The best speculative fiction books with lyrical prose

Rebecca Gomez Farrell Author Of Wings Unfurled
By Rebecca Gomez Farrell

Who am I?

Born to three generations of poets, I’ve always appreciated a certain quality in the prose I read: lyricism. I want to catch my breath at a beautiful turn of phrase or gasp when I figure out a metaphor’s double meaning. My own writing seeks to reproduce that joy of discovery while preserving the plot-forward conventions of good speculative fiction. The books in this list balance literary style and genre expectations. Snatches of song, poetic prophesies, the perfect comparison—I hope these jewels delight my readers as much as they’ve delighted me in these works.


I wrote...

Wings Unfurled

By Rebecca Gomez Farrell,

Book cover of Wings Unfurled

What is my book about?

Wings Unfurled returns readers to the kingdom of Lansera, picking up six years after the main characters Vesperi, Serra, and Janto first learned they were the embodiment of the prophesied bird of creation. Mythical monsters are rampaging their way through Lansera, and a new horror is brewing from the same land as the invisible claren they once defeated. With the king ailing and the princess missing, they must find the strength to raise the bird again. But will this menace, with the might to drain a moon, devour them first?

The books I picked & why

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The Search for Delicious

By Natalie Babbitt,

Book cover of The Search for Delicious

Why this book?

This classic middle grade fantasy tale is what first taught me an appreciation of figurative language and lyricism in writing. It revolves around a young courtesan tasked to provide a definitive definition of delicious to resolve a court dispute. He asks many people throughout the land, which yields answers such as “a cold leg of chicken eaten in an orchard early in the morning in April when you have a friend to share it” or “a drink of cool water when you’re very, very thirsty.” At an early age, those descriptions made clear to me the power of making comparisons that evoke memory and mood. It also heavily influences my food and drink reviews to this day!

The Search for Delicious

By Natalie Babbitt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Natalie Babbit's memorable first novel, The Search for Delicious, about a boy who nearly causes a civil war in the kingdom all because of his work on the royal dictionary.

Gaylen, the King's messenger, a skinny boy of twelve, is off to poll the kingdom, traveling from town to farmstead to town on his horse, Marrow. At first it is merely a question of disagreement at the royal castle over which food should stand for Delicious in the new dictionary. But soon it seems that the search for Delicious had better succeed if civil war is to be avoided.

Gaylen's…


Moses, Man of the Mountain

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Book cover of Moses, Man of the Mountain

Why this book?

I studied the literature of the Harlem Renaissance in college, and the rhythmic power and cadence of so many great works of that time still influence me: the deep bass throughline of Claude McKay’s Banjo; the fiery, relentless push of truth in James Baldwin’s essays and novels. Zora Neale Hurston imbued her allegories and anthropological studies of the era with literary devices that made them smooth to read and easy to slide under your skin. Just the repetition of mountain in Moses, Man of the Mountain, is enough to reveal the power of the simplest literary devices. And her expert use of alliteration makes this a beautiful, boisterous, and emboldening read.

Moses, Man of the Mountain

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A narrative of great power. Warm with friendly personality and pulsating with . . . profound eloquence and religious fervor.” —New York Times


In this novel based on the familiar story of the Exodus, Zora Neale Hurston blends the Moses of the Old Testament with the Moses of black folklore and song to create a compelling allegory of power, redemption, and faith.


Falling in Love with Hominids

By Nalo Hopkinson,

Book cover of Falling in Love with Hominids

Why this book?

In this short story collection, SFWA Grand Master Nalo Hopkinson gives us heaps of imagery to roll around in with delight and horror. Calling a snowflake “six-clawed” or relating a tree’s memory of how it “felt to unfurl your leaves to the bright taste of the sun” all add to the mood-heavy stories of a teenager overcome by her desires after swallowing a cherry pit, children who must survive their parents’ frightening transformations, and more. Through all the tales, humanity shines through, our rough edges and our beautiful scars. And the characters themselves play with language to pass the time.

Falling in Love with Hominids

By Nalo Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falling in Love with Hominids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An alluring new collection from the author of the New York Times Notable Book, Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads, Sister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having "an imagination that most of us would kill for," her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.

In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall…


Landscape with Invisible Hand

By M.T. Anderson,

Book cover of Landscape with Invisible Hand

Why this book?

I was unprepared for this book’s unrelenting pace, as it provides some of the most on-the-nose and funny skewering of our present era that I’ve read to date, via alien invasion and our coping strategy of viewing reality as a show. Anderson wields short chapters and surprising reveals in his last sentences as atypical, but effective, literary weapons. His framing of the whole work as a series of images, through chapter titles that read like illustrations, is brilliant and a quite literal representation of figurative language. Each time we’re reminded that this is a story about television, about fiction, about the comfortable lies we tell ourselves, the words strike a familiar beat, like a cinematic score reprising a theme. 

Landscape with Invisible Hand

By M.T. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Landscape with Invisible Hand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning author M. T. Anderson explores themes of art, truth and colonization in this sharply wrought satire of a future Earth.

From the author of dystopian tour de force Feed comes a soon-to-be literary classic that will resonate with young adults and adults alike.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth - but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents'…


The Silmarillion

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Silmarillion

Why this book?

I have always been enraptured by The Silmarillion’s opening salvo: “The Ainulindale.” It’s a creation myth that foretells the founding of a whole new world and the triumphs and tragedies of its gods and people. Clearly inspired by the biblical fall of the archangel Lucifer, Tolkien uses a prose song to tell this earliest tale of Middle Earth. Eru, the god figure, gathers his angels, the Ainur, to sing together the origin story of what would soon take place in a world that did not yet exist. Melkor, this story’s dark angel, introduces malice into the harmony and the first discordant notes are struck. I listen to this great musical performance in my mind, knowing it consists only of words but fascinated as that evil ripples through eons of fictional history. To me, it’s lyrical prose personified.

The Silmarillion

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The forerunner to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion fills in the background which lies behind the more popular work, and gives the earlier history of Middle-earth, introducing some of the key characters.

The tales of The Silmarillion are set in an age when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-Earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, the jewels containing the pure light of Valinor.

Included on the recording are several shorter works. The Ainulindale is a myth of the Creation and in the Valaquenta the nature and powers of…


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