This is the Science Fiction Book Club's list of the fifty most significant science fiction/fantasy novels published between 1953 and 2002. 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.
*1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
I actually read The Hobbit first, which I found very fun, but The Lord of the Rings just... awed the hell out of me. While there's plenty of holes to poke in parts of the background, the depth he put into the parts he cared about is a yardstick I still use to tell how much someone cared about their world. No one can really create a world in that level of detail on ALL levels; but if you care enough to put that level of detail into ANY significant level, you're good enough for me.
*2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
I'd already read the Lensman novels, so the idea of predicting the future out long-term wasn't by itself the Wow factor; it was that the prediction was being done by scientific principles, on a broad and more believable (if ultimately no more realistic) level. To this day I still get a chill down my spine reading the words "I am Hari Seldon!"
*3. Dune, Frank Herbert
I actually first read "Dune Messiah", and this very nearly caused me to avoid everything by Herbert. Fortunately I found a copy of Dune some years later in my Dad's collection, and I was running low on choices, so I gave it a chance.
I'm very glad I did. While none of the sequelae work for me, the original Dune is... RICH, I guess is the best term. I see the Dune world as a mature complex version of the fins-and-brass-and-steel baroque worlds of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, a world shot through a golden filter of the past.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
I didn't hate Stranger, but it's nowhere near as good as much of his other output, and shows some of the symptoms of the later decline.
*5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Swifter in storytelling than Lord of the Rings, yet with a feeling of timelessness even in the action.
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
Clarke wrote some great stuff. This isn't it.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
None of these ever quite managed to grab me.
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
I've leafed through some Wolfe novels, but I don't think I've ever actually read one.
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
*13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw are some of my favorite characters in SF -- and excellent counters to the contention by some that Ike couldn't write characters.
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
So, when's the Last Dangerous Visions coming out, Harlan?
*19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
I read NOVA; this didn't encourage me to try anything else by Mr. Delany.
*21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Okay, the later books really degenerated (IMCGO), but the first three I found excellent fun.
*22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Not only a ripping good yarn, if occasionally painful to read for the torment Ender goes through, but my favorite refutation of Searle's Chinese Room thought-experiment.
*23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
I *HATED* Covenant through the first 2.8 books (and I blame nobody who reaches The Scene and cannot get past it; I very nearly didn't get past it, either). But The Land and some of its people made up for it. And eventually I came to see Covenant somewhat differently; in his own very unique and peculiar way he becomes a hero.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
*26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Rowling, even in the first book, reminded me very strongly -- in a positive way -- of Roald Dahl. That's ... incredible for a first-time novelist.
It was mildly amusing in spots, but actively annoying in others. The British sense of humor and I apparently have... issues.
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
Interesting that two bloodsucker novels are here in order. A semi-scientific vampire novel, and then what is probably the defining "New Vampire Order" novel. Personally, I prefer the Saberhagen and Yarbro vampires.
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
*38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Remember how I said Clarke wrote some good stuff? HERE it is.
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
I think this is the defining Really Big Thing novel.
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
*41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
I **LOVE** this book. It's like reading D'Aulaires Mythology for Middle-Earth.
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
*43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
There are books that are fun, and then there's books that are FUN!. This is FUN!
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
*45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
One of my nominees for greatest SF novel of all time. Unusually for me it features a main character who is most definitely NOT a hero. Perhaps it works because Gully Foyle is at least UNDERSTANDABLE, and the people and circumstances (and even world!) around him don't help him improve, for the most part.
*46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
*48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Yeah, sneer all you like. If it weren't for Terry, there's a fair chance a lot of other stuff you like wouldn't have been published at all. (unless you just hate fantasy in general). I enjoyed Sword immensely, and several of the sequels were better. Though I still say he was a BASTARD to his poor protagonist in Elfstones.
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
Th-Th-Th-at's all folks!