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Brilliant Fiction for Intelligent Individuals and Kindred Spirits

LostBoy76
The list author says: "Now, I will be the first to admit that this list is eclectic. It's got the whole spectrum, from fun, easy-to-read authors like Orson Scott Card or Jean Auel, to the heavy, serious literature of Cormac McCarthy or Peter Matthiessen. Nevertheless, they all mean a great deal to me, so I'm going to just list them randomly. I love them all."
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
"Desert Island Book #3. Absolutely wonderful story of two cousins (one American, one Czech) with a passion for comic books, deciding to create their own superhero and market him in pre-WW2 America."
The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, the Crossing, Cities of the Plain (Everyman's Library)
The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, the Crossing, Cities of the Plain (Everyman's Library)
"Desert Island Book #1. McCarthy's Border Trilogy is quite simply a modern literary tour de force. His prose is a harsh, melancholy poetry. 'The Road', 'No Country for Old Men', and 'Suttree' are also outstanding. He should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature years ago."
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Modern Library)
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Modern Library)
"Possibly the most violent, nihilistic novel ever written. It's also a work of genius that will be studied in university English Literature courses for centuries hence. I will admit, though, that this is McCarthy's most difficult book and not ideal for the McCarthy virgin."
Aztec
Aztec
"Desert Island Book #6. The life of narrator Mixtli-Dark Cloud, and the entire Aztec civilization, is irrevocably changed with the coming of Cortez. This author's 'The Journeyer' is every bit as brutal and brilliant as 'Aztec', too. 'Raptor' is not quite as good, but still strange and memorable."
The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose
"Desert Island Book #4. Medieval detective novel about a murder at an abbey. Keep your Latin dictionary handy."
Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)
Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)
"This novel is legendary in the science-fiction world, and rightly so. The government is breeding smart people to fight aliens, which finally culminates in the military genius "Ender" Wiggin."
The Crimson Petal and the White
The Crimson Petal and the White
"Desert Island Book #9. The life of a smart 19th century prostitute living in London's Cheapside, and her attempts to get out of the industry. I think I'm in love with the main character, Sugar."
Cloud Atlas: A Novel
Cloud Atlas: A Novel
"Desert Island Book #2. Several different viewpoints intertwine over time (and then double back) in this brilliant novel. I adore David Mitchell's writing style! His 'Black Swan Green' is one of the best coming-of-age stories I've ever read, and 'Number9Dream' is quite excellent, as well."
The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome)
The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome)
"The first book in the outstanding six-book series (or is that seven now?) of the rise of Julius Caesar and concomitant fall of the Roman Republic."
The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One
The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One
"Enthralling tale of a modern human little girl orphaned and adopted by a nomadic Neanderthal tribe. Don't bother reading the sequels; "The Valley of Horses" is OK, but the rest are dreadful."
Consider Phlebas (Culture)
Consider Phlebas (Culture)
"The first of the Culture novels, and a brilliant piece of space opera. 'The Player of Games' and 'Use of Weapons' are fantastic, too. Is this what civilization will look like in two to three thousand years? Banks' vision of the future is as prescient as any, I think."
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)
"Desert Island Book #10. One of the best science fiction novels of all time - a 28th century Canterbury Tales. Followed by 'The Fall of Hyperion', 'Endymion', and 'The Rise of Endymion'; a truly indelible quartet. Also read 'The Terror', a vast, brilliant re-telling of the Franklin Expedition and its ill-fated attempts to discover the northwest passage."
Altered Carbon: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel (Takeshi Kovacs Novels)
Altered Carbon: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel (Takeshi Kovacs Novels)
"Awesome William Gibson-esque novel of a private detective hired by a rich man to solve a murder in the 24th century."
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
"The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series of fantasy novels are considered the pinnacle of fantasy to some, and it's hard to argue. A massive cast of well-drawn characters, brilliant world-building, brutal and unexpected plot developments. The first three are close to perfection. I didn't care for part 4, so I'm praying that part 5 is worth the wait (this summer!!)."
American Pastoral
American Pastoral
"The happy, all-American family goes disastrously wrong in this haunting novel. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterwards."
Shantaram: A Novel
Shantaram: A Novel
"Massive, awe-inspiring yarn about an Australian escaped convict that leaves his native land and spends eight years in the criminal underworld of Bombay."
Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
"A virtuoso performance by this brilliant author. Almost impossible to describe what it's about. Read 'Snow Crash' and 'The Diamond Age', too, if you like Stephenson."
1984 (Signet Classics)
1984 (Signet Classics)
"The classic dystopian novel still feels relevant today."
Dune, 40th Anniversary Edition (Dune Chronicles, Book 1)
Dune, 40th Anniversary Edition (Dune Chronicles, Book 1)
"The (deservedly) classic and very influential world-building science-fiction/fantasy novel. The characterizations, plot, and political acuity are top-notch. Parts 2 through 6 are not as compelling, and ignore the pulp novels turned out by his son."
