Popular 19th C. French Literature in Translation

A few years ago, I assembled a list of “100 Books with 100 Authors“–a ranking of fiction at Project Gutenberg according to my usual metric of popularity but selecting only the most popular work for each author–and I thought it might be fun to do something kind of like that for 19th C. French literature, though not based on PG. So I didn’t have a set list of possibilities to work off of, but I poked around at a number of sources (such as this and this) to build a list of French-language fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from the 19th C., ranked it according to the square of each title’s normalized Goodreads rating multiplied by the log of the number of raters, and selected the top title for each author per category (allowing trifectas for figures like Hugo and Lamartine). But going a little further, I dug into the results in search of the most popular edition of each title and aimed to list editions that are in print and/or available online. Here’s the result, ordered by popularity:

  1. Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
  2. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
  3. Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil
  4. Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works, Selected Letters
  5. Hector Malot, Nobody’s Boy (seriously)
  6. Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  7. Émile Zola, Germinal
  8. Alexandre Dumas, fils, La Dame aux Camélias
  9. Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions
  10. Stendhal, The Red and the Black
  11. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  12. Comte de Lautréamont, Maldoror
  13. Guy de Maupassant, Bel-Ami
  14. Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
  15. Joris-Karl Huysmans, À rebours
  16. Paul Verlaine, Selected Poems
  17. Comtesse de Ségur, Les Malheurs de Sophie
  18. George Sand, La Petite Fadette
  19. Marcel Schwob, The Book of Monelle
  20. Stéphane Mallarmé, Collected Poems and Other Verse
  21. Alphonse Daudet, Letters from My Windmill
  22. Gérard de Nerval, Selected Writings
  23. Théophile Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin
  24. Octave Mirbeau, Torture Garden
  25. François-René de Chateaubriand, Memoirs from Beyond the Grave
  26. Victor Hugo, Selected Poems
  27. Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Diaboliques
  28. Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will
  29. Edmond & Jules de Goncourt, Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  30. Eugène Sue, Mysteries of Paris
  31. Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte
  32. Henri Murger, Scènes de la vie de Bohême
  33. Alfred de Musset, The Confession of a Child of the Century
  34. Philippe-Paul de Ségur, Defeat: Napoleon’s Russian Campaign
  35. Herculine Barbin, Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite
  36. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Amiel’s Journal (vol. 2)
  37. Anatole France, Thaïs
  38. Benjamin Constant, Adolphe
  39. George Sand, Story of My Life
  40. Prosper Mérimée, Carmen and Other Stories
  41. Jean Lorrain, Nightmares of an Ether Drinker
  42. Henriette-Lucy, Marquise de La Tour du Pin Gouvernet, Recollections of the Revolution and the Empire
  43. Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain
  44. Jules Renard, Nature Stories
  45. Aloysius Bertrand, Gaspard de la nuit
  46. Alfred Jarry, Three Early Novels
  47. Rachilde, Monsieur Venus
  48. Pierre Louÿs, Aphrodite
  49. Émile Gaboriau, Monsieur Lecoq
  50. Claire de Duras, Ourika
  51. Elisabeth Louise Vigée Lebrun, Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun
  52. Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert in Egypt
  53. Gérard de Nerval, Journey to the Orient
  54. Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon
  55. Alphonse de Lamartine, Graziella
  56. Léon Bloy, Disagreeable Tales
  57. Germaine de Staël, Corinne, or Italy
  58. François-René de Chateaubriand, Atala / René
  59. Jules Vallès, The Child
  60. Flora Tristan, Peregrinations of a Pariah (selections)
  61. Louise Michel, The Red Virgin
  62. Charles Nodier, Smarra & Trilby
  63. Victor Hugo, The Rhine
  64. Petrus Borel, Champavert: Immoral Tales
  65. Paul Féval, Vampire City
  66. Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné Las Cases, Memoirs of the Life, Exile, and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon (vol. 2vol. 3vol. 4)
  67. Catulle Mendès, Bluebirds
  68. Jules Michelet, History of the French Revolution
  69. Rémy de Gourmont, Angels of Perversity
  70. Étienne Pivert de Senancour, Obermann (vol. 2)
  71. Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, The Vampire Soul and Other Sardonic Tales
  72. Erckmann-Chatrian, The Conscript
  73. Emile Verhaeren, Poems of Emile Verhaeren
  74. Juliette Drouet, The Love Letters of Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo
  75. Émile Souvestre, An Attic Philosopher in Paris
  76. Charlemagne Ischir Defontenay, Star
  77. Alexandre Dumas, My Pets
  78. Alfred de Vigny, Cinq Mars
  79. Pierre Loti, My Brother Yves
  80. Celeste Mogador, Memoirs of a Courtesan in Nineteenth-Century Paris
  81. Tristan Corbière, The Centenary Corbière
  82. Anatole Le Braz, La Légende de la mort
  83. Marie Nizet, Captain Vampire
  84. Jules Clarétie, Camille Desmoulins and His Wife
  85. Émile Zola, The Experimental Novel and Other Essays
  86. Paul de Kock, The Barber of Paris
  87. Sibylle Riqueti de Mirabeau, Chiffon’s Marriage
  88. Louise Colet, Lui, A View of Him
  89. Jean Richepin, The Crazy Corner
  90. François Coppée, Ten Tales
  91. Xavier de Maistre, A Nocturnal Expedition Round My Room (sequel to the delightful A Journey Round My Room)
  92. Prosper Mérimée, Letters to an Incognita
  93. Louis Gallet, The Adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac
  94. Eugénie Foa, The Boy Life of Napoleon
  95. René Bazin, The Ink-Stain
  96. Delphine de Girardin, Balzac’s Cane
  97. Octave Feuillet, Monsieur de Camors
  98. Fortuné du Boisgobey, The Red Lottery Ticket
  99. Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon, The Virgin Vampire
  100. Jules Laforgue, Berlin: The City and the Court
  101. Jules Laforgue, Essential Poems & Prose of Jules Laforgue
  102. Paul LaCroix, Danse Macabre
  103. Ernest-Aimé Feydeau, Fanny
  104. Jules Sandeau, Mademoiselle de la Seiglière
  105. Rose de Freycinet, A Woman of Courage: The Journal of Rose de Freycinet on Her Voyage Around the World, 1817-1820
  106. Jenny d’Héricourt, A Woman’s Philosophy of Woman
  107. Victor Cherbuliez, Count Kostia
  108. Jules Janin, The Magnetized Corpse
  109. Stuart Merrill, The White Tomb
  110. Louis Ulbach, The Steel Hammer
  111. Benjamin Leopold Farjeon, Devlin the Barber
  112. Georges Ohnet, In Deep Abyss
  113. Xavier Hommaire de Hell, Travels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea, the Crimea, the Caucasus, &c.
  114. Charlotte-Adelaïde Dard, Shipwreck of the Medusa
  115. Gustave Kahn, The Tale of Gold and Silence
  116. Sophie Cottin, Elizabeth, or The Exiles of Siberia

The following titles had no ratings at Goodreads, but I thought they might be worth including anyway for one reason or another:

Around 11 Years of Translated Books Ranked by Popularity

I’ve taken Goodreads entries for a list of translations compiled originally at Three Percent, sorted them by a popularity metric (the log of the number of raters multiplied by the square of the average rating expressed as a percentage), and listed the top 20 entries for each year below. There are several problems with using Goodreads ratings in this way. Goodreads tries to use the same entry for each edition of a book, so if the book originates in a country where Goodreads itself is popular, there will be many ratings and reviews long before the book is translated. Also, Goodreads doesn’t always succeed in grouping different editions together, and if I wasn’t able to find the entry with the most ratings, it won’t do well here. Along the way, I also excluded some TV novelizations and children’s books, because they were for some reason overrepresented in about three years of the data, but I did reclassify popular YA or general interest graphic novels into categories that would count (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry).

Entries in bold are those that were not only popular—they also met the relatively strict criterion of having > 33% more 5 star ratings than 4 star ratings, > 33% more 4 star ratings than 3 star ratings, and so on.


Stieg Larsson, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Roberto Bolano, 2666
Nisioisin, Death Note: Another Note
Jose Saramago, Death with Interruptions
Muriel Barbery, Elegance of the Hedgehog
Arnaldur Indridason, Draining Lake
Boris Akunin, Special Assignments
Stefan Zweig, Post-Office Girl
Fred Vargas, This Night’s Foul Work
Henning Mankell, Pyramid
Giorgio Faletti, I Kill
Andrea Camilleri, Paper Moon
Stefan Brijs, Angel Maker
Peter Zilahy, Last Window-Giraffe
Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem
Willem Frederik Hermans, Darkroom of Damocles
Naguib Mahfouz, Cairo Modern
Elena Ferrante, Lost Daughter
Mo Yan, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
Johan Theorin, Echoes from the Dead


Stieg Larsson, Girl Who Played with Fire
Jo Nesbo, Nemesis
Fernando Pessoa, Collected Poems of Alvaro de Campos: Volume 2
Sebastian Fitzek, Therapy
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, All You Need Is Kill
Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
Yoko Ogawa, Housekeeper and the Professor
Walter Moers, Alchemaster’s Apprentice
Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Mind at Peace
Javier Marias, Your Face Tomorrow Volume Three: Poison, Shadow, and Farewell
Jonathan Littell, Kindly Ones
Max Frei, Stranger: Labyrinths of Eho, Book One
Mahmoud Darwish, Almond Blossoms and Beyond
Markus Heitz, Dwarves
Jan Guillou, Road to Jerusalem
Miyuki Miyabe, Brave Story
Fernando del Paso, News from the Empire
Philippe Claudel, Brodeck
Ricardas Gavelis, Vilnius Poker
Hape Kerkeling, I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago


Stieg Larsson, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Jo Nesbo, Devil’s Star
Cornelia Funke, Inkdeath
Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea
Giacomo Leopardi, Canti
Oliver Potzsch, Hangman’s Daughter
Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times
Camilla Lackberg, Ice Princess
Deon Meyer, Thirteen Hours
Markus Heitz, War of the Dwarves
Sofi Oksanen, Purge
David Grossman, To the End of the Land
Henrik Pontoppidan, Lucky Per
Wislawa Szymborska, Here
Arnaldur Indridason, Hypothermia
Ahmed Mourad, Vertigo
Joses Rodrigues dos Santos, Einstein Enigma
Hiroshi Yamamoto, Stories of Ibis
Paolo Giaordano, Solitude of Prime Numbers
Amelie Nothomb, Hygiene and the Assassin


Jo Nesbo, Snowman
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Jo Nesbo, Leopard
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Keeper of Lost Causes
Keigo Higashino, Devotion of Suspect X
Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned
Margaret Mazzantini, Twice Born
Max Frei, Stranger’s Woes
Mahmoud Darwish, In the Presence of Absence
Henning Mankell, Troubled Man
Jose Saramago, Cain
Daniel Glattauer, Love Virtually
Jo Nesbo, Headhunters
Kyung-sook Shin, Please Look After Mom
Jan Guilllou, Birth of the Kingdom
Ferdinand von Schirach, Crime: Stories
Lars Kepler, Hypnotist
Edouard Leve, Suicide
Wieslaw Mysliwski, Stone Upon Stone
Fabio Geda, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles


