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Top 50 SF & F Books

For whatever reason, I’m in one of those funks where I can read about 5 pages of any book I pick up and realize I am paying absolutely no attention. Thus, recreational reading and book reviews are at a crawl. That leads to this post, which is something I held off on but then thought, what the hell.

It’s a meme on the 50 Most Significant SF & F Books published between 1953 and 2002. It comes from a list created by the Science Fiction Book Club but I think Lou Anders started the meme. You’re supposed to boldface books you’ve read, italicize those 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

I imagine reading over half of the list confirms geekiness or addiction or both. It would be more than half if the list were limited to SF and didn’t include the fantsy works. And while I don’t necessarily agree with everything on the list it’s an interesting compilation.


The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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5 comments to Top 50 SF & F Books

  • Love the new site. It’s making me want to switch over, as well!

  • Lizzie

    What do you know, I’ve read two of these books! Although one was Harry Potter…

  • Anonymous

    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 would be nice if they added another marker for the great books you didn’t like.

  • Tim

    They actually did have a marker for books you’d read but “hated,” a strike over. I couldn’t say that I hated any one of them and, in fact, there were only a couple I could even say I disliked.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I wasn’t thinking hated so much as overrated. Something that you think was an ok read (Thomas Covenant) or that you’ve never understood why so many people loved it (Dune) or you just don’t think belongs (Silmarillion)

    Anyway, it is a good list, with some interesting choices that don’t get read often (I gotta believe Dahlgren is usually in italics; took me several years to finish and I’m persistent)