Shelf Control: The Hainish Novels and Stories

It’s Wednesday, time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature created by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. This year, Shelf Control has moved base to Literary Potpourri. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, when/where you got it, why you want to read it and such.

This week I am featuring my Library of America edition of the Hanish novels and stories by Ursula K. LeGuin. These are LeGuin’s major science fiction works, spanning the whole course of her long career, linked by the notion that different worlds were settled at some point by people from a planet named Hain. It’s not, she emphasizes in the preface to this edition, a “cycle,” a series, or a thoroughly worked-out, consistent world; rather, she simply found it convenient and energy-saving as a writer to set her various fictions in a universe she already knew something about, rather than creating it from scratch each time — but some gaps and inconsistencies crept in in the process.

With that caveat, I think it’s still valid to consider the Hanish works as a whole, and Chris of Calmgrove is hosting a read-through during 2023 that I plan to take part in, in order to tackle this two-volume set that’s been sitting on my shelf for too long.

I’ve already read some of its parts: The Dispossessed (which I loved), The Left Hand of Darkness (which I appreciated, without being as enthusiastic as some readers), The Telling (which I can’t remember at all), and some of the stories. But I want to read the books I haven’t yet, starting with LeGuin’s early short novels, Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions. I’m very excited to do a deep dive into the work of one of my favorite writers and to share the journey with others.

I bought the set when the LOA first started publishing LeGuin’s works and I briefly joined as a member, while living in the US. I still want to collect the other volumes that have come out and are planned for the future, but I have to watch the budget right now. Someday!

Have you read any of the Hainish works, or would you like to? What is calling from your shelves this week?

13 thoughts on “Shelf Control: The Hainish Novels and Stories

  1. So glad you decided to join in with Shelf Control this week, Lory and great choice for your first pick. I was hoping to join in with the readalong as well but so far haven’t had any luck finding the earlier books. I’ve read The Left Hand of Darkness which do remember liking and hope to get to the rest as soon as I can manage. Hope you enjoy the readalong (I’ll be trailing behind) and I’ll be keeping a lookout for your posts.

    1. Thanks, I will likewise look forward to any posts you manage about any of her books. Make sure to read The Dispossessed, it’s brilliant!

  2. I’m glad to be the nudge that has caused you to pick this set up to explore, Lory, and don’t mind that I’m having to conceal deep feelings of envy you have all these volumes collected together! (I’ve still to acquire a secondhand copy of The Telling…) I really hope that you don’t find the three early Hainish novels disappointing – I’m certainly finding my current reread a different experience to my first foray to her three worlds.

    1. I hope you do, and that you hit on one that works for you. My favorite so far is The Dispossessed, but we’ll see if that changes.

  3. I’ve read LeGuin’s novels at very different points in my life and didn’t fully realize that all of these “Hainish” novels are connected, so I’m following this read-along with interest.

    1. They’re pretty loosely connected, it seems. But it will be fun to read them in succession and see how they fit together, or not.

  4. I have been in a Radcliffe Book Group for more than 20 years so when we can find a fellow alumna’s books, we do. Unfortunately, I had a tough time with The Left Hand of Darkness and found it hard to follow. I really prefer fantasy. I am not sure most of us finished it. I did enjoy her Earthsea books but when my nephew read them last year he was disappointed I didn’t remember them well enough to have a rousing discussion.


    1. Frankly, I don’t think Left Hand is necessarily the best entry point for Le Guin, even though it’s probably her most acclaimed and famous work. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what I think when I read more of her SF works ( I also prefer fantasy in general). Also a shout-out her for her late book Lavinia, which is sort of a historical fantasy. I feel sad when people get put off by one book when she has sooooo much to offer.

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