2016 Reading Challenge: 52 Sci Fi Classics

31/52 books completed

Much as I love the genre, I often feel like a poser (is that still a word people use?) when I tell people I write science fiction because I’m not that well-read in the genre. I grew up on literary fiction—Dickens, Poe, Austen, and Shakespeare in particular—because that was what we had around the house. I read fantasy whenever I could get my hands on it, but it would have never occurred to me to go looking for a sci fi book.

Then I got swept up into the anime craze and became obsessed with all kinds of space opera shows. I had no idea that that’s what it was called, or that it even counted as science fiction, but I knew I loved it.

By the time I hit college, I had found a few contemperary science fiction authors, and I started getting a better feel of the breadth of science fiction. But I never took the time to go back and read the classics. 2001: Space Odyssey? Nope. Nothing by Heinlein. I honestly just heard of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy this year.

For 2016, I’ve set myself a simple goal: read 52 science fiction classics.

There are hundreds of books that deserve to be on this list, and I had to cut out a lot of great stuff to chisel the number down to 52. By no means is this the “best” of science fiction. I chose them based on the following rules:

  1. Only books I haven’t read before (which is why some of the obvious ones, like Ender’s Game and Dune, aren’t on the list).
  2. Only books published before 2000.
  3. Only one book per author, with the exception of Lois McMaster Bujold, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and David Brin. Either these authors were very prolific or they had a series that I wanted to read.

I started by pulling together as many Best of Science Fiction lists as I could find online, then filtered by my three rules. That still left me with more than a hundred options, so from there I went based on my own interest. I searched the books, read their descriptions, checked to see if they were on multiple “Best of” lists, and eventually decided on the following schedule:

Dreamweaver’s Dilemma, Lois McMaster Bujold – 1995

Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold – 1987

Shards of Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold – 1986

Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold – 1991

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne – 1870

The War of the Worlds, HG Wells – 1898

A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs – 1912

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley – 1932

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury – 1953

More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon – 1953

I Am Legend, Richard Matheson – 1954

A Case of Conscience, James Blish – 1958

Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein – 1959

Foundation, Isaac Asimov – 1951

Foundation & Empire, Isaac Asimov – 1952

Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov – 1953

The Bicentennial Man, Isaac Asimov – 1976

Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys – 1960

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut – 1963

Way Station, Clifford D. Simak – 1963

Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany – 1966

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes – 1966

Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny – 1967

Camp Concentration, Thomas M Disch – 1968

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin – 1969

Ringworld, Larry Niven – 1970

Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke – 1953

The City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke – 1956

2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke – 1968

Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke – 1972

Houston, Houston, Do You Read?, James Tiptree, Jr. – 1976

Gateway, Frederik Pohl – 1977

The Stand, Stephen King – 1978

Juniper Time, Kate Wilhelm – 1979

Battlefield Earth, L Ron Hubbard – 1982

The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick – 1962

Martian Time-Slip, Philip K. Dick – 1964

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick – 1968

Ubik, Philip K. Dick – 1969

Neuromancer, William Gibson – 1984

Blood Music, Greg Bear – 1985

Contact, Carl Sagan – 1986

Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks – 1987

Sundiver, David Brin – 1980

Startide Rising, David Brin – 1983

Uplift War, David Brin – 1987

On My Way to Paradise, Dave Wolverton – 1989

Grass, Sheri S. Tepper – 1989

Hyperion, Dan Simmons – 1989

Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton – 1990

Doomsday Book, Connie Willis – 1992

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson – 1992

I’ll be going through the books in chronological order by publish date, with the exception of Lois McMaster Bujold (because once I read the descriptions of her books, I was so excited that I didn’t want to wait until the end of next year to read them!). I decided on chronological order because I’m really interested in watching the genre develop over the 130 years covered by this list.

I’ll be posting my thoughts on each book at the end of its designated week (or whenever I have time).

Let me know if you think I missed any great books! Like I said above, some of the big classics aren’t on this list because I’ve already read them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I completely overlooked a few gems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *