100 books like Was

By Geoff Ryman,

Here are 100 books that Was fans have personally recommended if you like Was. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Grendel

John Wiswell Author Of Someone You Can Build a Nest In

From my list on showing the human side of monsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never outgrew the curiosity of wanting to know more about the things we fear. Plenty of monsters are just neat! But the more you learn about them, whether they’re animals like bears and sharks or figures of myth like werewolves and dragons, the more interesting they become. I wanted to take audiences deep inside a skin unlike their own so they could understand how it feels to be cast out and how much a monster might look down on us. Because the more you look at monsters, the more you recognize us in them.

John's book list on showing the human side of monsters

John Wiswell Why did John love this book?

One of the classic novels about monsters having internal lives. Grendel doesn’t even survive the first half of the Beowulf poem.

But what was his life like? This creature who went into rages over music and merriment? This outsider who clearly had no one to commune with? Where there could just be pathos, Gardner injects surprising dorkiness and humor that further round out Grendel’s existence. And there’s a huge bonus in the poem’s dragon also showing up as an utter weirdo neighbor.

By John Gardner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic.

"An extraordinary achievement."—New York Times

The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This is the novel William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."


Book cover of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Duncan Hubber Author Of Notes from the Citadel: The Philosophy and Psychology of A Song of Ice and Fire

From my list on The best philosophical fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic at the University of Queensland whose research areas include horror films, screen trauma theory, the cinematic representation of urban spaces, and the collision of romanticism and postmodernism in fantasy literature. My first book, POV Horror: The Trauma Aesthetic of the Found Footage Subgenre, was adapted from my PhD thesis. I am an avid member of the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, and my second book represents over a decade of talking and writing about George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, having grown out of conversations in forums, podcasts, symposiums, and fan conventions, as well as my own background in literary analysis and research.

Duncan's book list on The best philosophical fantasy novels

Duncan Hubber Why did Duncan love this book?

Clarke transports the reader to England during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There is, however, one small twist: magic once existed in this world and has now returned through two men, drastically changing the course of history and society.

The story is rich in gothic atmosphere and wry humour, and is positively bursting with ideas (there are almost 200 footnotes!). Clarke imbues her protagonists with conflicting approaches to the pursuit of knowledge, with Norrell representing cautious rationality and conservative methodology, while Strange embodies an adventurous spirit and a willingness to embrace the arcane and often the dangerous.

By Susanna Clarke,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of…


Book cover of Lavinia

Skye McDonald Author Of The Not So Nice Girl

From my list on making you laugh, cry, and swoon.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a woman. Laughing, crying, and swooning are all things I know intimately—sometimes heart-achingly. I’m living my life with my heart open, learning to be unashamedly me. That means I love, sometimes recklessly. That meant I hurt, sometimes more than anyone could know. And that means I swoon, not only for romance but also for the beauty of this “wild and precious life.” My recommended novels take you through all the feels. My own novels use my roots in Nashville, TN. Family and music are key. But more than that, my books are about learning to love yourself. I’ve learned personally that that’s the true happily ever after.

Skye's book list on making you laugh, cry, and swoon

Skye McDonald Why did Skye love this book?

Romance isn't the only genre I read, of course. Lavinia is written by one of my favorite authors, Ursula K LeGuin. This historical fiction novel takes a character from the ancient Aeneid and brings her to life.

In the Aeneid, Lavinia is the prize for Aeneas. But, she never speaks. Not even one word. LeGuin decided to fix that. She gives Lavinia her own story and journey. In doing so, she creates a rich protagonist who takes destiny into her own hands. 

LeGuin traditionally writes science fiction. I love how this female writer in a male-dominated genre broke out of sci-fi to bring a historical female character to proper life. This is female empowerment, and I am so here for it! Lavinia is enthralling, exciting, and impassioned. Definitely a favorite!

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lavinia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An exceptional combination of history and mythology - 'an intriguing, luxuriously realised novel' FINANCIAL TIMES

'Subtly moving, playful...a novel that brought me to tears more than once. Lavinia is a delightful heroine' GUARDIAN

'Like Spartan Helen, I caused a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn't be given, wouldn't be taken, but chose my man and my fate. The man was famous, the fate obscure; not a bad balance.'

Lavinia is the daughter of the King of Latium, a victorious warrior who loves peace; she is her father's closest…


Book cover of Grief

Jeffrey Richards Author Of We Are Only Ghosts

From my list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way).

Why am I passionate about this?

I came of age in Oklahoma as a gay youth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, keeping myself hidden out of safety and shame. Once I was old enough to leave my small-minded town and be myself, I crashed headlong into the oncoming AIDS epidemic. It set me on a path to understanding the world and my place in it as a homosexual. I turned to reading about the lives and histories of those who came before me, to learn about their deaths and survivals in what could be an ugly, brutal world. These works continue to draw me, haunt me, and inspire me to share my story through my writing. 

Jeffrey's book list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way)

Jeffrey Richards Why did Jeffrey love this book?

The quiet endurance of grief. I love this small, meditative novella that captures the essence of grief as it continues to linger in the body, the mind, and the heart long past the comfortability of those around you.

While the story focuses on the main character, an aging, gay professor who has come to Washington, DC, for a visiting professorship after losing his mother to a long illness, each person encountered is grieving something in their own way (I truly love that Holleran mirrors the main character’s grief with that of Mary Todd Lincoln’s after losing her husband to an assassin but also still grieving the death of her son via a biography he’s reading).

What I find so beautiful about this book is that Holleran doesn’t go for the theatrics of grief. He keeps the story and the emotions calm, methodic, and persistent with such great care to craft…

By Andrew Holleran,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Michael Cunningham's The Hours, a beautiful novel destined to become a classic

Reeling from the recent death of his invalid mother, a worn, jaded professor comes to our nation's capital to recuperate from his loss. What he finds there--in his repressed, lonely landlord, in the city's mood and architecture, and in the letters and journals of Mary Todd Lincoln--shows him new, poignant truths about America, yearning, loneliness, and mourning itself.

Since Andrew Holleran first burst onto the scene with 1978's groundbreaking Dancer from the Dance, which has been continuously in print, he has been dazzling readers…


Book cover of The Prophets

Jeffrey Richards Author Of We Are Only Ghosts

From my list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way).

Why am I passionate about this?

I came of age in Oklahoma as a gay youth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, keeping myself hidden out of safety and shame. Once I was old enough to leave my small-minded town and be myself, I crashed headlong into the oncoming AIDS epidemic. It set me on a path to understanding the world and my place in it as a homosexual. I turned to reading about the lives and histories of those who came before me, to learn about their deaths and survivals in what could be an ugly, brutal world. These works continue to draw me, haunt me, and inspire me to share my story through my writing. 

Jeffrey's book list on LGBT+ novels that haunt me (in a good way)

Jeffrey Richards Why did Jeffrey love this book?

This is one of those novels I read as a writer, and I thought I should just pack it in because I’ll never be able to write anything so gloriously beautiful, heartbreaking, and perfect.

While Robert Jones, Jr. meticulously creates an atmosphere of the harsh realities of slavery–stretching from the shores of Africa to the cotton fields of Mississippi–he brings us up above all that ugliness, all that inhumanity by offering a transcendental love story between two of the slaves, Samuel and Isaiah.

Even though the harshness, so realized that it made my stomach turn while reading the story, is so visceral and painful, it is the love story that not only infuses itself throughout the plantation–from the slave quarters to the main house–that supersedes all and wends its way into your skin, your heart, your soul. This novel is an achievement beyond anything I expected.

