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
The Player of Games
The Hydrogen Sonata
Look to Windward
Use of Weapons
The Sprawl Trilogy, by William Gibson (1984)
Tags: Technology, Artificial intelligence, Crypto
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
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
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
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
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)
Dunworthy Series, by Connie Willis (1992)
Tags: Time travel, Earth, Oxford, Medieval, Victorian era
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak (1963)
Tags: Aliens, Earth
The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton (1969)
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)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (1966)
Idoru, by William Gibson
All Tomorrow’s Parties, by William Gibson
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton (1990)
Caine Riordan Series, by Charles E. Gannon (2013)
Tags: First contact, Alien invasion, Aliens, Interstellar
Trial by Fire
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
Oath of Fealty, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1981)
Tags: Near future, Technology
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester (1957)
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
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
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
A Fire in the Sun
The Exile Kiss
Remembrance of Earth’s Past Series, by Cixin Liu (2006)
Tags: Interstellar, War, Aliens, Apocalypse
The Dark Forest
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
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)
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
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)
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 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 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]
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
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
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.