The best stories that conjure another world with craft while you craft

Why am I passionate about this?

I got started as a writer through writing fiction intended to accompany a hobby, to deepen worldbuilding, and breathe life into the miniatures in a table-top wargame. I have always been fascinated by the worlds that grab our attention, that yank at our nostrils and dare us to make something more, to tell our own stories in this grander universe. So, I put together this list of books to accompany you as you dream of other worlds and build something with that hobby, whether it is painting miniatures for your friends, knitting, or whatever keeps your hands occupied. Here is a list of books to keep you company. 


I wrote...

Alone

By Joe Parrino,

Book cover of Alone

What is my book about?

Separated from his brothers aboard a seemingly abandoned pilgrim ship, Raven Guard Librarian Ithkos Jevel picks his way through the dark and sinister corridors of the vessel.

Can Jevel survive to rejoin his battle-brothers and discover the fate of the humans who called this ship home?

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Name of the Wind

Joe Parrino Why did I love this book?

I return to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss again and again. It is a masterful account of magic, music, and memories. The prose is stunning and full of wonder. I catch new things in Rothfuss’ writing on every reread, from the recurring seven words of true love to the hidden rhymes within the prose. It is a book full of hidden mysteries and the subtle art of naming. I recommended it to friends and coworkers to scratch that magic school itch. It is a meditation on the nature of stories and magic itself. The music and legends we tell ourselves. It is an amazing book and one of my best loved.

The book resonates with me even more since I discovered that the author also has ADHD, something I was diagnosed with during the pandemic. I can see it in Kvothe, the main character. Each reread adds more texture and leaves me in awe at the command Rothfuss has over language. The audiobook of The Name of the Wind accompanied me on a recent drive across the U.S. and it is a fitting companion for any hobby. I cannot recommend this book enough, even as we all languish in wait for the third entry in the series.

By Patrick Rothfuss,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Name of the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The lyrical fantasy masterpiece about stories, legends and how they change the world. The Name of the Wind is an absolute must-read for any fan of fantasy fiction.

'This is a magnificent book' Anne McCaffrey

'I was reminded of Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, and J. R. R. Tolkein, but never felt that Rothfuss was imitating anyone' THE TIMES

'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University…


Book cover of Monstrous Regiment

Joe Parrino Why did I love this book?

I read this book two years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It is a book about a woman who joins a failing army in order to rescue her family. Along the way, she finds unexpected love, unexpected companions (including a vampire and an Igor), and a way to win a war against a far superior foe. As ever with the brilliant and biting Sir Terry Pratchett, there is so much humor, warmth, and craft poured through every inch of his magnificent prose. There are so many moments that brought actual guffaws from me, including a particularly memorable sock. I highly recommend this book for anyone needing a laugh at the absurdity of society, gender roles, and the military. All of which are topics we should be exploring.

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Monstrous Regiment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new stage adaptation of one of Pratchett's best-selling novels The Monstrous Regiment in question is made up of a vampire (reformed and off the blood, thank you), a troll, Igor (who is only too happy to sew you a new leg if you aren't too particular about previous ownership), a collection of misfits and a young woman discovers that a pair of socks shoved down her pants is a good way to open up doors in a man's army."One of the funniest English authors alive" (Independent)


Book cover of Norse Mythology

Joe Parrino Why did I love this book?

Jackson Crawford’s lectures on Norse mythology make a wonderful accompaniment to any bit of hobby-doing. It fits, I think, with the venue these stories would have originally been told, something to pass the time, to make work of the hand and eye go by a bit faster. What better to help inspire some fantasy making, like painting miniatures or knitting something more elaborate than stories of gods and heroes of a bygone age, when magic was real, and the gods and giants battled around us? I started with Dr. Crawford’s YouTube lectures on all things Old Norse and came to appreciate his engaging style and masterful depth of the subject. He brings the stories to life and reveals the language as it may have been spoken. He puts the myths in their contexts. I view any day that I haven’t learned something new as a bit of a waste and Dr. Crawford is a great resource for learning something new.

