The best science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic novels that you’ll read in one sitting

The Books I Picked & Why

The Library at Mount Char

By Scott Hawkins

Book cover of The Library at Mount Char

Why this book?

The Library at Mount Char is the most imaginative, original work of fiction that I have read—ever. A friend who also read and loved it said, “What the f*ck was up with that book?” I knew exactly what she meant, and she meant it in the best way possible.

Blackly humorous at times, this dark, weird, twisted tale set in modern-day America—and not—revolves around Carolyn. She speaks every language ever known because of Father; all of his children have their own catalogue of study in The Library. As she navigates the intrigues of power and ambition, the cast of characters—a lion named after an atomic bomb, a tutu-clad psychopath who knows all the arts of warfare, a burglar-ing plumber trying to stay on the straight and narrow, a Homeland Security agent, a woman who walks the Forgotten Lands, and the dead ones—you will be sucked into this compulsively readable tale.

Seriously… THE most imaginative and original book I’ve EVER read. If you prefer audiobooks, this one is fantastic!

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Tapping the Dream Tree

By Charles de Lint

Book cover of Tapping the Dream Tree

Why this book?

Charles de Lint is one of my favorite authors, and this book of short stories is set in Newford, his fictional city. It’s a fully-formed universe where there's always more to discover. You can read any of his books at any time; there’s no order they must be read in. I guarantee that the more you learn of his worlds—and especially Newford—the more you’ll want. I read Pixel Pixies (my favorite short story of all time) to my mom and dad when my mom was dying of cancer. I could barely read the last paragraph for wanting to cry; not because the story is sad, but because it's so beautiful, so hopeful, so abso-freaking-lutely wonderful. I still get teary-eyed thinking about that evening of reading that story to my mom and dad.

That’s what de Lint does. He transports you not only to a world, but indelibly marks the feelings that go with those times and those places, and the people you shared them with if you shared them, so that you’ll never forget them. Take a trip to Newford. You’ll want to stay and meet everyone, especially the Crow Girls. Of this, I am 1000% sure.

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Retribution Falls

By Chris Wooding

Book cover of Retribution Falls

Why this book?

This steampunk sci-fi fantasy is exciting, hilarious, dangerous, full of twists, turns, break-neck action, daring escapes, and chock-a-block with outrageously fun and memorable characters in a fully realized and unique universe. Retribution Falls follows the crew of the airship Ketty Jay and its incredibly rag-tag crew captained by two-bit smuggler/cargo hauler/wanna-be pirate Darien Frey, and hoo boy! When presented with a job that Frey’s instincts tell him is too good to be true but offers riches, he plunges his crew into several worlds' worth of trouble. Their escapades as they try to dig themselves out are exciting, unpredictable, and laugh-out-loud funny.

If you like Firefly but want something original rather than a cheap knock-off, you’ll love this book. And if you don’t like Firefly, you’ve got more going on than I can help you with! ;-)

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Undead Ultra

By Camille Picott

Book cover of Undead Ultra

Why this book?

This book—and series—rocks! I love the resourceful main character, Kate. She has one goal: to get to her son, even if it means running 200 miles to do it. There’s a great balance between action and character development; the plot is tight and surprising. Picott's take on zombies is original, and that's hard to do. She also has a talent for making the situation go from bad to worse to dreadful to catastrophic. Every time I thought I knew where she was going with the latest cluster f*ck, I was wrong–every single time.

While listening to the last audiobook in the series, I was crying out, “No! Don’t do it!” repeatedly during the story’s climax, so loudly that my husband came downstairs to see what was wrong.

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By Wen Spencer

Book cover of Tinker

Why this book?

Tinker is an inventive, imaginative, and fun fantasy story. The eponymous main character—a girl genius who works at a scrap yard—is unconventional and incredibly sympathetic; I rooted for her from the start. The intersection of magic, elves, parallel worlds, the setting of the disrupted, and dying on the vine rust-belt city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (my hometown—yay!) is exceptionally well done. This story is original from start to finish. Spencer's writing is crisp, engaging, and there’s no filler. Every word in this book moves the story forward. If you like fantasy, read Tinker (and the entire Elfhome series). Don’t be put off by (in my humble opinion) the incredibly terrible cover.

My copy—a dog eared and read several times over paperback—has a much better one. The pages in between are what counts, and the story is amazing!

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