John Scalzi

Writers whose voices resonate long after the pages are turned.

As prolific as he is imaginative, John Scalzi does a little–make that a lot– of everything. Journalist, columnist, non-fiction author, blogger, and after the publication of 2005’s Old Man’s War, science fiction novelist. His new book, Fuzzy Nation, is a typically inventive revisit to the universe of the beloved 1962 sci-fi novel Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. Below, John Scalzi offers thoughts about three favorites — two works of daring fiction and a collection of gems from the Sage of Baltimore.

Books by John Scalzi


Winter’s Tale

By Mark Helprin

“I first read this book when I was a teenager. I didn’t understand it fully then, and I suspect I still don’t understand it fully now. But what I did understand was how much its author, Mark Helprin, was in love with language and with how much joy he set it onto the page. It actually took me a number of years to finish the novel because I would get halfway through the novel, become sad that soon there would be no more novel left to read, and then set it down to be picked up later, once more from the beginning. I don’t generally recommend this as a reading strategy. But I suppose you could say I needed time to grasp the idea that when joyful words come to an end, they don’t leave you bereft. Quite the opposite, in fact.”


A Mencken Chrestomathy

By H. L. Mencken

“I came into the acquaintance of Mencken in an unusual way: as a child I had a book of quotations and as I would go through it, I noticed that many of my favorite ones–which is to say, many of the most witty and cutting ones–were from this character named Mencken. Who was he, anyway? This occasioned a trip to the library, an introduction to his columns, and a life-long admiration of a complicated character who had an eye for justice, a low tolerance for ignorance, and a delight in poking those who had too much of the latter and too little respect for the former. The Chrestomathy is Mencken’s own selection of his best column work, and on matters of ignorance and justice it is, alas, still all too pointed and true.”


Always Coming Home

By Ursula K. Le Guin

“Not so much a novel as it is an ethnography of a people who, in the words of Le Guin, ‘might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.’ And for me in most ways far more interesting than a simple novel would be, because as a book it’s the difference between standing outside events, being told about them, and being inside a world and being invited to experience it. It’s not just world-building wankery, however; Le Guin’s gift to the reader is to give you enough of a view into the life of this world that you can’t help but reflect on both your own world and your own life. There’s also the fact that as a native Californian, I like the idea that the state of my birth is still going to have been around a long, long time from now–and will still have been a singular, imaginative place.”