The best non-fantasy novels for fantasy readers

Gary Jonas Author Of Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel
By Gary Jonas

Who am I?

My mother instilled a love of reading in me, and from an early age, I read everything from Agatha Christie to Edgar Rice Burroughs to Louis L’Amour to Marvel Comics. Stories are stories no matter how they’re classified, and genre is primarily a marketing tool to help readers find things they like. When I started writing, I often blended genres because I liked so many things. As I type this, I have 29 novels published with #30 on the way. The novels include science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thriller under my name, westerns as Dan Winchester, and a cozy mystery as Angie Cabot. Go figure.


I wrote...

Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel

By Gary Jonas,

Book cover of Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel

What is my book about?

Modern Sorcery at its core is about friendship. On the surface, it blends fantasy with mystery. The hero, Jonathan Shade, is a private investigator who handles cases dealing with magic and the supernatural. His protector, Kelly Chan, is a magically engineered assassin devoted to Jonathan because he showed her she could be more than just a killer. Esther, his secretary, is a ghost from the 1920s flapper era bound to her typewriter, and not-so-secretly in love with Jonathan. It’s the first of twelve novels about these characters. They’re loaded with action and humor.

The books I picked & why

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The Cowboy and the Cossack

By Clair Huffaker,

Book cover of The Cowboy and the Cossack

Why this book?

This is one of my all-time favorite novels. A group of Montana cowboys must drive a herd of cattle across Russia in the early 1880s or a village will starve. You’re thinking, dude, this is Lonesome Dove set in Russia. Fair point, but this book came out a decade before the McMurtry novel. And in my humble opinion, it’s a better book. Yes, that’s a bold statement. The scenes are so beautifully written and executed, that you feel like you’re there. Fantasy readers will appreciate the clash of cultures as well as the coming-of-age story that gives the book its heart. I envy those of you who get to meet Levi, Shad, Rostov, and the rest for the first time. This is a book to be treasured and re-read.

The Cowboy and the Cossack

By Clair Huffaker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cowboy and the Cossack as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifteen Montana cowboys sail into Vladivostok with a herd of five hundred longhorns, ready to cross a thousand miles of Siberian wilderness. When a band of Cossacks, Russia's elite horsemen and warriors, shows up to escort these rough and ready Americans to their destination, the clash of cultures begins. The feud between American six shooter and Russian saber is embodied in two men: Shad, the leader of the Montana cowboys, and Rostov, the Cossack commander. Nature and man are enemies that will force them to work together-and a ruthless Tartar army that stands between them and their destination. The code…


Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis,

Book cover of Doomsday Book

Why this book?

Granted, it’s not a big stretch to go from fantasy to science fiction, and this amazing novel won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. Connie Willis is one of the best writers in science fiction, and this is her masterpiece. It’s a time-travel story about a woman named Kivren who ends up stranded in the 14th century during the Black Death. Meanwhile, in the future, an influenza epidemic breaks out, and they’re afraid it may have come from sending Kivren back in time. I know, a charming selection during the time of Covid. But trust me, it’s an amazing novel, and deserves every award bestowed upon it. Fantasy readers will really appreciate the setting and characters. Don’t miss this one.

Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Doomsday Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A tour de force" - New York Times Book Review

"Ambitious, finely detailed and compulsively readable" - Locus

"It is a book that feels fundamentally true; it is a book to live in" - Washington Post

For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing a bullet-proof backstory. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and…


The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War

By Michael Shaara,

Book cover of The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War

Why this book?

This amazing Civil War novel blew me away. The viewpoints shift between the men and leaders on both the Union and Confederate sides. Friends facing friends across a battlefield. Moral dilemmas abound. What does it feel like to be in the heat of battle? This novel personalized the Battle of Gettysburg by diving into the hopes and dreams of the men who fought and died there. I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize. Fantasy readers in particular will appreciate the battle scenes, but also the tactics and, as I seem to mention a lot in these notes, the depth of character. That’s something that all five of my selections share. Fiction is about folks.

The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War

By Michael Shaara,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Killer Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“My favorite historical novel . . . a superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant.”—James M. McPherson
 
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty…


L.A. Requiem: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel

By Robert Crais,

Book cover of L.A. Requiem: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel

Why this book?

This novel was a revelation to me. First, I’ll note that it’s a book in the Elvis Cole series, and the earlier novels were told in the first person (with a couple of exceptions for prologues). This book changed everything by going full-on multiple viewpoints, and in so doing, deepened the characters in amazing ways. It’s not necessary to read the earlier books to enjoy this one, but I predict you’ll get addicted to Crais and read all of them anyway. This novel will appeal to fantasy readers by reminding them how great books can affect us by awakening our humanity and letting us know we’re not alone in the world.

L.A. Requiem: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel

By Robert Crais,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked L.A. Requiem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They killed the only one who ever cared and now they're going to pay.

A reckoning has come to the City of Angels...

Karen Garcia is missing and her father doesn't trust the cops - he wants someone he knows on the case. So he enlists the help of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

It seems that Karen is the latest victim of a distinctive serial killer and the police are determined to pin her death, and four others, on the witness who found her body. Cole doesn't believe the man has the guts to murder, and with his partner…


The Brotherhood of the Rose

By David Morrell,

Book cover of The Brotherhood of the Rose

Why this book?

On one level, this novel is about Chris and Saul, two orphans raised by Eliot, a CIA operative, to become world-class assassins. After an international incident, Eliot decides Chris and Saul must be eliminated. Solid and engaging on that level, of course. But on a deeper level, it’s about two young men who trust their “father,” the one person who ever cared about them, only to feel the sting of his betrayal rock them to their core. The emotion makes the action matter. Everything is personal. The accurate tradecraft, killer action, and depth of character all combine to make this one of my favorite books. Fantasy readers will appreciate the secret society aspect of the assassins as well as the amazing action set-pieces.

The Brotherhood of the Rose

By David Morrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Brotherhood of the Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Riveting...Crackling...It really moves."
WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
They were orphans, Chris and Saul--raised in a Philadelphia school for boys, bonded by friendship, and devoted to a mysterious man called Eliot. He visited them and brought them candy. He treated them like sons. He trained them to be assassins. Now he is trying desperately to have them killed.
Spanning the globe, here is an astonishing novel of fierce loyalty and violent betrayal, of murders planned and coolly executed, of revenge bitterly, urgently desired.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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