Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's Your Favorite Gem of a Book?

(cue ominous preview music and voice-of-god narrator):

In a world where agents receive thousands of query letters. In a time when authors dream of having their books published. The search for a good query letter continues. Tune in tomorrow for... ANATOMY OF A GOOD QUERY LETTER PART II: The authors strike back. (dun dun dun)...

Ahem. And now for your regularly scheduled You Tell Me:

As I'm sure you've heard by now, some guy in some state in the middle of the country put a match to a pile of books, supposedly to raise awareness about society's diminished appreciation for the written word. Yes, because as we all know taking books out of circulation through fire is the best way to get people to read. Well done. I shan't provide a link to the story about this individual, because if we know his name then the book burners have already won.

Now, maybe this extremely smart individual didn't catch this week's New York Magazine, which had some great articles in its summer reading issue, including one that asked reviewers to name their favorite underrated books. This is just the tip of the iceberg of incredible books that are published every year and don't get their fair due.

Well, TWO can play that game (actually anyone can play). So you tell me: What is your favorite gem of a book published in the last few years that others might not have heard about?

Mine is (Curtis Brown Ltd. books excluded) GENTLEMEN OF SPACE by Ira Sher, about an imaginative young boy whose father is chosen to be the first civilian astronaut in space in 1976. It's fascinating, with great moments and an original style.

What's yours?






41 comments:

Derrick said...

Caitlin Brennan's White Magic Series: The Mountain's Call (2004) Song of Unmaking (2005) and Shattered Dance (2006)

This is my most favorite series in Fantasy, and they inspired me to write my own romantic Fantasy series.

Derrick said...

By the way, Nathan, I know you represent Science Fiction, but do you also represent Fantasy? (I've come across agents who do Sci-Fi, but say no to Fantasy) Thank you!

the kid said...

I'd have to say mine is the Seer and The Sword by Victoria Hanley. I think it was published quite a few years ago, but she's been pushing out sequels too. I heard those aren't as good. But the first book was real good.

Nathan Bransford said...

derrick-

I'm open to fantasy, although the bar is just a little higher than with other agents who rep it since I'm naturally more inclined toward science fiction.

Marva said...

Shows your good taste, Nathan. In the science fiction unappreciated books list: Red Lightning by John Varley. Of course, read Red Thunder before since they're a pair. Varley does a great job reincarnating Heilein into the current (and future) day.

original bran fan said...

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is my favorite undiscovered gem. It's a first contact story about a small party of Earthlings going to a distant planet. What happens there is inspiring and heartbreaking. Most of the time I "read like a writer," and therefore enjoy books less. This is the first book I've been able to totally lose myself in since about age 20. Most importantly, the characters seem 100% real. I want to move next door to them and go to all their dinner parties.

I read this book twice. I never read books twice. I cried at the end. I never cry at books. (Well, I guess I do, but only this one!)

As far as I know, a mass market paperback was never issued, but a trade paperback is available. Worth every cent.

Derrick said...

So the bar is a little higher, eh?! Hooray! I'm up for the challenge!

Though I am not going to query my first book until this fall when I'm good and ready. I am still editing away at it, and I have a GREAT guide: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to Edit Yourself into Print. (I'm learning a lot, and having fun too!)

John Askins said...

"The last few years" haven't produced anything that invaded me like "Far Tortuga" by Peter Matthiessen back in 1988. It's still available in paperback. Nine men go turtle hunting in the Caribbean.

the kid said...

Going back to derrick's question, kind of, are there any fantasy titles you've represented or wish you represented?

Nathan Bransford said...

Derrick-

As far as fantasy goes, I haven't yet found a novel that was right for me to represent, but I recently read A KISS OF SHADOWS by Laurell K. Hamilton and I liked that, and I also liked ERAGON. I really like new takes on things, so a fresh approach would be something I'm drawn to.

melospiza said...

An Arrow's Flight by Mark Merlis

Funny, sexy, thoughtful, witty, intelligent, offbeat, and very gay. Brilliant prose. This novel should be a classic of modern fiction, not a gay cult book.

Derrick said...

Nathan,

In that case I'm going to query Ms. Ginger Clark instead (please don't be hurt, I think you rock!)because according to Agent Query she is actively seeking submissions for Fantasy. Correct me if I'm wrong, and if you know what kind of Fantasy she loves the best, I'm all ears.

