The best sci-fi/fantasy books that inspire you to be a better person

Dan Lord Author Of By the Downward Way: Book One of the Von Koppersmith Saga
By Dan Lord

Who am I?

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t love fantasy and science fiction and the innumerable alternate worlds they presented. The elements within them were what drew me in: a sword in a stone, a magic cauldron, a bizarre or wonderful creature, a light saber, an interdimensional portal, and so on…. It wasn’t until later that I began to love the way that truth was conveyed to my heart by way of those elements, without me fully realizing it. The fundamental realities that hold us all together are always sneaking around inside those worlds, and I live with a passion to wrestle with those realities in my own writing. 


I wrote...

By the Downward Way: Book One of the Von Koppersmith Saga

By Dan Lord,

Book cover of By the Downward Way: Book One of the Von Koppersmith Saga

What is my book about?

Leo Von Koppersmith is determined to face down the family curse that, for centuries, has driven his male ancestors to madness. To do it, he must travel to a hidden island inhabited by strange and wonderful humans and humanoids, and help protect a tribe of children who have mysteriously fallen out of the sky, all while evading the demonic flesh-hungry creatures that hunt them. Above all, Leo will have to be the one thing that has been missing from his family since the beginning long ago: a loyal father.

The books I picked & why

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The Elfstones of Shannara

By Terry Brooks, Darrell K. Sweet (illustrator),

Book cover of The Elfstones of Shannara

Why this book?

A mystical tree named the Ellcrys, which keeps demons trapped in an otherworldly prison, is dying, and a fiend called the Dagda More has gotten loose. Hope for restoring the Ellcrys lies with the elven princess, Amberle, and her protector, Wil Ohmsford. Unfortunately, Wil can’t unlock the power to control his primary weapon, the demon-slaying Elfstones, so he and Amberle go on the run. 

For me, it is Wil who really ties this elegantly written story together, in his genuine desire to be strong while plagued by self-doubt. I feel his pain as he strives to protect the princess and unleash his latent abilities…the Dagda More is terrifying and relentless…the momentum is nail-biting…the final showdown is magnificent.

The Elfstones of Shannara

By Terry Brooks, Darrell K. Sweet (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Elfstones of Shannara as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ancient, ultimate evil threatened the Elves and the Races of Man. For the Ellcrys, the tree of long-lost Elven magic, was dying, loosing the spell of Forbidding that locked the hordes of Demons away from Earth. Already the fearsome Reaper was free. Only one source had the power to stop it: the Elfstones of Shannara. And the valiant companions must ride again in an impossible quest to find them.

Perelandra

By C.S. Lewis,

Book cover of Perelandra

Why this book?

Overall, I’m more a fan of The Narnia Chronicles, but Lewis’ lesser-known Space Trilogy is also very good, with many of the same themes of ancient evil versus ageless good. Perelandra, the second in the trilogy, is self-contained and doesn’t really require the other books

In Perelandra, Lewis re-imagines our entire solar system, filling it with massive numbers of amazing creatures. The eldila, angelic beings that guard planets and their denizens, send the human protagonist, Dr. Ransom, on a mission to save Perelandra, the world we call Venus. Perelandra is in a kind of primeval Eden-type state, but another Earth man, the arrogant and overly rationalistic Weston, is bent on bringing about its ruination.

Perelandra

By C.S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The second novel in Lewis's science fiction trilogy tells of Dr Ransom's voyage to the planet of Perelandra (Venus).

In the second novel in C.S. Lewis's classic science fiction trilogy, Dr Ransom is called to the paradise planet of Perelandra, or Venus, which turns out to be a beautiful Eden-like world. He is horrified to find that his old enemy, Dr Weston, has also arrived and is putting him in grave peril once more. As the mad Weston's body is taken over by the forces of evil, Ransom engages in a desperate struggle to save the innocence of Perelandra...


The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings

Why this book?

You know the story already: a magic ring once controlled by the evil Sauron is now the property of a guileless hobbit named Frodo, who is tasked with carrying it to Mt. Doom to destroy it.

There are so many wonderful characters, thrilling battles, and hideous monsters here, so much magic and adventure, but when I’m done reading it I find that what lingers the most is a desire to be good. I want to be virtuous and brave like Frodo and Gandalf and Aragorn—and I don’t want to even trifle with the possibility of giving in to the evil impulses that consume and destroy the likes of Sauron, the Orcs, and poor Gollum, impulses which wound and scar even beloved protagonists like Boromir, and Frodo himself. The Lord of the Rings tends to bring out the best in the reader, and that, more than anything else, is what makes it such a classic.

The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

40 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…

Jurassic Park

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of Jurassic Park

Why this book?

As is usual with Crichton’s books, the author makes the reader feel smart; the way he makes complex scientific ideas intelligible and then turns them into pop entertainment is astounding. His dinosaurs are blood-curdling, and the story of how they came to be and how the protagonists struggle against them is splendid. The real villain is humankind’s arrogance; our fatal tendency to reduce existence to narrow rationalistic parameters and then, from there, launch schemes of avarice and domination. Therein lies why I place it on a list of books that inspire me to be better. Like everyone else, I often feel the pressure to ignore the balance and design of our world and seek out whatever it is that I want. Jurassic Park reminds me to resist.

Jurassic Park

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Crichton's most compulsive novel' Sunday Telegraph
'Crichton's dinosaurs are genuinely frightening' Chicago Sun-Times
'Breathtaking adventure. . . a book that is as hard to put down as it is to forget' Time Out

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The international bestseller that inspired the Jurassic Park film franchise.

On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park.

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now one of mankind's most thrilling fantasies has come true and the first dinosaurs that the Earth has seen in the time of man emerge.

But, as always, there is a…


The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

By G.K. Chesterton,

Book cover of The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Why this book?

Scotland Yard detective Gabriel Syme is charged with infiltrating a network of violent anarchists, which (rumor has it) is led by a mysterious arch villain known as ‘Sunday’. Syme serendipitously finds himself elected to the anarchists’ high council, and a kind of whimsical journey into the heart of darkness begins.

Chesterton’s book presents what is good as those things opposed to anarchy, e.g. order, justice, common decency…Syme stands for all of them. The further he infiltrates the anarchists’ society, though, the more his sense of the good is shaken. By the end it seems as though all of England has lost its mind. It isn’t until his final encounter with Sunday that things start to make sense again. The effect, for me, is a strong renewed hope in humanity, or at least a hope for humanity.

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

By G.K. Chesterton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Man Who Was Thursday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can you trust yourself when you don't know who you are? Syme uses his new acquaintance to go undercover in Europe's Central Anarchist Council and infiltrate their deadly mission, even managing to have himself voted to the position of 'Thursday'. In a park in London, secret policeman Gabriel Syme strikes up a conversation with an anarchist. Sworn to do his duty, When Syme discovers another undercover policeman on the Council, however, he starts to question his role in their operations. And as a desperate chase across Europe begins, his confusion grows, as well as his confidence in his ability to…

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