The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Years of Rice and Salt

Kim Stanley Robinson

An epic read that supposes that Western Europe was totally wiped out by the plague in the 13th century, and that history was made by Muslim, Buddhist, Chinese and Native American cultures instead. Centred on Eastern tradition, the history follows a group of souls, endlessly reborn, endlessly experiencing different lives, endlessly working towards escape from the wheel of existence. Absolutely riveting.


My feeling is that until the number of whole lives is greater than the number of shattered lives, we remain stuck in some kind of prehistory, unworthy of humanity's great spirit. History as a story worth telling will only begin when the whole lives outnumber the wasted ones. That means we have many generations to go before history begins. All the inequalities must end; all the surplus wealth must be equitably distributed. Until then we are still only some kind of gibbering monkey, and humanity, as we usually like to think of it, does not yet exist.

The old woman read the pages her husband had given her, walking up and down on the verandah, full of agitation. She went to her own writing stand and took up her brush, and in quick blind strokes filled a page.

  • Creation by Gore Vidal
  • Pasquale's Angel by Paul J McAuley
  • Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Books with similar mood


Julian Gough


Naomi Novik

The Fractured Life of Jimmy Dice

Ronan Ryan

The Great Stink

Clare Clark

She Would Be King

Wayétu Moore


Edward Carey


Sarah Waters

Waking Lions

Ayelet Gunder-Goshen

The Wilding

Maria McCann

Uncertain Light

Marion Molteno

Long Lies the Shadow

Gerda Pearce

Tiger Hills

Sarita Mandanna

The Resurrectionists

Michael Collins


Ian McEwan

The Impressionist

Hari Kunzru

The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder

Sarah Harris

Hunters in the Dark

Lawrence Osborne

Guarding Maggie

Ellen McCarthy

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu

The Silent Boy

Andrew Taylor

Petite Mort

Beatrice Hitchman


Yasutaka Tsutsui

Tango for a Torturer

Daniel Chavarria


Christie Dickason

Burnt Shadows

Kamila Shamsie

Little Face

Sophie Hannah

The Dollmaker

Nina Allan

The Woman at 1,000 Degrees

Hallgrímur Helgason

The Girl in the Red Coat

Kate Harmer

The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi

The Kites

Romain Gary

The Last King of Lydia

Tim Leach

City of the Beasts

Isabel Allende

All the Birds in the Sky

Charlie Jane Anders

Tirzah and the Prince of Crows

Deborah Kay Davies

A God in Every Stone

Kamila Shamsie

A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth Ozeki


Mark Merlis

The Keep of Fire

Mark Anthony

The Infatuations

Javier Marias

The Democrat

Olly Wyatt

The Lost City

Henry Shukman

A Beggar at the Gate

Thalassa Ali

Small World

Matt Beaumont