NPR Top 100 SFF meme

By way of firecat, this is the result of a public nomination process, panel review, and Internet voting on the NPR web site: an attempt at the top 100 works of science fiction or fantasy. Series are counted as single works for the purposes of the list.

This list has a ton of problems, like any list of this sort will have. It leans rather more heavily towards white male than the actual literature, and certainly than my reading. The lack of non-white writers is particularly troubling. But it's still an interesting selection. (For those wondering about some obvious omissions, young adult was explicitly excluded.)

The rules are to bold the works one has read in their entirety and italicize the ones you've read part of but not finished. I'll add underlining the works that I own, which provides some indication of the things that I've not read but that are on my to-read list.

  1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien: It's a boring winner because it always wins, but it's an amazing book and I can't argue with it. I'll probably never review this one since I'm not sure I have anything original to say about it.
  2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams: Probably the best humorous SF. I've read the entire series except for The Salmon of Doubt, the unfinished book left when Adams died. Will re-read them all at some point.
  3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card: I intensely dislike Card's politics, but this book is still very good. It's on my re-read list so that I can write a proper review of it.
  4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert: I've read the whole series, but only own the first, which is by far the best. I'm tempted to re-read the whole series at some point, since I don't remember it well enough to analyze it, but I'll probably stop after re-reading just the first.
  5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin: I own the first couple and have read and reviewed the first four. I think they're somewhat overrated, but will probably read the latest. I'm not sure if I'll re-read the previous books to remember what the heck was going on.
  6. 1984, by George Orwell: I've somehow never read this. I keep meaning to, particularly since I generally love Orwell.
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury: Massively overrated, or perhaps just made unoriginal by subsequent history. I found it boring and uninteresting.
  8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov: Thoroughly enjoyed this when I was a teenager. I suspect I'll like it less as an adult, but definitely on my to-read list.
  9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: Another classic I've never read.
  10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: Great book. Need to re-read to review.
  11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman: On the list to read. Apparently significantly better than the movie, which I liked less than everyone else on the planet.
  12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan: I read up to book eight (The Path of Daggers) and bailed halfway through it. It started as somewhat interesting fantasy with deep world building and fun world surprises, but the writing got worse and worse and the characters became miserably unlikeable. I'm still occasionally tempted to re-read and finish it, but it's a bad temptation.
  13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell: Great book, and a political and historical classic. Best read in combination with a good history.
  14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson: Meh.
  15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore: Brilliant. On my list to re-read.
  16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov: Okay, but I generally find Asimov a bit overrated. Good for intellectual puzzle stories, but not that deep of ones, and the characters are essentially nonentities.
  17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein: The only book that I've ever put down within fifteen pages of the end and could never muster enough caring to pick up again. I should re-read it at some point to review it, but I don't think it's very good.
  18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss: Well, I own the first one at least.
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut: Need to read.
  20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: I've never actually read this, but I'm not sure there's much point in reading it. I've been so thoroughly exposed to the angles and interpretations of it that reading it at this point would be an odd experience. I probably should for completion's sake at some point. (This is the first woman on the list, and of course she's long-dead and not writing in the modern SF tradition.)
  21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick: I do need to read more Dick. I don't think this is as good as its placement on the list; everyone just knows Blade Runner (which was based on this).
  22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood: I have a bunch of Atwood, but haven't yet read any of it.
  23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King: It's rare for me to find any horror I actually like, but my understanding is that this is less horror than a lot of King. I may give it a try someday (but probably won't).
  24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke: Much better than the movie since it actually explained what was going on, although it wasn't as atmospheric. Not actually as good as its position on lists like this would indicate. Mostly it's just a book everyone has heard of.
  25. The Stand, by Stephen King: See above about horror.
  26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson: One of my favorite humorous SF books, plus features the trademark Stephenson infodumping and some neat bits about building a virtual world.
  27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury: On the list to read.
  28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut: Need to track down and read.
  29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman: Quite possibly the best comic book series ever written. Utterly brilliant. The one set of graphic novels that everyone should read at some point in their life.
  30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess: Huh. Not really on my radar to read, although of course I've heard of it.
  31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein: Also overrated, particularly since it's not much of a story. It's an extended and multifaceted political essay, which isn't as simple as it appears to be. The movie, quite contrary to the negative impression people have of it, is a delightful parody of how the book comes across on its surface reading.
  32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams: Yeah, yeah, I know I should read it.
  33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey: I loved the Pern books as a teenager up until the point when the just became retellings of the same book from a new perspective. I'm afraid to re-read them.
  34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein: Much, much better than Starship Troopers. One of the better non-juvenile Heinleins. Still not as good as people think it is.
  35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller: I was disappointed in this given how much people like it, but it deserves some credit for being foundational to post-apocalyptic SF.
  36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells: More interesting than you might think it would be, given when it was written and the emphasis on description rather than characterization. But it still suffers from a lack of characters for me. Hard to come to this fresh now, since the ideas have been so used elsewhere.
  37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne: I've seen the movie take on it. I've not felt a strong urge to read the book, although I probably "should."
  38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys: Unforgettable and very strongly affecting (and depressing).
  39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells: Will read at some point.
  40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny: Will probably read soon.
  41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings: Yeah, I read this as a teenager and quite liked it. But I have no idea what it's doing on this list; it is in absolutely no way one of the best 100 SFF works of all time. (Well, that's not true; I know what it's doing on this list. People have heard of it and read it. But it shouldn't be on this list.)
  42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: On the list.
  43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson: Want to read this.
  44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven: Interesting idea fiction with a great sense of scale. Shame the characters aren't as good as the background. But it's a good book, worth reading.
  45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A deserved classic of anthropological SF with profound things to say about how culture and friendship are constructed.
