Targetted Book Recommendations for Non-Existent Readers

Targetted Book Recommendations for Non-Existent Readers

You and Me

Once upon a time, I met a guy who only ever ate fries*. Anything else, it was claimed, would make him violently ill. Now, he looked healthy enough and suffered no heart attacks while I was watching him, so who knows? Maybe it worked out well for him. But it’s rare in life to find an adult whose belly is so cantankerous that it rejects even pizza with such colourful speed. And it is equally rare to meet an adult reader who only wants Sword and Sorcery, or Flying Carpet Wonder tales. Or whatever.

Most people, enjoy a bit of variety. Personally, I feast at many tables — historical fiction, mysteries, SF hard and soft; fantasy high, low, light and dark. I love it all depending on my mood, and I imagine that most of you will have similar lists, maybe replacing the SF with Romance, or the mysteries with Great American Novels. The only thing we can be sure of having in common, is a penchant for character-driven SFF adventure stories — i.e. the type of thing that BG does best. You probably wouldn’t be reading this otherwise.

Targeted Book Recommendations

Recommending books, as we all know, is a bit like giving presents to a loved one. You can give something that you would like, or, if you’re feeling more generous, you can take their tastes into consideration too.

I remember one particular disaster when a friend of mine suggested George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones to One-Footed Jimmy, even though everybody knew poor Jimmy has had an aversion to swords since that time the display came loose during his visit to a museum… OFJ wouldn’t touch Black Gate with a barge-pole, but imagine, if you will, that you had to buy a book for somebody who loved the magazine. What would you pick? You’re not trying to educate this person, you’re not allowed to show-off. The one thing you know about your victim’s diet is that he or she drools twice a year over the brown envelope that Mr. O’Neill sends from Chicago.

What would you choose? Why?

I’ll be putting up my answers to these questions some time next week.

* In Ireland, we refer to them as “chips”. Do NOT be confused.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

IF they have already gone through the classics, HOWARD, TOLKIEN, WAGNER, LEIBER, etc I would recomend Joe Abercrombies, First Law Trilogy.
It’s probably been my favorite fantasy read since A Storm of Swords

I would also recomend Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales but it isn’t fantasy.


I know this isn’t fantasy, but I bet they’d like Red Harvest by Dashielle Hammett, or maybe even The Maltese Falcon. Same pulp feel, at least.


If I were limited to one book only and really wanted to get it right, I’d probably go with Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny. They would race through it, tell me it’s great and demand to the sequel. To which I would reply, well, he never did right a sequel to that, but he’s got these other books…

If they’re also an RPG player (especially one in a constant state of withdrawal like me who hasn’t had time to play for ~10 years), I might give them Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson.

And I’d probably recommend A Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, even though it isn’t fantasy, because The Lymond Chronicles swashbuckles like nothing else, even if the vocabulary can get a bit mend-bending.


Yeah, I know the Dunnett’s a hard one — I should have qualified that one with something to identify a patient reader who will work through a book, like “and if they read the later Tolkien books like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Book of Lost Tales, or are Fluent in Old Elvish, then….”


With only the knowledge that they like BlackGate that’s hard because the magazine covers everything, spanning older stuff, newer adventures and a mix of subgenres! I think I’d end up going with a mix of my own favorites:

John Levitt, Dog Days and New Tricks

Ilona Andrews series

If they like YA, I’d pick Goblin Quest by Jim Hines (now that’s adventure!)

If they like short stories of the Black Gate quality, I’d probably recommend Writer’s of the Future Anthologies and Baen’s Universe.

Recommendations are always tough…


Yeah, I’ll concede on and withdraw the Dunnett. I think repicturing the opening (Lymond sneaking into a castle, setting it on fire) made me gloss over a bit too much that Dunnett’s prose requires a lot more mental chewing to process than that of a Cornwall or a Zelazny.

The shortness could certainly have something to do with it. When I think of the Burroughs or Leiber books I have on the shelf, they’re all probabaly half the length of current novels. A lot harder to sustain that kind of pace over the modern standard Fantasy doorstop.


It’s the sense of adventure that I keep coming back for–and look for in other works!!!

Martin Owton

Glen Cook’s Chronicles of The Black Company maybe, and I think David Gemmell should get a mention in there

[…] Part One of this enthralling series is here. […]

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x