Read It and Weep

To be a great writer is to be a voracious reader. From every author, I find  something to learn, whether it’s a literary technique or an archaic noun. But the best stories do more than entertain us; they take us to new horizons and broaden our minds, helping us to see the world with greater richness and clarity.


Book ratings are strange things. One reviewer’s ** star rating might equal another person’s *****, despite both readers enjoying the book equally. Three stars might mean the book is trash or that it’s just plain average. Whether you see it on Amazon or Goodreads, what a critic means by their rating is too often arbitrary. So I have decided to overhaul my own system in a way that, I hope, my followers will find more useful.

Key to my rating system:

*      —  Not Recommended: Boring, amateurish, or just poorly written. These books are usually written by beginning authors, who haven’t quite mastered the art of storytelling.

**    —  Forgettable: The rudiments of grammar and story are all there, and there might even be a cult following for it, but I personally find these books to be cliché, formulaic, and more often than not, just plain forgettable. Popular authors churn out books like these every two months.

***  —  Great: This is a really well-written book, with an engaging story and lots of clever ideas. But there are a hundred others just like it, which makes it fall just short of a must read.

**** — A Must Read: This kind of book comes around very rarely. It’s the kind of story that, when you finally get around to it, you’ll feel bad you didn’t read it sooner. These books transcend mere entertainment, changing the way you look at life, sometimes even going so far as to make you a better person. Yes, great books can do that!


Because I am fascinated by the evolution of literature, I have ordered my reviews from earliest publication date to latest.

  1. The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien (2018) ** 1/2
  2. Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien (2017) *** 1/2
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (2016) **
  4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (2016) ** 1/2
  5. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin (2015) ***
  6. Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski (2014) **
  7. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doecher (2013) ** 1/2
  8. American Gods, 10th Anniversary Edition, by Neil Gaiman (2011) *** 1/2
  9. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) *** 1/2
  10. Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan (2011) **
  11. Never Knew Another by J.M. McDermott (2011) **
  12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009) *
  13. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008) *** 1/2
  14. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (2007) ****
  15. The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien (2007) ***
  16. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) ****
  17. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2005) **
  18. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) ****
  19. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004) ****
  20. The Darkness that Comes Before by Scott Bakker (2004) **
  21. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004) *** 1/2
  22. The Dark Age of Enya by Nick Alimonos (2003) ** 1/2
  23. Lamb by Christopher Moore (2003) ***
  24. The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes (2003) ****
  25. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001) ****
  26. The Other Wind by Ursula K. Leguin (2001) *** 1/2
  27. Tides of War by Steven Pressfield (2000) *
  28. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (1999) ***
  29. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997) ***
  30. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (1997—2007) ****
  31. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (1996) ***
  32. His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman (1995—2000) *** 1/2
  33. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) ***
  34. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (1989) ****
  35. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) *** 1/2
  36. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) ** 1/2
  37. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984) ***
  38. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (1983) ***
  39. The BFG by Roald Dahl (1982) **
  40. The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende (1979) ****
  41. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (1977) ****
  42. A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony (1977) ***
  43. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973) ***
  44. Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972) ****
  45. Grendel by John Gardner (1971) ** 1/2
  46. The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970-1992) **
  47. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969) *** 1/2
  48. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968) ****
  49. Dune by Frank Herbert (1965) ****
  50. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1963) ***
  51. ??? by ??? (1962) *
  52. The Once and Future King by T.H. White (1958) ****
  53. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (1955) ** 1/2
  54. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952) **
  55. The Catcher in the Rye  by J.D. Salinger (1951) ****
  56. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950) ****
  57. 1984 by George Orwell (1949) ****
  58. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) ****
  59. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939) ****
  60. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937) ****
  61. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914) ** 1/2
  62. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912) ** 1/2
  63. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865) **
  64. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1818) ****


Nick’s Picks

Greatest Novels of All Time

Greatest *Fantasy* Novels of All Time


Is there a book out there I simply must read? Send me a post and maybe you’ll see it here!

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