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Paul H

Favorite non-fantasy novels?

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About a year ago, I posted here asking for recommendations for fantasy novels (besides the Wheel of Time, of course), and I received many helpful recommendations.  While I still haven't gotten far on those fantasy recommendations, right now I am in more of a mood for a non-fantasy book, and I thought I might get some good suggestions here.

 

So, what are some of your favorite non-fantasy novels?  Please feel free to list one or more novels in any genre besides fantasy, and optionally tell why you liked them. 

 

I'll add my own list of favorite non-fantasy novels in a separate post.

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Recently read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  It's historical fiction that follows events surrounding the construction of a Cathederal in medieval England. Very good story and well developed characters.  Became an immediate favorite.

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Here is my own list.  It is shorter than I thought it would be.  As I think back on books I have read, I realize that I have concentrated a lot more on reading non-fiction than fiction during much of my life, so I am sure there are many good novels I have not read yet.

 

My favorite non-fantasy novels:

 

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.  A classic.  Great characters, great dialect, great moral lessons, and great insights into American culture in the mid-19th century.  The plot does have some weak points, especially toward the end, but it's still my favorite novel in any genre.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.  Much less serious than Huck Finn, and not as good, but still an enjoyable book.
  • A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.  The first two-thirds of the book is extremely boring and very difficult to get through, but it pays off in a big way with possibly the best ending of any book I have ever read.
  • The Spear, by Louis de Wohl.  This is a novel about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but with Jesus staying on the periphery of the story through most of the book.  Many of the main characters are minor characters from the Gospel accounts -- including the Roman centurion, Pontius Pilate's wife, and the woman caught in adultery.  The author does a very good job of weaving the fictional story with the established Gospel accounts.
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert.  This one might be a bit too close to fantasy, but I would call it more science fiction than fantasy, so I include it here.  I don't remember too many specifics about this book, except that I thought it was great, and that it had some parallel story elements with the Wheel of Time.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller.  This is the most recent novel I read, so I might be including it only for that reason.  But I did think it was very good.  It provides glimpses of 1,800 years of human history following a nuclear war that almost destroys civilization.
  • Any mystery novel by Agatha Christie.  I read all of Agatha Christie's novels when I was in high school, and I still re-read one every once in a while.
  • Many of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I read this for the first time just a few years ago.  It is perhaps more for young adults, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

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Recently read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  It's historical fiction that follows events surrounding the construction of a Cathederal in medieval England. Very good story and well developed characters.  Became an immediate favorite.

 

That sounds interesting.  I have heard that building a large medieval cathedral would often take at least 80 to 100 years, so that the people who began the work would not even live to see it finished!  I'll take a look at that book.

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Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

 

 

I did read the Fountainhead a long time ago.  In some ways I loved it, and in some ways I hated it.  :smile:

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The Flashman Papers by George MacDonald Fraser. A series of historical novels written as the memoirs of Harry Flashman (MacDonald Fraser being the editor of the recently discovered papers), a coward and bully who ends with a decidedly more adventurous life than he wants, and who manages to escape from his various escapades covered in ill deserved glory. The books are known for being historically accurate (with notes from the author showing he's done his research) and are a lot of fun to read.

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Basically anything by Michael Crichton.

 

Sadly, most of his books were made into not-so-great movies (looking at you Timeline), but the books are incredible.

 

Though he obtained an M.D. he never got a license to practice medicine. His books are all very well researched and make you feel like you are learning something, even though they are clearly fiction.

 

He started writing in '66, so you sometimes need to you remind yourself of the times he was writing in.

 

Crichton's books often follow a similar formula. Something exciting happens and leaves you with tons of questions in the prologue. You never see those characters again. There is almost always a strong female character. Everything seems fine until the human element screws it up. An expert who is ripped out of their normal life is usually the point of view character and you learn about what is happening along with them. And there is usually action.

 

Despite following a similar formula, each book is decidedly different (aside from the two Jurassic Park books). Disclosure is about sexual harassment, Timeline is about time travel, Sphere is about a sphere on the bottom of the ocean from space, and The Great Train Robbery is about... well you get it. Oh, and Pirate Latitudes; c'mon, pirates.

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Chriton is a good one, though he died before his time.  absolutely loved Congo, and plan to read JP, but couldn't get into State of Fear at all.  

 

 

if your looking for an Atlas Shurrged type of book,  Leviathan is a good read, if a bit heavy.  its one of the books the Founders of the USA used to base the formation of this country off of.  read it for research for a paper i'm writing an really it helps to explain the concepts and ideals behind the bill of rights.

 

 

Empire and Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card are two good ones as well, and And Dies the Fire by Sm Sterlilng is good as well.  the first is about a gov take over int he US (and has heavy conservative leanings) the second is a post apolocolitpic world after an EMP blast renders all new age technology and guns useless (no zombies tho)

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State of Fear didn't feel as developed as some of his other works. Honestly, I barely got through Next. Good suggestions on Orson Scott Card, I need to read more of his work and Robert Heinlein.