By Robert Jones, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER*

'This visionary and deeply evocative debut carves a radiant love story out of the bleakest of landscapes.' Waterstones - Best Books to Look Out For in 2021

'An Outstanding novel' Guardian
'A lyrical, poetic novel' Independent
'Epic in its scale' Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
'A rare marvel' Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
'Magisterial' Courttia Newland, author of A River Called Time
'A spellbinding debut' COSMO
'Ambitious and intense' Vanity Fair

In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose…


Book cover of Wide Sargasso Sea

Deborah Kasdan Author Of Roll Back the World: A Sister's Memoir

From my list on startling encounters with mental illness.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my older sister died, I felt a pressing need to tell her story. Rachel was a strong, courageous woman, who endured decades in a psychiatric system that failed her. She was a survivor, but the stigma of severe mental illness made her an outcast from most of society. Even so, her enduring passion for poetry inspired me to write about her. I sought out other people’s stories. I enrolled in workshops and therapy. I devoured books and blogs by survivors, advocates, and family members. Everything I read pointed to a troubling rift between the dominant medical model and more humane, less damaging ones. This list represents a slice of my learning.

Deborah's book list on startling encounters with mental illness

Deborah Kasdan Why did Deborah love this book?

I knew about this Jane Eyre prequel for some time before reading it—reluctant perhaps to challenge my love for the Victorian romance. But I needed to understand the madwoman. What was her reality?

In Rhys’ book I encounter her in Jamaica, as Antoinette, Creole daughter of a former slaveholder. As a child she is traumatized by racial violence and family tragedy. Then Rochester comes to her island for an arranged marriage, predicated on possession of her inheritance.

When he feels threatened by a culture he doesn’t understand, he decides to crush Antoinette, even changing her name to Bertha just because he can. When she tries to resist the oppression of British patriarchy, she loses her freedom as well as her identity. No wonder she loses her mind.

By Jean Rhys,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Wide Sargasso Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys's return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction's most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed…


Book cover of The Land of Laughs

Stephen Gallagher Author Of The Bedlam Detective

From my list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say that we begin by imitating what we love and find our personal themes in the process, and that’s certainly been true for me. I grew up reading horror and fantasy and now I write realistic fiction with something deeper and darker always throbbing under the surface. My subjects can be contemporary, like Nightmare, with Angel or The Spirit Box, but I’ve had some of my biggest critical successes with historical fiction. I’ve had parallel career paths in books and TV, each often crossing with the other, but it’s in the novels and short stories that you’ll find me uniquely invested.

Stephen's book list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic

Stephen Gallagher Why did Stephen love this book?

I defy any reader not to fall in love with The Land of Laughs. Tom Abbey and ‘spirited girlfriend’ Saxony Gardner head to the small Midwestern town where children’s author Marshall France once lived and wrote, with the aim of persuading France’s daughter to approve a biography. They come to realise that the town has a personality that’s unlike any other, as much the author’s creation as his adopted home. Warm, surprising, funny, scary; if, like me, you were ever captivated in childhood by a favourite writer’s imagined world and wish you could go there again, then this is the book for your adult self.

By Jonathan Carroll,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs. A novel about how terrifying that would be.

Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn't know who he is or what he wants--in life, in love, or in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in his whole life nothing has touched him so deeply as the novels of Marshall France, a reclusive author of fabulous children's tales who died at forty-four.

Now Thomas and Saxony…


Book cover of Blind Voices

Stephen Gallagher Author Of The Bedlam Detective

From my list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say that we begin by imitating what we love and find our personal themes in the process, and that’s certainly been true for me. I grew up reading horror and fantasy and now I write realistic fiction with something deeper and darker always throbbing under the surface. My subjects can be contemporary, like Nightmare, with Angel or The Spirit Box, but I’ve had some of my biggest critical successes with historical fiction. I’ve had parallel career paths in books and TV, each often crossing with the other, but it’s in the novels and short stories that you’ll find me uniquely invested.

Stephen's book list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic

Stephen Gallagher Why did Stephen love this book?

Tom Reamy’s first novel was also to be his last. Its carnival sideshow setting is reminiscent of Geek Love, Nightmare Alley, and much of Ray Bradbury, but with a poignancy and sense of place that set it apart. I can guarantee that you’ll never forget Angel, the mute, blind flying boy. Reamy was an active genre critic, editor, and convention organiser for at least two decades before he began submitting the fiction he’d been working on in private. Its impact was immediate but he saw little of its success, struck by a heart attack while working on a story at the age of 42. For me his legacy—this novel, and the collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Storiesequal that of many a more prolific author.

