Someone from school emailed me, asking me about my recommended reading list for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. So here’s the list, in no particular order.
The notes are long, but it’s a description of every book on the list. I also try to warn you if there’s too much sex and violence, because I don’t know your specific tastes in fiction. This is just everything I recommend. It does not include more than one book in a series (save for a certain entry), but rather the first ones in the series.
Also threw on some Horror for ya. But for the most part, it’s Science-Fiction and Fantasy.
And don’t get all pissy that I didn’t throw your favorites on there. That means I’ve never read them, or I have my reasons. This is just the basics I’d throw a sci-fi/fantasy newbie.
UPDATE: June 30, 2012: Added Hyperion, Speaker for the Dead.
The Ultimate Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
One of the most highly recommended books for science fiction lovers, this is a collection of all 5 books in the series. The tale of the last earthling, after his friend (an alien), saves his life by hitchhiking at the very second the Earth is destroyed to make room for an intergalactic freeway. Full of humor and very odd things, I don’t think I know anyone who wouldn’t recommend this book / these books.
Consider Phlebas – Iain M. Banks
Hard Science Fiction. Multiple alien races, shapeshifters, violence, and betrayal. All to capture an incredibly powerful machine. The first of a full series. But it’s LONG. Not recommended for science fiction beginners.
The first book of the Culture series. I think there’s 14 of them in total, but I’m just guessing.
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
There’s a reason this book is on almost every science fiction book list. Pretty dark, a little bit complex, but very good. The tale of training kids to become soldiers to fight a war light-years away in violent war-games. A classic.
What most people don’t know, is that Ender’s Game is the first book in a series. Seek out the others, I hear good things about them.
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
The sequel to Ender’s Game. Less action based, more spiritual and a good concept in the ideas of alien biology and culture. Didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. it is a slow book, but it is very interesting. A xenobiologist (a biologist who studies aliens) is studying a new species of alien called “Piggies.” What goes on from that? I can not say. It reminds me of Fuzzy Nation.
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
By the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Aliens show up on Earth and end all wars, disease, and poverty. But what’s really going on here?
Short, but deep. I liked it.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Phillip K. Dick
The book that the movie Blade Runner is based on. Not the best book, but considered a classic. Recommended if you liked Blade Runner or the ideas of robots developing a consciousness and wishing to live.
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Case is a data-thief, who is hired by an unknown employer to steal the most powerful Artificial Intelligence in existence. Essentially, a heist book set on and above Earth in the Future, where computers are everywhere, including your head. Contains mild sex and violence.
While this is the first book in a trilogy, the trilogy is more about the setting, not the characters. Plus, I didn’t like the second book (Count Zero).
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
Another one of those slow sci-fi books that I like and nobody else does. It’s really slow, but thought-provoking. Basically, an ambassador visits a planet where gender only exists at certain times of a year. I have no real way to describe it, other than… interesting.
Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
War. in Space. Enough Said. Has very little to do with the movie. Another “Classic.”
Old Man’s War (Part of a series) – John Scalzi
At the age of 75, you get the option to enlist in the Colonial Military and sent off Earth to fight all of the horrors of the galaxy (and there’s a LOT of them). You’re given a brand-new body, stronger and faster than humanly capable, a very versitile gun, and an annoying brain computer that won’t stop bothering you. And that’s almost enough to be on almost level-ground with everything that’s trying to eat us.
I just finished this one. Very good. And very violent. But it’s a good type of violence. Not depressing, just very detailed and gory.
Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
The retelling of an older tale called Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper.
The story goes, a man mining for a rare element on the planet discovers the largest seam of the material that ANYONE has ever found, making him an instant billionaire. He also discovers a new species of creature that he names “Fuzzy.” This is all well and good. Until he starts to realize that Fuzzies may be sentient, which affects his financial future and his company’s interests. And they will protect their interests.
A very good, short tale. Read this as soon as possible. It’s just nice.
Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
The accounts of a man’s stay in Dresden, Germany in World War 2 when it was fire-bombed by the allied. Oh, and there’s also aliens and time travel for no reason whatsoever.
What? It’s Kurt Vonnegut. He’s out of his mind, and very good at what he does.
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
An author attempts to write a book about people’s memories of the day of the Atomic Bomb drop in Hiroshima. Somehow, the plot deviates from this almost immediately to the story of a scientist and his family. The scientist may have accidentally created a doomsday device before he died.
Again, the plot comes from out of nowhere, but it’s very amusing.
Stars Rain Down – Christopher Randolph
A science team goes to investigate a derelict ship in space, the same day that Earth gets invaded. Find it on Amazon.
Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Very good book. It is more or less Canterbury Tales in space. Dan Simmons tells multiple stories, each with their own styles and it truly feels like multiple writers telling their own stories. I don’t know where to even begin to describe the story. But I’ll try. Seven pilgrims travel to the planet Hyperion to meet a creature that alters time and space and destiny, all while a war for the planet and the fate of all human life is about to break out. They tell their stories to each other to try to figure out the significance of why they were chosen to meet The Shrike (said time altering creature).
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
I know, this one is an old one. It’s still pretty good, and I recommend it if you’ve never read it. It is probably way different from the version of Frankenstein you think you know.
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Same as Frankenstein. One of the first books I’ve read. Interesting style, as it’s told through journal entries and other things.
The Complete Howard Phillips Lovecraft
This guy is insane. He wrote in the 1930s and is one of the biggest names in horror. I recommend the following stories:
The Call of Cthulhu – The most famous of his works. Tale of a man lost at sea and encountering something big. And scary. And maddening.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – One of the best stories I’ve ever read, it’s a long one. A man researches his past and finds he has an ancestor who performed insane experiments on himself and others. Very good and surprising.
The Dunwich Horror – What happens when you summon a monster and let it live in your basement for way too long?
The Mountains of Madness – Archaeology gone horribly wrong, a doomed expedition to Antarctica. Very good.
World War Z – Max Brooks
A very well-done account of the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, done documentary style and full of interviews about the last war, the one that almost ate humanity.
Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1) (Book 1 of 10) – Steven Erikson
While this book is good, the second one is one of the finest books I’ve ever read. This is the story of a group of soldiers, a pantheon represented by a deck of cards, an empire, psychotic magic, intense violence, and the saving of a city from destruction from a long-forgotten monster. This is probably the most advanced Fantasy book I’ve ever read, as it throws a ton of information at you, barely tries to explain it, and moves on, leaving the reader confused and irritated. But once you figure out how everything works, it pays off. I’d save this one for last.
Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The wonderful end of the world.
Doomsday is coming, the Anti-Christ is born. However, the representatives of Heaven and Hell decide to do everything they can to prevent it, as they’ve grown rather fond of Earth. So how do an Angel and a Demon attempt to stop it?
Easily in my top 5 books. Funny in the same vein as Hitchhiker’s Guide.
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
There are two worlds: The Above and the Below. The above is everything you see around you, the below is everything you don’t. Richard Mayhew accidentally falls into Below London when he helps a mysterious girl out, and he does his best to try and get his life back, as he no longer exists in Above London. Usually described as a Modern-Day Fairy Tale.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
The old gods are real. Belief creates gods, and they exist. Shadow, recently released from prison, is hired as a bodyguard by a strange man named Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be the King of America and former God. They need to prevent a war that will decide the fate of humanity forever. Set in modern day. Very mature themes, though, so be warned.
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
A sort of spin-off/sequel to American Gods. Fat Charlie never knew his father was a god, and he never knew he had a brother, who has semi-godlike powers. When Charlie’s dad dies, Spider decides to pay him a visit. What follows is complete insanity. When I said Good Omens is in my top 5, this is in my top 2. Probably the funniest book I’ve read in years. You don’t need to read American Gods before this one, but it doesn’t hurt.
Wizard’s First Rule (Sword of Truth #1) (book 1 of 11) – Terry Goodkind
A fantasy series about the Seeker and the Sword of Truth (there was a TV show called Legend of the Seeker based on this series). Richard’s world is simple, as he grows up a tracker in the woods. Then he meets a mysterious girl with powers he never knew existed, as there’s no such thing as magic. Suddenly, horrifying creatures begin attacking and he is forced into a role he never wanted: Seeker, and savior of the world.
Violent, but good. There’s a few reaaaaaally messed up scenes. Just a warning.
Also, this book is very divisive. For everyone who likes this series, there’s at least 2 people who hate it. Just letting you know.
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian – Robert E. Howard
Remember me saying how Robert Howard and Conan the Barbarian are awesome? Wait, I only did that in class. Well, anyway, they are. This edition is a pretty decent collection of Conan stories, but there’s tons of them. I just happen to prefer this particular collection.
The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) (Book 1 of 14 (Book 14 comes out either this year or next. I forget)). – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
One of the longest running fantasy series in existance. First published in 1990, the final book should be coming out soon.
The world has been remade. A boy and his two friends are thrust into what looks to be the beginning of the end of the world, as Shadow tries to break free and destroy the world.
A very good series, but it can be tedious. The reason the last book isn’t out? The author died a few years ago before he could finish. Luckily, Brandon Sanderson was chosen to finish the books off, and he’s done a fantastic job.
i enjoyed the books, considering I just grabbed the first one on a whim, randomly.
The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) (Book 1 of 7) – Stephen King
Yes, THAT Stephen King. He wrote a fantasy series. It’s alright. Hard to explain. Just read it if you like Stephen King.
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastards #1) (Book 1 of ?) – Scott Lynch
Locke Lamora is a thief, who is trained to be the greatest con artist the city has ever known. Set in past medieval time (like, 1700-1800 or something), he pulls off daring heists just for the entertainment of himself and his friends. And then someone new comes to town, dead-set on killing everyone in his quest for revenge. Somehow, Locke and his crew get caught up in this, and it becomes personal.
Part Ocean’s 11, Part Robin Hood. Another “Heist” book.
Personally, I like the sequel more, because it involves casinos and pirate ships.
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) (Book 1 of 5 (currently) – George R. R. Martin
You’ve probably heard of this one. Has a popular HBO show airing currently about it. It’s good stuff, focused mostly on politics and killing your favorite characters. There’s a reason everyone’s going insane about these books.
