Suggestions for summer reading: Three classic novels from the 60s, 70s, 80s | Arts & Culture | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest

Get away from your summer routine this way.

Oyour home library is full with well-worn vintage paperbacks by some of the most iconic sci-fi authors of the 20th century: Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, Vonda N. McIntyre, Isaac Asimov and many more other. I’ve only read a third of these influential classics, but the goal is to finish them all. It’s a tough balance to stay on top of new releases while catching up with the classics, so I devised a strategy for everyone else: read something “new”, then “old” and repeat. With the summer reading season here, I recommend three returning titles (coincidentally all written by female authors from the Pacific Northwest) for your reading list.

The left hand of darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

The late Ursula K. Le Guin has produced an impressive science fiction bibliography, including her esteemed Earthsea trilogy intended for young readers. The left hand of darkness is considered Le Guin’s other masterpiece and has received the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, making her the first woman to receive both. Located on the glacial planet Gethen populated by ambisexual human hybrids – mostly asexual beings who only adopt male or female reproductive traits for a few days in each lunar cycle – Left hand was one of the first works of science fiction to explore androgyny. Another major theme is the influence of gender on culture and politics. The plot of the book largely follows a male diplomat from Earth sent to Gethen to convince his nation-states to join a large interplanetary alliance. He struggles, however, as his own views on gender roles stand in the way.

Dream snake
by Vonda N. McIntyre (1978)

First of all, the bad news: Dream snake is currently out of print, so you’ll need to find a used copy or listen to it through an audiobook. Good news: it’s worth the search. Dream snake follows a healer aptly named Snake as she travels through a brutal post-nuclear holocaust landscape to Earth’s distant future. Healers like Snake use the venom of genetically engineered snakes to treat all kinds of illnesses, from tumors to infections, and are revered for their skill. Dream snake has also won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and its themes always seem ahead of its time. Snake is independent, fierce, and intelligent, and the novel completely overthrows the lone hero, the epic travel trope. I immediately hoped for a sequel, but unfortunately, Dream snake stands alone. The late McIntyre, however, wrote another separate (and equally fascinating) novel set in the same universe: Exile on hold.

The cave bear clan
by Jean M. Auel (1980)

Do not be discouraged by its more than 500 pages: that of Jean M. Auel The cave bear clan is a prehistoric epic that passes quickly if, like me, we barely manage to let go. The speculative fictional story about Ayla, a Cro-Magnon woman orphaned as a child, and the Neanderthals who adopt her, is first in the six-book bestseller. Children of the Earth series. As a member of the “Others,” as the clan calls her people, Ayla’s physical and mental differences present many challenges as she matures. She constantly struggles to be fully accepted by the superstitious clan and guided by tradition. Ayla’s deep desire to participate in vital rituals such as hunting, a skill in which she is far better at than most Clan Men, and which Clan Women are strictly prohibited from, further contributes to this conflict. Yet despite the many burdens she must overcome, Ayla remains determined and true to herself. ♦


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