When I’m not parenting and doing all that work stuff that helps pay the bills, I’m a pretty avid reader and even prefer analog. You know, that paper stuff. I’ve been an enthusiastic reader since I was a kid and by the time I graduated high school I had pretty much read through the entire sci-fi and mystery sections of the local (relatively small) library.
Then I’ve had brushes with various science fiction authors in college and beyond, including Jerry Pournelle and Orson Scott Card, but I can’t claim either of them as even acquaintances at this point, so I’m just a reader like you.
Recently National Public Radio surveyed its listeners and compiled a list of 100 Top Science Fiction Books. Interesting to see it, no question, and I thought I’d reproduce and comment on the top twenty here.
How many have you read?
1. The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I have to admit that I consider this more of a fantasy book, well, The definitive fantasy book series, but still, brilliant stuff. Dark, complex and highly inspiring. That series of films from Peter Jackson is pretty good too.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I just adored these books and the great BBC full cast audio recording. Haven’t yet seen a version of the screen that matches my vision of Zaphod, Arthur, Ford and the gang, though. This is an acquired, British sort of taste, though, and I know people who just do not get this humor at all…
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Took me a long time to get to this particular title, though I don’t know why. First time I actually listened to it as an audio book while at the gym and found myself working out longer just to get further into this fascinating, compelling story. They’ve been trying to make a film out of this for years and the buzz I hear is that there’s something pretty serious going on now. We’ll see.
4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
Totally loved the first book in the series, Dune, and totally hated all the other books I tried to read and just couldn’t get into. The first book was probably my favorite book when I was in high school and I would guess I’ve read it about a half-dozen times by now.
5. A Song of Ice And Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
More fantasy, I hadn’t even heard of these books until the terrific HBO series Game of Thrones showed up and hooked me. Really like the TV series — some of the best fantasy/drama I’ve ever seen on TV — and have been toying with reading the series, but don’t want to ruin the unfolding TV version of the story (written with the involvement of the author).
6. 1984 by George Orwell
A profound novel that has significantly defined our cultural perspective on totalitarian control and how technology can enslave us, it’s one of those books that you really should re-read every decade or so to understand the double-edged sword of things like the Patriot Act. Brilliant, dark, alarming. Quite the book.
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury is a great writer and there’s lots of his work that I have enjoyed over the years, but I never felt that this story about book burning and a totalitarian society purging unwanted history was particularly significant. The same story’s been written by other authors. Not a diss on Bradbury, but as a top ten book? Not so much.
8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
I don’t have a lot of memories of this series, but recall that it focused on “psychohistory” and explored the ramifications of being able to predict the future of mob action and civilization. Interesting and very successful, Asimov was also one of the most prolific authors that I ever read. And no, I haven’t read everything he’s written. Has anyone?
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Again, another intensely political book like 1984 about how people interact and how the future might not be quite what we think it should be, even as we zoom towards it. Then again, this also seems more like a high school book reading assignment than something I picked up for pleasure, but I could be misremembering!
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I’ve read a little bit by Gaiman — and he wrote the story for the creepy/fascinating film Coraline — but I haven’t even heard of this particular book. Time to pop by the library and pick it up. Then I’ll report on whether I liked it or not.
Here are the next ten to round out the 20: 11. The Princess Bride by William Goldman; 12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan; 13. Animal Farm by George Orwell; 14. Neuromancer by William Gibson; 15. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; 16. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov; 17. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein; 18. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss; 19. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut; 20. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Of those, I’ll highlight that I really dug Neuromancer when I read it. For me, more than Snow Crash, it defined the entire cyberpunk genre. Watchmen? Surprisingly deep and profound. Really, really liked it, though it took me about 1/2 of the book to really get into it. And Stranger in a Strange Land? I grok it, for sure.
Now, how did you do with these top twenty book titles? How many have you read and what are your 2-3 favorites?