The best literary novels that take readers to new worlds without leaving earth

Why am I passionate about this?

As a frequent writer of science fiction, I focus not on real or imagined science, on aliens or other worlds, but on the impacts those things have on individuals, groups, and societies. Similarly, as a reader, I enjoy visiting places, cultures, and ideas with which I am unfamiliar, particularly when unveiled with elevated artistic expression. In my writing, often in the Star Trek universe, I attempt to avoid feeding the perception that media-tie-in writing is less-than, instead working to weave complex tales exploring the human condition. I don’t know if my reading tastes follow from my writing, or if the converse is true, but the two go hand in hand.


I wrote...

Crucible: McCoy - Provenance of Shadows

By David R. George III,

Book cover of Crucible: McCoy - Provenance of Shadows

What is my book about?

A science fiction novel that takes place predominantly on Earth, in the years leading up to World War II. For Doctor Leonard McCoy, life takes two divergent paths. In one, displaced in time, he saves a woman from dying in a traffic accident, altering Earth's history. Stranded in the past, he struggles to find a way back to his own century. But living an existence he was not meant to, he will have to move on.

In the other, he is prevented from saving the woman's life, allowing Earth's history to remain unchanged. Returning to the present, he is nonetheless haunted by the echoes of an existence he never lived, and by fears which will bring him full circle to the shadows he never faced.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of People of the Book

David R. George III Why did I love this book?

This era-spanning novel begins today and returns to today, traversing unexpected and enlightening yesterdays. Geraldine Brooks’s tale follows a clever structure as it traces the long history of an illuminated manuscript from the modern day back to its unrecorded origins. As she traverses from the present to multiple periods in the past, she tells dynamic, character-driven stories. Compelling and beautifully written, People was a book I could not put down, and that I recommend to every reader I know.

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked People of the Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel that follows a rare manuscript through centuries of exile and war, from the author of The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force” by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this…


Book cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns

David R. George III Why did I love this book?

Khaled Hosseini won acclaim for his debut novel, The Kite Runner, and with good reason. Opening up a place and culture I knew virtually nothing about, Mr. Hosseini’s story takes place almost entirely in Afghanistan. The same is true of this follow-up novel, which adds to the complexity by featuring a female protagonist, a significant complication in that part of the world. I was drawn in by the eloquence of his language and held fast by the compelling story.

By Khaled Hosseini,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Thousand Splendid Suns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE RICHARD & JUDY NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

'A suspenseful epic' Daily Telegraph

'A triumph' Financial Times

'Heartbreaking' Mail on Sunday

'Deeply moving' Sunday Times

Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.


Book cover of A Prayer for Owen Meany

David R. George III Why did I love this book?

John Irving has long been a favorite of mine, from earlier novels like The Water-Method Man and The 158-Pound Marriage to The Cider House Rules and A Son of the Circus. Irving often focuses his work around a central theme, and in A Prayer for Owen Meany, he takes on the issue of conscription and the influences and impacts of the Vietnam War. He draws Owen Meany indelibly, imbuing the character with the hues of legend, as an almost mythical creature come to life in a way that has never left me.

By John Irving,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Prayer for Owen Meany as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A work of genius' Independent

'Marvellously funny . . . What better entertainment is there than a serious book which makes you laugh?' Spectator

'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.'

Summer, 1953. In the small town of Gravesend, New Hampshire, eleven-year-old John Wheelwright and his best friend Owen Meany are playing in a Little League baseball game. When Owen hits a foul ball which kills John's mother, their lives are changed in an instant.

It…


Book cover of Jitterbug Perfume

David R. George III Why did I love this book?

Tom Robbins improbably sets his tale in the world of perfumery, dividing it between the ancient world and the present, both peopled by unforgettable characters. And who knew that beets played such an important role in the realm of manufactured scents? The writing feels as deliberate as it does offhand, his arch sense of humor leaping from the pages to make me laugh aloud. At the beginning of the novel, Mr. Robbins warns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil,” and then pulls readers into his story by telling them, “That is a risk we have to take.”

By Tom Robbins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jitterbug Perfume is an epic. Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn't conclude until nine o'clock tonight [Paris time]. It is a saga, as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle. The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god. If the liquid in the bottle is actually the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is…


Book cover of The Color of Light

David R. George III Why did I love this book?

I generally don’t enjoy works of fiction that feature writers as their main characters. The process of writing, while influenced by life, is nevertheless a solitary process, difficult to capture in an interesting and meaningful way. William Goldman manages to do that, mostly by focusing on the backstory of story, on the flow and emotions of existence that contribute not only to the tales a writer tells, but their need to do so. The Color of Light feels both fantastical and real, steeped in preposterous events and genuine emotion, in a way that traces both the artistic process and the vagaries of life.

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young writer obsessed by the past finds himself involved in an odyssey of violence, tragedy, and a search for a murderer


You might also like...

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in earth, loss, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about earth, loss, and presidential biography.

Earth Explore 288 books about earth
Loss Explore 110 books about loss
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography