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  • Writer's pictureM.C.

Top 50 Sci-Fi Books of All Time

This list came up as a member of my speculative fiction critique group mentioned he had discovered a list of important books from a Great Course. After reviewing the list, some healthy debate started of what was there and what was missing – and honestly, I’m not sure where the “teacher” of that Great Course got their list! To me, it omitted many, many seminal works.

So, of course, the natural thing to do was come up with my own list. I included books that both are foundational to the genre as well as several that greatly influenced my development as a speculative fiction author.

Let me tell you, creating this list was much harder than I expected! Not because I couldn’t find them, but because there were so many! With little effort, I had a list of over 75 books, so it took some work to pare it down to the top 50. I’ll also admit I cheated a bit by including a few series instead of the separate books, but in most cases, once you read the first you’ve got to continue through the remainder of the series.

For this list, I tried to be faithful to the sci-fi genre. In looking at other lists of top sci-fi books, they included titles that I would wholeheartedly label as fantasy. If there’s no technology behind the speculative elements, it’s not science fiction. However, not every book falls into only one genre – nor should it. In those instances, if part of the story was science fiction, I considered it. Stephen King’s The Stand is a good example where a weaponized virus is responsible for the death of most of the population. That the book also includes supernatural dreams and the devil incarnate is just a bonus.

Without further ado, here’s my list presented in order of release. All the books are important, and I didn’t want to rank them. Let me know what you think – whether I’ve missed a critical book or included a work that doesn’t belong. I’d love to hear opinions – and maybe learn about some titles I may have missed.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818

Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne, 1864

From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne, 1865

The Time Machine, HG Wells, 1895

The War of the Worlds, HG Wells, 1898

Princess of Mars (Barsoom Series), Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1921

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932

Foundation (series), Isaac Asimov, 1942

1984, George Orwell, 1949

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, 1950

Sentinel of Eternity (2001: A Space Odyssey), Arthur C. Clarke, 1951

The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham, 1951

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke, 1953

Minority Report, Phillip K. Dick, 1956

Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein, 1959

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes, 1959

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller, 1959

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein, 1961

Solaris, Stanislaus Lem, 1961

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962

The Man in the High Castle, Phillip K. Dick, 1962

Dune (series), Frank Herbert, 1965

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein, 1966

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Phillip K. Dick, 1968

The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton, 1969

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin, 1969

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, 1969

Ringworld, Larry Niven, 1970

Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke, 1974

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, 1974

The Stand, Stephen King, 1978

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (series), Douglas Adams, 1979

Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, 1985

Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, 1990

The Children of Men, PD James, 1992

The Doomsday Book, Connie Willis, 1992

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler, 1993

The Three Body Problem (series), Cixin Liu, 2008

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, 2011

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse series), James SA Corey, 2011

The Martian, Andy Weir, 2011

Seveneves, Neal Stephenson, 2015

Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky, 2015

Rosewater, Tade Thompson, 2016

All Systems Red (Murderbot series), Martha Wells, 2017

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaanli series), Arkady Martine, 2019

Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir, 2021


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