The Discworld Books – Terry Pratchett
One of my favorite satirists and fantasy authors (helped write Good Omens). There’s so many books in this series, as well as so many series in this series (4 or 5 series set in the same world), that I’ll just highlight the ones that are the best of their particular groups:
The Color of Magic (Discworld #1) – The wizard Rincewind is the opposite of a hero. He values his life and nothing else. He’s also terrible as a wizard, due to an unfortunate accident in his past that put a spell so powerful in his brain, that other spells are afraid of it, preventing him from learning anything else. The first book in the entire series, and a decent introduction to the world. The book is a little rough, as it is his first, but he gets better at writing as he goes along. Drastically better. There’s also more books involving him if you want more.
Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6) – Three witches basically have to re-enact Hamlet, in order to set things right. It does not go well. There are also more Witch books, if you like these characters.
Guards! Guards! (Discworld #8) – The tales of the Night Watch of the biggest city on the Discworld. Easily became one of my favorite series in the… series. Sam Vimes is a drunk who runs the least-respected set of guards in the city. And then a Dragon appears and, for some reason, they decide they have to stop it.
The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30) – The first of a young adult series of books, Tiffany Aching is a little girl who is growing up to become a witch. She is helped by a tiny band of 6-inch high barbarians called the Nack MacFeegles, who speak in broken Scottish and are stronger than they look. Their favorite pasttime is fighting everything. EVERYTHING.
Going Postal (Discworld #33) – Moist VonLipwig (great name, right?) is a conman who is recruited to run the city’s post office. Recruited might be the wrong word, as the alternative is execution. His attempts are thwarted by an almost way-too-evil head of the current communications method in the country, the Clacks (a set of Semaphore towers set across the continent). Can he do it?
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) (Book 1 of 3 (the third isn’t out yet) – Patrick Rothfuss
The first of a trilogy, one of the more interesting and action-packed tales of the life of a seemingly simple barman, who is eerily similar to a man who is the subject of thousands of legends and tales. Is it a coincidence?
Very entertaining. Jumps right into the action.
Harry Potter – Jk Rowling
I’ll admit it. They’re really good, and I really like them. There. I said it. Good for everyone.
The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) (Book 1 of ???) – Brandon Sanderson
Ah, this guy again. Currently writing Wheel of Time.
A former soldier, branded slave, is put to work as a bridge-runner in a valley during an insanely long battle for magic armor and crystals. Ten armies compete against one enemy in this hellish battleground. The first in a series of books (that have been put on hold for a bit), but very interesting and entertaining. I recommend saving this one for later, though, as it may have you waiting too long for the second one.
Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson
Again, he’s awesome.
A girl in the neighboring kingdom is promised as a sacrificial bride to the God-King. However, the wrong girl is sent, and she must go save her little sister before she gets pregnant, as it usually ends in death for the God-King. But not everything is as it seems in the pantheon. One god hates his job, and there is a warrior with a talking sword with motives unknown.
Again, this guy is on here for a reason. He’s very good at what he does, and he writes amazing worlds and magic systems that are refreshing and unique.
Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
Elantris is a city of enlightenment next to Kae, full of beautiful immortals and art and peace and everything. Well, it was. A horrendous plague has warped the Elantrians into sad creatures who can never die or recover from any injuries they sustain. So we’ll just wall them off and that’s that. Until the plague starts affecting people outside of the wall, so they must be banished into the city forever, solving that problem. Until the prince of Kae gets the rare disease that turns one into an Elantrian. Not so good for his new wife who arrives that day to marry him.
Good stuff, with surprising twists and turns.
Mistborn (Mistborn #1) (Book 1 of 3 (or 4, depending) – Brandon Sanderson
This is the last one by him, I swear. He’s just so damn prolific.
The basis of this book: What happens when the chosen one failed? That’s the premise of this series, as an evil god-king rules the world, until a legend steps up and recruits some unlikely heroes to stop him, including Vin, an orphan thief girl with the same talents as him.
There’s only three books in the trilogy, but there’s a sequel that came out to the trilogy set hundreds of years later.
Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) (Book 1 of 13) – Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden is a wizard. That’s what it says under his yellow-pages ad. He occasionally is called in to help the Chicago Police Department solve crime that are a little… off.
The first of a full series, I recommend all of them. They get better with every book.
The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1) (Book 1 of 3) – Brent Weeks
This book has everything mature in it: Sex, violence, assassins, gore, more sex, and horrible people. The world’s greatest assassin trains the world’s second greatest assassin to take over for him. Unfortunately, this is right about the time that the neighboring country decides to take over and violently subjugate everyone involved. Another long fantasy series, but very mature. Lots of blood and violence (and brothels, and blood, and stabbings). So yeah, have fun with this one and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Books I’ve Never Read, But Been Recommended
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) – Ursula K. Le Guin
While she wrote the weird gender-based sci-fi book mentioned earlier, this is what she’s known for. I know nothing about this book, but I’m trying to check it out.
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
By the guy who did Starship Troopers. It’s about a human raised by martians and returning to Earth for the first time.