Tuesday, November 21, 2006

SF books - what do you think?

I first came across this meme at Walt at Random, but I've seen it in a few places since (notably Phil Bradley's new non-work blog, Frivolity and the ubiquitous Librarian in Black).

“Below is a Science Fiction Book Club list most significant SF novels between 1953-2006. The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put a star next to the ones you love.”

I don't start reading things and then give up. Or, if I do, it happens infrequently enough for me to think I don't do it. I've added another symbol, +, to mark books on my "to-read" pile (quite literally a pile of books next to my bed).

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert +
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin +
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson *
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick *
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett *
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card +
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams *
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer +

You'll notice two things about this list:

1. I've got a heck of a long way to go
2. I tend not to read books unless I think I'm going to like them.

The "to read" pile also includes some more Gibson (including Idoru, for Bibliothecary), some Kim Stanley Robinson Mars books and plenty of other stuff.

So, copy 'n' paste the list into the comments box and share your thoughts. Could it make a good basis for the nascent online genre fiction group?

2 comments:

Bibliothecary said...

Lists are marvellous things (as Channel 4 seem to think); here's my tuppence worth: (-- = strikethrough)
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
--4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein--
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett*
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson*
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Perhaps there should be another category with which to classify these books, that of: "In the callowness of youth I thought this was a really good book but now I'm older and have read much more widely I've come to the conclusion that it's utter tripe". I'm afraid that "Interview with the Vampire" falls into this category. I'm ashamed to say that I'd collected a number of the Anne Rice vampire novels but I few years ago I realised the error of my ways and took them all to my local branch of Oxfam, where another 15 year old could pick them up, think they're innovative and well written for a few years then pass them on to another benighted soul for a while...

swlrir said...

This is a very good starting-point type list, I think : though perhaps we need separate SF & Fantasy lists to do them both justice.

I have read a lot of them, but it has been a long time since the (then) Lancs County mobile used to stop outside our house, stuffed with yellow Gollanczes in the 60’s.

One problem with this one is to do with multi-volume series : it’s hard to rate the first volume of a series without considering the rest : hence some of the notes added.

I also think there needs to be more of a range than “Read it” (Did it make no impression?) to “Wonderful” : so I have 0 to 3 stars : OK, *Good, **Very good, ***Excellent.

I can and do abandon books, Michael : it’s a Reader’s Right, after all. (I also buy books and never read them, letting them linger on the “to read” pile, sometimes for years.

After all that, here is my list:


1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien***
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov**
3. Dune, Frank Herbert *** (Messiah**, Children**, God Emperor*)
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein** (In the seventies : I’m a bit worried about going back to this one!)
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin ** (Tombs**, Shore**) later entries *
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson ***
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke**
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick **
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury**
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe**
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.***
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov**
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett **
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison**
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison***
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester**
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*** (Diminishing returns after the first 3 or so in this sequence)
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card **
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson Miserable sod!
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman**
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling*
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams ***
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson***
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice I’m with Bibliothecary on this one!
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin***
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny (Amber sequence**)
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke***
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven*** (original reading), *(Recent re-read)
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien**
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester***
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein**
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock***
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer**