Recommendations:

I put these suggestions up a long time ago -- before we left California, in fact -- and haven't updated them much since. I'll try to get around to it one of these days, but it honestly isn't a huge priority. I'm awfully busy enjoying stuff to talk about enjoying stuff right now. I'll get to it when I can.

To Read

Recommendations for 2002 SF Awards can be found right under that link. I did it for nominating convenience, but I have to say, it was something of a depressing exercise -- I just didn't read that many short pieces that really, really grabbed me in 2002. I won't be doing the same for 2003.

Lloyd Alexander -- the Westmark trilogy, including Westmark, The Kestrel, and The Beggar Queen. Intelligent, emotionally interesting, politically cool YAs.

Octavia Butler -- Blood Child. Brilliant short stories. Absolutely brilliant. "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" swept me entirely away. Must read.

Jonathan Carroll -- Outside the Dog Museum. His other stuff is good, too, but this is my favorite so far.

Raphael Carter -- The Fortunate Fall. Miles better than much other "virtual world/net" SF, with an ending that avoided being obvious or cliched.

Adam-Troy Castro -- "The Tangled Strings of the Marionettes," F&SF July 2003. This story hit me just right, somewhat like a darker sibling of Stardance. I liked an Adam-Troy Castro novella pretty well last year, too. I'll be eagerly waiting for a collection.

Michael Chabon -- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. So good. Sooooo good. The Golem of Prague. Houdini. WWII Czech Jewish immigrants. Superheroes, superheroes, superheroes. Very, very good.

Jung Chang -- Wild Swans. Even if you have no interest in Chinese history, read this book. Very, very well done and interesting.

Ted Chiang -- "Understand," "Division by Zero," and "Seventy-Two Letters," from Stories of Your Life And Others.

Esmé Raji Codell -- Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year. This book is hilarious. It's not treacly, not moralistic, not anything teaching books fall into being. It's just good stuff.

Susan Cooper -- The Dark Is Rising series. One of my favorite YA series ever.

Samuel Delany -- Driftglass

Pamela Dean -- Tam Lin. This book is falling apart, I've read it so many times. It's what it was like to go to Gustavus (not a surprise, since Dean went to Carleton, similarly located). She has timing issues with this book (though not as much as in the also-admirable Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary), but I don't even care.

Garret Freymann-Weyr -- When I Was Older. A mainstream YA novel. Has all the best traits of a non-genre Madeleine L'Engle and none of the worst. Also much more modern than L'Engle. I can't wait to find more of this author's books. I was an instant fan.

Mary Gentle -- The Book of Ash, published in four volumes in the U.S. This ate my head. It was definitely worth a go, although some people seem to love it and others hate it. I have to tell you, though: the framing device is part of the story. It is not irrelevant. It is both deliberate and necessary. It takes a bit to develop but pays off. Really.

Nicola Griffith -- The Blue Place. Not my usual style of book, but definitely well worth reading.

Peter Høeg -- Smilla's Sense of Snow. Good good good. I love it. Very Scandinavian, very well-done. I tried Borderliners, but I don't recommend it nearly so highly as Smilla. I'm looking for the rest of his stuff.

Diana Wynne Jones -- Fire and Hemlock. I've enjoyed Deep Secret and the Chrestomancy books and the Dalemark quartet, but I fell totally in love with Fire and Hemlock. One of my favorites instantly.

Peg Kerr -- The Wild Swans. Two parallel tales that come together at the end, both deeply affecting. I don't think I've been hit this hard by a character's death in a work of grown-up fiction in a long, long time--not because it'll be a surprise when you get to that part, but just because it was real to me. I felt that the characters in both time frames were handled with grace and sympathy, and the magic was interesting without being whizz-bang-boom.

Gina Kolata -- Flu. The story of a pandemic and eighty years of science that followed. Very clear style, interesting subject matter.

Nancy Kress -- Aliens of Earth. One of my favorite short story collections ever. I was shaken and amazed for days after reading these stories. Also Beggars in Spain This book was one of the most influential in my early SF-reading/writing. Part of it was just timing: it was the first in a lot of ways, first genetic engineering book I'd read that actually considered pros as well as cons, first near-future, first SF where the characters felt real to me and their emotions were important...very influential book for me.

Robin McKinley -- Spindle's End. I had a great time reading this. I've liked others of McKinley's works, but for some reason I wasn't all that keen going into this one. But it was good Sleeping Beauty fun, without a lot of the things that often annoy me about retold fairy tales, even my own.

Christopher Priest -- The Prestige. I have no idea why this won the World Fantasy Award, since it's not fantasy but SF. But it's historical SF, so I suppose some people will think that counts.

Robert Reed -- "To Church With Mr. Multhiford" from The Dragons of Springplace

Matt Ruff -- Fool on the Hill. It's a college book. It's not like Tam Lin; it's not a book about home. But it's got so many good things in it, dogs and non-cutesy fairies and architecture students making dragons and a Tolkienian fraternity...oh. Wonderful wonderful yay. Update: and also Set This House In Order rocks my world. Another wonderful wonderful yay.

