Recommended Science Fiction Reading

Recommended Science Fiction Reading

I have been reading science fiction almost exclusively since around the year 2000, steadily working my way through various lists of classics, Hugo and Nebula Award winners, and trying to keep up with new works from my favourite modern authors.

It is tough to come up with a list of favourites; instead I have divided up my reading list into a couple of different tiers. I suspect many people might be outraged at my excluding certain novels or series from my top tier, but this is of course just a subjective list based on my own preferences.

This page is a work in progress; I hope to add brief summaries about each book but for now I’ve created simple “tags” to roughly classify them (tag definitions are at the bottom of the page).

Where possible, the year is included as a reference. It is worth noting that many of these books are decades old but still managed to predict (some with uncanny accuracy) various aspects of modern technology and society.

Image credit: NASA & Juno

Tier One – Must Reads

Required reading for anyone interested in science fiction. A combination of simply spectacularly good reads, amazingly prescient looks at the future from decades ago, and incredible insight from great minds.

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson (2008)
Tags: Multiverse, Aliens, Post-apocalyptic

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (1999)
Tags: Internet, Crypto, Near future, Adult themes

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge (2006)
Tags: Near future, Crypto

The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks (1988)
Tags: Post scarcity, Artificial intelligence, Interstellar

Consider Phlebas

The Player of Games

Surface Detail


The Hydrogen Sonata

Look to Windward


Use of Weapons

The Sprawl Trilogy, by William Gibson (1984)
Tags: Technology, Artificial intelligence, Crypto


Count Zero

Mona Lisa Overdrive

Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson (1995)
Tags: Near future, Adult themes

Zones of Thought Series, by Vernor Vinge (1992)
Tags: Interstellar, Military, Aliens, First contact

A Fire Upon the Deep

A Deepness in the Sky

Children of the Sky

Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965)
Tags: Interstellar, Military, Young achievers

The Neanderthal Parallax, by Robert J. Sawyer (2002)
Tags: Multiverse, Adult themes, Social impacts




Ilium and Olympos Series, Dan Simmons (2003)
Tags: War, Time travel, Historical fiction



Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (1977)
Tags: Earth, Apocalypse, Post apocalyptic, Adult themes

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson (1992)
Tags: Near future, Adult themes

Footfall, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (1985)
Tags: Alien invasion, Space, Military

Ender’s Game Series, by Orson Scott Card (1985)
Tags: Young achievers, Space, Interstellar, Military, Aliens, Alien invasion

Ender’s Game

Speaker for the Dead


Children of the Mind

2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (1968)
Tags: Space, Artificial intelligence

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (1979)
Tags: Comedy, Aliens, Apocalypse, Interstellar

Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)
Tags: Politics, Military, Aliens

Tier Two – Great Reads

General purpose highly enjoyable reads.

Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986)
Tags: All ages, Space, Interstellar, Military

Camouflage, by Joe Haldeman (2004)
Tags: Aliens, Earth, Adult themes

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick (1968)
Tags: Artificial intelligence, Mystery

The Postman, by David Brin (1985)
Tags: Post-apocalyptic, Adult themes

Gateway, by Frederik Pohl (1977)
Tags: Aliens, Mystery, Exploration, Interstellar, Space

Thunder and Lightning Series, by John Varley (2003)
Tags: Mars, Interstellar, Young achievers, Technology

Red Lightning
Red Thunder
Rolling Thunder

Redshirts, by John Scalzi (2012)
Tags: Star Trek, Space, Interstellar, Comedy

Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons (1989)
Tags: Interstellar, Space opera, Time travel

The Fall of Hyperion
The Rise of Endymion

Eschaton Series, by Charles Stross (2003)
Tags: Interstellar, Post-scarcity

Singularity Sky
Iron Sunrise

Glasshouse, by Charles Stross (2006)
Tags: Post-scarcity, Mystery, Technology

Accelerando, by Charles Stross (2005)
Tags: Automation, Singularity

Great North Road, by Peter F. Hamilton (2012)
Tags: Mystery, Technology, Interstellar

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, by Robert Charles Wilson (2009)
Tags: Post-apocalyptic

Dunworthy Series, by Connie Willis (1992)
Tags: Time travel, Earth, Oxford, Medieval, Victorian era

Doomsday Book
To Say Nothing of the Dog

Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak (1963)
Tags: Aliens, Earth

The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton (1969)
Tags: Aliens

The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (1974)
Tags: First contact, Aliens, Interstellar, Military

Ringworld, by Larry Niven (1970)
Tags: Aliens, Megastructures, Interstellar

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes (1959)
Tags: Technology, People

Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov (1951)
Tags: Interstellar

