One of RTSFS's first literary discussion topics was members' five most significant works of speculative fiction (sf, horror, or fantasy, all broadly defined). The discussion was suprisingly wide-ranging, as everyone applied a different definition to significant: some measured significance in terms of the effect the book had one them and how they viewed the world, some in terms of how memorable an experience the reading of the book was, some in terms of the historical importance, and some folks mixed in all the above criteria while creating their lists. Of the 42 books on the list, only 4 were mentioned on multiple members' lists. Lord of the Rings and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress appeared on 3 lists; Dune and Book of the New Sun each appeared on 2 lists.
Obviously, there's more wonderful speculative fiction out there than appears on this page. However, a person reading the books on this list will get a broad overview of the best of speculative fiction is almost all of its myriad forms: classical fantasy, swords-and-sworcery, hard science fiction, cyberpunk, horror, graphic novel, urban fantasy, magical realism, short stories, novels, and even seminal television series spin-offs.
The books are listed in no particular order, except that the books that made multiple lists are at the top. Beyond that, the book's place in the list has nothing to do with its quality.
When available, we've included links to each book's page at amazon.com (thanks to Bob Burchette's hard work), just in case you decide you might want to purchase a copy. If a multi-volume work isn't available as a set, the link is to the first volume of that set.
Don't forget, you can also look for these books at your local independent bookstore. If they don't have the title in stock, they can special order it for you.
WARNING: A lot of these books are out of print, unfortunately. You can have amazon.com hunt you up a copy, if they can, or you can look yourself in used bookstores. It's well worth it!
The Books We Think You Should Read
- Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien
- Dune — Frank Herbert
- Book of the New Sun — Gene Wolfe
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress — Robert A. Heinlein
- Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert A. Heinlein
- A Fire Upon the Deep — Vernor Vinge
- Creatures of Light and Darkness — Roger Zelazny
- Barrayar — Lois McMaster Bujold
- A Man of His Word — Dave Duncan
- Ringworld— Larry Niven
- A Winter's Tale — Mark Helprin
- Lord Valentine's Castle — Robert Silverberg
- Dying Inside — Robert Silverberg
- Godbody — Theodore Sturgeon
- Death Beasts — David Gerrold (Guilty Pleasure)
- Ender's Game — Orson Scott Card (The novella is superior to the novel)
- I, Robot — Isaac Asimov
- Strange Wine — Harlan Ellison
- I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream — Harlan Ellison
- Chimera — John Barth
- The Black Company books — Glen Cook
- War for the Oaks — Emma Bull
- Vampire$ — John Steakley
- The Incompleat Enchanter — L. Sprague de Camp
- Neuromancer — William Gibson
- Little, Big — John Crowley
- Adventures in Time and Space — Healy and McComas
- Starmaker — Olaf Stapledon
- Against the Fall of Night — Arthur C. Clarke
- >Schismatrix — Bruce Sterling
- The Left Hand of Darkness — Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Time Machine — H.G. Wells
- The Mists of Avalon — Marion Zimmer Bradley
- The Chronicles of St. Camber — Katherine Kurtz
- The Histories of King Kelson — Katherine Kurtz
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — Frank Miller
- Witchworld — Andre Norton
- Master of the Five Magics — Lyndon Hardy
- Spock's World — Diane Duane
- The Stars My Destination — Alfred Bester
- The Deed Of Paksenarrion — Elizabeth Moon
- The Xenogenesis Trilogy — Octavia Butler