Oliver Sacks -- An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Neurology in case specifics. Oooooh. Beautiful nonfiction.

Dorothy Sayers -- Gaudy Night. The rest of the series is worth reading to get to this one, but it's the best so far. I'm in the middle of Busman's Honeymoon, which is also worthwhile, and as long as you've read as far as Gaudy Night, you might as well keep going into Busman's.

Anne Sexton -- Transformations.

Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner -- The Fall of the Kings. Sex and politics. Yay.

Sean Stewart -- Galveston. Yum.

Jonathan Weiner -- Time, Love, Memory. Best book about fruit flies you'll ever read.

Ken Wharton -- Divine Intervention

Jane Yolen -- "Granny Rumple" (available in Sister Emily's Lightship and Black Thorn, White Rose).

Sarah Zettel -- Fool's War Do not read this book because it has "positive portrayals of Muslim characters." It does, but that's a crappy reason to read such a good book.

Bay Area Stuff

Eat at Pasta Primavera in Pleasant Hill. Anything with hazelnuts or sun-dried tomatoes is guaranteed good, although the chicken piccata and the tri-color tortellini are also favorites. And the bread, oh, the bread!

Go to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in Ghirardelli Square in early September. $6 for 5 "tastes" (good sized!) of chocolate concoctions. Benefits Project Open Hand.

Or just go to one of the Ghirardelli shops and get one of their fabulous ice cream sundaes. (You can also do this in Honolulu.)

Gaylord's on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland: drink their vanilla "chill out" latte. $3.50 for the small size.

Buy a Cheapass Game at Games of Berkeley.

Take BART to a ballgame.

Take home a half-baked Zachary's spinach and mushroom pizza. It's easier than battling the crowds and tastes just as good.

Visit the jellyfish and the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Drive up Mt. Diablo in the spring when the wildflowers are out. Hike around.

House of Nanking in Chinatown. Do not order. Let the nice people "take care of you."

Bistro E Europe on 4901 Mission. Again, let Julia and Zdravko "take care of you" with one of the multi-course chef's choice meals. Do not neglect the palacsintas at the end. Yummmmmmm.

Minneapolis Stuff

(This list grows by leaps and bounds. I love this city so much.)

The bookstore pilgrimage! Uncle Hugo's and Dreamhaven in the Uptown. They're good good good. And close together, so if you don't find what you're looking for in one, the other is easy to check.

Walk around Lake of the Isles. Drool at the houses. Pet the puppies. Enjoy the fall colors, or the snow, or the spring flowers, or the mosquito repellent. Your choice.

Como Park Conservatory. All year long, but it's especially important to go in the winter, when you can truly appreciate all the greenery. If you go to the carousel, look for my cousins' brick: Rebecca and Matt Wilson.

Order Frankie's Pizza. Chicago style. Yum.

Eat Bridgeman's ice cream at one of the oddly obliging Ember's, now that Bridgeman's doesn't have stand-alone stores. My favorite flavor is Raspberry Fudge Torte, but turtle sundaes are also a good use of your ice cream dollar. Or you can go to Sebastian Joe's, which is on 40-somethingth and Upton. Also muchly fabulous. We have more ice cream yet to investigate. I'll keep you posted.

Italian food: Ciao Bella or Bacio are essentially the same (lovely) restaurant with happy happy wild mushroom lasagna. Or you can go to Fat Lorenzo's for a more neighborhood/family feel and breadsticks thicker than my arm. Or DiNapoli's, for traditional my-family out-to-eat food.

Go to the Eighth Floor Auditorium at Dayton's! (They can call it Marshall Field's if they like, but we'll know what it really is.) Get gingerbread. Eat lunch in the basement at the deli with the lovely salads. Child-watch.

Wander through the skyways. Dayton's, the City Center, the IDS, Gaviidae...do it in the snow, as night falls. Happy sigh.

Omaha Stuff

Eat at Mr. C's. Omaha is really good at Italian steakhouses, and Mr. C's is not a restaurant, it's an experience. You will have to see its gaudy tackiness to believe it. Eat the toasted raviolis. Omahans expect a side of spaghetti with their steak, so if you feel like Nebraska beef, don't worry that you'll be missing out on the Italian food. It's best if you can go with a member of my extended family -- Lingens, Adams, Wileys, Catalanos -- because then Mr. C himself will come to your table and perhaps will sing along with the songs they play. "Yadda yadda yadda ouch!" The wall of Elvis is also good.....

Eat at Vivace in the Old Market. Contemporary Italian. Yum. Afterwards, wander in the Old Market for fun. Bargain for books at the Antiquarium. Enjoy the smell of fresh ice cream outside Ted and Wally's, knowing that your Vivace dessert was well worth it. Just once, rent a pedicab, one of those bicycle dealies, and ride it around Heartland of America park. Good stuff.

Hang out at Walnut Grove Park. This park is not going to blow you away. It's going to be a pleasant spot to spend some time. They have giant springs with platforms on the top, ideal for rocking around and eating picnics. Walnuts may be gathered in the fall, but your driveway will be stained if you crack them there. Many happy hours of my childhood spent here.