Sometimes I have a great deal of sympathy for tiny Ben Savage in The Princess Bride when he doesn’t want to listen to “the kissing parts.” Sometimes, the kissing parts are the last thing you want. Whether it’s because you’re lonely or because of a recent heartbreak or because you like being single and wish authors would write books where it’s okay to be single, goddamn it, WE DON’T ALL HAVE TO END UP WITH SOMEBODY, OKAY or you know, whatever less reveling about me reason you might have, here a few books with little to no romance in them, thank god.
Where to start with Mechanique. It has steampunk sensibilities and a non-chronological timeline. It also has a circus and is about family of choice and doing what is right, even if that’s not nice or easy. It’s about people who have found a place in a world that is falling apart and who are willing to fight to keep that place, and the people who make it up, safe. It’s evocative and moving and so, so lovely. Read it now.
Space Marines! With Tanya Huff’s wonderful sense of humor! What, you need more? Alright. The main character, Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, is a complete badass and I’m not sure if I’d rather be her or marry her. It’s the start of a series, but only this first one is romance free. Fair warning, these books are about active duty soldiers and can be heartbreaking, despite the well-developed humor throughout.
Gen claims he can steal anything. He backs his claim by stealing an official seal from an important government minister. Due to his bragging after the fact, Gen is caught and thrown into prison. The king’s Magus offers Gen a deal. Steal the unstealable, a mythical gem that will win the Magus’s king the right to rule the next kingdom over, and Gen can go free. Is Gen up to the task? Read the book and find out!
I hesitate to recommend this one because it is the first half (or third, depending on which of Robin McKinley’s blog posts you’ve read) of a book and ends on what may be the biggest cliffhanger I’ve ever experienced. The second half (or third) has not been published yet and the last I saw on McKinley’s blog said it was due out in 2014 and, well, *looks around at all the 2015 up in here*. That said, if you’re good at dealing with cliffhangers, this is a really, really fantastic book. Where it shines is the (non-romantic!) relationships between the characters. Father to daughter, friend to friend, princess to wizard, they’re all fascinating. Whatever else is to come, this first half (or third) of the book is truly fantastically written.
You by Austin Grossman
Oh, You. I first read it when I was the same age as the protagonist and it really spoke to my wandering-late-20s-what-am-I- doing-with-my-life soul. It is largely a book about video games and the video game industry, but other than the occasional bout of Tetris with my mom and step-sister, I haven’t played video games since about 1996 (when the old Nintendo finally crapped out on us) and I never felt left out of anything while reading this book. It’s also a book about building relationships, finding where you belong, and self-exploration. It’s a bit slow at times but lovely nonetheless.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
To paraphrase kids these days, I can’t even with Ursula K. Le Guin. She’s beyond amazing and if I were to ever meet her in person, my fangirl weeping would surely embarrass us both. The thought, the depth, the understanding of humanity she puts in her writing is both inspiring and breathtaking. Not to oversell her or anything. This book explores gender, how society functions, friendship (oh my goodness, the friendship! Seriously, can’t even), and basic human nature. Seriously, so read all the Ursula K. Le Guin you can, as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.
*Inspired by a request for recommendations from the marvelous Miranda and suggestions from the lovely Liyana.
Amanda enjoys making people laugh and receiving compliments about her pretty, pretty hair.
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