Kerstin Gier, Sapphire Blue, Book 2
Ibrahim Nasrallah, Time of White Horses
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
Jo Nesbo, Phantom
Jan-Philipp Sendker, Art of Hearing Heartbeats
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Prisoner of Heaven
Jonas Jonasson, 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book One
Hector Abad, Oblivion: A Memoir
Laurent Binet, HHhH
Ursula Poznanski, Erebos
Donato Carrisi, Whisperer
Max Frei, Stranger’s Magic
Sarah Lark, In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Antonia Michaelis, Storyteller
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Absent One
Michel Houellebecq, Map and the Territory
Camilla Lackberg, Stonecutter
Oliver Potzsch, Dark Monk
Anne Voorhoeve, My Family for the War


Elena Ferrante, Story of a New Name
Andrzej Sapkowski, Time of Contempt
Melissa Muller, Anne Frank: The Biography
Jo Nesbo, Police: A Harry Hole Novel
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Two
Christiane F., Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.
Andrea Hirata, Rainbow Troops
Jo Nesbo, Redeemer
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Conspiracy of Faith
Aleksandra Mizielinska, Maps
Lars Kepler, Fire Witness
Parinoush Saniee, Book of Fate
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Purity of Vengeance
Florencia Bonelli, Obsession
Max Frei, Stranger’s Shadow
Cornelia Funke, Fearless: Book 2
Maurice Druon, Iron King
Pierre Lemaitre, Alex
Sarah Lark, Song of the Spirits
Oliver Potzsch, Beggar King


Fredrik Backman, Man Called Ove
Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
Radwa Ashour, Woman from Tantoura
Cixin Liu, Three-Body Problem
Joel Dicker, Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair
Leonardo Padura, Man Who Loved Dogs
Jo Nesbo, Son
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Marina
Jang Jin-Sung, Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee–A Look Inside North Korea
Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Florencia Bonelli, Possession
David Van Reybrouck, Congo: The Epic History of a People
Florencia Bonelli, Passion
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Three
Delphine De Vigan, Nothing Holds Back the Night
Jan-Philipp Sendker, Well-Tempered Heart
Mariusz Szczygiel, Gottland: Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia
Camilla Lackberg, Hidden Child
Sarah Lark, Call of the Kiwi


Elena Ferrante, Story of the Lost Child
Cixin Liu, Dark Forest
Saud Alsanousi, Bamboo Stalk
Jaume Cabre, Confessions
Ibrahim Nasrallah, Lanterns of the King of Galilee
David Lagercrantz, Girl in the Spider’s Web
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Four
Tonke Dragt, Letter for the King
Irma Joubert, Girl from the Train
Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus
Orhan Pamuk, Strangeness in My Mind
Isabel Allende, Japanese Lover
Pierre Lemaitre, Great Swindle
Oliver Potzsch, Werewolf of Bamberg
Etgar Keret, Seven Good Years
Andrus Kivirahk, Man Who Spoke Snakish
Leila Chudori, Home
Bernhard Hennen, Elven
Petra Durst-Benning, American Lady
Clarice Lispector, Complete Stories


Cixin Liu, Death's End
Fredrik Backman, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here
Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Five
Keigo Higashino, Under the Midnight Sun
Giuseppe Catozzella, Don't Tell Me You're Afraid
Benyamin, Goat Days
Samuel Bjork, I'm Traveling Alone
Arkady Strugatsky, Doomed City
David Foenkinos, Charlotte: A Novel
Parinoush Saniee, I Hid My Voice
Petra Durst-Benning, Champagne Queen
Sarah Lark, Toward the Sea of Freedom
Robert Seethaler, Whole Life
Yusuf Atilgan, Motherland Hotel
Armando Lucas Correa, German Girl
Paul Pen, Light of Fireflies
Petra Durst-Benning, While the World Is Still Asleep
Pierre Lemaitre, Blood Wedding
Han Kang, Vegetarian


Fredrik Backman, Beartown
Sabahattin Ali, Madonna in a Fur Coat
Jo Nesbo, Thirst
Mustafa Khalifa, Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden Observer
Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Aranyak: Of the Forest
Mina Baites, Silver Music Box
Han Kang, Human Acts
Juan Villoro, Wild Book
Oliver Potzsch, Play of Death
Mariam Petrosyan, Gray House
Deon Meyer, Fever
Julia Drosten, Lioness of Morocco
Dee Lestari, Paper Boats
Boris Akunin, State Counsellor
Petra Durst-Benning, Queen of Beauty
Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, Suzanne
Hasan Ali Toptas, Shadowless
David Lagercrantz, Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye
Lena Manta, House by the River
Hendrik Groen, Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old


Fredrik Backman, Us Against You
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Labyrinth of the Spirits
Masaji Ishikawa, River in Darkness
Hiro Arikawa, Travelling Cat Chronicles
Lars Kepler, Sandman
Christelle Dabos, Winter’s Promise
Gael Faye, Small Country
Oliver Potzsch, Council of Twelve
Paolo Cognetti, Eight Mountains
Dolores Redondo, All This I Will Give to You
Carlo Rovelli, Order of Time
Karl Ove Knausgaard, Spring
Maria Parr, Astrid the Unstoppable
Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore
Antanas Skema, White Shroud
Andrzej Sapkowski, Season of Storms
Marina Dyachenko, Vita Nostra
Marc Levy, Last of the Stanfields
Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman
Negar Djavadi, Disoriental


Note: It’s only June, so there’s a lot of 2019 left.

Christelle Dabos, Missing of Clairdelune
Guzel Yakhina, Zuleikha
Benedict Wells, End of Loneliness
Sofia Segovia, Murmur of Bees
Magda Szabo, Abigail
Boris Akunin, Coronation
Marc Levy, Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury
Donatella Di Pietrantonio, Girl Returned
Sofia Lundberg, Red Address Book
Alessandro D’Avenia, What Hell Is Not
Stephane Larue, Dishwasher
Han Kang, White Book
Susana Lopez Rubio, Price of Paradise
Linn Ullmann, Unquiet
Selahattin Demirtas, Dawn
Edouard Louis, Who Killed My Father
Samanta Schweblin, Mouthful of Birds
Hedi Fried, Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I’m Not Here to Give a Speech
Jonas Jonasson, Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man

Prose Fiction Favorites: The 1600s

Just for fun, I’ve been reading through works of prose fiction from the 1600s until I feel able to declare a favorite for each decade, out of multiple good options. My favorites are given in bold below, along with comments about the other texts I definitely appreciated along the way. How much I had to say isn’t really an indicator of how much I liked the book. In a few cases, I’ve commented at length on things I learned from with modest enjoyment, and my comments overall got longer as I read more books in no particular order. But I’ve omitted anything I didn’t care for or didn’t finish. Incidentally, the texts that really floored me were The Plum in the Golden Vase and The Tale of Tales.


  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, part 1 (1605; translated by Tobias Smollett; info). I’m sure I’d heard the essential plot of Don Quixote many times before reading it, but I don’t think I ever realized what a large role that reading and world literature actually play in the story. There are so many references in it to medieval and Renaissance literature (especially Amadis of Gaul) that it’s virtually a lesson in comparative lit itself. Anyway, I understand now why it’s such a landmark text: it’s a readable and engaging adventure; it includes plenty of good stories within the story; it’s funny enough to at least be worth a smile here or there; it’s rich in allusions both to other works of literature and to historical circumstances of interest; and, most importantly, it’s aware of its status as fiction and its own relationship to the world of fiction, playing with those kinds of things in a number of ways (interrupting itself, mentioning Cervantes himself in the text, hinting that it’s a dubious picture of what really happened, etc.). I chose to read Smollett’s translation based on this comparison of many translations, this review that compared Smollett and Grossman [PDF] in particular, and my nominal preference to read the work of two well-known writers at once. Even if Smollett’s hand in his translation has at times been doubted, I was happy with the choice.
  • Honoré d’Urfé, L’Astrée, part 1 (1607; translated by Steven Rendall; info). This may be the original soap opera: extremely complicated/interrelated stories and stories within stories, all torrid romances and tied together by more than the frame story. Probably the most interesting was “Diana’s Story,” a tragic six-way love hexagon involving three different people hiding their true gender that ended abruptly when a foreign warrior wandered in and brutally murdered several of the principle characters. But for the most part, the book reminded me of Baroque paintings: anachronistic tableaux of quasi-mythologized people standing around emoting at each other, listening to each other tell stories with classical roots, overhearing each other, and confessing feelings to each other. Apparently the setting really is picturesque: Wikipedia has a nice photo of the Chemins de l’Astrée along the Lignon du Forez, where the book takes place. Anyway, while the emotional core of each story was often plausible and moving, the story framework was pretty contrived. Incidentally, after I read this, I watched Éric Rohmer’s last film, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007), which turned out to be a very thin adaptation of just the frame story, and it managed to share all the non-modern features of the book while simultaneously being very much an Éric Rohmer film: talky, posed, and awkward, but embedded in a beautiful landscape full of natural light.


  • Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng [“The Scoffing Scholar of Lanling”], The Plum in the Golden Vase, a.k.a. The Golden Lotus (1618 [manuscript in 1596?]; translated by David Tod Roy; info). For centuries, this gigantic novel has been most well-known for being pornographic, and it sure is: there are many gratuitously detailed scenes that, if filmed, could not be shown on HBO. But it’s also stuffed full of songs and poetry. And it’s also a reasonably compelling dynastic family saga about a corrupt public official and his many wives. It reminds me of several good TV shows that I think of as “bad decision theater,” and the narrator often drives home just what bad decisions the characters are making by literally saying, “though they never ever should have done it …” In short, this book is a lot of things. But what I really enjoyed most is that it’s a truly beautiful portrait of the life of the wealthy in pre-modern China. Trying not to spoil too much, I’ll list some especially good or noteworthy moments:

        Lantern-viewing from the belvedere (ch. 15).
        The finished flower garden (ch. 19).
        Viewing the snow while drinking wine beside burning braziers (ch. 21).
        Enjoying a two-person swing (ch. 25).
        Kinds of people who do and don’t appreciate the heat (ch. 27).
        Chin’s vase’s plum? (ch. 27).
        Physiognomic prognostications (ch. 29).
        Amazing (intentionally overdone?) chapter on Taoist ritual and Buddhist teachings (ch. 39).
        Watching fireworks (ch. 42).
        The tortoise oracle (ch. 46).
        Seven administrative proposals (ch. 48).
        Description of a bordello, plus grief and its reminders (ch. 59).
        The Taoist priest who summons a spirit marshal (ch. 62).
        An elaborate funeral (ch. 65).
        Details of post-funerary rituals (ch. 66).
        A ghost appears (ch. 67).
        Another ghostly visitation, an Imperial audience, a well-described windstorm, and a dilapidated monastery (ch. 71).
        The Temple of the Goddess of Iridescent Clouds and the outlaws’ stronghold (ch. 84).
        A violent end (ch. 87).
        Visiting the Temple of Eternal Felicity during the Ch’ing-Ming festival to pay respects to the dead (ch. 89).
        The hilariously self-deprecating speech of the martial arts instructor (ch. 90).
        The dilapidated garden (ch. 96).
        And finally, the major shift in things, the atmosphere around it, and the unexpected appearance of several characters (ch. 100).