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (1966)
Tags: Politics

Virtual Light, by William Gibson
Idoru, by William Gibson
All Tomorrow’s Parties, by William Gibson

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton (1990)
Tags: Technology

Caine Riordan Series, by Charles E. Gannon (2013)
Tags: First contact, Alien invasion, Aliens, Interstellar

Fire With Fire
Trial by Fire
Raising Caine

Interface, by Neal Stephenson & J. Frederick George (1994)
Tags: Near future, Comedy, Politics

The Forever War Series, by Joe Haldeman (1974)
Tags: Interstellar, Relativity, Time dilation, Military

The Forever War
Forever Free

Oath of Fealty, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1981)
Tags: Near future, Technology

The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester (1957)
Tags: Space

Bones of the Earth, by Michael Swanwick (2002)
Tags: Time travel, Earth

Remnant Population, by Elizabeth Moon (1996)
Tags: People, Aliens, First contact

Old Man’s War Series, by John Scalzi (2005)
Tags: Interstellar, Aliens, Military

Old Man’s War
The Ghost Brigades
The Last Colony

The Algebraist, by Iain M. Banks (2004)
Tags: Aliens, Adult themes, Interstellar, War

The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
Tags: Post-apocalyptic, Climate change, Adult themes

The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham (1951)
Tags: Post-apocalyptic, Earth, Aliens

The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham (1955)
Tags: Earth, Mutants, Post-apocalyptic

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (2015)
Tags: Apocalypse, Post-apocalyptic, Space, Adult themes

The Lost Fleet Series, by Jack Campbell (2006)
Tags: Military, Interstellar

Beyond the Frontier: Invincible
Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught
Beyond the Frontier: Leviathan
Beyond the Frontier: Steadfast
Beyond the Frontier: Guardian

Across Realtime, by Vernor Vinge (1984)
Tags: Time travel, Earth, Technology

The Peace War
The Ungoverned
Marooned in Realtime

The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson (1960)
Tags: Aliens, Interstellar, Medieval

The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin (1974)
Tags: Politics, Off-Earth

Marîd Audran Series, by George Alec Effinger (1987)
Tags: Earth, Religion, Mystery, Technology

When Gravity Fails
A Fire in the Sun
The Exile Kiss

Remembrance of Earth’s Past Series, by Cixin Liu (2006)
Tags: Interstellar, War, Aliens, Apocalypse

The Three-Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Death’s End

Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein (1982)
Tags: Politics, Espionage

The Peripheral, by William Gibson (2014)
Tags: Multiverse, Military

Commonwealth Saga, by Peter F. Hamilton (2004)
Tags: Technology, Interstellar, Alien invasion

Pandora’s Star
Judas Unchained
The Dreaming Void
The Temporal Void
The Evolutionary Void
The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Night Without Stars

Millennium, by John Varley (1983)
Tags: Time travel, Artificial intelligence

1984, by George Orwell (1949)
Tags: Near future, Politics

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Tags: Near future, Politics

Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke (1979)
Tags: Technology

Mother of Storms, by John Barnes (1994)
Tags: Near future, Adult themes, Climate change

Emergence, by David R. Palmer (1984)
Tags: Young achievers, Post apocalyptic

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm (1976)
Tags: Post apocalyptic, Climate change

Tier Three – Good Reads

Birthright: The Book of Man, by Mike Resnick (1982)
Tags: Interstellar, Politics, Aliens

Bigend Series, by William Gibson (2003)
Tags: Near future, Internet

Pattern Recognition
Spook Country
Zero History

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein (1958)
Tags: Space, Aliens, Young Achievers

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)
Tags: Mars, Space

The Terminal Experiment, by Robert Sawyer (1995)
Tags: Technology

Sphere, by Michael Crichton (1987)
Tags: Aliens, Horror

The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov (1972)
Tags: Aliens, Technology

Night’s Dawn Trilogy, by Peter F. Hamilton (1996)
Tags: Space opera, Interstellar, Adult themes

The Reality Dysfunction
The Neutronium Alchemist
The Naked God

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip José Farmer (1971)
Tags: Mystery, People

Tier X – Not Strictly Science Fiction

I’m one of those weirdos that gets frustrated when I go into a book store and see a section called “Science Fiction and Fantasy”. While there is clearly some blurring of the lines between genres, I am massively less interested in fantasy (dragons, wizards, magic) so find it a hassle to browse a book section where the two genres are blended together.

In the interests of maintaining that kind of strict separation for other obsessives, I present a several other books that are a bit more of a mix between sci fi side and fantasy but still are great reads.

