100 SF books everyone should read

Here’s a list of 100 SF books that apparently everyone needs to read. In accordance with blogging tradition, I shall reproduce the list now, with the titles I’ve read in bold, titles I haven’t read but already own and plan to read in italic, titles which I don’t own but still hope to read in red, and occasional comment along the way.

The Postman – David Brin
The Uplift War – David Brin
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov
Second Foundation – Isaac Asimov

I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett
Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
Armor – John Steakley
Imperial Stars – E. E. Smith (Never heard of this. But I have read other EE “Doc” Smith, in his more famous Lensmen sequence.)

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (Won’t be reading these. OSC has revealed himself to be such a jerk that I have no desire to visit his work, no matter how highly regarded it is.)

Dune – Frank Herbert
The Dosadi Experiment – Frank Herbert
Journey Beyond Tomorrow – Robert Sheckley
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
Valis – Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick (I’ve never read any PKD! What gives?)

1984 – George Orwell
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut (I’ve never read Vonnegut either. What a hole in my literary life.)

The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells
The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
From the Earth to the Moon – Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
(I’m not sure I’d put it in The SF Canon just yet, but it’s a cracking good book.)

Nova Express – William S. Burroughs
Ringworld – Larry Niven (Just raed it! Great ideas in here.)
The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Unreasoning Mask – Philip Jose Farmer
To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
Eon – Greg Bear
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton
Lightning – Dean Koontz
The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison
The Fifth Head of Cerebus – Gene Wolfe
Nightside of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester

Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
Doomsday Book – Connie Wills
Beserker – Fred Saberhagen
Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin
The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman

Star King – Jack Vance
The Killing Machine – Jack Vance
Trullion: Alastor 2262 – Jack Vance (I have a Vance collection somewhere…need to read it.)

Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein (I bounced off this book the first time I tried to read it.)

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
A Time of Changes – Robert Silverberg
Gateway – Frederick Pohl (Loved this book.)
Man Plus – Frederick Pohl
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
The Execution Channel – Ken Macleod
Last and First Men – W. Olaf Stapledon
Slan – A. E. van Vogt
Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis
They Shall Have Stars – James Blish
Marooned in Realtime – Vernor Vinge
A Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge
The People Maker – Damon Knight
The Giver – Lois Lowry
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Contact – Carl Sagan
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
(Dreck. Pure and utter dreck; wretched prose, embarrassing characters, and one of the most sickening worldviews I can think of. And what makes The Fountainhead an SF book? There is nothing SFNal about it.)

Battlefield Earth – L. Ron Hubbard (Oh, come on now. Why should anybody read this?)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney
Planet of the Apes – Pierre Boulle

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16 Responses to 100 SF books everyone should read

  1. Lynn says:

    I might do this list myself even though it might be "embarrassing" because I've read so few of them.

    I highly recommend Childhood's End. It's not a fun book to read – rather, in the mind-blowing/disturbing category – but I can certainly understand why it's in the canon.

  2. Roger Owen Green says:

    I've positive that I read ONE book on that list-the Atwood book. Now, I've read comic book and other adaptations of several, saw movies of others – loved Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court w Danny Kaye. I may have read the Verne stuff, but not positive. Tried, really tried reading Stranger in a Strange Land when I was 19 (I remember because I had had a car accident just before that) – got to page 60 or so.

  3. Kal says:

    You haven't read DUNE? I am shocked. Stunned even. Here I am rambling on about Mu'dib and the Freeman and the SPICE, my god man, THE SPICE, and you just smiled and nodded your head knowingly. I won't even go into Douglas Adams. I need to be alone now to contemplate this news.

  4. Call me Paul says:

    I'll grab this as well. A couple of comments:
    I'm a fan of David Brin. I recommend The Postman – try to forget the Costner movie and give the book a shot. As for The Uplift War, are you aware that is the third book of a trilogy? Thought you should know.

    re: Card – I read much of his stuff years ago – long before I was ever aware of his nutty political views. I quite like most of his early work, and highly recommend the Ender series (at least the original three or four books, anyway.)

    You haven't read Dune? Really? Wow!

    Forget everything I said above. If you're going to pick one author from this list to read for the first time, make it Vonnegut.

    I have read Battlefield Earth. Yes, I am embarrassed.

  5. Annehueser says:

    I just read Stranger in a Strange Land for my book club a couple of months ago. If you want to discuss it via email (or something) once you've read it, I'd be willing.

  6. Mimi says:

    I'm not a Sci-Fi reader, but my mom, Dh and oldest are so I'm familar with a lot of these.

    Even not being a Sci-Fi reader, I've read 9 of them, and highly recommend a couple (Time Traveler's Wife and Handmaid's Tale) as well as the Bradbury, of course.

    What did Card do? I missed his nuttiness, apparently. I've read a couple of his books (Sarah and Enchantment) – and he's very LDS in his writing, but not political.

  7. redsneakz says:

    Yeah, to get the Uplift War, you should really read the first two books of that trilogy. But they are really quite amazing.

    I am sort of embarrassed at having liked Stranger, mostly because it led me into the random goofiness of Heinlein's last books. I was going to say "awfulness," but that's too weak a word for someone obsessed with bonking his own granddaughter.

  8. Call me Paul says:

    To be honest, the Brin books (Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War) can probably be read as stand alone novels. They are all part of a larger story arc, but each is its own, independant story. Of the three, I enjoyed Startide Rising the most.

  9. mike shupp says:

    No Poul Anderson? No Gordon Dickson? No L. Sprague de Camp? No Andre Norton? No Don A. Stuart? No Henry Kuttner? No Hal Clement? No Fritz Leiber? No Clifford Simak?

    This is one seriously flawed list. (a) It's not representative of the actual genre of SF as it developed over the last 100 or 150 years. (b) It's not — to my mind — a list of the best or most significant SF works in terms of affect on the genre. (c) It's not — again, to my mind — actually a list of the SF works with the greatest literary merit.

    Let me add as well that I think isolating science fiction from modern fantasy is a pointless exercise since the people who read (or write) books from either of these genres usually read (or write) the other. Surely in any just world Mervyn Peake would have been on that list, surely J. R. R. Tolkein, surely Guy Gavriel Kay!

    (And, oh yes, I've knocked off 73 of these works, over 63 years.)

    -mike shupp

  10. Kelly Sedinger says:

    Mimi: Card's LDS doesn't bother me one whit, but his VERY right-wing views do. He's been railing against gays for years now, which really does not sit well with me. He's also a global warming denialist, and in one article I once read, he referred to former VP Al Gore as "pond scum". So I've scratched him forever from my "to read" pile.

    Everyone shocked that I haven't read DUNE: Yeah, I know. I think I may read it next.

    Everyone shocked that I haven't read HITCH HIKER: Yeah, I know. I think I'll read it after DUNE!

    On THE UPLIFT WAR: I've read SUNDIVER, which I liked. Still haven't read STARTIDE RISING, though. Maybe after HITCH HIKER!

  11. Andrea says:

    Hmm, re: Card: I haven't read any of his scifi. I started to read Ender's Game but lost interest. I've read some of his columns. Let's just say he's a Mormon and I'm not. I haven't read any of his "railings" against gays but I tend to avoid stuff like that – life is too short.

    I will tell you though: I'm a global warming denialist too. Or actually, I'm someone who believes that the climate of the earth is very complex, and that we don't know enough about it to start running about in a panic like chickens without heads. Many of the problems attributed to global warming could just as well have been caused by other things (for example, the flooding in Bangladesh could simply be due to the fact that most of that country is giant river delta, and the "disappearing" islands are just eroded away by the naturally changing water patterns of sea and river).

    As for Al Gore, I don't think much of someone who preaches against energy consumption because supposedly our huge use of electricity is harming the earth, but who does this while flying about in jet planes, and who lives in a huge mansion, and who buys an even bigger one on the fragile California coast. So while I wouldn't call him "scum"…

  12. Kelly Sedinger says:

    Andrea: Two things. First, I generally find the "We can't possibly understand something so complex!" argument deeply flawed, if not outright silly. Climate is complex, but then, so are biology, quantum physics, plate tectonics, stellar astronomy, and virtually every other science out there whose findings people don't object to on the basis of "complexity". Making sense of complex systems is what science does, and whenever I encounter that line of logic directed at the current findings of climate scientists, I'm amazed that anyone thinks that a serious basis on which to question an overwhelming consensus that exists because of rigorous study, predictive testing, and every other tool that science brings to bear.

    As for Gore's supposed "hypocrisy", well…to reduce his entire message to "Use of electricity harms the planet!" is to miss his point(s) to such a staggering degree that it makes discussion well nigh impossible. Gore has never argued that "electricity" harms the planet; what he has argued is that many of our current means of generating energy for our ever-increasingly energy-dependent society are harmful. That's a completely different beast.

