I may regret saying this, but I have become a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It is an alternative reality series in which magic is real and the main character is a wizard who also works as a detective in Chicago. His cases are, of course, quite supernatural. What makes this a strong series is that the characters grow and mature over the course of the series. Additionally, there are occasional very nice moments of humor and pathos. For example, one of Dresden’s partners and friends is a Knight of the Cross but also has a shrewish wife and a punk teenage daughter. The beauty of the series is that these sorts of complexities are integral to the story and not simply wall paper. One note of caution; the violence quotient is quite high.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. It is surprisingly gripping and the speeches made by politicians 2500 years ago are straight out of Fox News. The actions of Athens in its quest to remain the superpower of that era could easily be applied to us in this era.
Robert Scheinman writes the blog “A Biologist’s View.”