19 book recommendations from your favorite sci-fi authors
From Chuck Palahniuk to Charlie Jane Anders, here are your favorite sci-fi authors’ favorite books.
Jake Kleinman 6.1.2020 6:00 AM
There’s never been a better time to escape into a good book. The real world might feel increasingly dystopian, but you can still get lost in a novel or even a short story to distract you from the news. To that end, Inverse asked some of our favorite science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors for their sci-fi reading recommendations as part of our weekly Instagram Live show, Inverse Happy Hour.
Below you’ll find recommendations from Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, Altered Carbon creator Richard K. Morgan, Divergent series author Veronica Roth, and more.
We only recommend books we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article.
The cyberpunk pioneer behind Altered Carbon (the book series that inspired the Netflix show) recommends a collection of cyberpunk short stories.
Author: T.R. Napper
Endorsement: “It’s got that really hard-edged cyberpunk feel to it. The best short story collection I’ve read for quite some time,” Morgan says.
The author behind the Divergent series and a new novel titled Chosen Ones recommends a trio of sci-fi stories with a focus on escaping the earth and living in space. “This is the time to get immersed in some fantasy,” she says.
Author: Somaiya Dau
Endorsement: “I recommend a great book called Mirage by Somaiya Daud that is about Moroccans in space. It’s romantic and also kind of about a revolution. So it’s got everything.”
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Endorsement: “It’s like necromancers in space and it’s kind of a mystery that’s very funny.”
Author: Garth Nix
Endorsement: “Those books are great. They hold up. I read it when I was a kid, and I can’t even talk about it, it’s so good.”
The Fight Club author has some very onbrand recommendations: stories of people on the edge of society just trying to get by. He also has a few suggestions for classic “claustrophobic” novels that will make your own quarantine feel easy by comparison.
“I’m always a sucker for short stories,” Palahniuk says before listing several collections that “are all kind of down and out short story collections that offer a lot of comfort in that the characters are really struggling through something themselves.”
Author: Nami Mun
Endorsement: “If you can get a copy of Nami Mun’s Miles From Nowhere, it’s fantastic.”
Author: Amy Hemple
Author: Denis Johnson
Author: Shirley Jackson
Endorsement: “If you’re looking at things that are contained, stories in which people cannot leave the setting, you might reread The Haunting of Hill House,” Palahniuk says.
Author: Horace McCoy
Endorsement: “It’s all claustrophobic, single setting.”
The co-founder of the sci-fi-oriented pop culture news site io9 is also a science fiction author in their own right. Newitz recommends K. M. Szpara’s new novel Docile, which takes place in a dystopian future where debt is so rampant that people are born as indentured servants. A fictional drug called Docilium makes it possible to block out those memories, until one person decides not to take it.
Author: K. M. Szpara
Endorsement: “It feels very real, because so many of us are dealing with debt right now, but it’s also this great escapist story it has elements of romance, although it’s really screwed up romance, trigger warning. But it has a lot of great sex, and a lot of thoughts, and a lot of great action. I can’t recommend it enough.”
The author of All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night has a few passionate recommendations for anyone looking for a sci-fi escape.
Author: Premee Mohamed
Endorsement: ”A fucking amazing book.”
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Endorsement: “A great young-adult space opera. It’s so exciting. It’s full of action and adventure and relationships. I’m in the middle of that one right now.”
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Endorsement: “It’s rocking my world.”
The writer behind some popular X-Men comics and the new sci-fi novel The Book of Koli is distracting himself with something unexpected.
“I almost never read historical fiction,” he says. “My comfort zone is horror, sci-fi, fantasy; but somebody gave me Wolf Hall, and it’s an astonishing feat of worldbuilding.”
Author: Hilary Mantel
Endorsement: “Cromwell is one of the great fictional creations. Every moment you spend in his company is a pleasure.”
The author of Goldilocks, a new sci-fi novel that feels like The Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Ocean’s 11 in space, is unsurprisingly reading plenty of space-bound fiction in her spare time.
Author: Ann Leckie
The author of Annihilation (part of his Southern Reach trilogy) and the upcoming A Peculiar Peril has been watching a lot of TV during quarantine, including Westworld and Babylon Berlin. However, Jeff Vandermeer also had a few books to recommend.
Author: Vernon Subutex
Endorsement: “It’s a pretty amazing dissection of French society, both lower class and upper class, and highly entertaining, and literary, and also offbeat and kind of strange and counter-culture,” he says, adding that it’s also been made into a TV series.
Author: Philippe Claudel
Endorsement: “If you’re looking for something strange and surreal.”
The famous horror author behind Nos4A2, Locke and Key, and more still reads plenty of horror in his spare time. Joe Hill recommended two books in particular.
The Living Dead by Daniel Kraus and George Romero takes writing fragments from the late scary movie master and turns them into a story set in his zombie universe. Meanwhile, the upcoming Plain Bad Heroines tells the story of a string of mysterious deaths at a girls boarding school and an attempt to make a movie about it over 100 years later.
Author: Daniel Kraus and George Romero
Endorsement: “In a lot of ways The Living Dead is the final word on the zombie apocalypse,” Hill says. “For anyone who loves those movies sort of an essential document.”
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Endorsement: “It has the creepy, black humor of an Edward Gorey comic strip, but it’s also big. It has multiple narratives in the style of a David Mitchell novel. I just thought it was a terrific story. People are in for a treat with this one.”