Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nerd alert: Top 100 SF books

One for the nerds! Saw this on a totally unrelated blog, thought it looked fun.  Feel free to play along, or just castigate my terrible taste in the comments.  :)

NPR's Top 100 SF/F booklist

I will bold the ones I've read (at least partially) and snark about the suck.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (well, I read Dune at any rate.  It didn't catch my interest enough to read the rest.)

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin (I think everyone knows about my love/hate relationship with GRRM.)

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (Started it long ago, but it was just too old to keep my interest.  Old SF can be good, but I usually fail to suspend my disbelief when they start talking about how the super advanced computing machines can store *thousands of books* on one tape drive!)

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (Listened to this on our cross-country move.  Highly recommended, but especially good if you're driving across a lot of America.)

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman  (It's good, but do you know what's even better in the 80s book to movie world?  The Neverending Story!  Way darker than the movie.)

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan (Well, kind of.  I quit about 5 books in, after an endless slog through the Aes Sedai bathing and plotting and only two chapters about the theoretical hero.  If I am ever bedridden I might go back to them.)

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell (First read as a kid.  Didn't really get it.  Title very misleading.)

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson (Our kids will never understand about sky "the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  They'll think it means bright blue.)

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (Good stuff if you're a teenager.  Probably doesn't age well.)

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss (These are surprisingly good!  Remarkably good!)

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick (I just don't like PKD.  I've tried several of his books but they're like bad acid trips.  I don't need any reminders of that, tyvm.)

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King (It was just ok.)

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson (One of my personal top 10.)

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman (I've always meant to get around to it, but... they're comic books.  I like real books!)

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein (Space marines and weird right-wing SF propaganda!  Very entertaining, at least.  And the protagonist is nonwhite, which is rare for older SF.)

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein (This one did age well with me.)

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller (Read half of it last week.  Got bored.  May go back to it, but life is short and I no longer feel guilty about abandoning books.)

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings (How the hell did this end up at 41?  It's awful!  It's really amazingly trite.  I loved it when I was 14 though!)

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson (Read the first one.  Although now that I think about it, I'm not sure if I even finished it.  It was meh?)

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin (Fascinating look at gender.)

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Again, perhaps if I'm bedridden for months.)

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (Very good!  I read Un Lun Dun shortly after I read Neverwhere - that's fun.)

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons (They're good, they really are!  Sadly Dan Simmons appears to have gone totally insane.  But these four are still worth a read.)

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (Good, but how did this get more votes than Coraline?)

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (Another personal top-ten.  I annoy my husband to no end by constantly quoting bits of Crypto at him.  Am very tempted to name my firstborn Bobby Shaftoe.)

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett (I've tried a few Discworld and I just can't get into them.)

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson (Started it as a kid/teenager.  Too dark.  Never went back.)

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist (More teenager stuff.)

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks (Seriously, how did this get on here?  If you're 12, and you just read LOTR, and you want something exactly like it, read this!)

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore (I was a kid!)

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson (I'm such a Stephenson fangirl.)

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey (I read one.  Weird mix of politics and kinky sex.)

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson (Started it this summer.  Didn't finish the first book.  Meh.)

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks (Oh man, these are awesome.  Just discovered them this year and ripped through the whole series in like a month.  Yes, I do read ridiculously fast.)

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson (His weakest book, IMO.  Too much philosophical yammering, too little action.)

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher (Why is the crappy Codex Alera on here and Dresden isn't?  I read the first one.)

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe (I have a love/hate thing with Wolfe and I haven't gotten around to these yet.)

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn (I never liked Star Wars enough to read the fanfic extended universe works.)

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan (Well, I read two or three when I was a teenager.  I hear the last one gets seriously weird.)

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock (Read part as a kid.  Not to my taste then.)

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley (Sunshine is *excellent!*  Everything McKinley wrote is wonderful, actually.  Aerin from The Hero and The Crown was probably the first awesome female hero I ever read.)

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge (Quite good, along with the loose sequel, A Deepness in the Sky.  I haven't liked his other stuff.)

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (I love her time travelers!)

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville (Ehhh.  I really liked Un Lun Dun but haven't enjoyed - or even finished - anything else by Mieville.)

