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My Favorite Fiction Authors
(This page last updated: At some point in 2008)
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Alpha-Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World
John Man

A fascinating study of the evolution of the Western alphabet. In this age of computers and internet, the alphabet is so ubiquitous that you never really think about where it came from, but it's quite an interesting story.

Alternative Medicine for Dummies
James Dillard and Terra Ziporyn

An excellent basic reference. The authors strike a good balance between acceptance and skepticism, and the book is packed with information about the history, use, and efficiacy of various alternative therapies. If you're interested in learning more about something in particular or just want a general introduction to the subject, this is a very good place to start.

Anatomica: The Complete Reference to the Human Body and How it Works
Various Authors

A huge and thoroughly useful book. I've used it for everything from diagnosing personal complaints to working out aspects of biology for created races in my writing. It is heavily illustrated, extensively cross-referenced, and doesn't ignore the mind/body connection or alternative medicine like many medical reference books.

The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armor from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry
Ewart Oakeshott

I read this cover to cover, and while the text can be a bit dry, it's still an extremely good reference for anyone who writes fantasy or historical fiction. Extensive illustrations.

Arms And Armour
Fredrick Wilkinson

We bought this from the Scientific American Book Club, but it also has a Military Book Club mark on the cover. A good companion to The Archaeology of Weapons because it has bigger photographs, many in color, and covers firearms in addition to swords and polearms.

Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries
David W. Page, MD

Apparently one of a series designed with mystery and crime-fiction writers in mind. The writer discusses when, where, how, and why various types of injuries occur, and gives a lot of information about how trauma is handled by both paramedics and hospitals. Despite the modern focus, I've nonetheless found this quite a useful little book, both for working out the consequences of conflict and for giving me a jumping-off point as to how medical care might be handled by less-advanced technology or magic.

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Chinese Horoscopes for Beginners
Kristyna Arcarti

One of the most useful books I've ever purchased. Whether you believe in astrology or not, if you're a writer, the personality profiles in this are wonderful for helping with characterizations.

Chocolate: The Nature of Indulgence
Ruth Lopez

This book traces the history of chocolate production, from its ritual use among the natives of Meso- and South America to the mass-manufacture of candy bars in the present day. Also highlights the ecological impact and uncertain future of commercial cacao farming.

The Cultural Creatives
Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson

A very interesting study of, as the authors put it, how 50 million people are changing the world. The book is such a synthesis of ideas and information from so many different fields that it's difficult to know exactly how to describe it, but I'll reproduce the short questionaire in the introduction:

You are likely to be a Cultural Creative if you...

  1. Love nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction
  2. Are strongly aware of the problems of the whole planet (global warming, destruction of the rain forests, overpopulation, lack of ecological sustainability, exploitation of people in poorer countries) and want to see more action on them, such as limiting economic growth
  3. Would pay more taxes or pay more for consumer goods if you knew the money would go to clean up the environment and stop global warming
  4. Give a lot of importance to developing and maintaining your relationships
  5. Give a lot of importance to helping other people and bringing out their unique gifts
  6. Volunteer for one or more good causes
  7. Care intensely about both psychological and spiritual development
  8. See spirituality or religion as important in your life but are also concerned about the role of the Religious Right in politics
  9. Want more equality for women at work, and more women leaders in business and politics
  10. Are concerned about violence and the abuse of women and children around the world
  11. Want our politics and government spending to put more emphasis on children's education and well-being, on rebuilding our neighborhoods and communities, and on creating an ecologically sustainable future
  12. Are unhappy with both the left and the right in politics and want to find a new way that is not in the mushy middle
  13. Tend to be rather optimistic about our future and distrust the cynical and pessimistic view that is given by the media
  14. Want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life in our country
  15. Are concerned about what the big corporations are doing in the name of making more profits: downsizing, creating environmental problems, and exploiting poorer countries
  16. Have your finances and spending under control and are not concerned about overspending
  17. Dislike all the emphasis in modern culture on success and "making it," on getting and spending, on wealth and luxury goods
  18. Like people and places that are exotic and foreign, and like experiencing and learning about other ways of life

If you agreed with 10 or more of these, go read the book! There's also a website with more information and a message board here.

Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality
Malcom Potts and Roger Short

Ever wanted to know where society got all its hangups about sex and sexuality? This is the book to read. One word of caution, however--the chapter on the practice of female circumcision is not for the faint of heart. (Fortunately, skipping over that part doesn't harm the continuity of ideas too much.)

Feasting Free on Wild Edibles
Bradford Angier

Contains information on identifying, harvesting, and using edible wild plants. I use it mostly as a reference for the writing, but it did give me a good idea of what to do with all those rose hips that appear on our wild rose bush every summer. smiling emoticon

Food: A Culinary History
Edited by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari, English edition by Albert Sonnenfeld

Everything you ever wanted to know about diet and cooking in a host of cultures, both ancient and modern. A fascinating read in and of itself, and also a great reference for world-building.

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The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage
Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley

An interesting book on many levels... I'm not certain that I agree with the authors on absolutely all of their points, but if we ever happened to end up with some property we could build on, I might be interested in giving this cob stuff a try.

Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior
James McBride Dabbs with Mary Godwin Dabbs

This is a must-read book--though I can just about guarantee that you will spend at least a few days attempting to guess the relative testosterone levels of everyone you encounter after finishing it! There are many insights into human nature here, male and female both, and why socialization and education are so very important in our modern society. But the real value of this book is in the understanding it can generate; there's no denying that men and women are different, or that we approach life in very different ways. But when it really comes down to brass tacks, we're all still human beings, and we're all in this together. Personal experience has shown me that life is a lot better when we at least try to meet each other halfway--and this book will help you do that. There are reasons why men do the things they do, just as there are reasons why women behave the way they do, and understanding the biochemical basis behind certain "typical man" things may well make you more patient with your Significant Other, or tell you what to watch out for in prospective partners if you're single.

Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture
Ernest Burden

An invaluable reference for the writer. Provides information on architectural schools/styles, famous architects, and building methods in addition to terminology. You'll never be stuck for how to describe a structure if you have this book!

The Moon: Myth and Image
Jules Cashford

An eclectic and utterly absorbing study of the moon's influence on human culture. Lunar myths, legends, folklore, and art from around the world and across the ages are collected, connected, and contrasted with those of the sun, generating some profound insights into man's relationship with life, death, nature, society, myth, religion, and even his own state of conscious self-awareness. I highly recommend this book to anyone with even a slight interest in cultural evolution.

The New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologically Sound Home
David Pearson

If you're seeking to decrease the impact of your daily activities on the health of our planet, this is a great reference to have. It discusses both the causes of unhealthy home construction and many possible solutions, and contains an extensive list of resources for products such as eco-friendly cleaners and low VOC paints.

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live
Sarah Susanka with Kira Obolensky

Not a book on ecological building as such, but certainly a step in the right direction. The author of this beautifully illustrated book argues that more is not necessarily better when it comes to square footage, and shows how a small house can be vastly more welcoming and comfortable than a large one.

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The Peterson Field Guides Series
Various Authors

I have four of these--two birding guides, one on Western forests, and one on gems and minerals. Very useful if you're into birdwatching or nature hikes, or as a world-building reference.

Stone Power
Dorothee L. Mella

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the powers attributed to gems and semiprecious stones, this is still quite an interesting and readable book, offering a wealth of information on traditional beliefs about the subject and suggestions on how to put different Earth-energies to work in your life.

A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain
John J. Ratey, MD

One of the more accessible books I've seen on the subject of neuroscience. I found the concept of "shadow syndromes," or slight manifestations of more severe neurological phenomena, particularly interesting.

The Witch in Every Woman: Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create, and Empower
Laurie Cabot with Jean Mills

You knew I couldn't go forever without listing something like this, right? Personally, I think that this is a book that every woman should read, regardless of religion, as the ideas in it are not necessarily incompatible with faiths besides paganism. In fact, it seems to me that a lot of women would be better off for getting in touch with all aspects of their inner self, and not just the nurturing ones which are all our patriarchal society values.

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing
Christiane Northrup, MD

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me go on and on about this book ad nauseum, but really, if you're a woman, go find yourself a copy and read it cover to cover with an open mind. I can almost guarantee that it will make a positive difference, not just in your health but your whole life. It contains a TON of very practical information about how the female body works (and what can go wrong, and what to do about it when it does), but it also addresses a number of much larger and more complex issues, like what it means to be female in our modern society and how the issues that come with that can be harmful to both our psyches and our bodies. The woman who wrote it is an MD, but she doesn't think or talk like most doctors; she gets into some ideas that are more than a little metaphysical, but trust me, taken as a whole, this book makes more sense than anything else I've ever read on the topic. My life has improved on so many levels since I first read it--spiritually, emotionally, physically. I feel more comfortable in my body than I ever have before in my life, and I can accept and even celebrate the ebbs and flows of my emotions and internal energies as something that connects me to the rhythms of the cosmos, and not as an annoyance or a "curse." Your menstrual cycle doesn't have to be your enemy!

I even gave this book to my husband to read and told him, "This will explain why I am the way I am." Don't get me wrong, he was never intolerant of my mood shifts at different times of the month, but I know he was confused by them and sometimes frustrated by the fact that an approach which helped me at one time would just make things worse at another. But now he helps me track my cycle, and he knows when it's okay to try and help me solve a problem and when it's better to just sit and listen and let me vent. He's also become exceptionally accomodating on the days when I need to slow down and rest just before and during my cycle, because he knows that it's only for a short while and that I'm not doing it just to be difficult. So if you decide to read this book, think about giving it to your Significant Other once you've finished it--he might surprise you!

The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference
Various Authors

Well, "complete" might be a bit of a misnomer, but it's still quite useful if you write fantasy and need the occasional factoid or jumpstart for an idea. It contains sections on government types, magic and witchcraft, fantastic beasts and created races, commerce and law, dress, military matters, and castles. There are lists of aristocratic and ecclesiastic titles and some discussion of more exotic human cultures, such as those of ancient Mesoamerica and the Far East. All in all, a handy book to have around.

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