NPR’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Survey

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2011-08-13) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

NPR just did an exhaustive survey of their readership to form a list of their readers’ top 100 science fiction and fantasy books of all time:

More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles.

I decided to look through and see what I’m missing. Surprisingly, I’ve read very few of these. I suspect that’s because the vast majority of my sci-fi ingestion is from TV and film sources. Still, here’s my meager progress (apologies for the incorrect title caps, but I copied the list from NPR and was too lazy to fix it):

The links below are affiliate links to Amazon, if you’d like to purchase the books, and wherever possible, to the Kindle version, so you don’t have to carry around a dead tree. Any kickbacks I get will go toward the fund for a new transmission in our family car that’s about to die — so you know you’re supporting a good cause!
  • The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Partial, I’ve read a few chapters of the first book, and decided it wasn’t for me.
  • 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
  • 1984, 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
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore
  • I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  • Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Frankenstein, by Mary 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
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
    Curious why this one only gets the first book of the series on the list and not the whole series as other do. Perhaps because of the way the book was written concurrently with the screenplay?
  • The Stand, by Stephen King
  • Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  • Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
    I’ve read dribs and drabs of the comic here and there, but I want to start from the beginning with collected volumes at some point. Are these digital yet? I keep holding off because I’m trying not to buy any more dead trees if I can help it.
  • A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  • Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
  • A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  • The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
  • Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  • The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
  • The Belgariad, by David Eddings
  • The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  • The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Not sure how to categorize this. I haven’t read it, but after trying a few times and failing to read both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I don’t think I’ll ever read it. Checking it off because I’ve made a decision not to read it.
  • The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Contact, by Carl Sagan
    Love the movie, but ashamed to say I’ve never read the book. Putting it on my list.
  • The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
    Partial, I’ve read the first book. I do like it and look forward to reading the rest at some point.
  • Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  • Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  • World War Z, by Max Brooks
  • The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
    I’ve watched the movie a few times, and saw Peter S. Beagle talk about it in person at Otakon a couple of weeks ago — does that count?
  • The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  • Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  • I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  • The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
  • The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
  • The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
  • The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  • A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
  • The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
  • Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
  • The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
    Not read this one yet, but it’s definitely on my list.
  • Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
  • The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  • Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  • The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
  • The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
  • Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
  • The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
  • The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
    That’s the Star Wars “Heir to the Empire” books, right? I read those as soon as they came out in the 90s.
  • The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
  • The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
  • The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
  • Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
  • A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  • The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
  • The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
  • The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
    Well, not every single one, but I bet I’ve read at least twenty of them over the years.
  • The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

I guess I’ve always been more into SF than fantasy, and I never really got into the big sword and sorcery stuff, aside from Xanth, because well, the puns were funny, and the vague sexual innuendo appealed to 13-year-old me. For the life of me, I’ve tried to get into the Tolkein stuff, but like Infinite Jest, it seems destined to sit on my shelf forever, unread. I’ll probably never touch the George RR Martin stuff either, but my friend AAlgar recommends the new TV series based on it, and he hates everything, so maybe I’ll at least give the adaptation a go. Still, seems like a decent list to start filling in my gaps.

Stuff that I’d have added to this list:

  • Pretty much anything by Robert A. Heinlein, especially Time Enough for Love.
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence, by Susan Cooper. Despite the Americanized movie based on the series (which I admit I haven’t seen since the reviews were so uniformly horrid), the books are little fantasy coming-of-age/great-power-great-responsibility gems. To be honest, I have no idea how you’d Americanize the story at all, since it depends fairly heavily on the fact that people have been living in the British Isles since the stone age for its backstory.
  • Gun with Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem.
  • Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
  • Star Trek universe books •Spock’s World* and and The Wounded Sky, both by Diane Duane, and Federation, by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Here is the entire list (with series broken out into separate books where appropriate) broken up into eight Listmania Lists!

  • Part 1The Lord of the Rings to Watchmen
  • Part 2I, Robot to Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
  • Part 3Flowers for Algernon to The Vorkosigan Saga
  • Part 4The Vorkosigan Saga to The Conan The Barbarian Series
  • Part 5The Conan The Barbarian Series to Wicked
  • Part 6The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series to The Outlander Series
  • Part 7The Outlander Series to The Xanth Series
  • Part 8The Xanth Series to Federation