  46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien: I love this book, but the first section is hard going if you don't like reading mythology. Skip ahead if you're struggling; the gems are later.
  47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White: Definitely on the list to read.
  48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman: I'm not sure I'd put it on this list, as there are better Gaiman (and Gaiman is already overrepresented), but it's a solid "urban" fantasy in the old sense of that term. Inventive, with a feel similar to some of the Sandman stories.
  49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke: I read this eons ago and can barely remember it. I definitely need to re-read it.
  50. Contact, by Carl Sagan: Liked the movie, have never had any particular urge to read the book.
  51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons: Some of my favorite SF novels ever. The third book is the weakest, and the fourth book has problems, but I adore it.
  52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman: Really far too much Gaiman on this list. But also a good book.
  53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: Fantastic stuff. Not SF in any traditional sense. It's a combination of secret history and contemporary thriller. But it's written in the Stephenson massive entertaining infodumping style, so it feels like SF and makes it onto lists like this. It's very long, but I've read it twice and don't regret it.
  54. World War Z, by Max Brooks: Have a hard time believing this really belongs here, but I haven't read it so I couldn't say for sure.
  55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle: Eh, it's not a bad book, but I'm not sure it really belongs on this list. But it does have an aesthetic that's hard to find in any other book.
  56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman: A very important response to the whole sub-genre of military SF, and very influential.
  57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett: Getting to it.
  58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson: Read the first book, wasn't much of a fan. I might get back to it at some point, but I'm not particularly eager.
  59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold: I don't like the early books as much as some, but I love some of the later books. The last few have been disappointing, but overall very much worth reading, and belongs around here on the list.
  60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett: Getting to it.
  61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Read many years ago and barely remember it. I need to re-read it, particularly since there's a new sequal by Pournelle's daughter that looks well worth reading.
  62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind: I read way too many books in this series. Others should not repeat my mistake. Generic fantasy about incredibly stupid people that turns into libertarian political ravings.
  63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy: Not my thing.
  64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke: A nearly unique reading experience, and the best footnoted fantasy that I've ever read (and that includes Pratchett). Great stuff if you don't mind the slow pace. I'm eagerly hoping for an actual sequel.
  65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson: Having a hard time getting interested enough in a book about zombies. But I've been wrong about that before.
  66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist: Heard of it, but not enough to get it onto my want list.
  67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks: Heard enough about it to not put it on my want list.
  68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard: Something that I feel like I "should" read, but usually I'm not a big fan of pulp.
  69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Own the first, which has been on my to-read list for a very long time. Someday I'll get to it. I should probably buy all of the trilogy before starting it.
  70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger: Surprisingly good for a literary fantasy, with some fantastic moments of description.
  71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson: Want to read at some point.
  72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne: As above, uninspired to read Verne.
  73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore: Read the first one, and unless they get substantially better, I have no interest in reading more. Very stock power fantasy with one-dimensional characters.
  74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: The later books in the series are better than the first one. An interesting take on military SF, but I'm not sure it really rises to the level of this sort of list.
  75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson: One too many Stephenson for this list, plus Anathem is probably more deserving of this place, but there are some neat bits about computation theory.
  76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke: Completely overrated. A bad book that just happens to be foundational in a particular sub-genre of SF. Done much better by other people.
  77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey: By far my favorite epic fantasy series. Lush, involved, very creative, and with a truly unusual heroine. Wonderful stuff.
  78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin: Great, thoughtful SF. Probably the best in the utopia genre, even though it isn't a utopia.
  79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury: Horror. Eh.
  80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire: On the list, but after a general Oz re-read.
  81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson: Own the first. Completely intimidated by the length of the series.
  82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde: On the list.
  83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks: Brilliant stuff, highly recommended. I only haven't read it all because I'm slowly digesting it. Should be higher on the list than this.
  84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart: On the list.
  85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson: On the list.
  86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher: I'll read the Dresden series, or least part of it, first, and see if that inspires me to read more Butcher. Dubious that this belongs on this list.
  87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe: Incredibly influential and important fantasy-flavored SF that should be much higher on the list than this.
  88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn: This is a Star Wars media tie-in series, and one of the few of that type that I've read. I remember quite enjoying it a long time ago, and it's on the list to re-read at some point.
  89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan: The only thing on this list that I've never even heard of.
  90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock: Definitely want to read this at some point, once I figure out the right place to start and probably after I've read some other Moorcock.
  91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury: Waiting to see if I like the better-known Bradbury first.
  92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley: Quite possibly the best urban fantasy (in the modern definition) that I've ever read.
  93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge: A little overrated, but it has a fun rendition of Usenet and some neat aliens.
  94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov: Read long ago. Enjoyed it, but don't remember being grabbed by it. There's a bit too much Asimov on this list.
  95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson: The most detailed and in-depth politics that you'll find in SF, even more than Le Guin, at the cost of being mind-numbingly boring. Very ambitious, but just doesn't move fast enough or have enough plot. Robinson is less a novelist than a political and hard science essayist in the form of a novel.
  96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Large-screen disaster novel with a heavy helping of libertarian utopian politics. Does not belong anywhere near this list.
  97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis: The best of Willis's time travel novels, with fewer communication failures and frantic faffing about than the other ones. Borderline for this list, but probably deserves to be here.
  98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville: Revolutionary fantasy. The founding book of New Weird. I think The Scar is a better book, but I can't argue with this being here.
  99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony: I've been warned off these.
  100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis: I need to re-read this and write long reviews of them, since I have a lot to say about them. But they need to be read in the context of the Christian faith to make any sense.
  101. Posted: 2011-08-13 00:09 — Why no comments?

Last spun 2022-02-06 from thread modified 2013-01-04