I recently started a side project on my personal blog, Yore: Reading Appendix N. The project entails doing exactly that: Reading every book Gary Gygax recommended in Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (1st Edition), and at least one book by every author in cases where he didn’t provide a specific recommendation.
That blog series isn’t happening here on the Stew because it involves blogging about books and not GMing, but I wanted to mention it here for two reasons: One, there’s significant overlap between GMs and folks who enjoy fantasy and sci-fi novels; and two, because Appendix N is a font of amazing books that are great inspiration for gaming and GMing.
If you don’t own the DMG and want to check out Appendix N, I’ve reproduced it here: Appendix N. And if you want to delve into it and check out some excellent books, I’ve created a reading list that breaks Appendix N down by title and provides notes, recommendations, and more to make that easier: The 100-Book Appendix N Reading List. (You can also download the list in PDF and Excel.)
I read all of Robert E. Howard’s Conan yarns when I was first investigating the roots of the hobby, and I’m now working on the second Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novel, and both those and the Appendix N titles I’d read before starting this project (Tolkien, Lovecraft, Zelazny, and others) have been great sources of ideas for games. And not just for things I can steal whole cloth (although they’re great for that), but also for ideas about mood and tone and setting that I wouldn’t have considered on my own.
If you’ve never checked out Appendix N, or the books Gary recommended back in 1979 — which, thus far, have held up as superb recommendations in 2012, 33 years later — I encourage you to do so. Whether you read one or a hundred, you’ll get something out of it you can use in your games.