The best books I want to be when I grow up

Why am I passionate about this?

With every book we read, we engage in a complex act of telepathy and empathy. We are entering another human’s thoughts, interpreting them with our own, and come out changed from this colossal encounter. These five books I mentioned, with their extraordinary kindness, insight, humor, wisdom, warmth, compassion, and wholeness—many of them fantasies, many of them focusing on communities—have informed the writer I am today: a World Fantasy Award Winner. But I wouldn’t be without all the books that helped make me. These books are some of the best that built me, and keep building in me: the kind of books I try to write myself.


I wrote...

Saint Death's Daughter: Volume 1

By Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney,

Book cover of Saint Death's Daughter: Volume 1

What is my book about?

Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves. When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat's ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation's future into doubt.

Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors, and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cordelia's Honor

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did I love this book?

I used to say there were certain characters I wanted to be when I grew up, but that isn’t exactly true. It’s more like I want to be the book as a whole: its wisdom, humor, intricacy, plot, its ability to transport me utterly, to inhabit my mind with new, lifelong friends (or enemies), and to teach me—not only a single lesson upon the first reading, but many different lessons through the years. Cordelia’s Honor (sometimes sold separately as Shards of Honor and Barrayar) is one of those books. It’s the first book of the mighty Vorkosigan Saga by Bujold, which I have read. But if I’d never read the rest, this book alone would still gleam in my mind as something necessary, generous, and strangely infinite. 

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cordelia's Honor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Enemies Become More than Friends THEY WIN
In her first trial by fire, Cordelia Naismith captained a throwaway ship of the Betan Expeditionary Force on a mission to destroy


Book cover of I Shall Wear Midnight

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did I love this book?

Terry Pratchett’s character Tiffany Aching grows, over the series of books she stars in, into the sort of person I long to be (culminating, for me in I Shall Wear Midnight). It’s not so much that I want to be a teenaged witch in a made-up land. No, it’s Terry Pratchett’s best thoughts that I want to occupy and absorb, the grace and rage and clarity he gives his main character to “open her eyes, and then open them again.” All of Pratchett’s wise and wily witches contribute their gifts to Tiffany until she has the best of each of them: bawdy humor, strict necessity, duty, dancing, power, and humanity.

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Shall Wear Midnight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

As the witch of the Chalk, Tiffany Aching performs the distinctly unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone - or something - is inciting fear, generating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches.

Tiffany must find the source of unrest and defeat the evil at its root. Aided by the tiny-but-tough Wee Free Men, Tiffany faces a dire challenge, for if she falls, the whole Chalk falls with her . . .

THE FOURTH BOOK IN THE TIFFANY ACHING SEQUENCE


Book cover of Here If You Need Me: A True Story

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did I love this book?

Here If You Need Me is a non-fiction memoir I read years ago on a whim. It still sticks with me. A woman with four children is happily married to a State trooper training to be a minister. When he dies suddenly, she goes on to become a minister herself, working with search and rescue missions in the Maine woods while raising her children. Her intimate knowledge of grief, her vulnerability, and compassion, coupled with a life of service and family, moved me so deeply that I often call upon the memory of this book in my life to metaphorically “get down on the floor with those who weep, and give them tea if they want it.”

By Kate Braestrup,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here If You Need Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HERE IF YOU NEED ME is the story Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness - as she holds her family together in the wake of her husband's death, pursues his dream of becoming a minister, and ultimately finds her calling as a chaplain to search-and-rescue workers. It is dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable--an uplifting account offinding God through helping others, and of the small miracles that happen every day when a heart is grateful and love isrestored.


Book cover of The Goblin Emperor

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did I love this book?

My editor wrote to me a few years ago (mostly all-caps and !!!s) about a book called The Goblin Emperor, and had I read it, and didn’t she think I’d adore it? She was so convincing that I ordered a copy from my favorite indie bookstore right away and read it in a sitting. I almost cried when I realized Addison had written only one other book at that point—until a friend told me she was also the author Sarah Monette. I spent the next month reading everything in her oeuvre. But none I adored with my whole body being like I did The Goblin Emperor: its deep kindness, its gentleness, its world-building and warmth, its high stakes and heightened language, its arc of grace and growth. 

By Katherine Addison,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Goblin Emperor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The youngest half-goblin son of the Emperor lived his life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court. But when his father and the three sons in line for the throne die in an "accident," he must take his place as the only surviving heir. Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any time. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naive new emperor, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to…


Book cover of The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney Why did I love this book?

Ah, The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry delighted me and made me laugh from the first page. It’s radically funny and inexorably inventive. Best of all, it follows a protagonist who doesn’t know how great she is—who thinks she’s kind of terrible, really—and it takes a newfound community of friends and fellow wizard ladies to reflect back to her a new opinion of herself. The language is Dickensian (only better!) in its wit and flexibility. It abounds in amazing female characters. And while there’s a fun romance, it’s the friendships that get me in my sticking place. I just wanted to hug this book when I finished. I wanted to have written it. I’m glad Waggoner did instead.

By C. M. Waggoner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Tor.com Reviewers' Choice Best Book of the Year

Sparks fly in this enchanting fantasy novel from the author of Unnatural Magic when a down-and-out fire witch and a young gentlewoman join forces against a deadly conspiracy.

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly…


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The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was, she would kill him.

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…


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