Bold = read; * = loved; italic = started but couldn't finish; underline = on my shelf waiting to be read. Links to previous journal posts where I've talked about the respective books.
- The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
- The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
- Dune, Frank Herbert
- Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
- A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
- Neuromancer, William Gibson
- Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
- The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
- The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*
- The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
- Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
- Cities in Flight, James Blish
- The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
- Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
- Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
- The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
- Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
- Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
- Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
- The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
- The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
- Gateway, Frederik Pohl
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
- I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
- Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
- The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin*
- Little, Big, John Crowley
- Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
- The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
- Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
- More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
- The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
- On the Beach, Nevil Shute
- Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
- Ringworld, Larry Niven
- Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
- The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
- Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
- Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
- Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
- The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
- Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
- Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
- The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
- Timescape, Gregory Benford
- To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
The Lord of the Rings: well obviously! It ought to get some kind of special exemption for these lists, like the Works of Shakespeare for Desert Island Discs. "The hundred greatest books apart from The Lord of the Rings". OTOH I really don't think The Silmarillion belongs here; only serious Tolkien geeks have read it, and it's interesting in the sense that a Michelangelo cartoon is interesting, in that it reveals a stage in the construction of a masterpiece, but in its own right it is an unfinished and flawed piece which hasn't influenced anything much.
Representing Asimov by the Foundation books I suppose is fair enough, but if they can include collections of stories by Harlan Ellison then why not some of the short stories which are a much more significant part of Asimov's output than his novels. And I don't know what The Caves of Steel is doing in this list; I rate it as pretty forgettable. I am not foolish enough to claim I've read everything of Asimov's but I've read a fair deal and nearly all of it is more worthwhile than Caves.
The two I've heard of most often but not read are Stranger in a Strange Land and Ender's Game; should I bother with either of those?
Childhood's end: what on earth is that? I don't even recognize the title, and Clarke has written a number of genre-defining books. Rendezvous with Rama is fair enough; I'm surprised not to see 2001 given that "influence on Hollywood" seems to be a major criterion for much of the list.
I've seen Bladerunner but not read the book.
The mists of Avalon didn't work for me, mainly because I made the mistake of reading it straight after Jo Walton's The King's Name which shows up its flaws like nothing else. But it makes sense to call it influential, I admit.
A canticle for Leibowitz and The left hand of darkness are the only two standouts here apart from LotR. I feel like a top 50 should be a bit more inspiring than this, somehow!
I've only read Triton of Delany's and absolutely adored it; if Dhalgren is a fraction as good I need to read it.
Thomas Covenant is one of only two books I've deliberately left unfinished because I wanted to stop reading them more than I wanted to know how they'd turn out. (The other is William Mayne's Sand, and I can remember the feeling of revulsion, though not much else about the book, clearly 20 years later.)
Harry Potter: blah. Unarguably influential, but I was underwhelmed by the first couple of books. Didn't hate them, they're ok, but no more than that.
On the beach: I don't think of Shute as an SF author, but I suppose this one is set in an imaginary future. I read almost all of his when I was a teenager, and I have somewhat muddled the plots in my head.
I've read some other stuff by John Brunner, notably The shockwave rider which was decades ahead of its time. I am not sure of the titles of the others I've read, and I haven't got round to Stand on Zanzibar.
The most fun thing to do with a list like this is to note the glaring omissions. I'm going to talk about books that seem like they ought to be on the list rather than books that I think are better, which means books that are a major influence on SF and fantasy and the culture in general. The list really needs HG Wells, say The Time Machine or War of the Worlds (I've only read the latter), and Jules Verne, perhaps 20000 leagues under the sea or Journey to the centre of the earth. Probably HP Lovecraft and ER Burroughs too, even though the latter is a crap writer; they helped to define the basic expectations of what SF means. Leaving out Brave New World pretty much makes the list worthless right there.
It may be just my prejudice but I would have thought Day of the Triffids ought to get a mention (though personally, I like The Chrysalids and The trouble with lichen better). 1984 and The handmaid's tale I guess are excluded because people argue about whether they're "really" SF, but if On the beach counts then they ought to.
Gaiman I assume missed out because they're too snobby to include graphic novels, and Sandman is clearly the main reason Gaiman is so important. But even something like Neverwhere would have made a lot of sense.
And, you know, something published in the last ten years wouldn't be so much to ask! I nominate Accelerando and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I'm not necessarily up to the minute with recent SF/F.