    I can’t say this book is for everyone, but it’s certainly for a lot more people than those who are aware of it.

  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, part 2 (1615; translated by Tobias Smollett; info). I had heard somewhere that part 2 of Don Quixote was better than part 1, so perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed, in part because the stories within the story were basically eliminated. The narrator mentions at one point how they’d been unpopular elements of part 1, so he expected to keep the story focused on Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Unfortunately, that makes part 2 more straightforward—essentially a series of episodic encounters. It’s sometimes funny enough to be worth a smile; Sancho Panza’s ‘wise fool’ aspect gets fleshed out quite a bit; and I certainly felt for Don Quixote by the end. But all in all, I thought part 1 was a richer text.
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Exemplary Stories (1613; info; translated by Lesley Lipton). This is a collection of mostly straightforward stories similar to the novellas of Boccaccio, Salernitano, Marguerite de Navarre, da Porto, and so on, but I did appreciate “The Glass Graduate” for its portrayal of the glass delusion and “The Dialogue of the Dogs” for being a picaresque story with a hero akin to Marryat’s Snarleyyow or London’s White Fang—but appearing much earlier and told in dialogue form.
  • Robert Anton, Moriomachia (1613; edited by Charles C. Mish; info). Really more of a short story, but one originally published by itself, this is a mildly humorous piece about a joust/melee between the Knight of the Sun and the Knight of the Moon. First, we get the backstory for the Knight of the Sun: he’s a bull the Fairy Queen turned into a knight-errant for being so patient with her when she tried to milk him, and he’s pretty confused about the lives of ordinary humans, often in a manner reminiscent of Don Quixote, which is referenced directly at the end of the story. Next, we hear about the Knight of the Moon, who took possession of the Knight of the Sun’s armor when he saved its courier from a “pygmy giant.” They fight over the armor, and the battle is so monumental it triggers an eclipse—an exaggerated effect, stretched out for laughs.


  • Yang Erzeng, The Story of Han Xiangzi: The Alchemical Adventures of a Daoist Immortal (1623; translated by Philip Clart; info). This didactic novel teaches some principles of Taoism within a mythological frame: the story of Han Xiangzi, one of the Eight Immortals of Chinese legend. Having disturbed the divine Immortality Peach Assembly in a previous existence, Han Xiangzi is sent to be reborn into a mortal family until he can re-learn the path to immortality. As a young man, he acquires two Taoist masters as teachers, and one discussion they have with his uncle Tuizhi is interesting (p. 54):

        “Can humans have a constant mind that holds fast to the Dao?” Tuizhi asked.
        “Gold dust may be precious, but still it is harmful when caught in the eyes,” Master Lü returned.
        “How can I have a constant mind by being mindless?” Tuizhi asked.
        “One who once suffered from snow and frost will be startled by willow blossoms falling to the ground,” was Master Zhong’s reply.
        Tuizhi said, “How can I be mindless by having a constant mind?”
        “Don’t bother hanging up the old mirror. When the sky brightens, the rooster will crow by itself,” Master Zhong said.
        “Is the conscious mind completely false?” Tuizhi then asked.
        Master Lü said, “Without the spring wind the blossoms do not open, but once opened they are blown down by the same wind.”
        “Is being without a conscious mind alone to be sought after?” was Tuizhi’s next question.
        “When the light of the sun has not yet risen above the horizon, everyone awaits it with expectation, but once broad daylight is here, it is taken for granted,” Master Zhong answered.

    Most of the book isn’t like that, but Han Xiangzi is inspired by his masters to cultivate himself and pursue immortality in the wilderness where they live. On his journey, his masters put him through several trials, during one of which there’s another nice mystical moment (p. 106):

    When Xiangzi looked carefully around the room, he saw that it was now completely empty. Thus he realized that everyone has this most precious treasure, and it is not necessary to withdraw to the stillness and solitude of the deep mountains to gain it. Those who regard it as far away have no grasp of it. Those who want to employ it recklessly reveal their attachment to the world of forms. Thereupon he closed his mouth, lowered his eyelids, and sat down cross-legged.

    Anyway, Han Xiangzi becomes an immortal and ascends to heaven, where he is appointed Immortal of Universal Deliverance Who Opens the Primordium and Performs Magical Techniques, Greatly Initiating Transformation by His Teachings (p. 116). And that’s exactly what he does for the bulk of the novel. The Jade Emperor sends Han Xiangzi back to help his kin reattain lost immortality as well. In particular, Han Xiangzi spends a great deal of time trying to convince his uncle to detach himself from ordinary life and aspire to immortality, but his uncle doesn’t believe a word of it, even when Han Xiangzi performs magic like using his own vomit as food for a dog to turn the dog into an immortal crane or like conjuring a painting and stepping into it with his uncle. So Han Xiangzi goes to the underworld to rewrite his uncle’s destiny and seriously messes with his life to get him on the righteous path. Allegorically, all the stuff he puts him through makes this a Job-like story that explains why misfortune might befall even someone full of spiritual merit. Although it’s repetitive at times, it’s generally a pretty neat book.

  • Francisco de Quevedo, El Buscón (1626; translated by Michael Alpert; info). Picaresque novel that moves along quickly from the first-person narrator’s morally deficient childhood to his life in Madrid where he’s imprisoned with a gang of gentlemen thieves to his time in Seville where he joins a group of actors and eventually falls in love (more or less). I especially enjoyed bits about how the gentlemen thieves mask their poverty and about how actors compose plays.
  • Feng Menglong, Stories Old and New (1620; translated by Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang; info). The forty stories in this collection are thematically paired, and each typically begins with a poem and a sort of prologue story before launching into the main narrative. It’s a languid formula and an odd one in that the prologue story often ends abruptly, leaving the reader wanting more (e.g. the prologue to story 28, “Li Xiuqing Marries the Virgin Huang” is actually the story of Mulan, told in a single paragraph), where the main narrative is sometimes a bit overwritten and too full of incidents that stretch out the action without adding much perspective. Still, they’re sophisticated stories, easily comparable to Italian novellas (Salernitano, da Porto, Bandello) or to several of Cervantes’s Exemplary Stories in complexity, and in each one I could usually see either interesting cultural context or a thoughtful moral or fun supernatural content. I just suspect that as a casual reader I’d have been about as well served by the abridged selection, Stories from a Ming Collection, translated by Cyril Birch.
  • Anonymous, The Life of Long Meg of Westminster (1620; edited by Charles C. Mish). A few tall tales about a tall woman who works in a tavern (but also goes to war), interesting because they present her as a strong Robin Hood-like character. Typically, she has some good reason to beat someone up, and they’re ashamed and either make amends or leave.


  • Giambattista Basile, The Tale of Tales, a.k.a. Il Pentamerone (1634-1636; translated by Nancy L. Canepa; info). This is the fairy tale collection that probably gave rise to many better-known Mother Goose stories like Cinderella (“The Cinderella Cat”), The Fairies (“The Two Little Pizzas”), Puss in Boots (“Cagliuso”), and Sleeping Beauty (“Sun, Moon, and Talia”). And it is amazing, particularly in this unexpurgated translation. It’s full of crude language, fun literally-translated idioms, bizarre metaphors, strange imagery, amusing lists, and so on. It’s so wild that the only European text I’d really compare it to is Rabelais, because subsequent European fairy tale collections just don’t play with language/rhetoric to the same degree. The stories are also much pithier than, for example, The Fairy Tales of Madame d’Aulnoy (1697-1698; info).
  • Bishop Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moone (1638; edited by Charles C. Mish; info). While recuperating on the island of Saint Helena, a man from Spain trains a flock of birds to carry him aloft, and he uses this as his means of escape from a tricky situation en route back to Spain. Unfortunately, because it’s autumn, the birds undertake their annual migration—straight up to the Moon. During his eleven-day transit to the Moon, he experiences weightlessness but no hunger, meets with spirits, and observationally verifies that the Earth rotates, but won’t go quite so far as to agree with Copernicus that it revolves around the Sun (though he hints that it probably does). Once on the Moon he finds that the Earth is larger in the sky than the Moon is from a terrestrial point of view, so the Moon is definitely smaller than the Earth. He discovers that the Moon’s darker areas are oceans, and everything on the Moon is larger than it is on Earth—the trees are taller and thicker, as are the creatures he sees and the people he meets. The people actually come in three heights: “dwarf Lunars” are about as tall as Earthlings; another group averages around 10-12 feet; and another group averages around 20 feet. They wear clothes of a glorious and resplendent color not found on Earth. They live up to thirty times longer than Earthlings and reside in gigantic buildings. The gravity on the Moon being less than that of Earth, everyone travels by jumping and waving fans made of feathers to boost them fifty or sixty feet into the air. Sunlight and Earthlight cause people on the Moon to fall asleep for days at a time, depending on their height, e.g. dwarf Lunars and Earthlings will sleep for around 14 days per month, but taller folks can stay awake for some of that time. The Lunars all speak the same language, which the narrator records using musical notation because it is a tonal language with some words that vary by their musical tune and some words expressed as tunes only. The narrator gives the Lunar leaders jewels as gifts, and he is rewarded with three kinds of stones: poleastis (which when heated remains very hot indefinitely unless it is cooled with a liquid); machrus (which shines with the light of a hundred lamps); and ebelus (which functions as an antigravity device when it is attached to something on one side or a gravity-enhancing device when attached from the other side). The Moon is a paradise too, where there’s plenty of food, the women are beautiful and permanently fulfilling as partners, no one commits crime, etc. (though if by chance a child is born among the Lunars with an imperfect disposition, they’re sent to the Earth—typically though not always to North America). And after their deaths of old age, which they greet happily with a feast, their bodies never decay. Anyway, the narrator leaves the Moon before his birds die off, and he lands in China, where he manages to conceal his jewels before being captured as a magician and imprisoned long enough to learn another tonal language. He gives his narrative to a Jesuit priest to take back to Spain and hopes to return there someday himself. Overall, it’s an amazingly inventive story, presented in a matter of fact way with only a little religion and almost no natural philosophy mixed in.
  • Johannes Kepler, Somnium (1634; translated by Reverend Normand Raymond Falardeau; info). Kepler’s frame story about having a dream about reading about the life of someone else who goes to the moon is the only thing that makes this short science-fictional treatise into a narrative. The bulk of it is really just imaginative astronomy / planetary science with a tiny bit of xenobiology at the end. The frame story is interesting though. The principal subject of the story studies with Tycho Brahe before returning home and learning more about his mother’s witchcraft, both of which apparently mirrored issues in Kepler’s life. I mean, he’s famously an associate of Tycho Brahe, but I didn’t know his mother was accused of being a witch. Apparently, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov called this the first work of science fiction, and (barring Lucian’s A True History for a number of reasons) I might agree—but I’d call Godwin’s The Man in the Moone the first satisfying work of science fiction.


