Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books That Every Geek Should Read: Updated for 2015!

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I often find myself in need of a good book to read, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Sometimes really great books and series fall through the cracks and you never hear about them; so I thought that I’d make a handy little guide for fellow geeks who are jonesing for something well written and entertaining. There are tons out there, and this list is hardly all-inclusive. These are just some of my very favorites from recent years outside of the obvious like Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Wheel of Time, Discworld, or Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. The following are 10 series or stand alone books that I think every geek should read. The order of the list is not meant to be a ranking, as I love every single one of them for different reasons. Click the link in each of the titles to be taken to where you can find out more info and pick them up.

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1. The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher

What’s it about?

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard. It’s true. You can even find him in the yellow pages. This is, by far, my absolute favorite series ever. Whenever a new story comes out it’s like a personal holiday for me, and I don’t stop reading until I’m done. There are 16 books in the series so far, if you include the collection of shorts, Side Jobs. The 17th, Peace Talks, should be out sometime next year. It’s an urban fantasy series that features wizards slinging magic, one of the best takes on vampires I’ve ever seen, and just about every kind of boogidy-boo from any religion or myth you can think of. Harry is a witty, sarcastic badass, and a hell of a lot of fun. The series starts a bit slowly and it takes the first three books to set the foundation of the larger world that the series is built on; but even those first three books are tons of fun, and once you get started you won’t want to stop. As a bonus, the audio books are read by James Marsters (yep, Spike from Buffy/Angel) and he rocks it. Worth checking out.

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 2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

What’s it about?

The Iron Druid Chronicles is another urban fantasy series that follows Atticus, the world’s only remaining Druid. He’s over 2000 years old and he still looks like he’s in his early 20’s and he manages to piss off vampires, witches, and just about every pantheon of gods there are and kick off Ragnarok in the process. Atticus is another fun character to follow, but it’s his dog, Oberon, who through magic can talk to Atticus, that steals the show. There are currently 7 books published with the 8th hopefully next year. Really fun, quick reads, especially if you need something to tie you over until you can get your next Dresden fix. This series has become a favorite of my wife and her friends after I introduced them to it through the marvelous audio versions read brilliantly by Luke Daniels.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

3. Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey

What’s it about?

Stark is a naturally talented magician who is betrayed by his jealous friend and sent to Hell. While in Hell he becomes the top gladiator in the arena and one of the chief lieutenant demon’s personal assassin. After killing his master and escaping Hell, Stark sets out to avenge the death of the love of his life and take vengeance on those who betrayed him… and that’s just the first book. The series is a gritty fantasy noir tale that’s much darker than the previous two on the list, but just as much fun to read. Kadrey gives us a really fun anti-hero in Stark, and paints a really creative take on Heaven, Hell, God, and the universe. There are currently 6 books in the series with the seventh set to come out at the end of July.

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4. The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston

What’s it about?

Sticking with the gritty noir theme we have the Joe Pitt casebooks by Charlie Huston. Joe Pitt is a rogue vampyre (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) who works jobs for the various vampyre clans of New York just to get by. These books are supernatural noir thrillers and are closer to horror than any of the previous series. As dark as they are, they’re still an excellent and fairly original take on the tired vampire genre and well worth a read. Comic fans may recognize Huston by his work for Marvel Comics, most notably Vol. 5 of Moon Knight. The audiobooks, narrated by Scott Brick, are also excellent.

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5. The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch

What’s it about?

The Gentleman Bastards are a gang of elite con artists that pray on the nobility and break the “secret peace” that all of the gangs have with law enforcement of the kingdom of Camorr. The series is High Fantasy for people who are tired of the typical political boredom of the genre. Scott Lynch is a talented writer who injects a ton of humor into his stories, and the books themselves feature characters you love and settings that vary from a fantasy medieval Venice to the high seas. There are currently three books in the series, with more planned. I cannot recommend these enough.

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6. The Myth Adventures Series by Robert Asprin

What’s it about?

The Myth series was my introduction into fantasy as a child and I still love these books. Before Mr. Asprin died a few years ago the series had numbered in the 20’s (he wrote the last few along with another author), but the series itself started in the 1970’s. The books follow magician Skeeve and his friends on their various adventures through the dimensions. It’s a fun fantasy series very similar to Pratchett’s Discworld novels in tone. They’re also quick “popcorn” reads, so perfect if you want an entertaining story that isn’t too long.

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7. The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

What’s it about?

Zahn is probably best known for his work in Star Wars. The Icarus Hunt is a stand alone sci-fi thriller that follows down-on-his-luck pilot Jordan McKell and his alien partner as they’re hired by a wealthy billionaire to fly the mysterious ship Icarus and it’s cargo to Earth. Jordan and his crew quickly find themselves in over their heads  when they find out that the most powerful aliens in the galaxy are after them and their ship. Nothing, and no one, is what it seems in this book and it has an ending that truly surprised me with it’s twist. Great, great read.

