NPR’s SF and fantasy top 100

NPR did a listener survey on the best science fiction and fantasy books and posted a list of the top 100. The ones I’ve read are in bold. At a glance, the list seems a little bit too weighted toward more recent stuff. Anything else on here anyone would particularly recommend?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert [first book only–L.M.]

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

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

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson [first book only–L.M.]

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

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8 thoughts on “NPR’s SF and fantasy top 100

  1. Stephen R. Donaldson ranks only 58? And what happened to CS Lewis’s Narnia series? I agree there’s a preponderance of recent work on the list, but many of the oldies-but-goodies are well-represented, e.g., Heinlein, Niven, Clarke, et al.

  2. The Last Unicorn (Peter Beagle) and The Princess Bride (William Goldman) are both quite good, although I suspect their inclusion on this list has much to do with the fact that they both have two excellent movie versions (and I think an argument can be made in both cases that the movie is at least as good as the book on which it is based). All the Asimovs are good but rather different; read The Foundation Trilogy if you like history, The Caves of Steel if you like mysteries (although I think The Naked Sun, a sequel, is in some ways better; but in either case Asimov is an underappreciated mystery writer), and I, Robot if you like puzzle stories. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is very good, but it is a very big and sprawling book, not really to be read unless you have large blocks of time set aside for it.

    None of Olaf Stapledon’s works are on the list, although at least Sirius should be — I actually recommend that one highly (it’s a story about a dog given human-level intelligence); judging from your interest, you’d like it a lot.

  3. A Song of Ice and Fire and The Kingkiller Chronicles are some of the best fantasy from the last 10-15 years. Be warned, however, that neither is finished at this point.

    Snow Crash is excellent cyberpunk stuff. How can you go wrong with a character named Hiro Protagonist?

    Watership Down is a beautiful dark fantasy fairy-tale.

    The Mists of Avalon is one of the better Arthur re-imaginings I’ve read.

    The Hyperion Cantos is one of the best sci-fi series I’ve ever read. As is typical of Simmons, he uses lots of literary allusion. His characters are stunningly real and his imagination is outstanding.

    The Mote in God’s Eye is the best first contact story I’ve read.

    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a book that seems like it shouldn’t work – alternate history with magic – and written in the style of 19-century authors. However, the detail in it is ensorcelling and leaves you wanting more.

    I’ve read a good chunk of the list and could recommend more, but those are amongst the best of the ones you haven’t read.

  4. I really liked Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – the book from which the Bladerunner movie was made. The book is pretty different, and Dick is an accustomed taste, but it has some interesting stuff about animals in it.

    I also liked Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – enough to by it in audo (20+ CDs!) after reading it from the library.

    Read Watership Down long ago and liked it very much though it’s kind of sad.

    I’d also recommend Ringworld – neat idea that.

    The Left Hand of Darkness is really a kind of classic feminist sci fi book – what life would be like if people never knew if and when they be male of female.

    The Once And Future King, – really liked this too.

    I just reread The Forever War a couple of months ago. Still liked it, for the most part. It has an interesting take on future gay/straight culture.

    The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever – the only book I’ve read about a leper and how that can affect a person’s elf esteem. Fairly good, I thought.

    Conan (and Elric of Melniboné 🙂 I was a big fan in college but I don’t know how they would hold up. You could try the comics.

    Loved The Crystal Cave and the three books that came after it about Merlin.

    The Doomsday book was very good, I thought, if you’re interested in medieval stuff, but sad.

  5. Before I add my own, I’ll second crystal’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. What a vision.

    I also enjoyed I, Robot, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Sword of Truth, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Contact. The Handmaid’s Tale was a vision of hysteria and brilliance together. While we were clearly not in danger of any such dystopic future when it was written, the images were still valuable in their own right. Contact offered more than the movie made from it did, though that was a good adaptation.

  6. None of the following is actually science fiction.

    Classifying them as such is a symptom of the now triumphant rejection of the difference between actual literature and entertaining junk – er, genre fiction.

    Only an age that calls comic books “graphic novels” could so misclassify these novels.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

    1984, by George Orwell

    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell

    Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

    A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

    Btw, I myself am a voracious fan of mysteries/thrillers.

    As such I insist Graham Greene was wrong to classify Brighton Rock, and even Stamboul Train, as “entertainments.”

    • I’ll give you some of those–particularly Orwell and McCarthy. But to not classify, say, Miller as SF just seems overly strict. It’s been considered an SF classic pretty much since it was published, as far as I know. Unless in your virew “real” literature and SF are mutually exclusive by definition.

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