  • Madeleine de Scudéry, The Story of Sapho, an excerpt from Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus (1649; translated by Karen Newman; info). Scudéry’s roman à clef supposedly runs to almost two million words, making it one of the longest novels ever written. This selection focuses on the character of Sapho (i.e. the poet Sappho), who probably represents Scudéry herself. Like the author, Sapho eschews marriage and leads a social circle concerned with the proper behavior of minor elites (they literally spend time debating the “je ne sais quois” that accompanies social refinement). The story is interesting as an instance of protofeminism: Sapho equates marriage with slavery and argues that women ought to be well-educated, even if they ought also to be modest in their self-presentation. The rivalries and dilemmas animating the story itself are reasonably engaging but not far removed from the stiff portraiture of a pastoral romance.
  • Cawwood the Rook (1640; edited by Charles C. Mish). Brief collection of fables most akin to stories about Reynard the Fox but all tied to a gathering of different kinds of birds to determine who will be king in the Eagle’s absence. The morals are sometimes dubious (e.g. something like “As the least of birds, the Wren should know her place”), and I don’t think there’s anything but a vague thematic similarity to Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules or Farid ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of the Birds.


  • Paul Scarron, The Comic Romance (1651/1657; translated by Jacques Houis; info). At one point in this very readable comic novel, an as-yet unnamed highwayman shoots one of his henchmen in the head for very little reason and then shoots a horse who “in all likelihood had no quarrel with that strange man,” and I thought, ha, that’s not the only thing here that reminds me of a Tarantino film: an ensemble cast of roguish characters; backstories all revealed in flashback; chapter headings conspicuously ornamenting the story with meta-jokes about the book itself; random ugly/cruel events intended to be funny; stories within stories; and a very convoluted main story that ties things together. It’s not actually as violent as all that, though, in spite of the cruel bits, and many of the stories within the story are nice, virtuous novellas. Also, the main characters are actors, generally portrayed sympathetically, and Scarron was a dramatist, so it’s easy to imagine some affection there. It’s too bad that Scarron died without finishing part three, but the book as it stands doesn’t leave a lot of questions unanswered. There are obvious unresolved conflicts, but in principle, it’s fine that it ends where it does.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1657; translated by A. Lovell, A.M.; info). This is one among several early science fiction stories from the 17th Century. The narrator’s two take-offs from Earth were interesting. First, starting from France, he attaches bottles of dew to a chair, and when they’re warmed by the sun, he rises so high he becomes frightened, breaks a bottle, and lands in Quebec (presumably because the author thought the vehicle would not retain its motion relative to the Earth turning). But next, assisted by some fireworks, he makes it all the way to the moon and correctly observes that the moon’s smaller mass yields less gravitational attraction. Anyway, on the moon a lot of things happen: the narrator discovers the garden of Eden; he meets a spirit that has inhabited many human bodies on Earth; he becomes the captive of a species of giants among whom the nobles speak in music and the common people speak in body movements; believed for a time to be female, he’s paired up with a man from Spain (in fact, the main character from Bishop Francis Godwin’s earlier The Man in the Moone!), ostensibly as a mate but more definitely as a companion; he learns the musical language, so he’s able to write the names of his captors in a musical notation; etc., etc. There’s also plenty of natural philosophy, including a discussion of whether the stars show us that there are infinite worlds, but most of that stuff is pretty dull. More engaging are the many observations of odd facts about life on the moon, like people sleeping (or getting tickled by servants) in little closets on beds of flowers, towns that move around on wheels, people walking around at night with a bunch of crystal globes full of glowworms around their legs, and music boxes that take the place of books in the musical language.
  • Li Yu, A Tower for the Summer Heat, a.k.a. Twelve Lou (1658?; stories 4-7, 9 and 11 translated by Patrick Hanan and the rest translated by Nathan Mao and Weiting R. Mao; info). Compositionally speaking, these are extremely refined short stories: each features a poem, a word of introduction, a story in several chapters that includes as a motif some tower/house/lodge/upper room, and a critique explaining the moral of the story. They’re pretty down to earth—in fact, they frequently show astrologers and people claiming to be immortals to be charlatans, and in the Hanan translation, one story concludes, “The worship of gods and buddhas means worshipping our own minds; it does not mean that gods and bodhisattvas exist” (p. 38). Generally, they focus on trickery/deceit, arranged marriages, or trickery/deceit in the service of arranging a marriage. And quite a few offer puzzles for the reader to figure out before going forward in the story—one is explictly didactic in that it explains several kinds of lenses/mirrors lately available in China at the time and reveals as the solution to what happened in the story that a character had used a telescope to trick his bride-to-be into thinking he was a semi-omniscient immortal. Anyway, I enjoyed the stories well enough to seek out all twelve, even if, in the end, I would point someone toward The Plum in the Golden Vase if they were looking for similar material (17th C. realist domestic fiction from China).


  • Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, Simplicissimus (1669; translated by Mike Mitchell; info). A picaresque novel set during the Thirty Years War, Simplicissimus is entertaining for its roguish episodes and occasional wit, but what’s especially engaging is its portrayal of the war itself as a confusing and ugly mess someone can wind up fighting from both sides. In one notable episode where he’s disguised as a housemaid, Simplicissimus experiences harassment and misogyny, matters made even more visible in the sequel novella, The Life of Courage. In another episode omitted from several translations, because it’s generally not this kind of book, lake spirits give Simplicissimus a stone that allows him to breathe underwater so that he can dive down deep into the earth and get a natural history lesson from their ruler.
  • Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, The Blazing World (1666; info). I appreciated this for its imagination—another world of bear people, worm people, lice people, etc., not to mention the appearance of the author in the work and her several arguments in favor of building imaginary worlds—but it’s mostly pretty dry natural philosophy, utopian allegory, or quirky argumentation.


  • Madame de La Fayette, The Princess of Clèves (1678; translated by John D. Lyons; info). Ostensibly the “first modern French novel,” this is basically a love triangle story—more specifically, an emotional affair—at the court of Henri II, more than a century prior to the novel’s composition. It’s a twisty, Shakespearean story, full of coincidences and mistaken interpretations, that maps out all the highs and lows of people crushing on each other.
  • Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, The Life of Courage (1670; translated by Mike Mitchell; info). This was readable and interesting for how the main character proves to be so relatable even in the negative light she’s sometimes put in; as a picaresque novel focused on a character sometimes engaged in sex work, it’s sort of a precursor to Moll Flanders, but it’s set in the Thirty Years War, and it’s fairly dependent on Simplicissimus for some background.
  • Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, Tearaway (1670; translated by Mike Mitchell; info). This is a relatively slight addition to the Simplicissimus saga. Tearaway is the son of an acrobat and a young noblewoman. He gets caught up in the Dutch War of Independence, the Thirty Years War, and the wars against the Ottomans, sometimes as a soldier and always as a rogue. His story overlaps with that of both Simplicissimus and Courage, but it’s predominantly a picaresque account of an ordinary soldier’s life. There are occasional episodes involving “magic” that is revealed to be trickery, but near the end, the book takes a sharp turn toward SF/F when Tearaway’s wife takes a magical bird’s nest that turns her invisible and uses it to rob people, make them think she’s a ghost, etc.
  • Marie-Catherine Desjardins, Madame de Villedieu, Memoirs of the Life of Henriette-Sylvie de Molière (1672-1674; translated by Donna Kuizenga; info). At the beginning of this short, epistolary, semi-autobiographical picaresque novel, the main character’s adoptive father takes her hunting but tries to rape her in the woods, so she shoots him, setting off the first in a long series of social/legal problems that will plague her throughout the book. By the mid-point (p. 127), she can very reasonably say, “Madame, it was not men themselves I hated, but rather their mania for attaching themselves to me and then unfailingly entangling me in some troublesome adventure.” I think it’d be fair to call this a proto-feminist novel, and it’s also notable for its many connections to historical figures and events.


  • Ihara Saikaku, Five Women Who Loved Love (1685; translated by Wm. Theodore de Bary; info). Though sometimes described as “erotic” fiction, this story collection (or at least this translation) is considerably more tame than an average romance novel published today. The characters do pursue their romance with the aim of pleasure, and both prostitution and the practice of shudō are mentioned briefly. But in reality the stories are just tragic love stories, elegantly written and full of beautiful imagery. The prose style is wonderful and feels very modern—so much so that I thought the translation might have something to do with it, but if so, the same thing happened to another Ihara book translated by a different person (see below).
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688; info). I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that an early novel aiming to generate sympathy toward its enslaved hero would pile despair on top of violence on top of tragedy, but wow, things do get remarkably bad. I’m glad I read this though—it’s definitely worth knowing that it exists.