    Gore has also never argued that we need to crank back time so we're all living in the 1600s, so to hold him to some kind of weird "You fly around a lot!" standard is utterly bizarre. How seriously would anyone take him if he suddenly announced that he would rely on horse-drawn carriages for all of his land travel and upon wind-propelled ships for crossing the oceans? I frankly doubt you'd take him any more seriously than you do now. The notion that there is some kind of serious disconnect between Gore's overall message and his behavior doesn't hold nearly as much water as the people who dislike him seem to think it does.

  13. Andrea says:

    Um, I didn't say "we can't ever understand something so complex," I said we don't understand it enough now. Please don't misrepresent what I said very clearly in my comment. I am sure we will learn more about the weather system of this planet and of many more planets as the years go on, but to act as if "the science is settled" (which is what many global warming proselytizers are acting like) based on partial knowledge at best is what is ridiculous.

    Also, I don't reduce Al's "message" — he does. I find his presentation and claims very simplistic. And yes I do call him a hypocrite: he does not live at all like he believes our methods of energy production are harmful — if he did he would have taken steps to make his lifestyle more in tune with energy-saving green methods that already exist. But someone who — yes — jets around the globe to make presentations in person when we have an entire global internet where he could make almost as much of an impact (and tie up less traffic in the physical streets of the cities he goes to, and so on), and to purchase a 9 million dollar mansion in Montesino, California, when he already owns a huge place in Tennessee, and to lecture us little people on how we need to lower our energy consumption… does this not look bad to you? Gore is like those televangelists who preach Christian duty on tv and the go off and spend all the money they got in donations on hookers and booze. He is a hypocrite. There is no other word for it.

    I will tell you something. You know who I admire in the Green lifestyle movement? Ed Begley Jr. I may not agree with a lot of what he believes, but he walks the walk. Gore doesn't.

    But what I think about Gore's hypocrisy doesn't have anything to do with what I think about global warming. They are two separate things. Even if Gore had sold his mansion and moved his family into a modest home run entirely via solar panels and other "green" solutions, I'd still question many of the claims made by global warming proponents. I don't base my beliefs on how other people act.

  14. Kelly Sedinger says:

    I don't see it as a misrepresentation of what you said; sorry if you do. But I always find that line of argument deeply questionable. On what possible basis do you claim sufficient expertise to be able to deny a certain scientific consensus? If the legions of climate scientists who are alarmed at global warming are getting it wrong, how do YOU claim to know this? On what basis do you justify the claim that the science is "partial" at best? The scientists don't think the science is partial.

    As for Al Gore…I don't give a rip about what he owns or doesn't own, or what town in California he owns it in, and your entire post strikes me as little more than axe-grinding. That he owns two houses — so what? Does that make him wrong? Where is all this "little people" rhetoric of his? I sure haven't seen it. "Gore owns a big house!" So? "Gore bought another big house!" So? When has Gore ever argued against people owning things? And I don't care if he flies a lot. There are many, many people in this world whose lines of work involve flying a lot; Gore is one of them. So what? Insisting he not fly is just stupid. The notion that he could be just as effective as Ed Begley Jr if he just sat at home in a tiny house is ludicrous; Ed Begley Jr is, to be blunt, nowhere near as big a name as Al Gore.

    I'm not interested in discussing this further; this isn't even on-topic for this particular blog post. The post is about science fiction books, and I'm not interested in sparring with the denialist crowd.

  15. Andrea says:

    "I don't see it as a misrepresentation of what you said; sorry if you do."

    You know what? I don't care what you think. You don't get to reinterpret my words to fit your own agenda. I did NOT say that we will "never understand" the complex weather systems of this planet, and anyone reading MY comment can tell that. YOU are the one who made that up.

    Discussing this further with you is clearly useless. I don't debate with people who try to twist my words.

  16. Kelly Sedinger says:

    Oh, spare me your self-righteous indignation. You're the one who picked the fight on my blog.

    And I stand by my representation of your position, based on my experience with denialists. I'll bet any sum of money that I can bear that the next ten, twenty, thirty years can elapse, and no matter how much evidence climatologists present buttressing their already well-backed findings that human activity is a significant contributor to global warming, you will still be saying, "Well, golly gee, we don't understand it well enough yet." You may not have openly said the words "We'll never understand it", but the likelihood of our understanding climate ever reaching a point where you will say "OK, yeah, we're a big factor in the warming" is almost certainly zero. I've been discussing this topic with denialists for years, and they're like creationists in their tendency to keep moving the goalposts. If you want to whine that somehow you're a special denialist, well, call me skeptical and unconvinced.

    And on my blog, I get to interpret whatever I want however I want. So piss off. I will neither publish nor even read any further comments from you.

    Thread's still open, for anyone wanting to talk about science fiction books.

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