The Top 50

Ganked offa Kat Dancing.

“This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. 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.”

I’m also going to use the bold text markup to indicate how much of the unfinished books I’ve actually read.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien* — I started read this flying over the Arctic Ocean my first time coming to Korea, and finished it later that year. I felt like Bilbo leaving the Shire. Fine book, though a bit long.

2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov — I just don’t get this Asimov thing. Maybe his later books were better, but I read the first Foundation book and couldn’t force myself to read the rest of the trilogy. I even brought them to Korea, thinking a scarcity of English books would make me read them. Not even that did: I found other books.

3. Dune, Frank Herbert — it’s on my shelf.

4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein — it’s on my shelf.

5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin — it’s on my shelf, finally, at least the trilogy version.

6. Neuromancer, William Gibson* — read this because so many people claimed I wrote like Gibson. Which is total nonsense. I write nothing like him, and never have. They meant, “You write literate SF. Wow.” Loved the book, though.

7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke

8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick — it’s on my shelf, unbelievably, unread, though I’ve read tons of other PKD books. But you’d think I’d have read it by now, for all that I rave about Blade Runner.

9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley Um. No.

10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury I think I read this in high school. It seemed good then.

11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. — it’s on my shelf.

13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov (see above)

14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras (who?)

15. Cities in Flight, James Blish — it’s on my shelf.

16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett Hey, I met this guy. But no, I haven’t read anything by him.

17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison I’ve read bits of it, but not everything. And now, I think, it’s in a box in my mom’s garage, waiting for me to rescue it.

18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison

19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester — it’s on my shelf.

20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany — it’s on my shelf.

21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey I’m a little embarrassed that, for all the books on this list I haven’t read, this one I have. Does it help if I say I didn’t like it, when I read it at age 14? No? Damn.

22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card I liked this book a lot, though I thought Ender’s Shadow, which told the same story, told it better. I just got this book for Lime, in English, since she’s been casting about for another English-language novel to read.

23. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson I read the first few pages of the first book in this series at Ritu’s house in Gurgaon, but that’s it. Something about leprosy.

24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman* — Good clean nasty space war fun. The fact that it’s anti-war and mocks the warmongers is an added bonus.

25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl

26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling — it’s on my shelf. My Mom sent me book 5 in the series when it first came out, thinking that like everyone else, I was excited. I thanked her kindly and decided not to read them out of order.

27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams — I read the first book of the series, and quite enjoyed it, though “love” is too strong a word for buffoonery.

28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson — I want to read this but haven’t managed to pick up a copy, is all.

29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice — This book was actually okay. Not brilliant, but not bad either. Rice has cranked out some stinkers, but this one wasn’t one of them.

30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin — it’s on my shelf.

31. Little, Big, John Crowley

32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny — it’s on my shelf.

33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick* Mind-bending and excellent. I loved this book.

34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement — it’s on my shelf.

35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon — it’s on my shelf.

36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith* I have this on the “currently reading” shelf. I’ve nipped bits out and I think I’m saving the book for a long trip. It’s excellent.

37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute (who?)

38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

39. Ringworld, Larry Niven — it’s on my shelf.

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien My mom got me this in middle school, before I’d actually read The Lord of the Rings. I read a little bit from the beginning, but… well, I learned that every writer writes something boring sometimes. This book might be the reason I put off reading LOTR for so long, in fact, since I loved The Hobbit to pieces.

42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut* Excellent book.

43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson — it’s on my shelf. But I’ve read most of his other short novels, and loved them.

44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner * Number one favorite book from the 70s, in my SF mind.

45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester Ooh, I’m actually reading it right now. Really!

46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein I have been meaning to pick it up, but have so much else to read that I haven’t bothered.

47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock. I read a little of it, but it just didn’t do much for me as a teenager.

48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks — no, wait, I never met Pratchett. I met Brooks. I think I read the first 30 pages of the first Shannana book in elementary school, and didn’t like it. The elves didn’t remind me of D&D elves, I think. Or something.

49. Timescape, Gregory Benford

50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer — it’s in a box in Canada, and for now, that’s where it’ll have to stay.


It strikes me that my opinion of significant novels and the SFBC’s opinion probably differ. Ah well…

3 thoughts on “The Top 50

  1. Dang, I’ve only read six of those. I’d love to read the two Heinlein books (I read his book of short stories, “Life-line,” and really enjoyed them), but unfortunately the SNU library doesn’t have the original English versions of them(!). A few others in there I’d like to read, like Ender’s Game and Ringworld.

  2. I’m thinking of doing this one, and had figured I wouldn’t comment — but reading through your comments, I realize there’s one I’ll HAVE to comment on. (Watch for my post in the next week or so….)

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