  • Kim Manjung, Kuunmong, a.k.a. The Cloud Dream of the Nine (ca. 1690; translated by James S. Gale; info). I’m not sure whether to describe this wonderful Korean novel first and foremost as an enchanting fairytale, political satire, or harem fanfic. Its fairytale imagery includes things like fairies riding on white deer and cranes, the hero meeting a mermaid deep in a poisoned lake, and time passing mysteriously while the hero learns to play music. And as a fairytale, it’s really nice: full of romantic scenes and ornate set pieces. Its satire is not as obvious, I guess, but Wikipedia mentions that it is intended as commentary on King Sukjong‘s affairs, and read that way, it’s pretty arch stuff. The hero of the story is portrayed variously as great, really great, or super great, so people just line up to marry him and fall all over themselves to praise him and find ways to sort out and justify his numerous marriage arrangements. And that leads us to the harem fanfic aspect of it: this is a Korean novel set in Tang Dynasty China, and the basic plot involves one guy meeting, falling in love with, and eventually marrying eight women on his path to enlightenment, but the little bit of tension in the book arises in that “eventually,” because he’s in love with all of them and yet repeatedly blocked from marrying any of them for a good chunk of the story. So it’s both a fannishly romanticized picture of China and a polygamous romance novel with a lot of deferred resolution to it. Incidentally, one review that I read mentioned minor issues with the translation and implied this was related to the translator being a Christian missionary, and I can definitely see that. The translation sometimes uses phrases like “let no man put asunder” that are presumably wrong for the context, even if they get the gist of things across, and I can well imagine there being other ways that the religious and/or earthly content of the story has been assimilated. Another translation exists, but it’s out of print, and this one was still a fun read.
  • François-Timoléon de Choisy, Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier, and Charles Perrault, The Story of the Marquise-Marquis de Banneville (1695; translated by Steven Rendall). This short love story seems plainly intended as a positive illustration of how gender encompasses more than just biology. In that light, the book’s premise that a mother might simply choose to raise any child as a daughter and have that work out as it does at least makes sense allegorically as a lesson that someone who seems to be male can actually be someone’s daughter and that it can be OK. We could also suppose the mom was lucky enough to make her decision and by coincidence have a trans daughter too. At any rate, this was a delightful book: the AFAB character was also great, and the story was well-written, deeply accepting of human differences, and happy about it.
  • Ihara Saikaku, This Scheming World (1690; translated by Masanori Takatsuka and David C. Stubbs). Themed short story collections must have been kind of a thing in the 1600s—at least for Li Yu and Ihara Saikaku, though I guess fairy tale and morality tale collections count too. Anyway, these twenty vignettes about debt collection at New Year’s take it to an extreme in terms of realism. They’re full of interesting sociological details, and they’re also extremely well composed. Unfortunately, they’re also a bit dry.
  • François Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus (1699; translated by John Hawkesworth; info). Fénelon’s didactic novel about best practices of leadership and government is always eloquent and occasionally beautiful but also very frequently dull. It re-imagines Telemachus’s search for his father as having been much longer and more full of incident than it is in the Odyssey, and that’s a great premise. Accompanied by Mentor, Telemachus winds up going all around the eastern Mediterranean: Egypt, Phoenicia, Crete, Calypso’s island, and Hesperia (i.e. Italy). At each stop, he endures some peril or another and learns lessons about virtuous leadership. Unfortunately, I really cannot count how often Mentor’s lectures literally put me to sleep—they’re not bad lessons, but they are obvious from an adult post-Enlightenment point of view, and they go on and on. But if they’d each been half the length, then their elegant composition would have been more enjoyable to read. The story does pick up some around the mid-point, when Telemachus becomes involved in a war in Hesperia, and overall it does have the flavor of the books it’s based on: the fighting scenes and many characterizations are reminiscent of the Iliad, and the travel and the descent to the underworld are reminiscent of the Odyssey. I also thought the descriptions of individuals and of the landscape were sometimes pretty great. I suspect, though, that the main reason to read the book is to observe how much it informed the French Enlightenment. Fénelon’s admiration for “savages [that] set you a noble example” shows in several places, explicitly, and in combination with the book’s general emphasis on educating someone to be wise, that feels very much like Rousseau. It’s also not too surprising that, even though Fénelon was reputedly an effective tutor for the young Duke of Burgundy, Louis XIV resented the book for questioning the divine right of kings to be absolute monarchs.
  • Charles Perrault, Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals, a.k.a. Mother Goose Tales (1697; translated by Christopher Betts; info). Many of these have obvious forebears in stories from Basile’s The Tale of Tales (q.v.). Perrault’s are nonetheless interesting, in part because they are recognizably the ones many modern re-tellings are based on. The stories not found in Basile (e.g. “Little Red Riding-Hood,” “Bluebeard,” and “Hop o’ my Thumb”) are important too. But really, I’d recommend Basile to adult readers as the richer, more interesting collection.
  • Henriette-Julie de Castelnau, Comtesse de Murat, A Trip to the Country (1699; edited and translated by‎ Perry Gethner and Allison Stedman; info). A group of French nobles stay for a while at an idyllic country estate, where there are fountains and an orangery, terraces and gardens, and musicians who come and play for them outside. The nobles flirt with each other and tell stories—in particular, ghost stories, though in most cases there turns out to be no ghost. There’s one fairy tale too about how four specially-talented brothers rescue a princess from a dragon but find the princess wasn’t in any real danger and actually wanted to stay on the dragon’s island because she was in love with a fisherman (who turns out to be a prince and comes to marry her, post-rescue, so all’s well). They also share a few stories about their past romances and whatnot, and they cruelly tease the nouveau riche neighbors. All in all, it’s an interesting picture of what people found entertaining at the time, and it’s well written too, though I’m not sure I recall a favorite scene.

Popular SF/F/H Books of 2017

Although there’s still almost a month left in 2017, at least ten different sources have already selected their best SF/F of the year. File 770 has also posted a round-up of the year’s novellas. The SFWA has dozens of novels on the suggested reading list for Nebula voters, and the SPFBO project currently has one finalist that was published in 2017. Combining all those sources with the lists of new books posted at Locus and the new book lists posted at The Verge (including the list for December), I arrived at a list of over 700 probably Hugo-eligible titles that have ratings at Goodreads. For each title, I expressed the Goodreads rating as a percentage, squared it, and multiplied it by the log of the number of people who’ve rated the book, generating a single popularity score used to sort the lists below. This is obviously a little unfair to books that are just now coming out. I’ve also categorized the results in other ways that may be unfair:

  • I’ve removed around two dozen “general fiction” titles when I have trouble imagining recommending them on the basis of their SF/F content. For example, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders rated very highly. In spite of its Booker Prize win this year, I don’t think any SF/F blog I read has even mentioned it, and although that could be a blind spot of my own, I suspect the way the story is put together limits its appeal to genre readers. Incidentally, I think the same author’s short story “Escape from Spiderhead” is one of the best works of SF/F that I’ve ever read.
  • I’ve classified around 125 books as “young adult,” but this is often a judgment call, and I’ve neglected to distinguish middle grade from YA. To decide whether a book was aimed at younger readers, I relied in part on whether the book was shelved as young-adult at Goodreads and in part on what reviews said there about the content.
  • I’ve separated standalone and “starting-point” novels from sequels that assume knowledge of the series. What counts as a standalone or starting-point novel is debateable, and although I’ve consulted reader reviews, it isn’t always clear.
  • Finally, although I did initially look at distinguishing urban fantasy and horror from SF/F, there really weren’t enough examples of them among non-YA standalone / starting-point novels to worry about. There were well over 50 urban fantasy sequels, but only around 30 standalone or series-starting urban fantasies, most of which did not rate very well. So relatively few appear on the lists below.

Top 125 standalone or starting-point books (non-YA)

  1. Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
  2. Mark Lawrence, Red Sister
  3. Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale
  4. Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld
  5. E. William Brown, Perilous Waif
  6. John Scalzi, The Collapsing Empire
  7. Andrew Rowe, Sufficiently Advanced Magic
  8. Martha Wells, All Systems Red
  9. Naomi Alderman, The Power
  10. Brandon Sanderson, Snapshot
  11. Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
  12. Jeff VanderMeer, Borne
  13. Omar El Akkad, American War
  14. Stephen King and Owen King, Sleeping Beauties
  15. Austin Chant, Peter Darling
  16. Daryl Gregory, Spoonbenders
  17. Andy Weir, Artemis
  18. S.A. Chakraborty, The City of Brass
  19. Catherynne M. Valente (with illustrations by Annie Wu), The Refrigerator Monologues
  20. Joe Hill, Strange Weather
  21. Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties
  22. Daniel Suarez, Change Agent
  23. Ed McDonald, Blackwing
  24. Mira Grant, Into the Drowning Deep
  25. Ann Leckie, Provenance
  26. Natasha Pulley, The Bedlam Stacks
  27. Marcus Sakey, Afterlife
  28. Mur Lafferty, Six Wakes
  29. Michael Poore, Reincarnation Blues
  30. Seanan McGuire, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day
  31. Victor LaValle, The Changeling
  32. C. Robert Cargill, Sea of Rust
  33. Kevin Hearne, A Plague of Giants
  34. Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
  35. Cory Doctorow, Walkaway
  36. Jaroslav Kalfar, Spaceman of Bohemia
  37. Kathleen A Flynn, The Jane Austen Project
  38. Ellen Klages, Passing Strange
  39. Rob Reid, After On
  40. Lara Elena Donnelly, Amberlough
  41. Kameron Hurley, The Stars Are Legion
  42. Linda Nagata, The Last Good Man
  43. Edgar Cantero, Meddling Kids
  44. Kory Shrum, Shadows in the Water
  45. Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts
  46. Vivian Shaw, Strange Practice
  47. Robyn Bennis, The Guns Above
  48. Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140
  49. Jim C. Hines, Terminal Alliance
  50. JY Yang, The Black Tides of Heaven
  51. Curtis Craddock, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
  52. Dan Moren, The Caledonian Gambit
  53. Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods
  54. Peter S. Beagle, In Calabria
  55. Daniel H. Wilson, The Clockwork Dynasty
  56. Kat Howard, An Unkindness of Magicians
  57. Caitlín R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland
  58. Ruthanna Emrys, Winter Tide
  59. Karin Tidbeck, Amatka
  60. Annalee Newitz, Autonomous
  61. D.J. Butler, Witchy Eye
  62. Angus Watson, You Die When You Die
  63. Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth
  64. Jeremy Robert Johnson, Entropy in Bloom
  65. Mira Grant, Final Girls
  66. Jacqueline Carey, Miranda and Caliban
  67. Alex Wells, Hunger Makes the Wolf
  68. Hugh Howey, Machine Learning: New and Collected Stories
  69. Pajtim Statovci, My Cat Yugoslavia
  70. Ann Claycomb, The Mermaid’s Daughter
  71. Zachary Mason, Void Star
  72. Tade Thompson, The Murders of Molly Southbourne
  73. Tom Merritt, Pilot X
  74. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Beautiful Ones
  75. Michael Johnston, Soleri
  76. Anna Stephens, Godblind
  77. Marina J. Lostetter, Noumenon
  78. Naomi Kritzer, Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories
  79. Elizabeth Bear, The Stone in the Skull
  80. Tom Holt, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings
  81. Corey J. White, Killing Gravity
  82. Scott Oden, A Gathering of Ravens
  83. Tim Pratt, The Wrong Stars
  84. Tracy Townsend, The Nine
  85. Sofia Samatar, Tender: Stories
  86. Dave Hutchinson, Acadie
  87. Daniel Kehlmann (translated by Ross Benjamin), You Should Have Left
  88. Gregory Benford, The Berlin Project
  89. Giorgio de Maria (translated by Ramon Glazov), The Twenty Days of Turin
  90. Stephen Graham Jones, Mapping the Interior
  91. Spencer Ellsworth, Starfire: A Red Peace
  92. Fonda Lee, Jade City
  93. David Drake, The Spark
  94. Orson Scott Card, Children of the Fleet
  95. Frank Chadwick, Chain of Command
  96. David Walton, The Genius Plague
  97. Angela Roquet, Blood Vice
  98. Marshall Ryan Maresca, The Holver Alley Crew
  99. James Brogden, Hekla’s Children
  100. K.J. Parker, Mightier Than the Sword
  101. Carrie Vaughn, Bannerless
  102. J-F Dubeau, A God in the Shed
  103. Charlie Jane Anders, Six Months, Three Days, Five Others
  104. Walter Jon Williams, Quillifer
  105. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (eds.), The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories
  106. Emma Newman, Brother’s Ruin
  107. John Crowley, Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr
  108. Molly Tanzer, Creatures of Will and Temper
  109. John Kessel, The Moon and the Other
  110. Paul Cornell, Chalk
  111. Chris Sharp, Cold Counsel
  112. Cherie Priest, Brimstone
  113. Dale Lucas, First Watch
  114. Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton (eds.), Haunted Nights
  115. Gardner Dozois (ed.), The Book of Swords
  116. Jeannette Ng, Under the Pendulum Sun
  117. Brad Abraham, Magicians Impossible
  118. Margaret Killjoy, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion
  119. Christopher Golden, Ararat
  120. Tim Lebbon, Relics
  121. Maggie Shen King, An Excess Male
  122. Anna Smith Spark, The Court of Broken Knives
  123. Steve Erickson, Shadowbahn
  124. Anne Corlett, The Space Between the Stars
  125. Joseph Brassey, Skyfarer