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"Blood Meredian" by Cormac McCarthy.

 

Have reread it so many times and it's one of those that just gets better and better. Judge Holden may be the single greatest villain in the history of literature.

Edited by Suttree

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I really liked Dostoyevsky especially Crime and Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov.  Faulkner and Steinbeck are awesome.  I really like Vonnegut,too.  His satire is just brilliant.  So many great authors, so many great books... so little time.

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I really liked Dostoyevsky especially Crime and Punishment and the Brothers Karamazov.

 

I have seriously considered reading The Brothers Karamazov, but I have been a bit intimidated by the length.  (I know the length is comparable to a Wheel of Time novel, and I have read all 14 of those, most of them twice. But still, it's a long book.)

 

 

So many great authors, so many great books... so little time.

 

So true!

Edited by Paul H

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Basically anything by Michael Crichton.

 

Sadly, most of his books were made into not-so-great movies (looking at you Timeline), but the books are incredible.

 

Though he obtained an M.D. he never got a license to practice medicine. His books are all very well researched and make you feel like you are learning something, even though they are clearly fiction.

 

He started writing in '66, so you sometimes need to you remind yourself of the times he was writing in.

 

Crichton's books often follow a similar formula. Something exciting happens and leaves you with tons of questions in the prologue. You never see those characters again. There is almost always a strong female character. Everything seems fine until the human element screws it up. An expert who is ripped out of their normal life is usually the point of view character and you learn about what is happening along with them. And there is usually action.

 

Despite following a similar formula, each book is decidedly different (aside from the two Jurassic Park books). Disclosure is about sexual harassment, Timeline is about time travel, Sphere is about a sphere on the bottom of the ocean from space, and The Great Train Robbery is about... well you get it. Oh, and Pirate Latitudes; c'mon, pirates.

 

I have heard good things about Crichton's books, so maybe I will give his books a try.

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I really enjoyed Pillar of the Earth as well, it was a very stark and adult read.  You def felt like you were in the middle ages, all mud and grime and ignorance included.

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In Conquest Born, by Celia Friedman, is one of the books that have impressed me the most. It's scifi and, to put it very simply, about two warring nations who both think they've reached perfection. The story is very non-linear and sometimes in the beginning of a new PoV you don't really know if it's happening in the present time or in the past, or really far in the past, but I think it's intentional and I for one loved the feeling when each piece falls into place and makes you go "wow, did I just read that?"

 

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, is one of my two all-time favourite books, the other one being 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

 

And the fact that I can't remember other non-fantasy books that I've liked is rather sad. I swear I've read some! Perhaps I'll need to pick up some of these recommendations, too...

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In Conquest Born, by Celia Friedman, is one of the books that have impressed me the most. It's scifi and, to put it very simply, about two warring nations who both think they've reached perfection. The story is very non-linear and sometimes in the beginning of a new PoV you don't really know if it's happening in the present time or in the past, or really far in the past, but I think it's intentional and I for one loved the feeling when each piece falls into place and makes you go "wow, did I just read that?"

 

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, is one of my two all-time favourite books, the other one being 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

 

And the fact that I can't remember other non-fantasy books that I've liked is rather sad. I swear I've read some! Perhaps I'll need to pick up some of these recommendations, too...

I second the Count of Monte Cristo, one of my personal favorites.

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Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

 

 

I did read the Fountainhead a long time ago.  In some ways I loved it, and in some ways I hated it.  :smile:

 

 

Atlas Shrugged is amazing.

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Anathem is a good one-off science fiction novel, and has an interesting theory about how alternate realities interact and develop.

 

Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels are a good read too, though they're short and each book can be burned through in an hour or two at most if you read as fast as I do.

 

L.E. Modesitt has a variety of good sci-fi books as well, such as The Parafaith War.

 

Mother of Demons is another great one.

 

I also second Ishmael's Ayn Rand recommendations, she's an incredible author.

Edited by Zhon

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I know mafia books are a acquired taste , but my favorite non fantasy novel is the godfather by mario puzzo. I read it before I'd seen the film and while I found the book a page turner, I found the film rather boring despite it's Oscars. But maybe that was because I knew the ending! I enjoyed puzzo' The Last Don too.

 

Another great book is Balzac' The Black Sheep

Edited by damandred

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A lot of great ones mentioned on here.  My personal favorite (already mentioned) is "A Tale of Two Cities."  I was pumped to see the ending quoted in the latest "Batman" movie. 

 

Besides those I loved the intensity of "Grapes of Wrath" and the fun of "Last of the Mohicans." 

 

Orwell's "Animal Farm" and "1984" are also fantastic and still appropriate for current events. 

 

Finally I'll add "For Whom the Bell Tolls."  Great war novel whose protagonist is named, of course, Robert Jordan.

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"A Bridge To Far" is excellent. You have probably already heard of it but if not, its about Operation Market Garden of WWII. Very good story and good structure and it gives great insight into the live of american soldiers in WWII

Edited by Nar Shadda Han

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