Otters and a Call for Book Recommendations

zomg_dropbearLet me put today in context for you: I’m laughing at puns. Otter puns. And Jason Fischer  is nowhere nearby, which is kind of strange given that about 90% of the punnery that takes place in my world can be traced back to him in some form or another. And I *never* laugh at the puns. Well, hardly ever. I just thought I should mention that, given that a few people have signed up for the blog feed following some fairly serious discussion of feminism and such in other venues last week and they should probably warned. *Sometimes* I bust out the heavy duty cultural theory that tends to burble along in the background of my consciousness, but most of the time it’s all otter jokes and pro-wrestling references. I tend to think both mindsets equally valid and interconnected, really.

On the otter hand (hee!) I’m also spending my morning thinking about the moment that came when Girliejones first announced Female Appreciation Month and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t actually pull together a months worth of books by women that I remembered well enough to point to and say “there, right there, that’s awesome.” I could get to five pretty easily, ten without breaking a sweat, but by the time I started getting into the twenties I was basically scouring my bookshelves and pulling down any of the books written by those of the female persuasion that I’d at least, basically, read. This caught me kinda off-guard, because if you’d asked me I would have said I read a lot of female writers. Instead, what I actually do is read a lot of the same women over-and-over again – I could probably fill a list of thirty books just by pulling the works of about seven different writers from my shelves and only one wouldn’t see a repeat. Sure, many of those works would be on my list of the thirty best books of all time (in fact, given one of them wrote a noir novel about Mexican masked wrestlers, they’re just an otter joke away from being the best author of all time), but that’s still a pretty limited selection of writers to choose from. Of course, this is just a microcosm of the problems with my reading habits in general over the last few years – there’s been lots of book accumulating, but comparatively little reading of stuff that seems too unfamiliar. So over the weekend I built a pile of unread books by women to go through. It’s pretty big, and about 80% of the authors are by women I haven’t read yet, but at the same time it’ll last me about two months at the rate I’m currently reading.

‘Course, at the end of that two month period, I’ll have a to-be-read bookshelf containing about 700 books written entirely by men (which is, more or less, the standard state of my to-be-read shelf these days). That’ll need some rectifying, so I figured I’d ask for recommendations – give me five books (fiction or non-fiction) written by women, and I’ll do my damndest to make it happen. Since the point of this is to diversify my reading tastes, go with whatever comes to mind – regardless of genre or whether you’d ordinarily be wary of recommending it to a guy (I’m open, for example, to reading the romance genre if a recommendation comes in).

The only short-list of names I’d avoid largely come down to the following, since I’m already pretty well read up on these writers: Kelly Link, Karen Joy Fowler, Poppy Brite, Caitlin Kiernan, Elizabeth Bear, Marianne De Pierres, and Margo Lanagan. And lets assume that the collected works of Jane Austen, Karen Miller, and the Brontes are taken care of as well, since there’s a pile of them on my bedside table at present (Late addendum to the list: Holly Black. Got a lot of her work on the to-read pile as well). Apart from that, go crazy – I’m officially removing the word “no” and “not my thing” from my responses when it comes to recommendation, so if it shows up in the comments it goes on my reading list.

  5 comments for “Otters and a Call for Book Recommendations

  1. 11/08/2009 at 2:05 AM

    Mmm, what a fun project. Here are the first ones to come to mind:

    1. Tithe, by Holly Black – YA urban faerie novel, lots of fun

    2. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett – literary novel, fabulously surreal and a brilliant voice

    3. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris – a fun read and worth it to see what all the buzz is about. Also, in contrast to some other currently popular vampire romances, Harris's heroine actually has agency.

    4. The House on Mango Streey, by Sandra Cisneros – brilliant voice

    5. Downbelow Station, CJ Cherryh – great action-packed space opera, plus with real characters


    • 11/08/2009 at 2:43 AM

      Hmm. It occurs to me that I should have put Holly Black on the list above, since I seem to have the entirity of the urban-faerie stories she's written sitting there waiting to be read. The others have all gone on the list though (coupled with the influx of recommendations over on the lj.

  2. Tehani
    11/08/2009 at 5:36 AM

    EVERYTHING by Lois McMaster Bujold, particularly the SF but the Fantasy is pretty good too.

    The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman

    The first 4 to 6 Anita Blake books by Laurell K Hamilton (after that, only if you're into soft(ish) porn rather than story or character development).

    For the best written paranormal stuff I've read recently is Patricia Briggs' series.

    On Jellicoe Road, Looking for Alibrandi, Finnikin's Rock (Melina Marchetta)

    Get thyself some Jennifer Fallon (Hythrun series is probably better than the most recent one, the Immortals) and Karen Miller (I really liked the first book in her latest trilogy, from 2007, Empress of Mijak), for sure. Actually, you might like The Accidental Sorcerer (KE Mills, AKA Karen Miller).

    And I've got to recommend some JD Robb to you! Start with the early ones if you can, but you don't really have to – I've read them in no particular order!

    I think that's a lot more than five, but I'm an English teacher, not a Maths one! 😛

  3. 11/08/2009 at 8:03 AM

    Taking the non-fiction tack, try these authors of athropological wonders. It'll take you a month just to find them and another the wade through them.

    – Any thing by Maria Gimbutas but especially "Civilisation of the Goddess" and "Language of the Goddess." They are brilliant and original academic studies on paleo-anthropolgy which were subsequently latched onto by others who have build an incredible ediface on such shifting sands. )

    – The work of Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez who has completely re-examined paleolithic cave art as sky maps and the start of astronomical/astrological thinking. General scientific acceptance is still in the balance but I reckon she's dead on the money. )

    – Pretty much any of the sociological/anthropological texts of Margaret Mead. (

    – Pretty much any of the dead cool but completely wrong-headed texts by Margaret Murray. Her books have the added bonus of appearing as occult tomes of forbidden knowledge in Lovecraft's stories. (

  4. 11/08/2009 at 10:06 AM

    I absolutely love Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History. And I'm tired, so there's a list of one, at the moment. Sorry.

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