What are your favorite books?

Books with beautiful prose and deep emotion transport me.  I love a good laugh, super smart characters, and page-turning action, too.  Below is my go-to list of authors* I count on for an utterly satisfying read (in alphabetical order).  Some write romance, others write mystery or adventure or historical fiction or fantasy, and all are wonderful.

Ilona Andrews, romance – A superlatively great writing team. The Edge was my first and I couldn’t put it down.

Liz Carlyle,  romance – Her first dozen historical romances were truly exceptional: rich, dramatic, gorgeously written. The Devil You Know is one of my favorite romance novels ever. (I haven’t yet read her later novels.)

Alyssa Cole, romance – An Extraordinary Union is one of the best romance novels I’ve read in a decade.

Tracy Deonn, fantasy – Legendborn, a modern young-adult retake on the Arthurian legend, is flat-out amazing and I cannot wait for the follow up.  Also, it was an instant New York Times bestseller.

Sonali Dev, romance – Gorgeous and moving contemporary-set love stories. Dev’s newest novel, Recipe for Persuasion, is in my pantheon of favorite romances alongside A Distant Heart.

Dorothy Dunnett, historical fiction – Dunnett is my favorite historical novelist of all time. The Lymond Chronicles are rich, deep, emotional, brilliant, and packed full of action, and the Nicoló Rising series is just as good.

Meredith Duran, romance – One of the best historical romance novelists — period.  Duran writes rich and passionate romances with fascinating history. Luck Be a Lady is among my favorites.

Umberto Eco, fiction – Mind-blowing intelligent prose that unashamedly delights in language, twisty plots, and great big mysteries.  For a 1980’s take on conspiracy theorists that’s shockingly on target in 2020, read his brain-teasing Foucault’s Pendulum.

Georgette Heyer, romance and historical fiction – Considered the mother of “Regency” romances, Heyer wrote smart, unique and marvelously funny romances as well as fascinating historical novels.  Try The Masqueraders first — it’s amazing.

N.K. Jemisin, science fiction – The Broken Earth trilogy is the absolute pinnacle of what science fiction can be but wasn’t until Jemisin wrote it: amazing, moving, heart-pounding, dark, inspiring, brilliant, perfect.

Beverly Jenkins, romance – Strong women fighting for justice, honorable men doing the same, and real history, Jenkins’s romances are the gold standard.  I’m particularly fond of her historicals, including my favorite Indigo, but her contemporary romances are fantastic too (and one is a movie!).

Laurie R. King, mystery – Years ago, and not yet a mystery fan, I discovered King’s Mary Russell series. I’ve been hooked ever since.  Island of the Mad, is so good in so many ways that as soon as I finished reading it I sat down and penned a hand-written fan letter to her.

Laura Kinsale, romance – One of the best historical romance authors of all time.  Emotional, passionate, dark, dramatic: her novels are everything I love about romance.  My favorite is The Prince of Midnight, but each is uniquely wonderful.

Jeannie Lin, romance – I absolutely adore Lin’s historical romances set in Tang dynasty-era China.  One of my all-time favorite heroes of romance fiction is The Sword Dancer‘s Han.

Caroline Linden, romance – Linden’s multi-award winning historical romances are cast with warm, wonderful real people I’d like to make friends with IRL, and their love stories are deliciously satisfying.

Tracey Livesay, romance – Smart writing, strong and professional heroines, and heroes who are actually good men that respect women and sexier because of it.  Livesay’s books are my go-to’s for contemporary romance.

Tahereh Mafi, young adult – Mafi’s Shatter Me series is so good that I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished every book in the series, and I couldn’t think of anything else for weeks afterward.

Courtney Milan, romance – Wonderful writing, compelling stories, perfect romance. Choose any novel or novella — all are fabulous — and sink into heaven.

Madeline Miller, historical – Miller’s prose is a gift to readers.  The next time someone insists that we don’t need to study “women’s” history because all history includes women, I’m going to hand them Circe.  It’s fiction based on Greek mythology that upends the story.

Kate Morton, fiction – You sink into these stories about women and men and love, connecting different times, and don’t come out till you’ve read the final page.  They are perfect summer reads.  My favorite is The Lake House, but I love them all.

Naomi Novik, fantasy – Uprooted made me a Novik fan for life. Beautiful and fun storytelling, protagonists I adore, and utterly satisfying prose.

Nnedi Okorafor, science fiction/fantasy – Akata Witch was the fabulous start of my adventure with Okorafor’s books. I instantly cared about this group of kids and their adventures.  For one of her fabulous short stories and a terrific interview where she talks about Africanjujism (and offers  a definition that resonates with me profoundly), check out the wonderful LeVar Burton Reads podcast.

Priscilla Oliveras, romance – “Contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor,” Oliveras’s romances offer casts full of strong women, warm and wonderful families, and incredibly romantic love stories.

Terry Pratchett, fantasy, mystery, etc. – Fantasy, fun, shenanigans… Pratchett is a genius.  Start with The Wee Free Men and you’re off!

Mary Jo Putney, romance – My first favorite historical romances ever, and still among my favorites.

Julia Quinn, romance – Quinn’s love stories redefined historical romance (and, not incidentally, inspired me to write romance).  They’re all wonderful, but I think my favorite remains An Offer from a Gentleman.

Maya Rodale, romance – Maya’s books are a breath of fresh, smart air and my go-to for light, witty, charming historical romance.  Her upcoming Alice and Gabby’s Excellent Adventure is fabulous.

Theresa Romain, romance – Tender, romantic historical romance featuring women who know their own worth and truly decent men, Romain’s books are a delicious dose of sanity in a mad world.  Bonus: they’re brilliantly researched history.

Barbara Claypole White, contemporary fiction – The love stories White weaves and the struggles and triumphs of her neuro-non-typical characters are deeply moving.  The Perfect Son tops my favorites list, but they’re all beautiful.

Connie Willis, science fiction – Willis writes science fiction for history lovers, and every one of her novels is amazing.  Each Christmas season I reread Miracle & Other Stories — it’s that good.  And The Doomsday Book is a must-read.

I add to this list regularly. Check back soon for more!

* If an author you adore doesn’t appear on this list, it could be that I just haven’t gotten around to including them, or I’ve never read their books. If you’ve a favorite author or book you’d like me to try in any genre, drop me an email.