Top 25 sequels (non-YA)

  1. Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Fate
  2. Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer
  3. Ilona Andrews, White Hot
  4. Ilona Andrews, Wildfire
  5. V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light
  6. Patricia Briggs, Silence Fallen
  7. N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky
  8. Karen Marie Moning, Feversong
  9. Dennis Taylor, All These Worlds
  10. Anne Bishop, Etched in Bone
  11. Brian McClellan, Sins of Empire
  12. Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Miracles
  13. Faith Hunter, Cold Reign
  14. Marko Kloos, Fields of Fire
  15. Jodi Taylor, And the Rest is History
  16. Michael J. Sullivan, Age of Swords
  17. Sylvain Neuvel, Waking Gods
  18. Seanan McGuire, The Brightest Fell
  19. Peter V. Brett, The Core
  20. Alice Hoffman, The Rules of Magic
  21. Benedict Jacka, Bound
  22. John Connolly, A Game of Ghosts
  23. Nnedi Okorafor, Home
  24. Glynn Stewart, Duchess of Terra
  25. Diana Gabaldon, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

Top 25 YA standalone or starting-point books

  1. Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer
  2. Marie Lu, Warcross
  3. Stephanie Garber, Caraval
  4. Sarah Rees Brennan, In Other Lands
  5. Pittacus Lore, Generation One
  6. Christina Henry, Lost Boy
  7. Claudia Gray, Defy the Stars
  8. Emily R. King, The Hundredth Queen
  9. Veronica Roth, Carve the Mark
  10. Ibi Zoboi, American Street
  11. Wen Spencer, The Black Wolves of Boston
  12. Lisa Maxwell, The Last Magician
  13. Maggie Stiefvater, All the Crooked Saints
  14. Alastair Reynolds, Revenger
  15. S. Jae-Jones, Wintersong
  16. Ryan Graudin, Invictus
  17. Julie C. Dao, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
  18. Garth Nix, Frogkisser!
  19. Kelley Armstrong, Missing
  20. Vic James, Gilded Cage
  21. Jennifer Trafton (with illustrations by Benjamin Schipper), Henry and the Chalk Dragon
  22. Cindy Pon, Want
  23. Elle Katharine White, Heartstone
  24. Laurie Forest, The Black Witch
  25. Jodi Meadows, Before She Ignites

Top 25 YA sequels

  1. Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Wings and Ruin
  2. Cassandra Clare, Lord of Shadows
  3. Sarah J. Maas, Tower of Dawn
  4. Jay Kristoff, Godsgrave
  5. Philip Pullman, The Book of Dust
  6. V.E. Schwab, Our Dark Duet
  7. Victoria Aveyard, King’s Cage
  8. Seanan McGuire, Down Among the Sticks and Bones
  9. Megan Whalen Turner, Thick as Thieves
  10. Susan Dennard, Windwitch
  11. Elizabeth May, The Fallen Kingdom
  12. Alison Goodman, The Dark Days Pact
  13. Libba Bray, Before the Devil Breaks You
  14. Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, The Silver Mask
  15. Rachel Caine, Ash and Quill
  16. Mercedes Lackey, Apex
  17. Scott Sigler, Alone
  18. Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Warrior
  19. April Daniels, Sovereign
  20. Dan Wells, Nothing Left to Lose
  21. Isaac Marion, The Burning World
  22. Sarah Beth Durst, The Reluctant Queen
  23. Arwen Elys Dayton, Disruptor
  24. Kathleen Baldwin, Refuge for Masterminds
  25. Kate Elliott, Buried Heart

1950s SF/F Authors

This is an odd list, arising in a vague question about who ought to come to mind as a significant SF/F writer from the 1950s. My assumptions are that some folks more often thought of as writers from the 40s and 60s published notable books in the 50s and some folks who were prominent in the 50s maybe aren’t so widely read today. So what I did to focus on people who had written a 50s “classic” was use Goodreads to look up ~125 people who wrote SF/F (generously defined and particularly including YA) novels in the 1950s and rank them by the number of people who had read each author’s most widely read novel. As usual, I’ve omitted the actual data from Goodreads.

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954)
  2. C.S. Lewis (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, 1950)
  3. Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, 1953)
  4. Isaac Asimov (Foundation, 1951)
  5. Robert A. Heinlein (Starship Troopers, 1959)
  6. Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End, 1953)
  7. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (The Sirens of Titan, 1959)
  8. Walter M. Miller Jr. (A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1959)
  9. John Wyndham (The Day of the Triffids, 1951)
  10. Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, 1954)
  11. Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination, 1956)
  12. Pat Frank (Alas, Babylon, 1959)
  13. Nevil Shute (On the Beach, 1957)
  14. Jack Finney (The Body Snatchers, 1955)
  15. Theodore Sturgeon (More Than Human, 1953)
  16. Clifford Simak (City, 1952)
  17. Philip K. Dick (Time Out of Joint, 1959)
  18. Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth (The Space Merchants, 1952)
  19. Tove Jansson (Moominsummer Madness, 1954)
  20. Jack Vance (The Dying Earth, 1950)
  21. Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity, 1953)
  22. John Christopher (The Death of Grass, 1956)
  23. Stanislaw Lem (The Star Diaries, 1957)
  24. James Blish (A Case of Conscience, 1958)
  25. Brian Aldiss (Non-Stop, 1958)
  26. Poul Anderson (The Broken Sword, 1954)
  27. Andre Norton (The Time Traders, 1958)
  28. A.E. Van Vogt (The Weapon Shops of Isher, 1951)
  29. E.E. “Doc” Smith (First Lensman, 1950)
  30. Fritz Leiber (The Big Time, 1958)
  31. Fred Hoyle (The Black Cloud, 1957)
  32. Eleanor Cameron (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, 1954)
  33. Ward Moore (Bring the Jubilee, 1953)
  34. Robert Sheckley (Immortality, Inc., 1959)
  35. Leigh Brackett (The Long Tomorrow, 1955)
  36. Fredric Brown (Martians, Go Home, 1954)
  37. Eric Frank Russell (Wasp, 1957)
  38. Mordecai Roshwald (Level 7, 1959)
  39. Frank Herbert (Under Pressure, 1956)
  40. Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (Country of the Crimson Clouds, 1959)
  41. August Derleth (The Mask of Cthulhu, 1958)
  42. Mark Clifton & Frank Riley (They’d Rather Be Right, 1954)
  43. Edmond Hamilton (The City at World’s End, 1950)
  44. Ivan Efremov (Andromeda, 1957)
  45. Tom Godwin (The Survivors, 1958)
  46. Kōbō Abe (Inter Ice Age 4, 1959)
  47. Ernst Jünger (The Glass Bees, 1957)
  48. H. Beam Piper (Uller Uprising, 1952)
  49. Philip José Farmer (The Green Odyssey, 1957)
  50. Algis Budrys (Who?, 1958)
  51. C.M. Kornbluth (The Marching Morons, 1959)
  52. Jay Williams & Raymond Abrashkin (Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint, 1956)
  53. H. Beam Piper & John J. McGuire (A Planet for Texans, 1957)
  54. Alan E. Nourse (Star Surgeon, 1959)
  55. Edgar Pangborn (A Mirror for Observers, 1958)
  56. Vercors (Les Animaux dénaturés, 1952)
  57. Philip Wylie (The Disappearance, 1951)
  58. Bernard Wolfe (Limbo, 1952)
  59. John D. MacDonald (Wine of the Dreamers, 1951)
  60. Sarban (The Sound of His Horn, 1952)
  61. Stefan Wul (Niourk, 1957)
  62. Murray Leinster (The Forgotten Planet, 1954)
  63. Robert Silverberg (Starman’s Quest, 1958)
  64. Charles L. Harness (The Paradox Men, 1955)
  65. L. Ron Hubbard (To the Stars, 1950)
  66. Hugo Correa (Los altísimos, 1959)
  67. Lester Del Rey (Nerves, 1956)
  68. Ellen MacGregor (Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars, 1951)
  69. Randall Garrett & Laurence M. Janifer (Brain Twister, 1959)
  70. Jack Williamson & James E. Gunn (Star Bridge, 1955)
  71. Wilson Tucker (The Long Loud Silence, 1952)
  72. Frederik Pohl (Slave Ship, 1957)
  73. L. Sprague de Camp (Rogue Queen, 1951)
  74. Damon Knight (A for Anything, 1959)
  75. Randall Garrett & Laurence M. Janifer (Pagan Passions, 1956)
  76. Raymond F. Jones (This Island Earth, 1952)
  77. Frank M. Robinson (The Power, 1956)
  78. Fletcher Pratt (The Blue Star, 1952)
  79. John W. Campbell (Islands of Space, 1956)
  80. Donald A. Wollheim (The Secret of the Ninth Planet, 1959)
  81. David Karp (One, 1953)
  82. Charles Eric Maine (Alph, 1958)
  83. Ben Bova (The Star Conquerors, 1959)
  84. Chad Oliver (The Winds of Time, 1957)
  85. Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore (Mutant, 1953)
  86. Edmund Cooper (Seed of Light, 1959)
  87. Blake Savage (Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet, 1952)
  88. John Brunner (The World Swappers, 1959)
  89. C.L. Moore (Judgment Night, 1952)
  90. James Blish & Robert Lowndes (The Duplicated Man, 1959)
  91. C.M. Kornbluth & Judith Merrill (Gunner Cade, 1952)
  92. Jack Williamson (Seetee Ship, 1951)
  93. George O. Smith (The Fourth R, 1959)
  94. James E. Gunn (This Fortress World, 1955)
  95. Judith Merrill (Shadow on the Hearth, 1950)
  96. Rex Gordon (No Man Friday, 1956)
  97. J.T. McIntosh (World Out of Mind, 1953)
  98. Francis Rufus Bellamy (Atta, 1953)
  99. E. Everett Evans (Man of Many Minds, 1953)
  100. Joseph Greene (The Forgotten Star, 1959)
  101. Robert Silverberg & Randall Garrett (Shrouded Planet, 1957)
  102. Richard Marsten [Evan Hunter / Ed McBain] (Danger: Dinosaurs!, 1953)
  103. John Lymington (Night of the Big Heat, 1959)
  104. Angus MacVicar (The Lost Planet, 1953)
  105. Allen A. Adler (Terror on Planet Ionus, 1957)
  106. Islwyn Ffowc Elis (Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd, 1957)
  107. Hugh Walters (First on the Moon, 1959)
  108. Robert Crane (Hero’s Walk, 1952)
  109. William Dexter (World in Eclipse, 1954)
  110. Philip Latham (Missing Men of Saturn, 1953)
  111. A.J. Merak (The Dark Millennium, 1959)
  112. Patrick Moore (Mission to Mars, 1955)
  113. F.L. Wallace (Address: Centauri, 1955)
  114. Margaret St. Clair (Agent of the Unknown, 1956)
  115. Stanton A. Coblentz (Into Plutonian Depths, 1950)
  116. E.C. Eliott (Kemlo and the Zones of Silence, 1954)
  117. Harold Mead (Mary’s Country, 1957)
  118. Wallace West (The Bird of Time, 1959)
  119. Curme Gray (Murder in Millennium VI, 1951)
  120. Nat Schachner (Space Lawyer, 1953)
  121. Perley Poore Sheehan (The Abyss of Wonders, 1953)
  122. Robert Ardrey (The Brotherhood of Fear, 1957)
  123. Eric Temple Bell (G.O.G. 666, 1954)
  124. Lee Correy (Rocket Man, 1955)
  125. René Ray (The Strange World of Planet X, 1957)


