Kings, Queens, and Generals: A Summer 2011 Reading List

The summer of 2011 has a number of interesting directions that a reader can choose to explore. With the recent royal wedding and HBO’s Game of Thrones both flooding the airwaves with kings and queens, it seems appropriate to get medieval with my first two selections.

A Dance with Dragons, by George RR Martin
To Be Released July 12, 2011

The fifth book in what’s planned to be a seven book series called A Song of Ice and Fire by longtime fantasy writer George RR Martin, A Dance with Dragons takes on extra significance this year with the release of Game of Thrones, an HBO ten episode series that covers the first book in the series. Though it will be many years, if at all, before the HBO show covers the events of A Dance with Dragons, but the fact that it’s coming out at all after a six year gap between it and the previous book, A Feast for Crows, makes this release special. Add to it the fact that the novels have never had more exposure than in the wake of the TV show, and it makes A Dance for Dragons a mandatory read for fans of the books, of whom I am one. I hope to have it in hardcover the day it comes out and have it read within a week or two. The series itself is about a number of competing noble families struggling for power in the somewhat magical land of Westeros. With as many as eight or nine point of view characters per book, the series is known for its sweeping scope and brutal reality, which is a funny thing to say about books that include dragons and the undead, but is true nevertheless.

If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, and you should, the other books in the series are:

A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows

All by George RR Martin, of course.

You can find the TV show on HBO as Game of Thrones. (No, I don’t know why they dropped the ‘A’ from the book title.)

It does seem as if it takes quite some time to achieve success in the fantasy genre. Martin started working on A Song of Ice and Fire in 1991, with the first book being published in 1996. The remaining books have taken some fifteen years to come out, and there are still two books left in the series. My next author wrote his first book in 1999, but only managed to get it published in 2007.

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Released March 1, 2011

In many ways the polar opposite of Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, we come to Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, the second book of which, The Wise Man’s Fear, was released earlier in 2011. As opposed to the many characters and wide points of view that Martin uses in his series, Rothfuss tells his story from only one character, Kvothe. In these books, the first of which being The Name of the Wind, we learn the story of Kvothe’s life, starting in his childhood and moving forward throughout his life. We learn about the world in which Kvothe lives as he does, and it is here that Rothfuss excels. The details of the world, how things developed, how stories become legend and then gospel, even the details of how exactly magic works in his world, all of this makes Rothfuss’s world one of the most fully realized that I’ve ever read, and I look forward to reading more of it once I get into The Wise Man’s Fear.

Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World, by Bevin Alexander
To Be Released May 31, 2011

The year 2011 is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the American Civil War. While it would be easy to pick any number of Civil War books, both about specific battles and the war as a whole, the book that caught my eye was Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World by Bevin Alexander. I’ve read one of Alexander’s books before, his Lost Victories: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson, and I’ve found him to be a good writer of history, even if I don’t always agree with his conclusions. His new book, Sun Tzu at Gettysburg, suggests how various battles could have been won by applying the military principles laid down more than two thousand years ago by Sun Tzu. It’s a somewhat whimsical premise for a historical work, and since I like to mix in some non-fiction into my summer reading, this book should fit the bill nicely.