The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson (2003)
Tags: Historical fiction

The Confusion
The System of the World

The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick (1962)
Tags: Alternate history [World War 2 but the Nazis won]

Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville (2000)
Tags: Steampunk, Adult themes, Monsters

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (1996)
Tags: Multiverse, Earth

The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross (2004)
Tags: Crypto, Monsters

Tales of the Dying Earth, by Jack Vance (1950)
Tags: Apocalypse, Comedy

The Temeraire Series, by Naomi Novik (2006)
Tags: Alternate history [Napoleonic era meets dragons]

His Majesty’s Dragon
Throne of Jade
Black Powder War
Empire of Ivory
Victory of Eagles
Tongues of Serpents
Crucible of Gold
Blood of Tyrants
League of Dragons

The Stand, by Stephen King (1978)
Tags: Post apocalyptic, Horror

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
Tags: Time travel, People

Other reads

This section is a bunch of other stuff I’ve read which was OK, but didn’t resonate with me for various reasons. Included for completion as I’ll probably re-read them at some point and they may be upgraded.

The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller, by A.G. Riddle
The Atlantis Plague, by A.G. Riddle
The Atlantis World, by A.G. Riddle

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
The Long War, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan
Broken Angels, by Richard Morgan
Woken Furies, by Richard Morgan

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie

The Memory of Earth, by Orson Scott Card
The Call of Earth, by Orson Scott Card
The Ships of Earth, by Orson Scott Card
Earthfall, by Orson Scott Card
Earthborn, by Orson Scott Card

A World Out of Time, by Larry Niven
The Integral Trees, by Larry Niven
Dream Park, by Larry Niven & Steven Barnes

The Enemy Stars, by Poul Anderson
The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul Anderson

Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein

A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Contact, by Carl Sagan

Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

The Ragged Astronauts, by Bob Shaw

The Forge of God, by Greg Bear
Queen of Angels, by Greg Bear
Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

Steel Beach, by John Varley
The Ophiuchi Hotline, by John Varley

Sundiver, by David Brin
Kiln People, by David Brin
Startide Rising, by David Brin

The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul Anderson

Cyteen, by C. J Cherryh

Midnight Robber, by Hopkinson, Nalo

The Chronoliths, by Robert Charles Wilson

Brittle Innings, by Michael Bishop

Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer

Project Pope, by Clifford D. Simak

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner

Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C Clarke
2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Tag definitions:

Adult themes: Sex, crazy amounts of horrific violence, or any combination of all.

Aliens: Includes non-human beings, typically from outer space.

Alien invasion: War with invading UFOs, typically Earth, but also other human societies.

All ages: Generally not a huge amount of violence, sex, drug use, etc.

Alternate history: Set on Earth but where events took a different turn, or a new element is added to mix things up completely.

Apocalypse: An extinction-level event is happening.

Artificial intelligence: Sentient machines play an important role.

Climate change: Considers impact of societal changes as a result of massive environmental evolution.

Crypto: Aspects and impact of cryptography or computer security.

Espionage: Spying, infiltration, assassination – usually one person running around doing these things.

First contact: Humanity meets with an alien species for the first time and the impact on society.

Horror: Strong focus on trying to terrify.

Internet: Deals with relatively current human technology with a focus on Internet-related things.

Interstellar: Scene is space but in a universe where interstellar travel is possible.

Medieval: Mixes in medieval themes, history, or aspects of medieval society.

Military: Strong military themes, focusing on army/navy/fighting.

Monsters: Not aliens, but big and scary and may still be bug-eyed.

Multiverse: Multiple universes, their impacts and interactions.

Mutants: Looking at social changes involving human mutations.

Mystery: General purpose mystery abounds (e.g., solve the murder/whodunnit).

Near future: Deals with concepts that are considered on the cusp of happening already.

Off-Earth: Takes place on an Earth-like planet or in an Earth-descended society, but not on Earth.

People: Focuses primarily on personal lives, character development, etc.

Politics: Focus on how political systems are disrupted by technology and societal changes that result.

Post-apocalypse: After an Apocalypse has occurred, focusing mostly on what life is like afterwards.

Post-scarcity: What happens to societies when they’ve passed a certain technological point and nobody needs to work any more (i.e., robots and technology do everything).

Social impacts: Considering the changes that might occur as the result of a major shift, typically through some exposure to a sci fi element (e.g., a new technology).

Space: Set in space although mostly local (e.g., just the solar system).

Space opera: Huge epics, long stories, many characters, big themes.

Steampunk: Industrial-age modern technology and maybe some magic.

Technology: Typically a single super-disruptive technology is developed which changes everything for everyone.

War: War is more of a background, without a focus on the military aspect

Young achievers: Children/teenagers save the day.