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony (I was 10, ok?  Why is this on here?)

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis


  1. Oddly, I was just looking through the Top 100 Non-Fiction booklist earlier tonight.

    Stop scaring me.

    2. Yay. Glad to see HHGTTG there.

    11. I cannot finish Princess Bride book. It bores me to tears. However, I adore the Neverending Story novel. I kept checking it out of the library again and again as a kid, and wish I had "lost" it and paid for it so I could have kept it.

    13. Would you prefer the title "The Bolshevic Revolution on a Farm in Rural Englad"? :) This was my favorite book in high school, especially after my Russia class where the characters were all identified with their true-life counterparts.

    25. The goons kept going crazy about The Stand. I should have ignored them. Nope, did not care for it at all.

    32. I haven't read Watership Down since my pre-teen years. I should rectify that.

    55. The Last Unicorn is one of my guilty pleasures. I guess this means I'm not alone.

  2. 13 - yes! I was a pre-teen and just beginning to understand allegory. It's an extremely confusing book if you think it's really about animals. That's all I'm sayin' ;)

    If you liked The Last Unicorn, you would probably like The Neverending Story too. I also haven't read Watership Down in years; I should put it on the "reread someday" list.

  3. Alright my friend! I have officially decided that Bad Pants should read your blog. I do believe you're geeky enough to keep him happy! (And really! I didn't know how much of a sister I had in you!)

    To answer a long ago question: Both. Alliance and Horde. I started Horde, but then made an Alliance character to play with BP more often. Now, having played both sides, I prefer team Alliance.

    BTW, have you met my lovely Latin sister, Becky, of http://www.blogofbecky.com? I think you'll find her much to your liking! After all, she's the Latina version of me! I swear!

  4. Hahah, I was an orc warlock because my husband's badass guild was Horde. Maxed at 60, lots of purple loot, all that. Then I got a horse and dropped that game like woah.

    I will go check out Becky! You and MM make me sad I left the South - I would love to hang out with yall IRL. :)

  5. I loved Enders Game as a teenager. I've been wanting to re-read it as an adult for a while now. And I thought The Belgariad wasn't too bad - I was able to get through them all, however I have only ever not finished one book (The Lovely Bones, too sick for me) so I'm not at the guilt free stage yet. I'm currently struggling through Emma just to finish it.

  6. Lisa, life is entirely too short and too full of other books to slog through stuff! It's only in the last couple years that I really got over being a completionist and feeling guilty about not finishing stuff, but I'm pretty ruthless now. :)

  7. I just finished reading Flowers for Algernon, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not a SF fan at all - usually avoid it altogether - but my daughter recommended the book to me and I'm glad she did. Of the others on the list, I read Brave New World and 1984 a long, long time ago and enjoyed them both - picked them up again a couple of years ago and it was rather frightening to see how accurage they were and how cliche they seem now. Also enjoyed the Handmaid's Tale.
    I just tried to read the Time Traveller's Wife, and didn't get past the first few chapters before giving up. If a book doesn't grab me by then, I don't finish it unless it's been assigned for the bookclub I belong to - so many books, so little time. similarly, I could never get into Lord of the Rings or Watership Down. I'm probably one of the few people on earth who loves reading but hasn't read those books.

  8. I've read about half and agree with about half of those. Very sad not to see an Guy Gavriel Kay on here -- perhaps because he is a Canuck? Tigana is one of the finest pieces of fantasy ever written.

    Just kindled the first of the Kingkiller books last week, so glad to hear that you enjoyed them.

    Everyone is shocked that I liked the Time Traveler's Wife, but I really did. I thought I would hate it but I was in Spain and English books were rare in the household.

  9. yup, total nerd here, I've read the vast majority of titles. LOVED the Belgariad, BTW, they are my "toasted-cheese sandwich" comfort books. Sandman, not so much. Princess Bride, extra thumbs ups for a brilliant translation to movie without losing the humor of the original.

    Obviously, there are a few that I still need to read: Banks' Culture books?

  10. Jean, I may try Flowers for Algernon. I think I always see it, get it confused in my head with that creepy Flowers in the Attic book, and move along. Love the Handmaid's Tale - I figured you'd have read it, Atwood is Canadian right?

