Ooops...that took longer to get back to than I thought. I've been gradually cataloging books and rummaging through my memory to put these lists together and have updated some of the prior entries with things I'd forgotten about when I posted originally so...worth checking out the earlier posts for the new info.
Okay, so...more high school. While I continued to read in my favorite series by Norton, McCaffrey, Valdemar & others, I was also getting into some of the earlier sci-fi/fantasy that influenced these amazing writers. Examples include the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, anything by Leigh Brackett and the Jirel of Joiry series by the amazing C.L. Moore - one of the true female pioneers of the genre.
I went through a major King Arthur phase which included MZB's Mists of Avalon as well as the wonderful series by Mary Stewart that focuses on Merlin's point of view:
Another work that I don't believe is as well known, but which I thoroughly enjoyed is Gillian Bradshaw's Hawk of May. Rather than following the more well-known characters like Arthur, Merlin or Lancelot (although they are all there), this series focuses on Gwalchmai, more familiar to us as Sir Gawaine.
Switching over to sci-fi, I discovered the Flinx & Pip series by Alan Dean Foster. Philip Lynx or "Flinx" as he is known is a galactic orphan with a mysterious past and some strange abilities. Because of these abilities, he is able to partner up with a deadly creature known as an Alaspinian mini-drag, who he names "Pip". These books are set in Foster's wider universe known as "The Commonwealth" where humans and the insect-like Thranx have formed a close alliance against the reptilian Aan. The world-building is strong, Flinx & Pip are really likable characters and even the most insect-averse reader will come to like the Thranx (plus, they smell good!) It should be noted that the books were not published in the chronological order of the story so readers will have to choose if they want to read in chronological order or publication order. If you want to start chronologically, then For Love of Mother-Not is the place to begin:
Personally, my favorite in the series is Mid-Flinx. Pip & Flinx find themselves on a sentient jungle planet where anything you touch may be deadly:
Additional excellent books that take place in the same Humanx Commonwealth universe, but don't feature Pip & Flinx, include Nor Crystal Tears, the Icerigger Trilogy, and Cachalot among many others:
Foster is also well-known for writing the novelizations of many famous sci-fi films including Alien and multiple entries in the Star Wars universe.
But wait! You only like fantasy, you say? Foster has you covered with his Spellsinger books which feature the grouchy (and possibly crazy) turtle wizard, Clothahump, the always-up-for-a-good-time otter, Mudge, and a hapless human recruited from Earth for his alleged spell singing abilities...which he has to learn how to use. If you've ever sat in traffic while mentally matching your Spotify soundtrack to your favorite sword & sorcery scenario - these books are for you! You'll never listen to "Sloop John B" the same way ever again.
But wait! You say you only have time for short stories? Foster has that covered, too! I am not always a big fan of anthologies but there have been a few exceptions like the MZB's Darkover & Sword & Sorceress anthologies (which I was also reading during this time), but Foster has two of my favorites:
"Why Johnny Can't Speed" is one of my personal faves from this collection - predicts the phenomenon of road rage YEARS ahead of its time.