Recently, the Mr and I have been discussing both food and science fiction* at length. I’d love your help on book recommendations, if you’d be so kind. Here’s some background about each topic:

I grew up surrounded by bookshelves filled two rows deep with well-loved, cracked-spine sci-fi books that seemed to go back to the beginning of time (really, they went back to my father’s childhood). Now, despite having grown up in close proximity to a living encyclopedia of the genre, I haven’t actually read much science fiction, relatively speaking. And even so, I read much more of it in my teens than I read now. I only recently realized why, while I slogged through Stranger in a Strange Land this past winter. Whoa, ye falling-down sci-fi fans whose very existence I’ve just dealt a mighty blow. It’s not out of character for me to dismiss the books that top other people’s lists. The thing is, I can’t separate a story from the writing. I’ll read a shallow tale if it’s told artfully; I’ll put down a great tale if it’s told poorly. And by “poorly” I mean, “not up to my very picky standards.” It’s not an objective judgment, by any means.

Lots of sci-fi, even among the most noted stories and novels and despite amazingly imaginative and insightful storylines, simply isn’t well written. The writing is the sort that gets the job done, but for me it’s a deal breaker. I like to consume writing that is artful in its own right; that shows prowess on the part of the writer. So I’d really love your help. I want to bone up on some sci-fi, and I want it to be well-written stuff. I’d appreciate your recommendations, especially if you tell me why you think the books are great. I’ll compile the list here, assuming a list develops. As background, here are some sci-fi books I really liked:

  • Dune, that classic, is one of the few books I’ve read more than once.
  • Due to my own fickle ways I’ve never finished reading the Foundation trilogy, but I have started it a few times and have enjoyed it every single time (tally: I’ve read Foundation three times, Foundation and Empire one and a half times, and Second Foundation not once)
  • Fahrenheit 451 – loved it.
  • 1984 – among my favourite books.

But wait, there’s more. I’m also on a kick of reading about food. Food production, food consumption, food preparation. I’m halfway through Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I’m hungry to read more. Not cookbooks, per se, but books about foods. Local foods, agriculture, farming, vegetable gardening, general approaches to food preparation, etc. Again, with a focus on the well-written. Again, I’ll compile the resulting list here.

What do you think? Let the bookfest begin!

Lettuce

* Yes, the sci-fi discussions stem from us having started to watch Firefly. I wasn’t kidding about being a fan.