This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.
Bold the ones you’ve read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.
I’ve also added commentary, at no extra charge.
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Liked it. Read it twice. Maybe again before I die. Maybe not.
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
It was okay, but I got bored part-way through.
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
Started it a second time, and just couldn’t do it. Most complex storyline I can remember.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Leguin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Read to the end of the first section. Felt betrayed. Never went back. Don’t plan to. Clarke’s not my guy.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
Dick’s not my guy either.
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
Love my Bradbury.
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
One of my history teachers LOVES this one. I thought it was okay. Might be more offended if I was Catholic.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
Most of my favorite fiction work by Asimov is his robot series, including the Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw series.
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
Didn’t hate it. Won’t ever read it again. Blish really isn’t my guy.
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
Not sure I finished it. Don’t get the big deal about Ellison.
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*
Loved these at the time. Don’t think I could do it again.
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card*
Loved this, and the rest of the Enderverse stories.
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
Dear, God, this was the reading equivalent of crawling over broken glass. I tried, but I hated the character’s voice. Never.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling*
On my third (fourth) time through the earlier books in the series.
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
Liked this much more the first time than later. Have I mentioned I got an email from DA after his daughter’s birth?
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
Waited to stop hating the characters. Didn’t. Quit.
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
Might have finished it. Didn’t care about it.
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*
One of his better works. Possibly the best.
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
I like my Tolkein rip-offs a little less flagrant.
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
My honorable mention (use or ignore as you wish, all count as read and loved):
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein (My first of his. Teaches the value of a good education.)
Earth Abides, George R. Stewart (One of the best after-the-disaster novels ever.)
Maps in a Mirror, Orson Scott Card (OSC’s short fiction is amazing. And, increasingly, rare. I like almost everything he’s written.)
Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (Another of the best after-the-nukes novels ever.)
The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury (Bradbury’s short fiction is amazing also, and the connective tissue of the Illustrated Man was the coolest.)
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (More Bradbury shorts.)
The Golden Apples of the Sun, Ray Bradbury (Still more Bradbury shorts.)
Tunnel in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein (Beware the stobor!)
The Cold Equations, Tom Godwin (Hard, hard, hard, powerful story.)
The Puppet Masters, Robert A. Heinlein (early-adult Heinlein, before he got smutty — one of his strongest periods.)
Moscow 2042, Vladimir Voinovich (not really science fiction, any more than 1984 was, but an excellent satire.)
I’m sure I’m forgetting something important.