The books listed below are ones I’ve enjoyed. This doesn’t mean I’ve enjoyed everything by these authors, but it does mean that they’re worth sampling. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by author surname, not by book title, just to make things more confusing. I also may leave off initial articles in titles.
War for the Oaks. Emma Bull. Everything urban fantasy should be — a book to make you take a second look at politics in your own hometown.
Dreams Underfoot. Charles de Lint. A short story collection for those who don’t think they like short stories, also a great introduction to his fictional Canadian city of Newford.
Someplace to Be Flying. Charles de Lint. A personal favorite. I love the Crow Girls.
Bridge of Birds. Barry Hughart. A wonderful fantasy set in a China that Never Was. The two sequels, The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen, are also delightful.
A Talent for War or Engines of God. Jack McDevitt. I really pulled these at random. I love Jack McDevitt’s work. He is one of the rare writers who is doing space adventure not built around war. Instead you get archeology, mysterious situations, and lots of politics. Great stuff!
Riddlemaster of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind. Patricia McKillip. Rich, wonderful, and complex.
“Protector of the Small” series by Tamora Pierce. First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight. But I think I’ve read every novel she’s written, and while some are more to my taste than others, she’s is a great writer.
Last Call. Tim Powers. My favorite by an author whose novels are all uniquely captivating.
Small Gods. Terry Pratchett. If you’ve heard about the Discworld, but don’t want to commit yourself to a huge series, Small Gods is a great place to start. Small Gods shows Pratchett mingling laugh-out-loud humor and profound reflection on a serious issue in the manner that has become his great strength. It is also one of my favorite books about the difference between faith and religion.
Mask of the Sun. Fred Saberhagen. Alternate history set among the Incas.
Island in the Sea of Time. S.M. Stirling. Take the island of Nantucket, drop it in the Bronze Age, see what happens. Great alternate history.
Path of the Fury. David Weber. A stand-alone space opera with mythic overtones — it’s great fun. And, yes, I’ve read the Honor Harrington novels, too. I’ve even done a couple of stories in the “Honorverse.”
Hardwired. Walter Jon Williams. Cyberpunk that makes sense.
The Praxis. Walter Jon Williams. Space opera with brains as well as explosions, and great politics.
Nine Princes in Amber (and all the Amber novels; and everything else). Roger Zelazny. Here’s a writer who rarely missteps and can do everything from sword and sorcery to far-future adventure. I miss my annual fix more than I can say.
A Fire Upon the Deep. Vernor Vinge. Vinge does great aliens, great intrigue, and all the sense of wonder stuff that so many current SF writers are missing. I have enjoyed many, many other of his books as well… A rare writer who gets stronger over time.