Diving into a work of fiction is what visiting an alternate universe must be like. How easy is it to lose track of time when we’re wrapped up in something we love to read?

Here are ten of my favorite books that I’ve read over the course of my life. These are in no particular order.

  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson: just straight out cool. Hardcore punchy prose. Deep characterization. Sharp and prescient. Plus it has pizza.

  • Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac: the story of a 19th Century twenty-something would-be writer who struggles to make a name for himself in the big city simply resonates with me as a writer. It’s a book I wish I would’ve read in my twenties.

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: I loved sinking into the world-building of this story, but more than that, the character-based structure of this novel is sublime and innovative. Her use of the second person narrative is surprising and effective.

  • Blindness by Jose Saramago: oh, my life for quotation marks or even a period. Without the expected punctation, this book made me feel like I was hearing the story in my head, not seeing it. That’s a good thing.

  • If on a Winter’s Night, a Traveler by Italo Calvino: wondrous swirling prose that wraps itself around the narrative like a dream

  • Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick: a fever dream of deep philosophy and seizure induced hallucinations that may actually be a sign of spacetime folding in on itself. Do you know what year it is? Don’t be so sure.

  • Blackout by Connie Willis: WWII time-travel story with rich historical detail, grit and insightful characterization. Major historical events of the WWII era are woven expertly together. The scenework at Dunkirk still resonates with me years later.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: years later I would read this again (and again) and find myself once more lost in the magic of this alternate reality.

  • Way Station by Clifford D. Simak: a quiet meditation on time, relationships and tolerance.

  • HONORABLE MENTION: Special Deliverance by Clifford D. Simak: one of the first science-fiction books I ever read. I think I read this in the 4th grade. I still recall the moment when the protagonist, a schoolteacher, pulled the slot machine lever … and ended up in another universe.