Top Fifty SF books
I've seen this list posted on other blogs and you can find the original printing of it at the website for the Science Fiction Book Club. I don't vouch for the authority of this list but it does call these books the most influential SF books from 1953 to 2002, not necessarily the best. I have posted in bold the books and series on this list that I have read. I will comment on them over the next few days.
#1 The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Ah, the series that ruined all other fantasy series for me. The only criticism I really have of the series is, other than the main characters, the world felt really empty of people. Who grew the food for all these warriors?
#2 The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Still the best space opera I have ever read. A SF series from the fifties that still feels relevent. That's a mighty achievment.
#3 Dune, Frank Herbert
Along with Lord of Rings probably responsible for too many shitty imitators.
#4 Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
I've read this book about four or five times. It gives me weird dreams. Not many books give me dreams but this one does.
#5 A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
A great book for me to recommend to kids that have read all the Harry Potter books.
#6 Neuromancer, William Gibson
Read it because it was supposed to be great. It may be the Sgt. Pepper of SF.
#7 Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
If you have to read one book about a time when humans evolve to the next plane, read this one.
#8 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
Very different than the movie but both versions play around wonderfully with the nature of reality.
#9 The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
#10 Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Read this back in middle school. I remember tearing through it.
#11 The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
#12 A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Another book that I have read four or five times. It's a masterpiece and surprisingly funny even though it's a pessimistic novel.
#13 The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
#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
#19 The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
#20 Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
#21 Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
#22 Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Read it twice, listened to the book on tape once. Another book that is an easy out when doing teen readers advisory.
#23 The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
Read this a long time ago. I remember really enjoying the world he created. Unlike Middle Earth, it had a population.
#24 The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Just flat out one of the best science fiction novels you could possible read that is based on someone's Vietnam War experiences.
#25 Gateway, Frederik Pohl
#26 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
#27 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Laugh out loud funny.
#28 I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Last man on earth, world of vampires.
#29 Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
Isn't as impressive now that she's become a Christian.
#30 The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
#31 Little, Big, John Crowley
#32 Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
I love this book. People settling a planet and then setting themselves up as gods and one of them deciding that what they are doing is wrong and starting a war among the gods. What more could you want?
#33 The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
I read this early in my reading of Philip Dick. I should probably go back and read it again because it's probably better than I remember.
#34 Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
#35 More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
#36 The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
Haven't read this book but his short stories are some of the best ever.
#37 On the Beach, Nevil Shute
#38 Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Well written but left me wanting more. The sequels didn't add too much more. I think he did it on purpose.
#39 Ringworld, Larry Niven
#40 Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
#41 The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Not sure why this is on here twice. I would just put it with Lord of Rings. It has its moments.
#42 Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Another book I should read again since it was the first book I ever read by him.
#43 Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
#44 Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
#45 The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
#46 Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
The daddy of military science fiction. Answered by Haldeman in Forever War. A bit dated but still readable.
#47 Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
#48 The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
#49 Timescape, Gregory Benford
#50 To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
Introduced me to Sir Richard Francis Burton. It's the first in the series and I wouldn't read beyond the first three.