Those who have read my previous articles for the Books Section already know of my love for the works of Bolesław Prus. Even in his native Poland he is not a particularly popular author, often obscured by his more popular, and populist, contemporary, Henryk Sienkiewicz. I, however, believe that it can be safely said that Prus is the best writer in the Polish canon. Working in the late nineteenth century he had a unique insight on the problems faced by the various different classes of society at that time. This is combined with a magnificent literary skill. His works may not make the easiest or most comfortable reading but they are certain to move you.
Look out for:_ The Doll, The Pharaoh, Anielka_
Ursula Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin has had a long and illustrious career. She has written a wide range of different fiction, from the fantasy Earthsea Cycle, to the science fiction Hainish Cycle, to the mainstream fiction Orsinian Tales. All of her work is united by a high literary quality and thoughtful consideration of social, psychological and philosophical issues – she is one of the pioneers of the sociological SF sub-genre. She has also written several volumes of academic essays on various topic, as well as several highly acclaimed translations, including of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. A truly amazing writer well worth of your attention.
Look out for:Tehanu, The Left Hand of Darkness
Jeff Vandermeer is one of most exciting writers of modern times. He is a pioneer in the New Weird genre – which aims to combine the eldritch horror themes of Lovecraft with a wider outlooks and a higher literary quality. His works are truely unique and almost impossible to describe. However, rest assured that you won’t regert checking them out. As well as being a highly acclaimed author Vandermeer is also a very successful editor, having put out a number of popular fantasy and science fiction anthology. The latest of these, The Weird, is a must read for those interested in dark fantasy and gothic horror.
Look out for: The Third Bear, Finch, Annihilation
Atwood is rightfully well known and highly regarded for her magnificent feminist speculative fiction novel The Handmaid’s Tale. She has, however, produced a far wider range of work. As well as several mainstream and science fiction books, often focusing on themes of feminisim, she has also produced several volumes of literary criticism. Her recent collection of essays, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, has drawn particular attention for its insightful and unique viewpoint on the SF field. Her work is always thoughtful and well written and her skills have been recognised by a number of high profile awards.
Look out for:The Oryx and the Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale
Banks was widely recognised as the master of the intelligent space opera. His Culture series has gained wide acclaim for its depiction of a post-scarcity utopian society. The series explores a range of themes, in particular being praised for its depiction of artificial intelligences, and uses a wide range of interesting and innovative literary techniques. Banks also wrote a number of equally highly praised mainstream fiction books, with his debut, The Wasp Factory, being praised by critics for its uncompromising description of the highly disturbed sixteen year old Frank Cauldhame. His non-fiction work includes Raw Spirit, a guide to Scotland’s whiskey distilleries.
Look out for: Use of Weapons, The Bridge, The Crow Road
Murakami is one of Japan best living authors. A prolific writer, his beautifully written work manages to combine mainstream fiction and reflections on ordinary life with more fantastical elements in a truely unique way. His works are also notable for their deep respect of Japanese history and culture, and so provide a fascinating read for a Western audience. He has been consistantly tipped as a leading candidate to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. His memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, also received praise for his frank discussion of his experiences running ultramarthons.
Look out for: 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle