Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What to Read Next

I may have been a wee bit overambitious about actually writing yesterday. I was in a total fog. I managed to read over what I've written, and while I like some of it, I could tell what parts needed serious help, but I couldn't form the words to fix it. So, I gave up, made popcorn, and caught up on all the stuff I taped over the weekend. So, now I'm caught up on Doctor Who (and whoever wrote that episode has obviously driven in Houston).

I have to make my cauldron cakes today and I think I may participate in the Dallas Morning News Harry Potter online chat this afternoon (since the reporter who interviewed me is part of it). And then I really will work some before going to the book group Harry Potter discussion party. I think after that I'll have the worst of it out of my system and can get back to focusing on my own universes. It's hard to write when you're in a mode where someone else's world and characters are more real (and interesting) to you than your own, especially when you're developing a new world and new characters. I could probably drag myself out of the Potterverse to write about Owen and Katie, but new people are more difficult.

I've posted a version of this in the comments of a Harry Potter community post, but I thought I'd expand on it here as a public service. Here's my list of what you might want to read now that it's over (sniff!) or while you're on the library waiting list. I'm trying to go with books that scratch some of the same itches for me that the Harry Potter books seem to. In some cases, it's a tone or feeling. In others, it's the way the books affected me. As a result, this list may seem really random. Feel free to add your own recommendations in comments.

Of course, the most obvious would be my books. :-) I think everyone should recommend them to their friends who have the post-Potter blues. Heck, I may re-read them myself as a way of jolting myself out of it all. (And, by the way, any fun stories of attempting to hook people at the bookstore parties?)

For adults:
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke -- it's a big, dense book, but I think a lot of it had the same whimsical, tongue-in-cheek tone that's in the Harry Potter books. Be sure to read the footnotes, because that's where the humor really is.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire -- an entirely different take on the fantasy boarding school (though I don't actually recommend this wholeheartedly. I didn't think it was quite as good as the hype, and I didn't really like any of the characters much)
The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher -- as Jim describes it, "Dirty Harry" Potter. :-)
The Weather Wardens series by Rachel Caine -- more quirky contemporary fantasy
Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin -- I've only read the first book (since that's all that exists -- and I've already volunteered to blurb the next one so I can get a sneak peak), but I think it has the potential to be one of those series where you really get hooked on the characters.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman -- LOVE! You could almost describe this as "a worthy Muggle gets sucked into Diagon-Alley after he helps a wizard in need."

For kids/teens:
Just about anything by Joan Aiken. Her series that starts with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is actually a pretty subtle alternate history (the alt history is mostly in the background, especially in the earlier books, and I didn't even notice it until I was older and had actually learned more about British history). Like the Harry Potter books, these are generally about orphans (or might-as-well-be orphans) thrown into tough situations where they have to save the day. I think my favorite is Black Hearts in Battersea.
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis -- that was sort of my Harry Potter when I was a child, though since the books had all been written before I was born, I didn't have to wait for each book. Still, I rationed myself, checking them out of the library one at a time, and I faced the last book with the same mix of dread and anticipation that I had for the last Harry Potter book.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander -- high fantasy based on Welsh folklore. I might have had that same kind of obsession with this one if I hadn't accidentally read the last book first. I still went back to grab the earlier ones and tore through it. Ignore the Disney atrocity that was made based on one of these books. It doesn't exist.
Almost anything by Madeleine L'Engle -- A Wrinkle in Time is the best known, but all her other books are more or less based in that universe. They range from the outright fantasy/sf end of the spectrum, with actual travel to other planets, to more subtle sf elements, so that the book is set in the "real" world but involves some cutting edge science, like research on starfish to help regenerate human limbs. My favorite is A Ring of Endless Light, which is a beautiful book. I have the sequel, but I've held off on reading it because I worry that it could change my impression of the first one.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith -- totally non-magical in the literal sense, but I think it captures the coming of age and teen relationships in much the way the Harry Potter books do, without the external plot of having to save the world from dark magic, and it does have a certain magical quality to it.

Published for adults, but probably teen-safe:
The Deryni Chronicles by Katherine Kurtz -- this was sort of the Harry Potter equivalent of my teen years, where I got totally immersed in that world and fell madly in love with the characters so that I desperately wanted to know more about them. I inhaled the first two trilogies that were all published before I discovered them, and then had to anticipate each new book as it came out. Of course, that was when they started coming out in hardcover, which I couldn't afford, so I had to hope and pray the library got them. The second two trilogies were okay, and I've been less and less excited about the more recent books, though I still love the earlier ones just as much when I pick them up again. I think my problem is that her favorite characters aren't my favorite characters, and now she's focusing on people who just don't interest me.
The Flinx books by Alan Dean Foster -- in a way, this is a science fiction Harry Potter, since it's about an orphan who has unusual abilities, and the series covers his quest to learn about his parents and how his abilities work, then later he has to take on some major evil. Apparently, the final book in the series is coming this fall. I forget how many books there are in this series, but there are a lot, as it's been going since 1974. The earlier books have recently been reissued as young adult books.
Just about anything by Connie Willis, especially Bellwether, The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. She has a wonderfully dry sense of humor that's almost British (although she's from Colorado).
The Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold -- another one of those fun main characters who gets in and out of a lot of scrapes with wits and nerve. I think Miles and Harry would get along pretty well.

You know, just reading that list has almost made me start wanting to pick up something else and read again. Maybe revisiting an old favorite would be a good way to transition myself out of that universe and back toward being able to accept other things.


Diane said...

"Dirty Harry" Potter...

:) Great phrase! Love that. (And Butcher.)

Stephanie said...

What a great list! You've convinced me to go pick up Neverwhere.

BTW, found you through a link posted in an essay at the Wall Street Journal. I'll be back to read more of your posts!

Shanna Swendson said...

Oh, now I'm curious what was in the Wall Street Journal that might have led you to me!