(I'm only going to query agents who specifically state that they are seeking submissions for fantasy, which limits me to a select few, but I only need one agent, not 2, 3, 4, etc.)

Nathan Bransford said...

Derrick-

Ginger Clark is a great agent, and yes, that's probably the best plan since she's more actively looking for fantasy. If it's not for her, though, I wouldn't mind a look.

Derrick said...

Hi Nathan,

If she decides to pass,I'd be glad to send it to you.

I've only been a writer for 3 months and I've been doing my homework.

I've concluded that it's in my best interest to query agents who like/love fantasy.

The way I see it, if I am trying to sell you vanilla icecream, and you don't like vanilla icecream, then you are going to pass and it wouldn't be a good idea to sell you a flavor that you don't care for.

Oh, by the way, does Ginger blog? IF she does I'd love to read it, so that I can get to know her likes/dislikes, etc and so that I can personalize my query a bit more. It's all about making a connection with the reader! :-)

Anonymous said...

Recently read gems:

Jim C. Hines' Goblin Quest, an excellent, humorous take on dungeon-delving fantasy, told from the perspective of the runty Jig, goblin non-hero.

john levitt said...

Perfect Circle, by Sean Stewart. Technically a fantasy, since the narrator talks to dead people, but really a book about relationships, family, and how people cope with life.

This book almost inspired me to stop writing straight genre and try something serious. Luckily, I thought better of it.

nancorbett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nancorbett said...

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is the best book I've read this year. I didn't realize when I read it that it was a debut novel, so I went to find other books by the author and was sorely disappointed to find that there were none...yet. So, I get to be a stalker...a stalker of the stacks. A stalker of what's in stock.

The author gives the narrators such rich and wistful voices. Stong voices like the ones this book demonstrate make me want to keep reading and stop and write at the same time. They help to bring me half way to that zone where the narrator's voice resides in me. Lots of fun.

Josephine Damian said...

To Nancorbett:
We're reading "Thirteenth Tale" in my book club in Dec. Glad to see you gave it a rave. I'm really looking forward to it now.

Overlooked books?

The Marriage of the Sea - Jane Alison

Lying Awake - Mark Salzman

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer -Patrick Suskind

The Prestige - Christopher Priest (1000 x's better than the movie).

To name a few...

Josephine

http://quoteitwrite.blogspot.com
http://forensicsdiary.blogspot.com
http://josephinedamian.blogspot.com

B.E. Sanderson said...

The Sparrowhawk novels by Edward Cline.

Dave said...

I hate to be so nerdy but SImon Singh's Fermat's Enigma about the mathematic feat of solving Fermat's Last Theorum really did light my fire, make my glasses steam and my heart go pitter-pat.

As for fiction - "Gentlemen and Players" by Joana Harris was one, and "The King of Lies" by John Hart.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hmm, no awesome fantasy over here (not for lack of looking, though) or SF (less looking, admittedly), but my two picks of the moment are

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, by Joshua Braff

and

Karma Girl, by Jennifer Estep. Debut. Just released. LOTS of fun.

Speaking of hidden treasures, I decided back in February to make that the theme of my summer reading contest. Stay tuned over the weekend for more details!

Polly said...

HI Nathan, will you be coming back to Absolute Write? I left you a question on 5/22 about an hour after you answered the previous one, and I'm wondering if you are coming back or if I should seek my answer elsewhere? Thanks in either case, the info you have shared is very helpful.
Polly

polly said...

p.s. Forgot to say I was sorry to leave your question here, I did not know where else to send it.
Polly

Pixy said...

Well, the last book I got lost in was Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip. I read it in a few hours in one of those comfy Barns & Noble chairs with a frappuccino. Not sure, the frappuccino may have made it better, I don't know...

I absolutely loved Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntoch. Only the second OMNI book I've read that actually lost me in the words. Amazing plot. A little graphic in the beginning, though.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I like Carol Berg's Transformation. I like all her books, but Transformation just rocks.

2readornot said...

I'm not a huge Jodi Piccoult fan generally speaking, but 19 MINUTES kept me standing in one spot in the bookstore for over an hour until I finished it.

