Best Books: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

I have recently joined a science fiction/fantasy writers group in the area. I thought that since my first novel was magic realism, the second was fantasy, and the third will also be fantasy, it would behoove me to get a little more into the culture, to learn from it and to basically not be totally ignorant. In the course of my reading life, so far, I have not been a science fiction or fantasy reader for very long. (Actually, I would still not consider myself a science fiction reader.) It was only when my very little daughter got into The Chronicles of Narnia years ago that I started pursuing children’s fantasy, then MG/YA, then grown-up. I still read other genres, but I have come to appreciate fantasy immensely, which was bound to happen because I basically lived in a sci-fi/fantasy novel in my head my whole life.

At a neighborhood yard sale a couple weekends back, I was rummaging through a box of books and came across a copy of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. For next-to-nothing, I picked it up because it was a title I was familiar with so I assumed it must be pretty popular. I also needed a brief break from reading every word the Bronte sisters ever put on the page. As for Eragon, I am enjoying it and I am learning from it, but it is–as any quick online search will tell you–not without its faults. However, part of what I am getting from it is a sort of flash-read of the epic fantasy traditions. It has made me wonder how much I know about fantasy and how much I actually want to know before writing my own. On one hand, I don’t want to make incredible blunders just because I didn’t know the field well enough. On the other, knowing less might help me keep my own voice and write more original stuff.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised that I have read a number of these books, I just didn’t think of them as genre fiction when I read them. The Once and Future King and Till We Have Faces (not on the list, but it should be; not to mention the Harry Potter series) are two of my favorite books. I loved A Wrinkle In Time when I was a kid, and I have read such titles as Wicked, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, and Little, Big as well as the school requirements 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451.

At any rate, I decided that in honor of a new love and of a new writing group, I would post the Best Books list for sci-fi and fantasy. (For previous Best Books lists, see HERE.) The list was generated by combining several online lists and results are listed in no particular order. Except that I grouped it: science fiction, then fantasy, then I-don’t-know-which-one-this-is-but-I-wasn’t-about-to-spend-an-hour-of-my-morning-finding-out. Please excuse my having italicized things that shouldn’t be; it was hard to determine which were series names and which were titles, in some cases. I’ll get there.

Science Fiction

  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • The Hunger Games (trilogy), Suzanne Collins
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  • The Thought Readers, Dima Zale
  • Foundation, Isaac Asimov
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  • Ubik, Philip K. Dick
  • The Forever War, Joe Haldman2001 SPACE ODYSSEY
  • Snow Crash, Neil Stephenson
  • A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
  • Alfred Carbon, Richard Morgan
  • Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • Player of Games, Iain M. Banks
  • The Night’s Dawn, Peter F. Hamilton
  • Gateway, Frederick Pohl
  • Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Anathem, Neal StephensonBRAVE NEW WORLD
  • Blindsight, Peter Watts
  • Miles Vorkosigan, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Slaughter-House Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Phillip K. Dick
  • The Stand, Stephen King
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Starship Troopers, Robert HeinleinDO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
  • The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
  • Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
  • The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
  • Amber, Roger Zelazny
  • Ringworld, Larry Niven
  • Contact, Carl Sagan
  • World War Z, Max Brooks
  • Vorkosigan, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey NiffeneggerTHE ROAD
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
  • Diamond Age, Neil Stephenson
  • Culture, Iain M. Banks
  • Thrawn trilogy, Timothy Zahn
  • Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Space trilogy, C. S. Lewis
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
  • How to Live Safely In the Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu
  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon (time travel historical fiction)


