In the spirit of Christmas, then, since I don't have my bulging bookshelves on hand (holiday travel, folks, sorry), and to help me give you the gift that keeps on giving -- angry reviews of crappy books no one can understand why I would read in the first place -- I present you with a short list of recommendations. I may or may not ever trouble to review these books, and some of you (Hi, Mom!!) almost never like the books I recommend in the first place. This, then, is for the other two of you.
Hopefully, the list includes a few obscure enough books to offer something new for everyone. I've placed asterisks and the occasional 1/2 star by each title; they represent the rough star rating I'd give to each. I haven't reviewed any of these, and they're presented in no particular order within the categories.
Lyonesse, The Green Pearl, and Madouc, by Jack Vance *****
The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik *** (This is particularly for Mr. Fan; I think Mrs. Fan might also enjoy having parts of this series read aloud over coffee. She'll like the dragons.)
The Briar King (and its three sequels), by Greg Keyes ***
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon ***1/2 (This could also go under romance or historical fiction; just a warning for any readers who may fear girl-cooties.)
Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit ****
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch ***1/2 (WARNING: this is a series, and there is no guarantee it will ever be finished. There are only two books so far. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)
The Demon Princes (five books in one collection), by Jack Vance *****
The Purple Cloud, by M.P. Shiel ****
The Caves of Steel (and its sequels, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn), by Isaac Asimov ***1/2
The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick ****
Historical Fiction (this includes Romance):
My Dearest Enemy, by Connie Brockway *** (more on the romance side)
Scaramouche and Scaramouche the Kingmaker, by Rafael Sabatini ***** (more on the kick-ass side)
The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard (there are various collections of these stories under different names), by Arthur Conan Doyle *****
Faro's Daughter, by Georgette Heyer ***1/2 (Regency romance)
The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson ****1/2
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (and its many sequels), by C.S. Forester ***** (Do not, under any circumstances whatever, including a gun to your head, a promise of instant relief from crippling heartburn, or simple insanity, pick up Patrick O'Brien's knockoff series beginning with the hideously overrated Master and Commander instead. Just don't. Unless you like suspiciously frequent and unveiled references to buggery embedded in what those of us who read crappy genre fiction like to call workmanlike prose, that is, in which case, carry on. Look for a Literary Showdown post about this one of these days.)
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield ***
The Virginian, by Owen Wister ****
The Petty Demon, by Fyodor Sologub ****
The Charioteer, by Mary Renault ****1/2
Happy reading! And to entertain you while Amazon processes your credit card or Project Gutenberg supplies you with a free download, here's a Devo video. I can't so much as think about Asimov's The Caves of Steel without getting this stuck in my head for two days. Now you can too. You're welcome!