The best books that create an ‘inner consistency of reality’

Who am I?

Although known more generally as a mum of four and teacher, I am also a lover of story (with a First Class degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, and a Masters of Education). According to Tolkien, an internally consistent reality should allow you to immerse yourself in another world so as to return to your own with refreshed sight. In this, he discerned between ‘the flight of the deserter’ (a criticism often levelled at sci-fi and fantasy) and ‘the escape of the prisoner’. These novels achieve inner consistency with sophistication and charm, allowing you to regain your courage, hope, and curiosity when you return to real life.


I wrote...

The Traitor's Heir

By Anna Thayer,

Book cover of The Traitor's Heir

What is my book about?

Young Eamon Goodhand has completed his training to join the Gauntlet, the army of the Master of the land. The Master maintains tight control of his domain by virtue of the Gauntlet, his commanders the Hands, and his ruthless second in command, the Right Hand. Eamon swears to serve the Master in opposing the villainous Wayfarers, whose depredations threaten the land. His gifts, particularly his potent insight, are valuable to his superiors. However, the Master's bloody rule, and an encounter with another who claims to be king, throw into doubt Eamon's assumptions about what might be true, and worthy of service. But he has already made his vows...

The books I picked & why

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Leviathan Wakes

By James S. A. Corey,

Book cover of Leviathan Wakes

Why this book?

Good world-building is hard to come by, but The Expanse series pulls it off with panache. Credible, engaging, flawed, and loveable characters, science and tech that makes sense (rather than just being a McGuffin), and a fascinating genre blend of sci-fi, noir, and horror makes this a difficult one to put down. One of the main themes of this first novel is an exploration of the dangers of withholding or broadcasting information, but as you explore this universe narratives of tyranny and freedom, intrigue and vision – and, of course, good and evil – collide to make some of the best sci-fi I have ever read. If swearing and stomach-churning details are not your thing some parts will be difficult to read, but… stick with it to the final book – you’ll be glad you did.

Leviathan Wakes

By James S. A. Corey,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Leviathan Wakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humanity has colonized the planets - interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions - the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond. Now, when Captain Jim Holden's ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the…


Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787

By Winston Graham,

Book cover of Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787

Why this book?

It seems that there is no detail of life in the late 1700s and early 1800s that Winston Graham doesn’t know. From aspects of history, geography, social class culture, medicine, ship-building, mining… Graham is ‘The Man’. But he is also a composite storyteller, weaving a compelling, generations-spanning narrative that charts the turmoils and triumphs of Ross Poldark and his family. One detail that I love is the representation of genuine female experience in a mode that is not about feminist agendas; Graham writes his women with compassion and complexity, making them far more than the housewives and bodice-rippers characteristic of some historical fiction. Quintessentially English, but never rose-tinted, these novels are a treasure that deserve greater acknowledgment.

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787

By Winston Graham,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ross Poldark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition of Ross Poldark features an afterword by novelist Liz Fenwick.

Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham's sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers ever since serving as the inspiration for hit BBC TV series, Poldark,

Returning home from grim experiences in the American Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark is reunited with his beloved Cornwall and family. But the joyful homecoming he had anticipated turns sour; his father is dead, his estate derelict, and the girl he loves has become engaged…


The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings

Why this book?

If you’ve never heard of this book… what hobbit-hole in the ground have you been living in? My first real foray into high fantasy, these novels have their reputation for a reason. Tolkien coined the phrase ‘inner consistency of reality,’ using it as a benchmark for good writing. You cannot be surprised, then, that Tolkien expends immense effort in his own world-building. I love these novels for their grand themes and their heroes’ journeys, but the loving attention to language, culture, and landscape has a magic all its own. These books taught me a lot about perseverance and hope. 

The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

49 authors picked The Lord of the Rings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of…


Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

A little like The Lord of the Rings, this novel’s name goes thunderously before it. You don’t need to read further than a page or two to feel the deep consistency of world-building here. This is a story bequeathed to me by my father, and as well as tackling good and evil, choice and destiny, this is a bildungsroman – a coming-of-age story. The detailed, culturally immersive, sandy setting enriches Herbert’s themes; again, I enjoy the inclusion of complex and intriguing strong female leads. What does it take to redeem a people and build an empire? What drives the human heart? At what point does the empire become… well, evil. Some of the answers are here. Be ready to be shocked – as I was – by how much subsequent world building (I’m looking at you, George Lucas) is deeply indebted to this masterpiece.

Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked Dune as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…


Deryni Rising

By Katherine Kurtz,

Book cover of Deryni Rising

Why this book?

Long before the wizarding world of Harry Potter came a wizarding world of a whole other order. Welcome to the kingdom of Gwynedd, a world full of political, military, ecclesiastical, and magical intrigue. Once more the first in a series of novels, Deryni Rising begins to chart the conflict between the macrocosmic worlds of politics and religion and their microcosmic consequences on families and friendship. Kurtz builds a world that is both fantastical and believable, and the interplay of politics, magic, and religion is both astutely rendered and leaves you asking deeper questions about the world around you. 

Deryni Rising

By Katherine Kurtz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Deryni Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the mysterious forces of magic and the superior power of the Church combine to challenge the rule of young Kelson. Now the fate of the Deryni -- a quasi-mortal race of sorcerers -- and, indeed, the fate of all the Eleven Kingdoms, rests on Kelson's ability to quash the rebellion by any means necessary . . . including the proscribed use of magic!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, space warfare, and Cornwall?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about good and evil, space warfare, and Cornwall.

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