50 books

I came across yet another list of the “100 science fiction books everyone should read.” Like every other one I’ve seen, it’s an arbitrary selection and not at all what I would have chosen (though it does earn a point for mentioning The Fifth Head of Cerberus.) Rather than reprint that list here with the usual “bold what you’ve read,” I instead compiled my own. It’s half the length of the other and perhaps just as arbitrary, but I daresay it’s better reading.

A lot of writers you might have expected are missing. In some cases it’s because I haven’t read them yet, but usually it’s deliberate. For instance, I have no desire to re-read anything by Isaac Asimov no matter how historically important he may be, so why include The Foundation Trilogy? (And I think John Sladek is more reliable on the Three Laws of Robish, anyway.)

There are a lot of short story collections mentioned. Partly it’s because I like short stories, but mainly it’s because many writers are better at shorter lengths.

I could easily have made a valid list using just the works of Wolfe, Wells, Lafferty and Dick, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the obsessive.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the Original Radio Scripts

J.G. Ballard, Chronopolis

Greg Benford, Timescape

Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination, Starburst

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Algis Budrys, Rogue Moon

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End

Samuel Delany, Driftglass

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, The Preserving Machine, or any other of his better novels or short story collections

Thomas M. Disch, Fun with Your New Head, Camp Concentration

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City

C.M. Kornbluth, The Best of C.M. Kornbluth

Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants

Henry Kuttner, The Best of Henry Kuttner

R.A. Lafferty, Nine Hundred Grandmothers, or any other collection of his short stories ((If you need evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the publishing industry, note that The Collected Stories of R.A. Lafferty still doesn’t exist.))

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris, The Cyberiad

Barry Malzberg, The Best of Barry N. Malzberg, or whatever else you can find ((It is not required to read a lot of Malzberg; a brief glimpse of his universe will suffice for most readers.))

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz

George Orwell, 1984

Frederick Pohl, The Best of Frederick Pohl

Rudy Rucker, Master of Space and Time, or any collection with Harry Gerber stories

Joanna Russ, The Adventures of Alyx, And Chaos Died

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

Robert Sheckley, Dimension of Miracles, or any collection of his short stories

Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino no Tabi ((Good luck finding this one. The contract to publish the Kino stories in English fell through shortly after the first volume was printed. You can get a taste of Sigsawa’s work by watching the animated series Kino’s Journey, which heads my short list of anime for people who think they hate anime.))

John Sladek, Tik-Tok, Mechasm

Cordwainer Smith, The Rediscovery of Man

Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

William Tenn, Immodest Proposals, or any other collection of his short stories

James Tiptree, Jr., Ten Thousand Light Years from Home, or any other collection of her short stories

Yasutaka Tsutsui, Salmonella Men on Planet Porno

Jack Vance, The Dying Earth

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

Ian Watson, The Very Slow Time Machine, or any of his early novels

H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

Gene Wolfe, The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, The Book of the New Sun

John C. Wright, The Golden Age trilogy

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

2 thoughts on “50 books”

  1. A fellow Asimov hater! Across the years and parsecs that separate us, in whatever language you communicate, with whatever kind of orifice you are comfortable communicating with, and as I extend a friendly hand, or tentacle, aura, resonance, force field, mandible or any other manipulative entity: I greet you.

  2. I am less surprised by the books we have in common than by the number here I haven’t read!

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