Sometimes people come up to me and ask what books of mine they should read first. Authors are notoriously bad judges of their own work. I seldom know what to say.
But here are my feelings about some of my works. This doesn’t imply they’re better. I’m just more fond of them, for varying reasons. Each is a form of concealed autobiography, perhaps, because I associate them with the years when they were alive in my mind.
Of my favorite books of my own, I’d list:
At least it’s the most popular, with millions of sales. It’s been optioned for film quite a lot. The UCSD scenes reflect my own graduate student days, and the Cambridge settings the year I spent there on sabbatical leave. There are three characters who reflect me at various times: Bernstein in 1962 La Jolla; Gregory Markham in 1990s Cambridge (with my same background bio, too); and the two twins who appear in the second half, mirroring me and my brother, who were in La Jolla then as grad students. No one was more surprised than I was when TIMESCAPE passed the million copy mark in sales, quite a while ago.
(sequel to JUPITER PROJECT, my tribute to Robert Heinlein)
This was the easiest book I ever wrote, and nearly the shortest. It felt great to write it, like skating downhill.
I like infinity! Wish we had more of it…
THE MARTIAN RACE
Written with Elisabeth Malartre, though she is not credited in the book. Time Warner offered double the advance if they could publish it as a single author novel. I wanted to write about what the space program really could be, with a bit of added verve and imagination. The sequel is THE STARBORN, but that novel isn’t of the same flavor.
It reflects my interest in archeology. Also my urge to write off my vacations…
HEART OF THE COMET
Written with buddy David Brin, this treats an expedition to Halley’s Comet. We wrote it in six months to meet the arrival of the comet itself.
IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT
The opening to the 5 later books in that Galactic Center series. I took 25 years to write them all. This remains my favorite, a look at the future from the vantage of the mid-1970s that even got some things right.
Set in my own physics department at UCI, somewhat satirical. The physics is pretty avant garde and I took a lot of heat for writing about a black woman character. The effrontery! Many assumed her attitudes were mine, but they aren’t.
Rather close to my heart. It has characters much like old friend Martin Rees, the most effective astronomer in the world, and a character named Kingsley based on my friend, Kingsley Amis. Also, a thinly veiled portrait of my deceased wife, Joan, in her last years. I wrote the novel to work through issues of her mortality. Maybe it helped.
My best nonfiction, I think, dealing with how humanity communicates across millennia, and based on my experiences with designing long term messages.
I don’t write novels as often, now — I’m running a biotech company I started, Genescient, and traveling more. But I will continue as time allows.