The best SF&F books for spring

Who am I?

Starting with Tolkien’s novels as a child, I’ve devoured countless SF&F stories. My love of the genre, particularly high fantasy, combined with the irritatingly fashionable trend of so many fantasy authors to stop writing their stories partway through and leave we readers high and dry, motivated me to start writing, to see if I could create something that I was missing as I hunted for new material to read. As an intense hater of winter, spring always signified to me a time of hope, of new growth, of opportunity, of the ending of difficulty, and the start of a time when all things were possible. 

I wrote...

The End of Heroes

By Kevin Herbst,

Book cover of The End of Heroes

What is my book about?

What if all the heroes died?

Malthus Kierin always dreamed of adventuring, of making his mark upon the world of Kalan. After he earns his robe and staff, rewards for passing the tests required to become a wizard, the door to his dreams stands open. But a nightmare awaits him on the other side, a black-hearted wizard who, along with his vile undead minions, systematically assassinates all of Kalan’s heroes. The tale of Malthus and his small band of companions begins, as they flee from the Darkener on a seemingly hopeless quest for aid. Who now will become heroes? Or will Kalan fall into an age of darkness?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Shade of the Tree

Kevin Herbst Why did I love this book?

While Piers Anthony boasts an amazing roster of books longer than my arm, one of my favorites, Shade of the Tree, reminds me of the primacy of nature. 

A father moves himself and his two young children to an estate deep in the Florida woods, an inheritance from his odd uncle. I recall reading it first as a young teenager when it first came out and growing enthralled with Anthony’s skill at creating nature itself as a character; in this case the brooding, eerie forest surrounding the estate.

By Piers Anthony,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The estate was Joshua Pinson's inheritance from his oddball uncle Elijah: isolated in the deep Florida woods, with a half-built solar house stocked with enough supplies to weather a siege. Josh decided it was time to take his two young children away from New York and the memories of their murdered mother. Time to make a new life in sunny Florida. There was just one thing that Josh hadn't counted on.

The place was haunted.

Book cover of The World Without Us

Kevin Herbst Why did I love this book?

Much SF&F literature has explored the concept of what the world might look like with fewer (or no) humans.

Weisman’s well-researched book imagines how our environment would recover; how nature might take back control without humans around to continue wrecking it.

He imagines the primacy of nature in a fascinating way and manages to avoid the normative language that might be off-putting, drawing the reader into a place that might as well be 1000 light years away from Earth.

By Alan Weisman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The World Without Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Revised Edition with New Afterword from the Author

Time #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

Over 3 million copies sold in 35 Languages

"On the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house - or houses, that is. Cleans them right off the face of the earth. They all go."

What if mankind disappeared right now, forever... what would happen to the Earth in a week, a year, a millennium? Could the planet's climate ever recover from human activity? How would nature destroy our huge cities and our…

Book cover of Dragons of Spring Dawning

Kevin Herbst Why did I love this book?

The 3rd and final book in the Dragonlance Chronicles installment, Weis & Hickman finished an incredible tale inspired by their Dungeons & Dragons role playing group.

Elves, humans, dwarves, and kender must work together to beat back the rise of an evil goddess seeking its way into the world to ensave its inhabitants. Having been a Dungeon Master for many years, I devoured these books, and remain appreciative to this day that role playing geeks love to read novels as well.

By Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragons of Spring Dawning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The third title published in the Dragonlance line is now being released in a trade hardcover edition for the first time ever. Featuring the stunning art and design that graced the cover of the paperback edition, this new version is the final edition in the hardcover release of the entire Chronicles trilogy. This release also continues the planned release of all the core Dragonlance titles from Weis & Hickman in trade hardcover, allowing fans and collectors alike the first-ever chance to obtain the entire set in hardcover.

Book cover of The Martian

Kevin Herbst Why did I love this book?

This book shattered my view of what science fiction could be. 

A botanist gets left for dead by the rest of his departing crew during a storm on Mars, and must battle for life, alone, millions of miles from home. The way Weir crafted the story, using historic missions to the Red Planet, as well as creating his own orbital calculations to judge if what he wrote was possible, left me shaking my head in awe.

Who’d have thought you could grow crops on Mars? I would have lasted a day there before I broke something and accidentally killed myself.

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Martian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old human error are…

Book cover of The Hobbit

Kevin Herbst Why did I love this book?

No list on any topic related to fantasy could be complete without the author that influenced everyone and everything that came after.

A gardener, seemingly content with his simple life of farming, eating, and smoking, goes on an adventure to reclaim the treasure of a group of homeless dwarves from a marauding dragon. This book and its sequels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has never failed to make me cry, and I’ve read them a hundred times. 

Every author strives to affect his or her readers the way Tolkien impacted his.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…

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From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

By Gill Arbuthnott, Chris Nielsen (illustrator),

Book cover of From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Keepers' Daughter

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author History nut Science nerd Mystery lover Feminist

Gill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

4.5 billion years ago, Earth was forming - but nothing could have survived there…

From Cells to Ourselves is the incredible story of how life on earth started and how it gradually evolved from the first simple cells to the abundance of life around us today. Walk with dinosaurs, analyse fossils, and join Charles Darwin on the voyages that inspired his Theory of Evolution.

Written by Gill Arbuthnott and beautifully illustrated by Christopher Nielsen, From Cells to Ourselves is the story of life itself and the extraordinary creatures that have inhabited our planet.

From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

By Gill Arbuthnott, Chris Nielsen (illustrator),

What is this book about?

From the Big Bang to the abundance of life that surrounds us today, this beautiful book - the third by the award-winning duo Gill Arbuthnott and Chris Nielsen - is the story of evolution, from the very first cells to ourselves.

How old exactly is the Earth? How do we know what was here before us? Are we still evolving? From Cells to Ourselves is the story of the beginnings of life around 3.8 billion years ago, to the millions of species alive today, including humans.

Learn about mythology giants who formed the Earth, analyse fossils, walk with the dinosaurs,…

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