November 17, 2011

Off the Shelf: Book Recommendations I

So you’ve finally decided to start reading more literature. Perhaps it’s because you want to have something to talk about when your friends start talking about literature. Perhaps it’s because you’ve realized that books can be just as awesome as comic books. Or maybe it’s because you want to impress the cute librarian.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to add more books to your shelf. But with all the books out there, you don’t know which ones to turn to. So here’s ten books to go and check out.

American Gods
Neil Gaiman

When it comes to comic books, I don’t know many people who have anything against The Sandman. Some love it, some like it, but few people I know dislike it. Likewise, I don’t think I’ve found many people who disliked American Gods. Why? Because it has all the things you know and love about Neil Gaiman’s comic book writing. Gods, mythologies, quirky characters, and plenty of parables. It’s a long book, no doubt, and for many it might get sluggish, but to me that’s what makes it so epic and adventurous. While at the same time, being down to earth in its setting, style of prose, and humanity.

Read this if you like: The Sandman (duh), Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Stephen King.

Frank Herbert

If you call yourself a Star Wars fan and haven’t read Dune yet, I want you to slap yourself twice. Once because you said you’re a Star Wars fan and don’t know anything about Dune. And twice because you still haven’t read Dune. Tatooine is basically one giant homage to Dune. In fact, a good deal of Star Wars Episode IV arguably uses Dune as a spring board. And that’s not to say Star Wars is a rip off, because there are a lot of differences between the two. But it’s to say that if you like Star Wars, you’ll like Dune. And even if you don’t care for Star Wars, you’ll like Dune because it’s that damn good. Plus, you won’t scratch your head when people start talking about sand worms and spices.

Read this if you like: Star Wars, Dark Horse Presents, Lord of the Rings, Heavy Metal, Star Reach.

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson

Inevitably many of you are going to turn away from even thinking about picking this up, because you have the 2007 adaptation still scarring your memory. Let me be the first to say that the 2007 adaptation of I Am Legend is only about 30% of the original novel. There are several differences with the novel, such as the fact that it deals with vampires and is set in Los Angeles. So what makes this a cool novel to pick up? One, for those of you turned off by the long lengthy prose of the previous recommendations, I Am Legend is quick in both pacing and page length. Two, it gives a fairly plausible explanation to how vampirism could happen. Three, it is indisputably the prototype for just about every zombie work made (arguably the first zombie work despite being about vampires). And on top of all that, it’s a very good book. Do I need to say any more?

Read this if you like: The Walking Dead, zombie genre, Stephen King, The Twilight Zone, American Vampire.

Vampire Hunter D Vol. 1
Hideyuki Kikuchi

Speaking of vampires, there’s the classic series Vampire Hunter D. And of course, the best book to start off with would be the first in the series. Although there’s enough Western influence to appeal to mainstream comic fans, this one is especially for the manga and anime fans. Although I could go on about how cool it is, you’d do better to check out my review here.

Read this if you like: Akira, Final Fantasy (video game series), Magdelena, The Darkness, The Dark Tower.

Night Shift
Stephen King

Stephen King is perhaps my favorite author of all time, so it’s no wonder why I put him on the list. But since he’s published quite the body of work, it was a tough call deciding which one to recommend. Skeleton Crew was a very close runner up, but I picked this one for two reasons. One, because the stories are shorter and might be easier for beginning readers to digest. Two, because these ones are more horror and are a little closer to those old EC horror comics. You get your horror kicks such as “The Boogeyman,” but you also get some different stories such as the heartwarming “The Last Rung on the Ladder.” Basically, it’s a good introduction for comic fans.


I, The Jury
Mickey Spillane

Before Frank Miller, Max Allan Collins, Ed Brubaker, or any other modern noir comic book writer you can think of, there was Mickey Spillane. Not only was he one of the first writers at Marvel, but he was also a key pioneer of hardboiled crime stories. And none were more famous than his Mike Hammer. Although he is one of the best selling authors of all time, Spillane never seems to get much credit for making the modern tough talking crime fiction we’re used to today. As with any good writer, Spillane got better and better over the years. And although there are better novels of his (and more politically correct ones), I’m going to recommend I, The Jury for both historical significance and for being the first of the Mike Hammer novels.

Read this if you like: Sin City, Max Payne (video game series), Dick Tracy, Road to Perdition, Blue Estate.

Selected Short Stories of Philip K Dick
Philip K Dick

Do you like Total Recall, Minority Report, or The Adjustment Bureau? Then you might like this short story anthology, which contains the short stories that were the inspirations for those films. But it’s more than just finding short stories that were the basis of your favorite films. Philip K Dick was one helluva science-fiction writer, and while his novels were great, his short stories were often even better. It’s a good mix of stories here and nothing gets repetitive. Plus, I think short stories are naturally the best way for comic book fans to work their way into literature.

Read this if you like: Alan Moore, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Boom! Studios adaptation), The Electric Ant (Marvel adaptation), 2000 AD, Heavy Metal, Dark Horse Presents.

Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card

Yes, I get the criticisms. Orson Scott Card is a conservative Mormon. But you know what he also is? A damn good science-fiction writer. Although it’s never been adapted into a film, any science-fiction literature fan worth their grain will have read this book. And most people I know who have read Ender’s Game enjoyed it. Why? Because it’s a great read that’s fast paced while taking the time to develop characters and character relationships. Plus, the fact that it’s required reading over at the Marines (seriously) makes it even more awesome.

Read this if you like: 2000 AD, Star Wars, Star Trek, New Mutants, Halo (video game series and comic book adaptations).

The Coming of Conan The Cimmerian
Robert E. Howard

For those of you who are simply impatient with novels, then here’s a fast paced collection of short stories. I said it and I’ll say it again, the Robert E. Howard Conan is much different than the Conan you’re probably expecting. Here, he’s a man of many things, be it barbarian, thief, or king. Each point of his life containing an exciting story to tell. But if you’re still on the fence with this one, then you better check out my review of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. Oh, and did I mention that there are illustrations by Mark Schultz?

Read this if you like: Conan comic books (no shit), Heavy Metal, Dark Horse Presents, Solomon Kane, HP Lovecraft.

The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien

I know that if I don’t put The Lord of the Rings into the list, J.R.R. Tolkien fans are going to kill me. But you know what? Screw the Lord of the Rings books. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but they’ve got nothing on The Hobbit. Sure, The Hobbit might be a shorter book and isn’t nearly as “epic.” However, it’s much faster paced and has twice the adventure. Besides, Sauron’s got nothing on Smaug.

Read this if you like: The Stuff of Legend, Thor, Neil Gaiman, The Elder Scrolls (video game series).


So there you have it. Ten novels for you to kill your time with. Now, get out of your chair, go to your local library or bookstore, and happy reading.

Andrew Hudson




  1. 1,000 points for recommending DUNE.

    My all time favorite book series. Read the first when I was 11 and it’s easily the most read book by me… ever.

    Absolutely love it. At least read the first 3 (Dune, Dune: Messiah, Children of Dune), but if you can’t make it through book 4, I understand.

  2. Kristin

    The Tolkien Avenger is here! She appears like a flash of lightning anytime his name is mentioned, in order to ramble on and on about how awesome Tolkien is. Ramble ramble ramble.

  3. I still have not read Children of Dune 🙁

  4. capekiller

    Great list! All awesome books. Ender’s Game doesn’t get nearly enough credit and The Hobbit truly is the greatest of the LOTR saga.

  5. I love all the books I’ve read on this list. I’m glad to see you put American Gods on there. Amazing book. I’m picking up every book I haven’t read yet (other than the manga one). Thanks!

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