By Tom Reamy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"It was a time of pause, a time between planting and harvest when the air was heavy, humming with its own slow warm music." So begins an extraordinary fantasy of the rural Midwest by a winner of the John W. Campbell, Jr., Award for best young science fiction writer. One summer day in the 1920s, Haverstock's Traveling Curiosus and Wondershow rides into a small Midwestern town. Haverstock's show is a presentation of mysterious wonders: feats of magic, strange creatures, and frightening powers. Three teenage girls attend the opening performance that evening which, for each, promises love and threatens death. The…


Book cover of Frankenstein's Prescription

Stephen Gallagher Author Of The Bedlam Detective

From my list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say that we begin by imitating what we love and find our personal themes in the process, and that’s certainly been true for me. I grew up reading horror and fantasy and now I write realistic fiction with something deeper and darker always throbbing under the surface. My subjects can be contemporary, like Nightmare, with Angel or The Spirit Box, but I’ve had some of my biggest critical successes with historical fiction. I’ve had parallel career paths in books and TV, each often crossing with the other, but it’s in the novels and short stories that you’ll find me uniquely invested.

Stephen's book list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic

Stephen Gallagher Why did Stephen love this book?

This book arrived in the avalanche of volumes that descended on my house the year I agreed to join the judging panel for the World Fantasy Awards, and for me it shone out. The story’s told by Hans Schneider, who kills a fellow student when a duel goes wrong and ends up working in a low-rent asylum. There he meets the mysterious Dr. Lavenza and joins him in a mission to locate Victor Frankenstein’s formula for eternal life. It’s written with style and wit and a great sense of period. I felt so strongly about the lack of a paperback edition that I later offered to create one for the Brooligan Press. And for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t make a penny from its sales!

By Tim Lees,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frankenstein's Prescription as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hans Schneider is a drunkard and a womaniser; everyone agrees he’s heading for a bad end. When he kills a fellow student in a duel, he finds himself banished to an isolated rural hospital, far from the pleasures he desires. There he meets the mysterious Dr Lavenza, and learns about Frankenstein’s prescription—the secret of eternal life.
Together, Schneider and Lavenza set out to collect the missing pieces of the formula. But they are not alone. From Germany to Rome, from Rome to Paris, to the failed and wretched Eden of an all-too-human God, a dreadful creature follows in their wake,…


Book cover of The Electric Michelangelo

Stephen Gallagher Author Of The Bedlam Detective

From my list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say that we begin by imitating what we love and find our personal themes in the process, and that’s certainly been true for me. I grew up reading horror and fantasy and now I write realistic fiction with something deeper and darker always throbbing under the surface. My subjects can be contemporary, like Nightmare, with Angel or The Spirit Box, but I’ve had some of my biggest critical successes with historical fiction. I’ve had parallel career paths in books and TV, each often crossing with the other, but it’s in the novels and short stories that you’ll find me uniquely invested.

Stephen's book list on reality charged with energy of the dark fantastic

Stephen Gallagher Why did Stephen love this book?

Sarah Hall is a phenomenal writer and this is the novel that got me hooked. The Electric Michaelangelo of the title is tattoo artist Cy Parks, a man whose heart, art, and the love of his life are all inextricably entangled. The narrative charts his journey from a Morecambe childhood to a tattoo booth on Coney Island and back again, and it’s another take on the kind of Sideshow Gothic that I love. Hall writes accessible award-worthy novels in prose that’s stripped of any pretentiousness. After reading this and then her debut novel Haweswater I just order whatever she publishes, sight unseen.

By Sarah Hall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the windswept front of Morecambe Bay, Cy Parks spends his childhood years first in a guest house for consumptives run by his mother and then as apprentice to alcoholic tattoo-artist Eliot Riley. Thirsty for new experiences, he departs for America and finds himself in the riotous world of the Coney Island boardwalk, where he sets up his own business as 'The Electric Michelangelo'. In this carnival environment of roller-coasters and freak-shows, Cy becomes enamoured with Grace, a mysterious immigrant and circus performer who commissions him to cover her entire body in tattooed eyes.

Hugely atmospheric, exotic and familiar, The…


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