, here are some of my thoughts on first reads.
And before anyone gets their knickers in a twist: this isn’t an evaluation of how good the writers are, only which I’d suggest as introductory reads to a genre. Okay? No knickers, people!
If you’re interested in fantasy – epic, not urban – I’d suggest David Eddings’ Belgariad. There are numerous great other fantasy writers, such as Terry Goodkind, Robert Jorden, David Gemmell and, of course, the father of fantasy: JRR Tolkien. But Gemmell is depressing, as is Goodkind. Jordan is a very long-term commitment. And Tolkien is not for the feint of heart, believe me! But Eddings, though in the end 12 books – if you read the complete series about Garion – is written in a very easy way and the story is charming. Though a classic ‘chosen one’ story, one can’t help but fall in live with Garion and his companions. And once you’ve finished the Belgariad and the follow-up pentology, the Malloreon, you can read the two companions, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress, and I can guarantee you you’ll be ready to start all over again. It’s the way it’s written, after all. How did Eddings put it: they’ve created the literary equivalent of peddling dope.
For Sci-Fi I’d recommend Anne McCaffrey, in particular the Catenni series. It’s not what I’d call ‘hard-core sci-fi,’ but you have to work your way up to writers like Robert Silverberg, Isaac Azimov and Greg Bear. Oh, and I don’t even want to start on the Arthur C. Clarke and Genrty Lee collaboration which brought us the unforgettable Garden of Rama series. It’s a series that unashamedly brought us one of the first ‘the aliens made them do it’ story-lines. If you don’t know what tmtdoi is, you’re not reading enough fanfiction. If you do know what this refers to, you’re probably reading too much fanfiction. Sorry, that one gets you coming and going.
If your style is fairy tales, you can’t go wrong with Robin McKinley’s Beauty. Light, first person prose with a cute story and still one of my favourite stories when I’m feeling down.
Pratchett. The master of the fantasy satire is Terry Pratchett, and he wrote enough books that I feel we need to a whole section devoted to him. Yes, there are some other writers doing the same sort of thing, like Tom Holt and Neil Gaiman (of Stardust fame), but the master is Pratchett. His first book is The Colour of Magic, but even he later said that’s not the place to start. As all the books build upon one another, I feel one ought to start as early in the series as possible, but one where most of the lore has been figured out. In that case I’d recommend Guards! Guards! Dragons, a non-magical sword, a non-scion, a grumpy policeman and you get to meet Colon and Nobby, two of the greatest comic reliefs ever!
If your tastes run more towards more mundane – I mean normal -genres, you can’t really go wrong with Dean Koontz for a supernatural thriller. He covers a lot of themes, from ghosts to psycho killers. He also wrote some corny romances in the ’70’s, but we’ll ignore that.
For a medical thriller I’d recommend Robin Cook. I know it’s a bit dated, but it’ll still be fun to read. The same goes for Louis L’Amour and his westerns. Old but fun. And with L’Amour you only have about 150 pages max and you always know what to expect.
Obviously I’m missing dozens of genres and I do realise most of my choices are older. A few of these writers are dead and some, like Koontz, has been at it for decades. So if anyone has any alternatives or suggestions, please do so in the comment section (if I got it to work, that is).