I've been following a weird reading trajectory lately. Apparently, my need for escapism was a lot bigger than I expected, so I've been loading up on the sub-genre "military science fiction." Heeding Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap"), I've been careful to follow other people's recommendations. Thank the gods for the Internet. Sure, you can waste a lot of time on the Web, but other people can help you save a lot of time--such as time spent finding out what's really crap, and what's worth reading.
Since military SF is where my head has been lately, I thought I'd share some recommendations. Some are recent acquisitions; others are books that I read a long time ago. I'm not going to give you a mini-review of each book, but I will add a little information that might pinpoint something worth reading.
John Scalzi, the "Resurrected" series. A shotgun packed full of neat ideas. I won't give anything away--just read them.
Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers. One of the most misunderstood books ever. No, it's not a fascist tract, as some critics claim. Instead, it's a long musing on the meaning and importance of citizenship that's completely different, and better, than the silly movie "inspired" by the book.
Steakley, Armor. If Heinlein had dropped the political parable to focus more on the plot for its own sake, and if he had been a somewhat better writer, you'd end up with something like Armor. Same motif (ground-pounders versus aliens), different reasons for reading (a better escapist read).
David Feintuch, the "Hope" series. Very Hornblower-esque, in that the main character starts as a midshipman in a very Royal Navy-like setting. The characters and writing were good, and the situations stayed interesting until the last book or two, when the series lost steam.
Hook, the Human/Zor series. At first, I thought it would be another Hornblower retread. However, it turned into a weird but effective melange of space opera and alien mythology (!).
Joe Haldeman, The Forever War. Even if the author intended it to be a Vietnam metaphor, it doesn't quite read that way. On its own merits, it's a great book about soldiers getting more and more disconnected from the people they're defending.
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game. I never liked the sequels, but the original is still a must-read book.
Frank Herbert, Dune. Of course it's a military SF book! Jihad, anyone?
Walter Jon Williams, the "Empire's Fall" trilogy. Surprisingly prosaic space opera from one of the most imaginative writers around. Still worth reading, however, for the entertainment value.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God's Eye. A good novel about humans facing a potential alien enemy whom they really don't understand. Skip the excruciating sequel.
Various writers, the Man/Kzin wars collections. Several SF authors contributed to this series of short stories, all based on Larry Niven's "Known Space" setting, specifically on the bitter war between humans and the Kzinti.
Keith Laumer, the Bolo stories. If you put artificial intelligences inside heavily-armed robo-tanks, you know there's going to be trouble.
EH, MAYBE NOT
Campbell, the "Lost Fleet" series. I've read two of these recently. They're OK, but for "naval SF," the battles are surprisingly weak. Lots of scenes about how the hero is just plain amazing, even though he's amazingly humble. Too many borrowed ideas and motifs (fleet on the run remind you of anything?).
David Weber, the Honor Harrington series. The first couple of books were OK, but then they collapsed into tedious narratives, flat characters, and uninteresting political rants. Other people like 'em, but I just can't get into them.
HAVEN'T READ YET, SO CAN'T RECOMMEND
David Drake. I have one of the new collected Hammer's Slammers volumes on my shelf, begging for attention.
Lois McMaster Bujold, the Vorkosigan series. I read one of these volumes too long ago to remember the details, so it's almost as if I never read it at all!