Recommended reading

Now, pulled from the pile of recently devoured fiction, comes my first recommended reading list of the year!
I read a lot, probably far too much (if my gradeschool English teachers are to be believed). Since I've been working at a bookstore, in particular, the temptation to read is pretty constant-- and the little intermediary cracks of time during work do present themselves so seductively.
Here are just a few titles that I consider the best of what I've read in the past couple of months, accompanied by a very brief synopsis that will hopefully prove both sufficient and intriguing. Enjoy, good reader, enjoy.

Illustration: 'DolPhinnaeus'. Ink on Bristol. 

The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet Edited by Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant
In the world of independent literary magazines, LCRW has a reputation for being one of the most scrupulously imaginative of them all. Thus this collection is all you would guess it to be-- a truly well written, well edited collection of strange and inventive stories, pared down from a yet larger collection of exemplary work. There was just one story that disappointed me in this collection. Only one. That's some pretty outstandingly good editing.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The complexity of the plot, the depth of research into the history... let's just say that Eco is really not one to disappoint. This is a fascinating historical mystery, set in an isolated 15th century abbey and surrounded by political intrigue. Please, do read.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
A dire, post-apocalyptic-style view of a fallen society.  In this case, however, the 'apocalypse' isn't a sudden blow that destroys humanity, but the inevitable self-cannibalization that can be the only result of the current wasteful, destructive manner in which humanity uses itself, and the Earth. Butler was ever an introspective writer, and her books focus largely on the interplay of racism, sexism, and classism in this fallen society.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
A fine, convoluted and self-referential trilogy. A sort of  exestentialist take on the Noir detective genre, mixed with a heavy dose of smoke, mirrors, and literary reference. Not fantasy or science fiction, or even magical realism, but I think it fits the 'speculative fiction' label quite well.

Under in the Mere by Catherynne M. Valente
(Arthurian-based prose-poem, richly developed and thematically brilliant).

The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
(Steampunk time-travel novel).

Murder of Angels by Caitlin R. Kiernan
(Surrealist horror, one of the most original I've read since Clive Barker).

The Scar by China Mieville
(Mieville's work is surreal, complex, colourful, and yet thoroughly structured. This is the second 'New Crobuzon' novel. You should read all of them. And then the rest of his work too, particularly 'The City & the city').

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