Topaz said...

Julie Czerneda's Species Imperative books. The first, Survival, was so good I sat up for an hour after I finished it. I just couldn't sleep. I had to relish how awesome I felt from the experience of reading it. Of course, this hour was in the middle of the night since I couldn't put it down.

Sara said...

Janny Wurts' War of Light and Shadows series (first novel: Curse of the Mistwraith), Epic fantasy with nuance and depth.

Astrid Lindgren's The Brothers Lionheart, an amazing YA fantasy dealing with a difficult subject (death).

And one I read recently which is not fantasy at all, but has great characters and superb prose: Paullina Simons, The Bronze Horseman.

/Sara

Anonymous said...

I don't think that books on the best seller list (Jodi Piccoult) can be considered "undiscovered gems."

Anonymous said...

Anything by Margaret Elphinstone but for the sake of this thread, I'll pick Hy Brasil. It is a contemporary story about an imaginary island in the middle of the North Atlantic. Smugglers, pirates, buried treasure and a girl trying to write a travel guide book.

lkp

Determinist said...

That makes me realize that I haven't read any gems that have been published recently. I depend so much on recommendations, that they tend to be discovered books, or pretty old.

Beth said...

I have to second the recommendation for The Bronze Horseman. That is an astonishing novel. Kept me up past my bedtime, made me neglect chores, appointments, writing...

Janniel said...

The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. is a classic story of the battle between good and evil. Filled with innocence and hope, it is profound and compelling and sad and joyous.

The fully imagined characters are so human that one soon forgets that they are talking animals, and can only giggle with delight at Wangerin’s whimsical and adept use of language.

John Wesley Weasel says “Is ways to carry a weasel.” Well, is ways to carry off an allegorical tale, but Wangerin set the bar impossibly high with this book. By comparison, Tokien and Lewis read like pikers, and Watership Down can't come close to this richness of this amazing and engrossing tale.

It's the type of book that will stay with you for a long time after you finish the last page.

Calenhíril said...

I'm glad to see someone mentioned Carol Berg. Her fantasy is amazing, and inspirational.

The best new book I've read lately is Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. It took me only two days to read, and would have taken less had my roommate not had a yen to go shopping...

My enduring favorite is The Forever King by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. It's a King Arthur story, told in the very best way.

And my sci-fi favorite is Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which is about math, codebreaking, World War II and some very interesting relationships, yet still manages to be funny and understandable (which is amazing to this math-impaired engineer).

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan, could you please add me as a myspace friend? I requested an add last week - but I know that life is short and art is long, and any agent's plate is rather full these days. I await.

Here's a couple of more gems;

Eat the Document - Dana Spilotta

The Book of Salt - Monique Truong

Harbor - Lorraine Adams

The Grand Complication - Allen Kurzweil

writtenwyrdd said...

P.C. Hodgell's God Stalk.
Gene Wolfe's 4-book series Earth of the New Sun.
Patricia McKillip's Riddle Master of Hed trilogy
(This is assuming you like fantasy.)

writtenwyrdd said...

Also, a newer book, YA with a rough theme: "Such a Pretty Girl." How anyone can write a book about child molestation and have it be uplifting and redemptive is amazing.

A Paperback Writer said...

Okay, I loved the 13th Tale, too, but I'm siding with anon. lkp: Hy Brasil by Margaret Elphinstone is FABULOUS!
I heard her do a reading in Edinburgh in 2002, go her to autograph a copy, and then it got stolen!! I got a new copy, of course, but it was so disappointing.
The book is a mystery/romance/alternate history. What if Atlantis (called Hy Brasil) really existed, colonized by first the Portuguese and then the English? What if it happened to be a volcanic island? What if a travel writer won a contest to write a travel book about the island and got sent there in the middle of a time of political upheaval and drug smuggling?
It's great. I've read it 3 times, and I have to read it in one sitting each time because I can't put it down.

Laurel said...

I'm gonna say "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart", by Lydia Millet. Although the entire Soft Skull Press list is amazing and totally underrated.

Zen of Writing said...

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. I wish I could turn the clock back to read it again for the first time. Sci fi elements, mind reading, kinky sex -- it's all here.

I found it thanks to other bloggers.

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