Popular NYRB Classics

Here are the 50 most popular titles in the current catalog of NYRB Classics, according to the usual formula (the log of the number of ratings at Goodreads times the square of the average rating expressed as a percentage):

John Williams, Stoner
Stefan Zweig, Chess Story
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate
Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls
Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
Frans G. Bengtsson, The Long Ships
Yaşar Kemal, Memed, My Hawk
Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio
John Wyndham, The Chrysalids
Tove Jansson, The Summer Book
Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity
Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel
Thomas Tryon, The Other
John Williams, Augustus
John Williams, Butcher’s Crossing
Magda Szabó, The Door
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water
Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April
Oakley Hall, Warlock
Luigi Pirandello, The Late Mattia Pascal
Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight
Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country
Alexandros Papadiamantis, The Murderess
Yaşar Kemal, They Burn the Thistles
Jessica Mitford, Hons and Rebels
Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematograph
Stefan Zweig, Confusion
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
Álvaro Mutis, The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace
G.B. Edwards, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
Patrick Hamilton, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between
Don Carpenter, Hard Rain Falling
Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows
Alexander Pushkin, The Captain’s Daughter
Stefan Zweig, The Post-Office Girl
Erich Kästner, Going to the Dogs
Olivia Manning, Fortunes of War
Robert Walser, Jakob von Gunten
Euripides (Anne Carson, trans.), Grief Lessons
Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
Christopher Priest, Inverted World
J.G. Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur
Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North
J.A. Baker, The Peregrine
Geoffrey Household, Rogue Male
C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War

For the sake of comparison, here are the top 50 titles sorted only by their current Goodreads rating:

Paul Blackburn, Proensa
Osip Mandelstam, The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate
Aleksandar Tišma, The Use of Man
Richard Holmes, Shelley
Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary
Anne Carson, Grief Lessons
Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
Yaşar Kemal, They Burn the Thistles
Joseph Joubert, The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert
Álvaro Mutis, The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
Yaşar Kemal, Memed, My Hawk
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water
Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837–1861
Qiu Miaojin, Notes of a Crocodile
Boris Pasternak, Letters
Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran: Labyrinth
Oakley Hall, Warlock
Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematograph
Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness
Frans G. Bengtsson, The Long Ships
Arun Kolatkar, Jejuri
S. Josephine Baker, Fighting for Life
John Williams, Stoner
Stefan Zweig, Chess Story
John Ehle, The Land Breakers
G.B. Edwards, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
Patrick Hamilton, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
J.F. Powers, The Stories of J.F. Powers
Randall Jarrell, Randall Jarrell’s Book of Stories
Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, Diary of a Man in Despair
John Williams, English Renaissance Poetry
Benjamin Fondane, Existential Monday
Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Broken Road
Kabir, Songs of Kabir
Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage
Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace
Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy
Saki, The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories
Iona Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren
Teffi, Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me
Aleksander Wat, My Century
Jean d’Ormesson, The Glory of the Empire
Alexandros Papadiamantis, The Murderess
Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
J.A. Baker, The Peregrine
Jean Genet, Prisoner of Love
Elizabeth David, A Book of Mediterranean Food
Josep Pla, The Gray Notebook
Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight

Obscure but well-rated ex-bestsellers

Here are the Publishers Weekly 20th Century bestsellers with a number of ratings at Goodreads >= 250 and <= 2500 and an average rating >= 3.95, minus those shelved under spiritual, Christian, picture book, middle grade, or self-help and minus those not shelved under favorite or masterpiece, sorted for popularity by multiplying the log of the number of ratings with the square of the rating expressed as a percentage.

Nevil Shute, Trustee from the Toolroom
John Hersey, The Wall
Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
Kenneth Roberts, Northwest Passage
Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh
Richard McKenna, The Sand Pebbles
Fletcher Knebel, Seven Days in May
Rafael Sabatini, The Sea-Hawk
Pearl S. Buck, Dragon Seed
P.C. Wren, Beau Geste
Robert Ruark, Something of Value
Isak Dinesen, Seven Gothic Tales
Hans Fallada, Little Man, What Now?
Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
Edna Ferber, Giant
James Hilton, Random Harvest
Mika Waltari, The Wanderer
Mika Waltari, The Adventurer
Irving Stone, Love Is Eternal
Irving Wallace, The Man
John Jakes, California Gold
Samuel Shellabarger, Prince of Foxes
Howard Fast, Second Generation
Irving Stone, Those Who Love
Louis Bromfield, The Rains Came
Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder
Robert Crichton, The Secret of Santa Vittoria
Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock
John Galsworthy, Swan Song
Herman Wouk, Youngblood Hawke
Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind
Kenneth Roberts, Oliver Wiswell
Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver
Thomas B. Costain, Below the Salt
Marcia Davenport, The Valley of Decision
A.J. Cronin, The Green Years
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Shuttle
Samuel Shellabarger, Captain from Castile
Walter D. Edmonds, Drums Along the Mohawk
Meyer Levin, Compulsion
Edwin O’Connor, The Last Hurrah
Bess Streeter Aldrich, A White Bird Flying
John Galsworthy, The Silver Spoon
Kenneth Roberts, Lydia Bailey
Thomas B. Costain, The Tontine
Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow
Ben Ames Williams, Leave Her to Heaven
Irving Stone, Immortal Wife
A.J. Cronin, Shannon’s Way
Lillian Smith, Strange Fruit
Mary Jane Ward, The Snake Pit

Popular SF/F/H Books of 2016

When SFSignal stopped publishing this year, I stopped systematically keeping track of new releases in SF/F, though I’m aware of sources like Kirkus, LocusTorThe Verge, and so on. I just relied on the book blogs I read to keep me informed of what people were reading.

But when I noticed that Locus’s lists of new and/or reviewed books would be easy to cut and paste into a tool I already have for looking up Goodreads scores, I thought that would be a nice, simple way to get a list of popular SF/F books for the year and sort them by the usual metric (the log of the number of ratings at Goodreads times the square of the rating expressed as a percentage).

After cleaning up the data a little and adding in a few more books, I had a sorted list of ~200 books published in 2016. Getting reviewed in Locus is already to some extent an indicator of likely popularity, but I still deleted anything that didn’t have at least a 3.64 on Goodreads to eliminate ~20%.

I’ve broken the books up by category (SF/F, Horror, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, and Non-Fiction) somewhat arbitrarily. The results are not as comprehensive as my past efforts, but this list covers most of what I’ve seen pass by on book blogs this year.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Cixin Liu, Death’s End
Blake Crouch, Dark Matter
N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate
Brandon Sanderson, Arcanum Unbounded
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
Dennis E. Taylor, We Are Legion (We Are Bob)
Becky Chambers, A Closed and Common Orbit
Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Blades
Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
James S.A. Corey, Babylon’s Ashes
Juliet Marillier, Den of Wolves
Charles Stross, The Nightmare Stacks
Joe Abercrombie, Sharp Ends
Marie Brennan, In the Labyrinth of Drakes
Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flight
Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric and the Shaman
Guy Gavriel Kay, Children of Earth and Sky
Anthony Ryan, The Waking Fire
C.J. Cherryh, Visitor
Sylvain Neuvel, Sleeping Giants
Daniel Abraham, The Spider’s War
Seanan McGuire, Every Heart A Doorway
Ben Winters, Underground Airlines
Michael Chabon, Moonglow
Naomi Novik, League of Dragons
T. Kingfisher [Ursula Vernon], The Raven and the Reindeer
Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country
Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed
Neal Asher, War Factory
Ken Liu, The Wall of Storms
Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit
Lois McMaster Bujold, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
S.K. Dunstall, Alliance
Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning
Todd Lockwood, The Summer Dragon
Thomas Olde Heuveldt, Hex
Mercedes Lackey, Closer to the Chest
Alastair Reynolds, Revenger
S.K. Dunstall, Confluence
R. Scott Bakker, The Great Ordeal
Mary Robinette Kowal, Ghost Talkers
Ian Tregillis, The Liberation
Brom, Lost Gods
Emma Newman, After Atlas
Yoshiki Tanaka, Dawn (Legend of the Galactic Heroes v. 1)
Sharon Shinn, Unquiet Land
Kij Johnson, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
Mercedes Lackey, A Study in Sable
Bob Proehl, A Hundred Thousand Worlds
K.B. Wagers, Behind the Throne
Alexander Weinstein, Children of the New World
Kai Ashante Wilson, A Taste of Honey
Connie Willis, Crosstalk
Jo Walton, Necessity
Carlos Hernandez, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria
Paul Cornell, The Lost Child of Lychford
Wesley Chu, The Rise of Io
Ann VanderMeer, The Big Book of Science Fiction
Alan Moore, Jerusalem
K.J. Parker, The Devil You Know
Paul McAuley, Into Everywhere
Ali Shaw, The Trees
Madeline Ashby, Company Town
Allen Steele, Arkwright
Robert J. Sawyer, Quantum Night
Sofia Samatar, The Winged Histories
China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris
Indra Das, The Devourers
J. Kathleen Cheney, Dreaming Death
Daniel Polansky, A City Dreaming
Chuck Wendig, Invasive
Patricia A. McKillip, Dreams of Distant Shores
Lian Hearn, Emperor of the Eight Islands
Marshall Ryan Maresca, The Alchemy of Chaos
Patricia A. McKillip, Kingfisher
David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars
Kerryn Offord, 1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz
Dominik Parisien, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales
Foz Meadows, An Accident of Stars
Robert Kroese, The Big Sheep
Michael Swanwick, Not So Much, Said the Cat
Walter Jon Williams, Impersonations
Joan Aiken, The People in the Castle
Laurie Penny, Everything Belongs to the Future
Robert Charles Wilson, Last Year
Ellen Kushner, Tremontaine: Season 1
Will McIntosh, Faller
Beth Cato, Breath of Earth
Haris A. Durrani, Technologies of the Self
Christopher Priest, The Gradual
K.J. Parker, Downfall of the Gods
Blake Charlton, Spellbreaker
Eleanor Arnason, Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens
Alyc Helms, The Conclave of Shadow
Julie E. Czerneda, The Gate to Futures Past
Miyuki Miyabe, The Gate of Sorrows
Jonathan Strahan, Bridging Infinity
Michael A. Armstrong, Truck Stop Earth
Jonathan Strahan, Drowned Worlds
Sonia Orin Lyris, The Seer
Greg Egan, The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred
Leanna Renee Hieber, Eterna and Omega
Mike Allen, Clockwork Phoenix 5
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Galactic Games
Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change
Jesse Bullington, Swords v. Cthulhu
Zachary Brown, Titan’s Fall
Kelly Barnhill, The Unlicensed Magician
Nava Semel, Isra Isle
Nick Wood, Azanian Bridges
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Decision Points
Lisa Yaszek, Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction
Sarah Tolmie, Two Travelers
Jeffrey E. Barlough, Where the Time Goes
Jack Cady, Fathoms


