I’ve basically been ordered to pick up any fiction book and read, after a friend discovered I’ve not read anything but non-fiction for a decade.

The ones I’ve enjoyed in the past have been short, fantastical or sci-fi (think Aldous Huxley, Ian McEwan), but crucially with amazing first person descriptive prose - the kind where you’re immersed in the writing so much you’re almost there with the character.

I liked sci-fi as the world’s constraints weren’t always predictable. Hope that makes sense.

Any recommendations?

Edit: I’m going to up the ante and, as a way of motivating myself to get off my arse and actually read a proper story, promise to choose a book from the top comment, after, let’s say arbitrarily, Friday 2200 GMT.

Edit deux: Wow ok I don’t think I’ve ever had this many responses to anything I’ve posted before. You’ve given me what looks like a whole year of interesting suggestions, and importantly, good commentary around them. I’m honouring my promise to buy the top thing in just under 4 hours.

  • Chainweasel
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    372 months ago

    If you’re into the sci-fi, you’ll probably like Project Hail Mary, it’s hard sci-fi and you get very invested in the story.
    Ray Porter also does a great audiobook narration of it on audible.

    • @foofiepieOP
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      52 months ago

      The time is up. I have a promise to keep.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Chainweasel
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        22 months ago

        I hope you enjoy it!
        I actually picked it up again after recommending it myself lol

      • @Nefara
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        12 months ago

        They could definitely do a fake out after a time skip, even the book does that haha.

  • @cosmicrookie
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    212 months ago

    I can’t believe that **Hitchhiker’s guide to the gallaxy **isn’t mentioned yet!

    Its more of a funny story set in the future but its a classic, and its well worth reading (all 4 books of the trillogy)

    • Ixoid
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      12 months ago
      • Six books in the trilogy, if you include And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer (of Atemis Fowl fame)
  • @[email protected]
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    192 months ago

    It is fantasy but if you like hillarious and (in part) absurd stuff, read anything by Terry Pratchett. I personally would recommend starting with “Guards! Guards!”. Be aware that there are over 30 books by him out there. There are multiple guides on which to read first to get the best start.

    Most agree that it is not the best idea to start with the book he wrote first.

    • @[email protected]
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      52 months ago

      Be aware that there are over 30 books by him out there.

      All in all there are are like 40. At some point you will wish there were more.

      Guards! Guards! is nice.
      I also liked The Wee Free Men and a Hat Full of Sky.

    • @Lauchs
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      32 months ago

      Came to make sure someone had posted Pratchett.

      I think it particularly suits OP as the prose is astoundingly good. I’d never been impressed by sentence structure until reading Pratchett.

      Also, for someone into non-fiction, there’s so much real world brilliance that it crosses over pretty well. (Sociology, science, politics, religion, damnit, everything. The whole human experience can be found in Pratchett’s writing.)

  • @[email protected]
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    192 months ago

    The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells is a collection of short books in the first perspective of a cyborg. You might enjoy that.

  • Captain Aggravated
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    172 months ago

    Have you read The Martian by Andy Weir?

    Diamond hard sci-fi told mostly through the main character’s personal log. First time I read it, I couldn’t put it down, I read the whole thing in one sitting.

    • @[email protected]
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      62 months ago

      I’d like to add The Hail Mary Project by Weir as I recommended The Martian to a friend looking for sci-fi but he couldn’t get into it because it’s a little harder on the science and less on character development, although I personally agree it’s a great recommendation for immersive writing.

      The Hail Mary Project might have more immediate emotional character connection if the Martian feels a little dry.

        • @[email protected]
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          2 months ago

          Really? I actually don’t know his history. Was Martian his first one or just his breakout hit? Are all of his later novels more character driven like Hail Mary project?

          I like realistic science fiction a lot, but I need some more characterization and plots to really get into it like I did with the Hail Mary project.

          If anyone stumbles on this thread, check out the mote in god’s eye for some amazing characterization and hard science fiction.

          • @[email protected]
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            12 months ago

            He did some short format writing, but The Martian was his first published novel, I think. He was a software engineer before that.

            Artemis follows the same pattern of a capable main protagonist solving problems, so it is not very different from the other books in terms of characters, but it is much better in character depth and development than The Martian.

  • @[email protected]
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    2 months ago

    It’s definitely not short, but The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey is absolutely top notch.

    The attention to detail that goes into a sci-fi series that lives within a realistic world, with actual physics is incredible - i.e:

    • Ships need to calculate when to flip around midway through their journey to decelerate by burning the opposite direction.

    • Torpedoes and tungsten slugs have travel time.

    • Making hard accelerations or evasive maneuvers can and will crush you into your flight seat due to the intense G forces and the only way to not black out is a cocktail of stimulants, adrenaline, and blood thinners

    • Communications take place at actual light speed, which means when you’re dealing with distances up to several hundred million kilometers, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for your message to be received.

    But fear not! This is truly a traditional sci-fi novel, packed full with ancient alien substances that seem to reprogram human cells for their own use - but to what end? Ancient feuds between those born in space, and those born on a planet. And the answer to the age old question: why not just use asteroids as weapons?

    The main characters are an extremely close knit group, who it seems at times get by on sheer willpower and a touch of luck (with some excellent planning).

    The story takes turns being told from different characters’ perspectives, which really helps you get to know each character intimately - how they think, and feel about the events unfolding - how their morality affects their choices.

    If you’re looking for a more “realistic” take on sci-fi, this series is absolutely up your alley.

    The first novel is called “Leviathan’s Wake” and there are 9 main books in the series, with a smattering of novellas between that expand on the world.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8855321-leviathan-wakes

  • @[email protected]
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    122 months ago

    This year I discovered the Elderling Saga, by Robin Hobb. Starts with the Farseer Trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice. Great epic fantasy.

    As for sci-fi Isaac Asimov’s Foundation is great.

    Neuromancer is also a great read, and one of the earliest examples of cyberpunk.

    Since you asked for a single book, and you might not be keen on jumping into multi-book sagas, I’d say go for Neuromancer

    • @[email protected]
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      52 months ago

      The style of Neuromancer might not fit well with some people but if it does I would absolutely recommend it.

    • Leraje
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      22 months ago

      Hard agree with the Eldering Saga. I’m just starting the first book of the last trilogy and I have lived these books.

      Haven’t seen a mention of Dune yet. It’s not first person style but it is absolutely immersive and in terms of world building second only to Lord of the Rings.

      Iain M Banks Culture novels are also great. Again, not first person but still great. Lots of people say Player of Games is the most accessible and that may be true but my favourite is Excession.

  • @[email protected]
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    112 months ago

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned it already but the book that got me into reading was “Enders game” by Orson Scott Card. Fairly short and has a split set of follow up books that branch off in 2 directions in you want more.

        • @SzethFriendOfNimi
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          22 months ago

          I’ve read the first one but I’m not sure I want to read the rest if there’s no closure for the story.

          • @[email protected]
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            2 months ago

            I’ve read both Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, and while you can tell the general arc she was going for with the next book (and can imagine the broad strokes of what would happen next), I never felt there was a lack of closure for the story.

            They are emotionally difficult books to read, so it’s also hard to recommend them to people, but I would encourage you to not let the lack of a third book prevent you from reading the first two, they are worth reading on their own merits. The Parable of the Talents especially has significance to the situation in the U.S., as some say it predicted Trump.

  • @[email protected]
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    2 months ago

    If you like Andy Weirs novels, Tchaikowskys books are worth a try. I.e.:

    Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

    • @[email protected]
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      32 months ago

      The Player of Games is reportedly the best place to start but I personally started with Consider Phlebas and can’t complain!

  • @adam_y
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    92 months ago

    I know you’ve been recommended a lot of books.

    Like you I only ever read non-fiction.

    Then someone gave me a copy of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.

    You might like a lot of his work. It’s not exactly fiction and not exactly non-fiction.

    Anyway, good luck on your adventure! You are doing something brave and interesting. Let us know how you get on.

    • @[email protected]
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      22 months ago

      I tend to be a slow reader and it can take me a long time to finish a book, but Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road are two books that gripped me such that I basically spent every waking moment reading the book until I finished (I think in both cases I finished the books in less than 24 hours).

      • @adam_y
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        22 months ago

        Slow readers are my favourite humans.

        They don’t race through a book, but instead the stroll, taking time to look around, think things through, ponder the future and reason the implications. Sometimes they just rest for a while, letting the story mull in their mind, before returning later.

        Genuinely have so much time for people that take it slow with books.

        • @[email protected]
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          22 months ago

          That’s an interesting perspective, as I have always felt insecure for being a slow reader. I feel like people in my world see it as a sign of being less intelligent, and while I would like to think slower reading helps with my comprehension, I also just feel like it’s not much of a choice for me (I mean, the alternative to slow reading for me would be something other than reading, like scanning; it seems people who can read faster than me are somehow also more competent or intelligent).

          • @adam_y
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            22 months ago

            People lie about how much they read and how quickly they read. I saw one guy online list his yearly reading and if you totalled up the words in those books he’d be breaking records.

            People lie because they want people to think they are smart. But reading quickly isn’t an indicator of intelligence any more so than people that watch videos at four times the speed.

            Retention and comprehension are far more important, but still secondary to enjoyment.

            If you enjoy how you read and what you read, don’t let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong.

            • @[email protected]
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              2 months ago

              That seems like a wholesome perspective, thanks for sharing it!

              People lie because they want people to think they are smart.

              I remember when I was a kid, I was amazed by my grandmother who could finish a whole novel in a few sittings across a day or two when she would come and stay with us. I once mustered up the courage to ask her how she learned to read so quickly, and she explained that she doesn’t actually read every word, but just scans for major plot points. I felt silly, and unsure how to respond - it seemed to me she wasn’t reading, but I didn’t want to imply that. lol

              She wasn’t trying to appear smart, I think she just didn’t want to suffer the boring parts, so she scanned ahead to the juicy bits. That’s such an interesting and different way of approaching reading than I have, I’ve only recently started to skip an introduction or preface if it didn’t seem crucial to the book, something I would have previously considered antisocial or rougish, haha.

              • @adam_y
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                22 months ago

                Oh yeah, I’m not shaming anyone who skims, read however you enjoy.

                I just know that there’s more of a weird stigma for slower readers.

                Same goes for finishing books. I know some folk will stick with a book even if they aren’t enjoying it, mostly because they’ve learnt that as part of their education.

                I abandon books all the time. Life’s a little too short, so I treat reading like the radio… A song comes on that I’m not into, just flip over and see what else is put there.

                That said, I’ve returned to books that I bailed on and in some cases I really enjoyed them at the second attempt. Which makes me think that you have to be in the right place sometimes. Still, it’s no reflection on intelligence.

                • @[email protected]
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                  22 months ago

                  All good points! I have the same tendency to pick up and drop books based on mood and what’s going on in my life. I recently just picked back up Sapolsky’s A Primate’s Memoir which I had abandoned years ago after reading roughly the first half. Picking it back up, I enjoyed it so thoroughly I became a bit avid in my reading and finished the rest of the book in a week or so (which is rather fast paced for me).

                  I like the metaphor of reading being like listening to the radio. I often feel guilty for dropping books or not powering through (there are many, many books I have read the first quarter or so of and shelved with the intention to finish another time). Probably healthier to have a more free and less “driven” mindset towards reading books.

                  Sometimes I drop a book because I enjoy it so much I don’t want it to end, I want it to always be there and to relish it later. This is a bit silly - there are always other books, but I also will forget the plot over time and eventually the book will be enough like new that I can enjoy re-reading it.

  • @[email protected]
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    92 months ago

    I’m going to suggest The Murderbot Diaries. It starts off with the few short novellas before they’re being a full length novel. You can finish the novellas in a few hours and you will be hungry to get into the full length novel. Get them off www.libgen.is

    First one is called All Systems Red by Martha Wells Followed by: Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, Compulsory(just a super short origin story), Network Effect(full novel), Home(four short stories), Fugitive Telemetry, System Collapse (another novel)

    I think this would let you break into some really good offbeat sci-fi with some novellas first. Then some full-on novels all within the same universe.

    • hybrid havoc
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      12 months ago

      Great recommendation. Extremely easy to get into, great compelling character voice, and most of the entries in the series are very quick reads.

  • @[email protected]
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    2 months ago

    The Kite Runner (beautiful)

    The Stand (incredible character development)

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (hilarious)

    • @[email protected]
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      42 months ago

      I reread the stand yearly. It’s a longer book but it definitely hooks you and draws you into the world exactly like how op is asking.

    • @SzethFriendOfNimi
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      22 months ago

      Heads up on The Stand. It’s a huge book. A good one but huge.