    Aarene - I admit the Belgariad has stuck in my head remarkably well all those years. When I was driving around town the other day I thought about Silk and Velvet!

    I think you'd like the Culture novels. Complex plot, fascinating universe, some memorable characters. G and I have different favorites so I can't say "oh this one's definitely the best." They're all very different and very, uh, nonlinear - read them in any order, they only share a common universe.

  11. DP, I'll check out GGK - thanks!

    Kingkiller was good - I never really fell in love with the protagonist but I'm so intrigued with his life and where the story's going. I think that's the author's intent; he isn't supposed to be lovable like most heroes.

    Time Traveler's Wife hasn't really made it on my "ought to read" radar but I will keep an eye out for it too.

  12. What is SF? Science fiction?
    I was really surprised to see Animal Farm, 1984 and Fahrenheit 454 on a SF list. Aren't they kinda becoming non- fiction???

    And your review of Animal Farm is hilarious! But I really did like that one myself, I think about it a lot at work sometimes:)

  13. Yup, SF is science fiction. I'd argue that several of these aren't SF at all - the ones you mentioned, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Handmaid's Tale, Watership Down, even The Stand is just dystopian apocalyptic light horror.

  14. Yep, read somewhere around half +

    Hitchhiker's- one of my fav. pick me ups

    Agree on the Stand, but absolutely recommend the Dark Tower series or Insomnia

    Watership Down/F. 451/Animal Farm (concur, need to re-read since 14yr old self didn't get it WD)

    Dug World War Z, but also recently liked (not on list) the Myra Grant zombie series

    Loved the Time Traveler's wife on first read, second time round, not so much (different time of life dictate change in taste, no?)

    Anyone suggest any good heroine SF leaning (potentially fantasy) or Lit. novels ?

  15. Cause she's already on the list - Robin McKinley. Sunshine, The Hero and The Crown, The Blue Sword. (Bonus fairly realistic horses in the last two!) I'll think of some more tomorrow no doubt.

  16. Great list! I love SF and always have. I have two to add, although I might have missed them on your list:

    Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books - well, any books by her.

    Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale - it'll make you see NYC in a whole different way, and there are some very cool scenes involving a different kind of horse . . .

    and last, but certainly not least - it's one of my favorites books, of any type of all time: Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban - an amazing post-apocalyptic coming of age story.

  17. Um... k... I read more of those than you. What's that say about me?

    Yes yes... I'll just go back to be a closet geek!

  18. Good list - I liked SF and read alot of it as a teenager (Belgariad and Sword of Shanara anyone? lol) but am having a hard time reading much of it these days.

    I think I have the same love/hate with GRRM that you do... Just finished book 5 and I was kind of "meh" with the whole situation. I will continue to read and watch the HBO show because I want to see it out to the end - if I live long enough!

    I too gave up on Robert Jordan - If I ever have a problem with insomnia, I'll pick those books up again.

    And yes, Atwood is Canadian. And as a Canadian, I have to admit that I feel guilty for not reading any of her books!

  19. Only one Connie Willis title... made me sad.

    Fun post!

  20. I'm not a sci-fi reader, in general, but some of the best books I've ever read are on this list. But I just don't see how "Watership Down" is sci-fi.

    I love PKD. I never been on an acid trip, so at least this way I know what if feels like!

    LOTR is the best!

  21. I did read Neverending Story. That's the one I wanted to keep from the library. :)

    I dug how the type was in different colors too, depending on where the action was taking place.

    I need to reread that too. I've had it on my wishlist on Amazon for ages now.

  22. I'm surprised at how many of these I've read - I don't think of myself as a big sf reader.

  23. Oh man, the Hyperion Cantos deserves WAY better than #51. LOVE those books.

    You really should give the Dark Tower books from King a try, his best work IMO. While you're at it, pick up Cat's Cradle, just as good if not better than Slaughterhouse 5.

    Oh, and Robert Jordan? Sucks. I'm so mad at GRRM for starting to write like him.

  24. I'm at the library, printing the list and ready to order some that I haven't read yet.

    Canadians: if you haven't yet read Kenneth Oppel, get busy! I especially love his steampunk Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber . The audios by Full Cast Audio are very fun.

