Huxley’s Island, which I discussed a few days ago, is one of many books from the fifties and sixties which are reappearing on the shelves of our bookshops and libraries, possibly in response to the fact that their original readers, baby-boomers, are now retiring and have time to re-read books they loved when younger.
Whatever the reason, I enjoy seeing them. Many of them bring back good memories and, more importantly, many of them are still very good, relevant books. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, for instance, were transformative for me in my late teens and I have been recommending them ever since to anyone who (similarly) needed shaking loose from conventional morality or unthinking sexism.
Gollancz has two parallel ‘Masterworks’ series, science fiction and fantasy, both conveniently listed and described on The SF Site (although this list on the publisher’s site may be more up to date). They are not all briliant but the overall quality is high enough that the series logo is a recommendation, i.e. anything in either collection is worth a second look. Having seen the Harper Perennial Modern Classics listing on Amazon (and no, I don’t know why the publishers don’t have such a list on their own site) I am inclined to treat that branding the same way. If I had to make recommendations, inevitably personal and from an incomplete knowledge of the offerings, I might begin with …
- Garner The Stone Book Quartet (very English fantasy)
- Ballard Empire of the Sun (autobiographical, challenging) or The Drowned World (prescient)
- Leiber Lankhmar series (sword and sorcery, purely for fun)
- Gardner Grendel (Beowulf in a mirror)
- Zelazny Lord of Light (Buddhism as a revolutionary art)
Then again, I might just recommend ‘anything by Le Guin.’