Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

Request for Book Recommendations

I’m putting together my list of books to read for this upcoming school term, and I’ve come up against a bit of trouble. I know that some people out there have got to have ideas I haven’t considered, so I’m throwing this out to get a bit of help.

Here are my prime targets for things to find in required novels this term:

  1. Books that have deities or other forces of destiny which actively shape the lives of humans – as examples, the Shin’a’in/Tayledras star-eyed goddess from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books OR the Cheysuli idea of tahlmorra in Jennifer Roberson’s books.
  2. Books that involve a protagonist who runs away from home to pursue military or weapons training of some sort, whether entirely intentional or not. Examples: Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy; Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword.
  3. Books that feature groups in nomadic or semi-nomadic life, either in fantasy or in real life. I’d prefer nomads of the desert or desert edge, but others would be okay as well. Turkish or Mongolian steppes would work, too. The only fantasy novel I can think of that features this in any real way is Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword again. Others have one person or a small group crossing the desert, but I want people groups for whom that life is the norm.
  4. Books that use a first person narrator, especially for epic fantasy; double especially for epic fantasy with multiple first-person narrators alternating POVs for the story. Prime example of this would be the last three books of Carol Berg’s Bridge of D’Arnath series.

Any help with any of these would be great. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, but not all of it, so feel free to give me a suggestion even if it seems like a book you think I would have already read. At the very least, I hope to stir the pot a bit.

Thanks in advance!



  1. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about Mongolia and Chinggis Khan so maybe I can help.

    As far as fiction, there’s Pamela Sargent’s RULER OF THE SKY, an historical fiction novel about Genghis Khan from the female perspective. Very good, though quite a lengthy tome. Sargent is also well known for her sf/f work, so you may want to check it out. And I’ve heard good things about Conn Iggulden’s newish book, GENGHIS: BIRTH OF AN EMPIRE, though I haven’t got to it yet. Skimming through it, it did look like it had promise. A lot of fiction based in this period and location is inaccurate and/or just poorly written, so I don’t have much else to offer that I can think of at the moment.

    For non-fiction, these might be worth looking into: GOBI: TRACKING THE DESERT by John Man and THE CHANGING WORLD OF MONGOLIA’S NOMADS by Mervyn C. Goldstein and Cynthia M. Beall. Both very good books, chock full of ethnographic data. The former will give you a lot of good info about desert life specifically, while the latter covers Mongolia’s nomads in general and is fully illustrated with a lot of beautiful photos.

    You may want to consider just getting the above books at the library so you can test them out.

  2. Thanks, CPC – I’ll definitely check out whether my library has these. If it doesn’t, I have courtesy access to the stacks at the University of Denver, so I might very well take a trip over there and check things out.

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