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NPR's top science fiction & fantasy books list.
flamebusy
bladespark
I knew there had to be a sci-fi version of the BBC books list. Indeed, there are a ton of various lists of top science fiction and/or fantasy books out there, but I picked NPRs because they assembled the list with some form of rigor.

These books do not include any YA or horror, according to the article that comes with them. I've bolded the ones I've read, and left commentary as I felt inclined, as I did with the BBC list.

The Lord Of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R.R. Martin - We own several of the early books, but at first I was waiting for the series to wrap up so I wouldn't be left hanging, and now I'm honestly pretty "meh" about the whole thing. Gratuitously gritty isn't my style.
1984, A Novel, by George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
- My first young attempt to read this bounced hard off the vagina dentata scene. :D Now it's a favorite, though.
The Princess Bride, S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, by William Goldman - Does it count as "read" if I eventually gave up on the weird intro about reading the book to his kid that's full of sad-sack whining and skipped ahead to "the good bits"? I feel in this case it does.
The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan - Ugh. I would have liked it as a trilogy, which it feels like it was initially conceived as, but instead Jordan ran the plot around in circles for a ridiculous further number of books. I gave it up as boring in the extreme at book 5.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Neuromancer, by William Gibson - I really should read this someday...
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons - Interesting to see comics here.
I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein

The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut - I should also probably read this.
Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King - I can't do King. I just can't. I've tried, but see above about not being into gritty for grit's sake. He's much worse about that than Martin is.
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke - I've read all the others, too, including 3001, which is not very good.
The Stand, by Stephen King
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson - I should probably read this too!
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury - Read it so long ago I barely remember it, but I have read it.
Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman - I really want to read this.
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein

A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr. - I've read at least one of the short stories it's based on, but not the novel.
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
The Amber Chronicles, by Roger Zelazny
- <3 So much love, even if he was kinda a sexist.
The Belgariad, by David Eddings - WTF is this doing here? O.o Well, I guess I have read it like six times, myself. But it's not what I'd call "great", it's just fun mindless reading. I'd put half of Mercedes Lackey's similarly easy-read but at least more thoughtful stuff above this. There's no Lackey on the list, and that's probably some brand of sexism, tbh, given some of what did make it on. She's not only a woman, but unlike say Ursula Le Guin, she writes "girls" stories about magical horses. But a bunch of similarly fluff "boys" stories about bad-ass sword slinging made it in.
The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Will never read for frankly depressing reasons.
Mistborn Trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson
Ringworld, by Larry Niven I've read most of the Known Space books, in fact. But there's a reason it's just Ringworld and not "The Ringworld Series" or something on the list, Niven gets pretty, uh...something in the sequel. :D
The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin - I really should read, as it's like, the "first" genderqueer novel, as I gather.
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien - I love NPR's commentary on this one, "for those who found The Lord of the Rings too breezy and slight". It's more like reading the Bible than like reading a novel, but I've read the Bible a bunch as I mentioned, so I enjoyed it a lot.
The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke - I actually am not sure if I read this or not. If I did it was just once, and a long time ago.
Contact, by Carl Sagan
The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons - Another one I'd like to read one of these days.
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
World War Z, An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks - WTF???????
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle - I have read this sooooooooooooo many times.
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Small Gods, A Novel of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett - I love that this is the Discworld book that made the list. <3 It's my favorite.
The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson - I hate that this made the list at all, it's SO BAD. Ugh. The protagonist is a whiny little git who wallows in constant over-the-top depressive self-flagellation and I want to slap him from page one. Barely made it through the first book. (Depressed protagonists are fine, ones that are self-involved and narcissistic are not.)
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold - I really want to read these! I should really make a point to look for them next time I'm at Powell's.
Going Postal, A Novel of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett - Oh, here's more Discworld. I think this was the last truly great Pratchett novel. Alas. :( They go downhill after this, because of the Alzheimer's.
The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - <3 I would love this just for the "On the one hand, on the other hand, on the gripping hand" saying, but the whole damn thing is really great.
The Sword Of Truth Series, by Terry Goodkind - Speaking of things that are so bad... I mean, I commented above about Ringworld Engineers probably being left off because of Niven's fetishes, but this thing gets in? Ooooooooookay.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke - Huh. The first book on this list that I haven't heard of.
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson - It's nothing like the movie.
The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist - File under "things I thought were kinda obscure, but I guess not?" I haven't read all the later ones in the setting, it wanders far afield, but the ones that properly fall in the "Riftwar Saga" are quite good.
The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
The Conan The Barbarian Series, by Robert E. Howard and Mark Schultz
- I'm checking this off even though I haven't come anywhere close to reading them all, but I've read some. They're fun! Though I'd rather have seen the Burrough's Carpenter books than these, I feel they're better.
The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb - Read the first one.
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson - And another I've never heard of.
Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R. A. Salvatore
- Oh god, this made the list? WTF? Ha hahaha. Okay, actually, I think I love that it did. (Still wish some Lackey had too, though.) I've certainly read them all except I think there's a few new ones I haven't gotten to? I've read at least a dozen of them, though. The first nine are pretty good. After that I feel they go sharply downhill.
Old Man's War, by John Scalzi - This has the biggest Mary Sue protagonist I've ever seen in something I enjoyed reading. (If you haven't read it, notice what's just above it. Yes, a bigger Mary Sue than Drizzt.)
The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey - I was in one of those "Book of the month" clubs for a while and they were always trying to sell me these. I dunno, maybe I should give them a try someday.
The Dispossessed, An Ambiguous Utopia, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire
The Malazan Book Of The Fallen series, by Steven Erikson - 'Nother one I've never heard of.
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde - And another.
The Culture Series, by Iain Banks - Yessssssssssss. Haven't actually read them all, but I'm working on it. I love every one I've read so far, which is most of them, so I'm marking it as read.
The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart - Oh hey, these books. I barely remember them, but I did read the whole set, ergo, I've read this first one.
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson - Never heard of it. Man, Neal Stephenson is on this list a lot.
The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe - I tried like four different times to read this, and just never could get through it.
The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn - This SO deserves to be on this list, yes!
The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon - Another "never heard of it."
The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock - I'm mildly surprised this one is so far down? I haven't read them all, I really want to one of these days. Add that to the Powell's list, I guess.
The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury - Huh, a short story collection. That's different.
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley - Well, I guess if you're going to have a modern vampire book on the list, you could do worse? Actually, the other good vampire stories were probably disqualified for being horror rather than fantasy. Anyway, this was good, but there are better McKinley books, even ruling out her "YA" books. I'd rather see "Deerskin" here.
A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson - I really tried, I liked Red Mars, but I couldn't get through the rest.
Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis - Never heard of it!
Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville - Also never heard of it. More of those, and more I just haven't read as we go down the list, it seems.
The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony - I read these in middle school, all the ones that were out at the time. Liked them then, hate them now. They're profoundly juvenile, and I don't mean the puns. I'm suspicious of any adult that still reads and loves them and not just as nostalgia.
The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis - Fun last entry! So weird, but so good.

I spent way too much time reformatting this from the NPR site and adding my commentary, but oh well, I had fun. I like talking about books. Almost as much as I like reading books. <3 53/100 on this list. Fewer than I'd have thought!

This entry was originally posted at https://bladespark.dreamwidth.org/1555930.html.