  25. ...and speaking of the Belgariad, I find myself quoting Silk frequently in winter, "Dear old mucky Drasnia..."

    David Eddings was born in the Swamp, you know.

  26. I can't believe I'm yet to pick up the latest GRRM book. What is wrong with me?!

    I thought I was a nerd but you've read way more of those than I have. Well, I guess I'm still a nerd...it's just that most of the SF/Fantasy books I've read didn't make the list lol.

  27. I have to second Robin McKinley's Sunshine. I loved it!

    Other good reads with a Victorian-Steampunk-esque twist that my husband swears by are by Gail Carringer, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless.

    Also, Cathrynne M. Valente is his current obsession. Apparently anything written by her is well worth reading, specifically "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making”. I am very, very sure he will be pressing this book into my hands in the very near future, just as soon as he can bear to share it long enough for me to devour.

  28. I'll look for yall's recommendations!

    Another one I like that didn't make the list is Ariel by Steven Boyett (who also DJ's the Podrunner podcasts).

    I've read some Valente - I didn't finish Palimpsest, loved The Girl Who, and enjoyed the Orphan's Tales.

  29. haha, the Xanth series! I think I read about 12 of those before giving up as a kid! Watership down breaks my heart, I can't read it again. I think this list is pretty heavily weighted with fantasy sci-fi, versus the traditional space-oriented sci-fi that I tend to read. The whole fantasy/sci-fi genre is hard to group, dragons and magic versus black holes and alien universes. Childhood's End (#49 on the list) is one of my all time favorites, a little old school. And I, Robot, just classic. Would really like to see some Iain M. Banks on here, the Culture novels are classics in the making. Good reads, thanks for the list!

  30. irish horse - the whole Culture series is #83! Just found them this year, loved them.

  31. you are such a nerd. now excuse me while I go dig through my library and see how many of those I have!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  32. I've read a good many on this list, most when I was a teenager. Although lately I got into the "Song of Fire and Ice" series thanks to HBO's "Game of Thrones" and blew through the entire series. Unfortunately, it seems that Martin has really started to wander off the reservation in the past two books and he really needs an editor who is willing to put their foot down- way too much in places.

  33. Good timing! My facebook book club just posted and talked about this list. I've read like 35 or so of the titles but realized I lean heavily toward fantasy and haven't read nearly enough SF.

    Why the heck are the Thomas Covenent books on this list? I couldn't stand them. I think that was the first time I ever intentionally stopped reading a book because I hated it so much.

    I agree with the recommendation on the Dark Tower books. I'm a shameless King fan but didn't care for The Stand. Dark Tower, however, is probably my favorites series ever. The Talisman is also high on my list and my son is named Jack after the main character from that book because I am a huge geek like that.

    I get not liking comics as much as novels, but the Sandman series is still worth the read. They're cleverly done, some of the artwork is just amazing, and I love them. Another graphic novel I strongly recomend was the original Crow. I cried so hard at the end and it was so different from the movie. Loved it.

    Funder - good to see I have another geeky horse online friend. I'm in the Auburn, CA area so I love reading your posts about the Sierras. I was just in Bear Valley the weekend before you posted about Skillman Flat just on the other end of the trail you rode. My friend has some property up there we're hoping to convert for some private horse camping.

  34. Oh and "The Bolshevic Revolution on a Farm in Rural Englad" made me LOL. :)

  35. Amazing list! Read & loved many! Reminded of some I'd read again!

  36. Oh you MUST try out the Sandman graphic novels! You like Neil Gaiman so you'll definitely glom onto them. (you might have to work past the first two issues, the illustrations in those is a bit rough compared to what it becomes). One of the most creepy horror stories happens in the Sandman early on...

    You know the weird thing about American Gods? EVERY time I re-read it, I wind up talking to someone who's been to the House on the Rock. o_O

  37. I recently finished the Space Odyssey series by Arthur Clarke... 2001, 2010, 2061, and 3001...

    It's funny, because 2001: a space odyssey was always one of my favorite movies. The book is great too, in different ways. Finally, the acid-trip ending of the movie made sense, what happened and why.

    I liked the later books a lot as well. There be life on those moons of Jupiter...


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