By Jackson Crawford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Norse Mythology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thor, Odin, Loki, Freyja, the Valkyries, Valhalla, Ragnarok — many of the places we encounter these and other names, places, and events from Norse mythology in daily life and pop culture are connected to the medieval sources in name only. 

Join Jackson Crawford, a translator of Old Norse, for a rousing introduction to the original stories, characters, and themes of Norse mythology in these 24 lectures. Packed with gods, anti-gods, magical figures, human heroes, religious practices, and literary devices, this course lays bare the reasons for our enduring fascination with these undeniably dramatic tales. It also connects the dots to…


Book cover of Nettle & Bone

Joe Parrino Why did I love this book?

I am relatively new to the writing of T Kingfisher and my introduction was the fantastic Nettle & Bone. Her prose is wonderful. Her story is whimsical. Strange magic runs throughout the book as an almost-nun determines she needs to kill a prince with the help of a dust-wife, a disgraced warrior, and a godmother who isn’t very good at her job. I am a complete sucker for faerie markets, in this case the Goblin Market. Her writing style is refreshing, and I have already bought a bunch more of her books.

By T. Kingfisher,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Nettle & Bone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Instant USA Today & Indie Bestseller
An Oprah Daily Top 25 Fantasy Book of 2022
An NPR Best Sci Fi, Fantasy, & Speculative Fiction Book of 2022
A Goodreads Best Fantasy Choice Award Nominee

From Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning author T. Kingfisher comes an original and subversive fantasy adventure.

*A very special hardcover edition, featuring gold foil stamp on the casing and custom endpapers illustrated by the author.*

This isn't the kind of fairytale where the princess marries a prince.
It's the one where she kills him.

Marra never wanted to be a hero.

As the shy, convent-raised,…


Book cover of Kings of the Wyld

Joe Parrino Why did I love this book?

Nicholas Eames crafted a radical take on the standard fantasy adventuring party by giving them rock band style. This book is a fun take on the fantasy genre with a group of over-the-hill mercenaries getting together for one last score. It isn’t often that a book comes along and grabs me by the ears and sets me to head banging. Kings of the Wyld was that book. I couldn’t put it down as I followed Clay and his ragtag band of mercenaries. I love the mix of humor and epic fantasy with the found family thrown in. The audio version is a riot that preserves the rock and roll tone and makes for a great time painting your newest D&D miniature.

By Nicholas Eames,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Kings of the Wyld as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An outstanding debut which will make you laugh and cry and hold your breath. This is a book that has it all' - K. J. Parker Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best - the meanest, dirtiest, most feared and admired crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. But their glory days are long past; the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk - or a combination of the three. Then a former bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help: his daughter Rose is trapped in a city…


You might also like...

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

Book cover of Kanazawa

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

What is my book about?

Emmitt’s plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of purchasing their dream home. Disappointed, he’s surprised to discover her subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo.

In his search for a meaningful life in Japan, and after quitting his job, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa’s most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English. He becomes drawn into the mysterious death of a friend of Mirai’s parents, leading him and his father-in-law to climb the mountain where the man died. There, he learns the somber truth and discovers what the future holds for him and his wife.

Packed with subtle literary allusion and closely observed nuance, Kanazawa reflects the mood of Japanese fiction in a fresh, modern incarnation.

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

What is this book about?

In Kanazawa, the first literary novel in English to be set in this storied Japanese city, Emmitt's future plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of negotiations to purchase their dream home. Disappointed, he's surprised to discover Mirai's subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo, a city he dislikes.

Harmony is further disrupted when Emmitt's search for a more meaningful life in Japan leads him to quit an unsatisfying job at a local university. In the fallout, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa's most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English.

While continually resisting Mirai's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, Norse mythology, and magicians?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about good and evil, Norse mythology, and magicians.

Good And Evil Explore 131 books about good and evil
Norse Mythology Explore 61 books about Norse mythology
Magicians Explore 38 books about magicians