Any Human Heart
Any Human Heart
"Desert Island Book #8. The life of Logan Mountstuart is told in journal entries spanning the 20th century. Outstanding writing."
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
"Absolutely wonderful fantasy novel that is a step above most others in the genre. 'Royal Assassin' and 'Assassin's Quest' are terrific reads, as well, and nicely finish the trilogy. The second trilogy, which takes place fifteen years after the end of the third novel, is also stellar, and goes deeper into the Fool's past."
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)
"Jane Austen needs no introduction. Who doesn't adore Elizabeth Bennett and FitzWilliam Darcy?"
Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Oxford World's Classics)
Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Oxford World's Classics)
"Thomas Hardy's heartbreaking classic about a country maid sent to visit her supposed upper-class relatives with ruinous consequences. 'Jude the Obscure' is beautiful and sad, as well; eloquent polemics against the class system."
The Source: A Novel
The Source: A Novel
"Spectacular historical fiction novel chronicling the triumphs and hardships of the Jewish people in the Middle East."
Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787
Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787
"Sad and beautiful novel about a British soldier returning from the Revolutionary War to find his old life turned upside down."
Kushiel's Dart
Kushiel's Dart
"Stunning literary debut novel about the training of a courtesan/spy. 'Kushiel's Chosen' and 'Kushiel's Avatar' are the outstanding sequels. Not for the faint of heart, however, as this series contains explicit sex and S&M."
At Play in the Fields of the Lord
At Play in the Fields of the Lord
"Haunting, unflinching tale of missionaries in South America attempting to teach Christian values to the "heathens". There are no easy answers to be found here, but many profound ideas and images that will lodge themselves in your mind."
Shadow Country (Modern Library Paperbacks)
Shadow Country (Modern Library Paperbacks)
"Desert Island Book #5. It's been weeks since I finished this novel and I still can't stop thinking about it. Did Florida sugar plantation owner Edgar J. Watson deserve to be shot to death by the residents of that little town? I still can't decide, even though he must take the blame for the awful decisions that put him in that position."
Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind
"This novel of the Civil War and decline of the Old South is justly famous, as is its heroine - the indomitable beauty Scarlett O'Hara. Absolutely spellbinding storytelling, political incorrectness notwithstanding."
Atonement
Atonement
"Desert Island Book #7. Heartbreaking novel about the massive ramifications that small decisions can have. Many scenes in this novel have stayed with me for years."
Tigana: Anniversary Edition
Tigana: Anniversary Edition
"Superbly-written characters in a fully realized world, in which a small band of renegades attempt to foment rebellion and topple two wizard kings."
The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind
"Wonderful, touching quasi-mystery novel. I wish the "cemetery of forgotten books" was real. 'The Angel's Game' is wonderfully gothic, too, though not quite as good as 'Shadow of the Wind'."
The French Lieutenant's Woman
The French Lieutenant's Woman
"Now this is writing is of the highest order. A deeply memorable Victorian love story, containing existential ponderings, profound observations of Victorian society, beautiful 19th poetry, and the wittiest narrator of recent memory. And, the piece de resistance of this gem - Sarah Woodruff, one of the most complex and haunting heroines in literature."
Away: A Novel
Away: A Novel
"Haunting novel about a poor immigrant woman searching for her daughter in America."
Perdido Street Station
Perdido Street Station
"Mieville's imagination is truly astounding. Some moments of this "steampunk" novel are like nothing I've ever read before. The sequel 'The Scar', which takes place on a makeshift floating city, is almost as good as this one."
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
"Brilliant novel of the life and times of genius Michelangelo, including his rivalry with Leonardo da Vinci."
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
"An exceptionally good fantasy novel chronicling the early years of hero Kvothe, from orphaned gypsy boy to fearsome warrior. I just finished 'The Wise Man's Fear', and while it started off a little slowly, I couldn't put it down! Now the wait begins for part 3..."
Shogun (The Asian Saga Chronology)
Shogun (The Asian Saga Chronology)
"One of the greatest historical-fiction novels of all time, in my opinion, in which a 16th century English merchant ship runs aground in Japan. The scope of this novel, and the cast of characters, is massive."
The Big Nowhere
The Big Nowhere
"The second part of Ellroy's outstanding L.A. Quartet may be my favourite, but it's a tough call. The others are 'The Black Dahlia', 'L.A. Confidential', and 'White Jazz'. Ellroy's novels are all bleak and violent, but they're worth reading if you've got a strong stomach."
The Day of the Jackal
The Day of the Jackal
"Possibly my favourite old-fashioned style thriller, with a French detective attempting to track down "The Jackal", a ruthless and chameleon-like assassin, who's been hired to kill Charles de Gaulle. Many assassins in the real world have been obsessed with this book. Don't watch the Bruce Willis film adaptation of this book; it is an absolute disgrace!"