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8. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

What’s it about?

Dune is probably an obvious no-brainer to a lot of you, but I’m still surprised by just how many people haven’t read the original novels and only know Dune by it’s really weird movie starring Sting. Dune is to sci-fi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s a must read. Period. It was also a largely influential book for me personally, and it’s one of the things that really encouraged me to want to be a writer myself. There are tons of Dune books that have been written by Frank Herbert’s son and Kevin J. Anderson. They range from “decent” to outright horrible. The ones that I feel everyone should read are the original 5 by the master himself.

redshirts9. Redshirts by John Scalzi

What’s it about?

As any Star Trek fan knows, it was a running joke that on the Original Series that if a crew member was wearing a red shirt and was not a part of the main crew when the away team beamed down to the planet, they weren’t coming back. Red shirts were the cannon fodder for all the various monsters, out of control robots, and menacing alien threats that the crew encountered every week. This brilliant novel by John Scalzi doesn’t just put the focus on those poor bastards, but asks the question- what happens when they start to put two and two together and realize what’s going on? I don’t want to spoil any of the fun of the concept by giving too much away. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, or just sci-fi with a comical twist, this book is definitely for you. The audiobook is particularly fun, especially since it’s read by none other than Wil Wheaton.

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10. The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

What’s it about?

The Grimnoir novels are set in an alternate-history 1930’s where magic is real and commonplace and turns everyday people (and a lot of famous figures from history) into superhumans. The Amazon quote calls it a cross of Twilight and The Maltese Falcon, and that makes me want to gut punch the guy who wrote it. It’s nothing like Twilight. No. Thing. A better comparison would be a cross between Heroes (the first season before it sucked) and The Maltese Falcon. The idea behind the Grimnoir novels is one of the most original, fun, and exciting ideas I’ve ever seen. I LOVED these books and the entire concept. It’s one of those things where I both love Correia for writing them, and hate him because he came up with the idea before I could. The series is three novels long (with an additional three short stories, two of which are audiobook-only and can be found on Audible) and the author himself just confirmed on Twitter that a new trilogy set in the 1950’s is in the works. Now is your chance to get caught up on the series. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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6 Comments

Filed under Rant Alert

6 responses to “Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books That Every Geek Should Read: Updated for 2015!

  1. This is actually a pretty interesting list because I have only read 2 out 10 series you mentioned (Butcher and Herbert) and the books sound intriguing. I probably won’t look for Aspirin though. I can’t decide who to look for first. I’m stuck between Correia, Huston or Kadrey.

    I found it disappointing that there were no women included in the list, but it’s your favorite list, so personal choices matter. I did get introduced to new authors that I haven’t heard of before so that’s not too disappointing.

    • J.R.

      I’m glad I could point you in the direction of some other great series. Other people have said the same thing- they’ve heard of Dresden and Dune but not the rest.

      In regards to your other comments: if you mean there are no female authors on this list you’re correct, though P.J. Elrod almost made the cut. I wanted to keep the list at 10 this first time. I’ll include her and a few others on the next one.

      If you’re referring to female protagonists the Iron Druid Chronicles has a very strong female protagonist that isnt the main P.O.V character (except for a few ch of the latest book) but she’s featured heavily in the series. Correia’s Grimnoir series has several strong female protagonists, including one that is a main character for the series. If you’re looking for a story where the female heroes kick just as much ass as the guys then that’s where you should start.

  2. I guess I will be starting with Correia’s then. I look forward to your next list because this list was fantastic in introducing me to new series and I hope the next one does as well.

    My comment was more about female authors but I’ll take female protagonists. Do you mean P.N. Elrod? Cause Google doesn’t give me a PJ Elrod writer.

    • J.R.

      Yes, I did mean P.N. Elrod. I was typing on my phone and I guess I hit the J instead by accident. Her Vampire books are decent reads (and there are a ton of them. You can find collected editions of three books per volume on Kindle). They’re not as good as the other series on this list, which is why she didn’t make the top 10 “cut”, but they’re entertaining and she’ll definitely be on the next list along with a few others. I hope you enjoy these other series as much as I do!

      • Yeah, I could not actually get into her vampire books, they felt odd in a way. It’s been a few years since I read them and I was pretty burn out on vampire books then, so maybe I’ll visit them again. I’m so looking forward to reading the books you mentioned. Thank you for a wonderful list.

  3. My god man! I hate to break it to you but we may be related. We apparently have identical taste (my condolences). The best part of this list shows we agree utterly on the books I’ve read. The worst part is that there aren’t enough recommendations I haven’t. Get working on it while I demolish the hold outs. Thanks for putting it together. Perhaps it’s because I fell on my head as a child but I find Goodreads (and their ilk) a poor substitute to my historical habit of wandering aimlessly in book stores in order to discover new books. With the death of bookstores curated lists like this have become invaluable.

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