Stephen King, End of Watch
Joe Hill, The Fireman
Michael Wehunt, Greener Pastures
Stephen Graham Jones, Mongrels
John Langan, The Fisherman
Laird Barron, Swift to Chase
Paul Tremblay, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
Christopher Buehlman, The Suicide Motor Club
Matthew M. Bartlett, Creeping Waves
Livia Llewellyn, Furnace
Cherie Priest, The Family Plot
Sarah L. Johnson, Suicide Stitch
Lynne Jamneck, Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror
Damien Angelica Walters, Paper Tigers
Glen Hirshberg, Good Girls
Pedro Cabiya, Wicked Weeds: A Zombie Novel
Richard Gavin, Sylvan Dread: Tales of Pastoral Darkness
Ross E. Lockhart, Eternal Frankenstein
Sunny Moraine, Singing with All My Skin and Bone
Michael Cisco, The Wretch of the Sun

Young Adult

Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom
Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song
Neal Shusterman, Scythe
Holly Black, The Bronze Key
Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Gail Carriger, Imprudence
Garth Nix, Goldenhand
Melissa Landers, Starflight
William Ritter, Ghostly Echoes
Rae Carson, Like a River Glorious
Erika Johansen, The Fate of the Tearling
Rachel Caine, Paper and Fire
Mercedes Lackey, Elite
Kate Elliott, Poisoned Blade
Gwenda Bond, Lois Lane: Double Down
Sarah Beth Durst, The Queen of Blood
Jessica Cluess, A Shadow Bright and Burning
Cat Winters, The Steep & Thorny Way
Jennifer A. Nielsen, The Scourge
Kat Howard, Roses and Rot
Jennifer Mason-Black, Devil and the Bluebird
Destiny Soria, Iron Cast
Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone
Sandra Evans, This Is Not a Werewolf Story
Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co: The Creeping Shadow
Laurence Yep, A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter
Fran Wilde, Cloudbound
Sarah Prineas, Rose & Thorn
Zetta Elliott, The Door at the Crossroads

Urban Fantasy

Ilona Andrews, Magic Binds
Patricia Briggs, Fire Touched
Anne Bishop, Marked in Flesh
Seanan McGuire, Once Broken Faith
Daniel O’Malley, Stiletto
Faith Hunter, Blood of the Earth
Ben Aaronovitch, The Hanging Tree
Faith Hunter, Blood in Her Veins
Benedict Jacka, Burned
Faith Hunter, Curse on the Land
Kevin Hearne, The Purloined Poodle
Seanan McGuire, Chaos Choreography
Richard Kadrey, The Perdition Score
Wen Spencer, Project Elfhome
Jim C. Hines, Revisionary
Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom
Elliott James, In Shining Armor
Mishell Baker, Borderline
Richard Kadrey, The Everything Box
Jim Butcher, Shadowed Souls
R.S. Belcher, The Brotherhood of the Wheel
Paul Crilley, Poison City
Melissa F. Olson, Nightshades
Angela Slatter, Vigil
Colin Gigl, The Ferryman’s Institute
Joseph Nassise, Urban Allies
Linda Grimes, All Fixed Up
E.E. Richardson, Spirit Animals


Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats
Kameron Hurley, The Geek Feminist Revolution
Jack Womack, …Flying Saucers Are Real!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Making Conversation
Mike Ashley, Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1981 to 1990
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg

Popular manga

I’ve relied on ~8 Wikipedia category articles and Goodreads lists to supply over 440 manga titles assigned uniquely into the categories shōnen, shōjo, seinen, and josei, and I’ve sorted them based on their first volume’s Goodreads stats (the log of the number of raters multiplied by the cube of their score expressed as a percentage). Obviously, dubious categorizations as well as biases inherent in the ratings are problems in the results. Still, the top 50 titles in each category and in all categories combined are given below, as usual minus any actual data from Goodreads.

50 popular manga

Fullmetal Alchemist
Death Note
Attack on Titan
Ouran High School Host Club
One Piece
Fairy Tail
Black Butler
Tokyo Ghoul
Dragon Ball
Blue Exorcist
Fruits Basket
Rurouni Kenshin
Hunter x Hunter
Kamisama Kiss
Soul Eater
Skip Beat!
Sailor Moon
Case Closed
Electric Daisy
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Cardcaptor Sakura
Oyasumi Punpun
Love So Life
Vampire Knight
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster
Yu Yu Hakusho
Beast Master
Hana to Akuma
Pandora Hearts
Blue Spring Ride
Gakuen Alice
Trigun Maximum
Alice in the Country of Hearts
Ranma ½

50 popular shōjo manga

Ouran High School Host Club
Fruits Basket
Kamisama Kiss
Skip Beat!
Sailor Moon
Electric Daisy
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Cardcaptor Sakura
Love So Life
Vampire Knight
Beast Master
Hana to Akuma
Blue Spring Ride
Gakuen Alice
Alice in the Country of Hearts
Faster than a Kiss
From Far Away
Special A
Kitchen Princess
Beauty Pop
Suki-tte Ii na yo
Last Game
The Wallflower
High School Debut
Tokyo Crazy Paradise
Black Bird
Shugo Chara!
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
Akatsuki no Yona
Daytime Shooting Star
Snow White with the Red Hair
Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play
Boys Over Flowers: Hana Yori Dango
Happy Cafe
1/2 Prince
Dawn of the Arcana
Full Moon O Sagashite
Kodocha: Sana’s Stage
Absolute Boyfriend
Natsume’s Book of Friends
Tail of the Moon
Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne
Barajou no Kiss

50 popular shōnen manga

Fullmetal Alchemist
Death Note
Attack on Titan
One Piece
Fairy Tail
Black Butler
Dragon Ball
Blue Exorcist
Rurouni Kenshin
Hunter x Hunter
Soul Eater
Case Closed
Yu Yu Hakusho
Pandora Hearts
Ranma ½
Sword Art Online
Assassination Classroom
Pokémon Adventures
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Shaman King
DRRR!! Durarara!!
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Azumanga Daioh
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Hikaru no Go
Rave Master
Chibi Vampire
Koe no Katachi
Tegami Bachi
The Ancient Magus’ Bride
Akame ga KILL!
The Devil is a Part-Timer!
High School DxD
Cross Game
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Negima! Magister Negi Magi
Yakitate!! Japan
Love Hina
Cage of Eden

50 popular josei manga

Red River
The Crimson Spell
Paradise Kiss
Pet Shop of Horrors
Midnight Secretary
Nodame Cantabile
Princess Jellyfish
The Story of Saiunkoku
Tramps Like Us
Bunny Drop
Sand Chronicles
Private Prince
Cat Street
7 Seeds
Wandering Son
Sensual Phrase
Sakamichi No Apollon
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers
Honey and Clover
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories
The Cain Saga
Desire Climax
Little New York
My Lovely Honey
Maison Ikkoku
My Girl
Butterflies, Flowers
Utsubora – The Story of a Novelist
Oishii Kankei
Kaze Hikaru
Bitter Virgin
Tada, Kimi Wo Aishiteru
For The Rose
Princess Ai
anata ni hana o sasagemashou
Beautiful People
Deep Love: Ayu’s Story

50 popular seinen manga

Tokyo Ghoul
Oyasumi Punpun
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster
Trigun Maximum
20th Century Boys
Ghost in the Shell
Tekkon Kinkreet
Lone Wolf and Cub
A Bride’s Story
Chi’s Sweet Home
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Battle Angel Alita
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Liar Game
Vinland Saga
Blade of the Immortal
Higurashi When They Cry
All You Need Is Kill
Angel Beats!
Clannad Manga
Wolf’s Rain
Battle Royale
Black Jack
Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939
Elfen Lied
Domu: A Child’s Dream
Black Lagoon
Ode to Kirihito
Chang Ge Xing
Spice & Wolf
The Voices of a Distant Star
Museum of Terror: Tomie
Ajin: Demi-Human
Corpse Party

Selected SF/F Previews for 8/2015

Below are the titles I’ve chosen to highlight from SF Signal’s lists of books and comics released in August 2015.

  • Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this originally self-published space adventure novel, and the preview seems both readable and pleasant: classic space opera tropes but with a light, contemporary feel.
  • Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown. Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld novel is pretty much by definition a gift to be treasured. I can’t imagine this is the best place for someone to begin the series, but to a fan, the opening scenes call to mind many warm and happy memories.
  • John Scalzi, The End of All Things. This is the latest in the Old Man’s War series, and as usual, it seems to be compulsively readable stuff.
  • Christopher Moore, Secondhand Souls. The sequel to Moore’s very funny Grim Reaper comedy, Dirty Job, this seems like fun too, though I’m sure the experience of reading the preview benefits from also having read the first book.
  • Tom Scioli, American Barbarian. This seems to be a parody of 80s cartoons like Thundarr the Barbarian, but with more than a hint of the 70s comic Kamandi to it as well. Like its source material, it appears to be delightfully unsophisticated yet strange.
  • Stefan Petrucha, Deadpool: Paws. Deadpool first appeared well after I’d stopped keeping track of the Marvel Universe, and I’ve been neither here nor there about the Deadpool comics I’ve read. But I did like a couple of the jokes in the opening chapters of this prose novel, e.g. the bit about “Goom hungers!”