Strata - Terry Pratchett: It's not a spoiler to let you know this is Discworld before Discworld. Nor that he had not quite found his narrative voice yet; it begins with a unique notion that turns out to be balanced atop one even odder and more fascinating, turns into a kind of Ringworld parody, and then offers a very brief look at what will become the author's most famous creation. By the end (taking yet another sharp turn), I was starting to hear the Terry Pratchett I've come to enjoy -- and you won't believe which resident of later Discworld is the first to show up! Out of print as far as I know, but can be found used.
Antarctica - Kim Stanley Robinson: Philosophically, I often find myself somewhat to completely at odds with his notions but Robinson may be one of the best writers working in English. And to his credit, there's a strong anti-authoritarian streak in his work; but while he's no communist, he is a definitely-Left libertarian. If you can get past that, he tells compelling, flowing stories and this one manages to move fluidly from a relatively familiar exploration of the U.S. base at McMurdo to...but that would be telling. Alas, you will be reading that "there are too many of us on the planet," with no solution directly offered; but you'll be pleased the learn the villains of the piece are the sort who spike trees and torch tractors; even the ecologically-attuned Robinson can't give 'em halos -- and for that matter, the worst eeeevil corporation simply treats its employees a bit worse than W@lm@rt. While I prefer his earlier work, Icehenge, etc., he is a brilliant writer, able to capture the complexity of human relationships like none other. Worth reading.
As ever, if they sound interesting, please buy via the Amazon link at Tam's.
An aside -- I think with left-libertarian writers like LeGuin and Robinson, it's easy to get hung up on points of difference and miss the huge overlaps on things like suspicion of bigness and Authority, attitudes towards mercantilism (any corporation is very much a creature of the State), and the importance of voluntary association and of letting people do as they wish as long as it doesn't interfere with others. For example, an important part (and one the author appears to admire) of one culture in The Telling is square dealing, trading value for value, cash on the barrelhead. Yep, LeGuin and Rand, swappin' gold coins at that same table; how 'bout that? Arguments are easy, even a child can do it; finding and holding the common ground where things get done? That requires grown-up interaction.
PS: I missed all but the very end of The President's big speech last night. What I heard sounded like a mishmash of JFK and FDR, as assembled by Kafka or Stanislaw Lem. Will our Five Year Plan for a Great Leap Forward into the Iron Rice Bowl succeed? ...Don't bet on it. Economy, like gravity, eventually does as it must; Presidents and Congresses flail alongside, pretending to herd the avalanche and occasionally succumbing.