How To Get Started With Ursula K. Le Guin’s Writing

How To Get Started With Ursula K. Le Guin’s Writing

Author and essayist Ursula K. Le Guin died this week at the age of 88, after completing an overwhelming number of novels, essays, short stories, and books of poetry. (When you visit her website, the list of major titles is three pages long.)

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You’re probably seeing a lot of people share posts about how much they loved reading Le Guin’s novels, or how much Le Guin influenced their own writing – and if you’d like to become familiar with Le Guin’s work, here’s where we recommend you begin:

If you like short stories, or if you want a quick introduction to Le Guin’s work, read The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. It’s short enough that it can fit into a tweet, but it will stick with you for a very long time.

If you like epic fantasy, you’ll want to read Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle. This six-book series follows Ged (an impulsive wizard) and Tenar (a rebellious priestess) from youth through adulthood; it includes dragons, sorcerers and quests, but – like most good fantasy series’ – it’s really about understanding oneself and choosing how to live in a complicated world.

If you prefer science fiction, get a copy of The Left Hand of Darkness. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that this is about human-alien interaction and let you discover the rest for yourself.

If you like essays, or if you’re a writer who likes reading about how other writers work, read The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination.

What other Le Guin works do you recommend, especially for new readers? And which of her works resonated most with you? Let us know in the comments.


  • She does like to preach, so be prepared for that.

    I can only recommend the original Earthsea trilogy.
    It is fantastic. I might read the rest of the series one day.

    • One astonishing aspect of the later Earthsea books is the manner in which LeGuin went back to a series she’d written decades before and critiqued her own blindness by writing new stories in that universe, some about the characters she’d created in the original. She was always looking back at what she’d done, asking herself what she’d learned since writing earlier works. Rather than renouncing her earlier work, she wrote the stories that filled in the blanks and peered into the limitations of her younger writing self (and of the genres in which she worked).

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