  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
  • The Lord of the Rings (trilogy), J. R. R. Tolkein
  • A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  • Harry Potter (series), J. K. Rowling
  • The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie
  • Mythborn, V. Lakshman
  • The Magicians, Lev Grossman
  • Discworld, Terry Pratchett
  • Les of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
  • The Way of Kinds, Brandon SandersonDISCWORLD
  • Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb
  • Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  • A Wizard of Earthsea series, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  • The Black Company, Glen Cook
  • Heroes Die, Matthew Woodring Stover
  • The Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence
  • Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay
  • City of Stairs, Robert Jackson BennettEARTHSEA
  • The Nightwatch, Sergei Lukyanenko
  • Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Fritz Leibr
  • Black Sun Rising, C. S. Friedman
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  • Legend, David Gemmell
  • The Dark Tower, Stephen King
  • The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher
  • The Princess Bride, William Goldman
  • The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret AtwoodHANDMAID'S TALE
  • Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  • Pawn of Prophecy, David Eddings
  • The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson
  • The Simarlion, J. R. R. Tolkein
  • The Once and Future King, T. H. White
  • The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
  • Chronicles of Narnia (series), C. S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
  • Wizards’ First Rule, Terry Goodkindonce and future king
  • Riftwar, Raymond E. Feist
  • Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  • Conan the Barbarian, Robert L. Howard
  • Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
  • The Legend of Dritz, Salvatore
  • Wicked. Gregory Maguire
  • The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
  • Furies of Calderon, James Butcher
  • Shadow & Claw, Gene WolfeTHE HOBBIT
  • A Spell for Chameleon, Piers Anthony
  • Liveship Traders, Robin Hobb
  • Windhaven, George R. R. Martin
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein
  • Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Bartameus trilogy, Jonathan Stroud
  • Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  • Farseer trilogy, Robin Hobb
  • Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin
  • Duncton Chronicles, William HorwoodDARK IS RISING
  • Inheritance trilogy, N. K. Jemisin
  • Shadowmarch quartet, Tad Williams
  • Ryhope Wood, Robert Holdstock
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  • Dark Is Rising, Susan Cooper
  • The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
  • Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde
  • Edge Chronicles, Paul Stewart
  • Chronicles of the Black Company, Glen Cook
  • Dracula, Bram StokerDEALING WITH DRAGONS
  • The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  • Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede
  • Howl’s Moving Castle, Dianna Wynne Jones
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell

I Honestly Don’t Know

  • Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delaney
  • War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
  • Dangerous Visions, Harlan EllisonHOWL'S MOVING CASTLE
  • Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Ringworld, Larry Niven
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Kindred, Octavia Butler
  • Watchmen, Allan Moore
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • The Sandman series, Neil Gaiman
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  • Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. MillerCRYPTONOMICON
  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
  • Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Hyperion, Dan Simmons
  • Stardust, Neil Gaiman
  • Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
  • The Forever War, Joe Holdeman
  • Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
  • Going Postal, Terry Pratchett
  • The Mote In God’s Eye, Larry Niven
  • I Am Legend, Richard Mattheson
  • A Journey To the Center of the Earth, Jules VerneJOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Cushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey
  • The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  • The Eyre Affair, Jasper Ford
  • The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
  • Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  • The Fire Upon Deep, Vernor Vinge
  • The Caves of Steel, Isaac AsimovPERDIDO STREET STATION
  • Lucifer’s Hammer, Larry Niven
  • Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
  • Perdido Street Station, China Meiville
  • Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
  • Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
  • Nine Princes In Amber, Roger Zelazny
  • The City & the City, China Meiville
  • Zone One, Colson Whitehead
  • His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  • The Female Man, Joanna Russ
  • Browngirl in the Ring, Nalo HopkinsonLITTLE BIG
  • Solaris, Stanislov Lem
  • Among Others, Jo Walton
  • The Drowned World, J. G. Ballard
  • Witch World, Andre Norton
  • Never Let Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Little, Big, John Crowley
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry

4 thoughts on “Best Books: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

    • I have only started reviewing the books I read since the fall of 2012. My recommended SFF reads (also viewable from the tab “Book Reviews” and then “Recommended Reading”) are Ender’s Game (the first book), Till We Have Faces, and The Once and Future King, as well as the Harry Potter series. From my past, I would go with the Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time (and maybe Lewis’s Space trilogy?). I just haven’t yet read enough to have too many recommendations, but you can follow my reviews here and I’ll keep them coming at a rate of about 40 per year.

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