50 SF books

Scarfed from

This is a list of someone’s 50 most significant SF/fantasy novels. Ones I’ve read are bold; ones I hated are struck out; ones I started but never finished are italicized; ones I loved are underlined.

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
    I got suckered in by The Hobbit. Little did I know that I was about to enter into the realm of the Dickens of fantasy fiction… and no, that’s not meant as a compliment.
  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
    Read this more times than I can count. It’s still my drop-dead favorite, and I re-read it at least once a year.
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
    No, but there was a wonderful twelve-tape production of this that I loved.
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
    Seen the movie, but I’ve never gotten around to finishing the book.
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
    R. Daneel is the best robot ever.
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
    This is the one on this list that I feel actual guilt about not having read yet. I plan to correct that some day…
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
    Oh, God. <ComicShopGuy>Worst Book-Reading Experience Ever</ComicShopGuy>. And I mean, I’ve read some real crap, but this was agonizing. And I kept pluggin’ away at it, thinking Well, everyone says it’s good, maybe things change by the end. Uff. I’m ashamed to admit that a hack like Donaldson is a fellow alum (he, Wooster ’68 or thereabouts, me ’85)–I need to get published just to recover the reputation of the school.
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
    I run hot and cold on this book.
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
    Back when someone could sit Joanne down and tell her she needed edits…
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
    I loved the radio program. I loved the books. I loved the TV miniseries. I loved the computer game. I loved the comic book. I loved the movie. This is the real shit.
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
    I haven’t re-approached it in a long time, but when I read it, I loved it.
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
    If I hadn’t already named my computer TV’s Frankenstein, I would’ve named it Shalmaneser. This book blew my mind.
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

There might be a couple surprises here, like how few of these I’ve read. Couple reasons for that–one, I prefer collections of shorts and supershorts to novels. Two, I’m still slogging my way through the Asimov books… and I keep going back and re-reading the ones I like best. :)

I do question an absence or two here: the list seems incomplete without Huxley’s Brave New World or Wells’ The Time Machine or … oh, I dunno. Maybe a couple others, but nothing that immediately leaps to mind. I might try my hand at a list of key shorts some time… Nightfall and The Cold Equations and the like.

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4 comments so far

  1. argh_jim on

    I’m NOT surprised that your reaction to #1 and #23 is about the same. For me, I love them both.

    The Time Machine is one of my two favorite books of all time (no pun intended), the other being Alice Through The Looking Glass, which isn’t SF, although it would likely squeak in under “Fantasy”. I’m shocked it’s both are not here.

    I’d seriously argue the merit of some of these on “most significant” list.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      The difference between LotR and TCtU is that Tolkien could write. I loved “The Hobbit”… but it turned out that was to Tolkien what “A Christmas Carol” was to Dickens. I really don’t need to know what every leaf in the forest looks like. Covenant, on the other hand, was just awful.

    • gmhelwig on

      There was a time limit to this list, only going back to 1953, I think. If it went back further, most of these tomes wouldn’t be here at all.

  2. gmhelwig on

    What intrigues me most about this list is how many of these books I have no interest in reading at all.


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