The 50 most significant SF&F Books, 1953-2002

I’ve seen the following list of The 50 Most Significant SF & F Books published between 1953 and 2002, originally from the Science Fiction Book Club, then posted by Lou Anders on his blog, in various places, but hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it until I saw it on Amy Nelson-Mile’s Books, Words, and Writing this morning. The idea is that you 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.

So here goes:

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
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
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
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*
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
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*
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling*
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
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
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*

It’s actually quite likely I’ve read some of those I marked unread, but don’t remember. (For instance, I love Cordwainer Smith, but I’m not sure I read the particular book mentioned; I think all the Smith I read was in other anthologies. Same with the Theodore Sturgeon.) You’ll also notice I didn’t say I hated any of them. I can’t actually think of a single book I’ve ever read I would say I hated. Generally if I feel that much distaste for it, I simply don’t finish it. But if I went back and attempted some of the unfinished ones above again, I might like ’em, so I’m unwilling to put them in the “hate” category.

Everyone one of these books, and countless others, has contributed to the sort of SF I write, I suspect. ‘Twould be nice for one of my books to show up on a list like this in another 30 years or so, but, alas, it seems unlikely.

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    • adaher on December 5, 2006 at 12:51 pm
    • Reply

    I love this list! Ahhh, brings back memories. I especially remember reading #23, The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson, and loving it.

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