A number of people whose blogs I read did this meme, where they took the recently compiled NPR list of Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books and marked those they’ve read (or at least attempted to read at some point in their lives). At first, I just scanned through the list with a mild competitive interest, just to see how well I stack up against others, but then I figured that I might as well make a blog post about it, given how few of those I do lately.
I recognize that no such “best of genre” compilation can be entirely definitive, and as others before me, I have several issues with omissions, inclusions, or choices of individual books versus series that are present herein. Most importantly, I don’t recognize some of the authors’ names, let alone their books’, while titles that I would consider world-known veritable classics are missing from this list in non-trivial numbers. But I have to admit, I am almost tempted to load up my e-reader with a good portion of these entries.
I’ll bold titles that I’ve read, as per this meme guidelines, but I will not italicize those that I started but could not finish for the simple reason that I can think of only a couple of books in my entire life that I did not finish reading. Instead, I will italicize those titles which I’ve never read but watched big-screen versions of. For most of those, I can’t see myself picking up the book now that I’ve seen the movie, but I am nonetheless familiar with the work, and that should count somehow.
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
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman – I love the movie, I will probably never pick up the book for fear of being let down by it, but I am surprised to see this entry on the list of SF/F works. Maybe I am missing something from not having read the book, but neither the setting is obviously defined as a created world, nor the characters populating it or their abilities or things that happen to them are even near the standard “fairy tale” range in terms of mystical or magical or supernatural. To me this is pure Adventure, a part of Fantasy genre only inasmuch as any work of fiction is a fantasy. But it is a brilliant Adventure.
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan – I am yet to read the conclusion of the saga penned after Robert Jordan’s passing. As much as I am annoyed by the glacial pace of the proceedings, I’ve invested too much time into it in the past to completely ignore the finale.
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut – I have ambivalent feelings towards Vonnegut. I always felt that his turn of phrase was simplistic and clipped. But I like his works none the less.
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
22. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
23. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
24. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
26. The Stand, by Stephen King
27. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
28. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
29. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
31. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
32. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein – A rare case of me seeing the movie first, thinking it did not do the book any favors, then actually picking up the book and confirming my suspicions. I can’t call this book my favorite, but it left a strong impression. The movie is just crap.
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne – As a kid, I likely did read every single work of Verne’s. Many times over. Funny enough, I never considered that putting a giant livable submarine in the middle of undoubtedly our own 19th century qualifies this book as a work of Science Fiction, but I suppose it transcends the label of Adventure on that count. Since Captain Nemo and the Nautilus are the driving forces of mystery in “The Mysterious Island” – which I like considerably more than the “20,000 Leagues” – shouldn’t that be also considered a sci-fi work?
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 – One of the “meh” series on this list. I don’t particularly enjoy “accidental” storytelling, where the author introduces new concepts, powers or significant actors out of the blue, without either any prior build-up or subsequent explanation of why it was hidden from the reader beforehand, just to spice up the proceedings or to make his created world appear more multi-faceted. “Belgariad” felt very accidental to me.
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven.
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman – An extremely rare case of an impulse buy for me, having occurred not long after I first watched “Stardust”. Can’t say I regretted the decision.
49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman – I loved the movie so much, I even bought another Gaiman’s book on impulse. But I doubt I’ll read this one – the danger of a letdown in comparison with the movie is too great.
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson – This has been on my to-read list for 12 years. There’s still time…
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 have read every single book in the Discworld series. It’s hard to anoint any of them as favorites over others, to be honest…
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett – (continuing from #57) … but “Going Postal” is up there somewhere.
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind – It took me four or five books in this series to get fed up with “accidental” storytelling, “convenience” concepts to explain events, and pilfering of devices from “The Wheel of Time” and other works. By itself, each book in the series may even be engrossing. As a series, they raise too many red flags for the author’s ability to build a coherent world.
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 – Another series that I’m not overly fond about. Not only it is full of convenient accidents of the kind that I hate that advance the plot, but it is also inexplicably sketchy and written without any flourish of style.
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb – Years ago, I read Robin Hobb’s “Liveship Traders” trilogy, liked it, decided that I need to read more of her books… and never got around to that.
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 – A few years back, somewhat by accident, I read “The Hunter’s Blades” trilogy. While I felt the books were, er, solid, for lack of a better description, neither the cast of characters nor the universe in which they reside truly captured my interest. And I have no gaming history with “The Forgotten Realms”.
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
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
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn – In the early-to-mid-90’s, I had a steady diet of both “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” books courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library. While I cannot recall a single particular feature of this specific series, the name Timothy Zahn rings a bell. Wikipedia tells me that this trilogy was published in early nineties, which clinches it – I must have read it.
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov – This is actually my favorite Asimov’s book. Probably because it was the very first one that I read.
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
So, in the end, I have read only 23 entries on this list, but also watched movies versions of 10 others without ever picking up the corresponding book. As competitive results go, meh… Not unexpected; there is a heavy bias towards English-language authors and a considerable one towards more contemporary works, which handicaps me somewhat. But I will probably catch up on some of the books on this list in the next year or so. And that’s the whole point of the exercise, isn’t it?