102 Essential Science Fiction Books for Your Kindle

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Edwin Abbot, FlatlandEdwin Abbot, FlatlandDouglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyPoul Anderson, Tau ZeroPoul Anderson, Tau ZeroPiers Anthony, MacroscopePiers Anthony, MacroscopeIsaac Asimov, I RobotIsaac Asimov, I Robot
Paulo Bacigalupi, The Windup GirlPaulo Bacigalupi, The Windup GirlIan M. Banks, Consider PhlebasIan M. Banks, Consider PhlebasGreg Bear, Blood MusicGreg Bear, Blood MusicEdward Bellamy, Looking BackwardEdward Bellamy, Looking BackwardGregory Benford, TimescapeGregory Benford, Timescape

Last year NPR put out a list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy novels as voted on by their listeners. Such lists can be helpful for keeping up with the current zeitgeist of a genre (or in their case, genres). However, lists voted on by the public tend to severely underestimate the influence of older works which are not currently on everyone’s mind. For a more balanced picture of a genre, you need to find a list like the one created by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. They created their Basic Science Fiction Library to help public libraries know what books they should carry and to help scholars understand which authors have been influential in shaping science fiction over time. Many of these books are older; not all of them are either in print or available for the Kindle. However, the majority can be found.

Alfred Bester, The Stars my DestinationAlfred Bester, The Stars my DestinationMichael Bishop, No Enemy But TimeMichael Bishop, No Enemy But TimeJames Blisch, Cities in FlightJames Blisch, Cities in FlightBen Bova, The Towers of TitanBen Bova, The Towers of TitanRay Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Planet SaversMarion Zimmer Bradley, The Planet SaversDavid Brin, Startide RisingDavid Brin, Startide RisingFredric Brown, The Lights in the Sky are StarsFredric Brown, The Lights in the Sky are StarsJohn Brunner, Stand on ZanzibarJohn Brunner, Stand on ZanzibarAnthony Burgess, A Clockwork OrangeAnthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

If I were attempting to create a bibliography for either a library or an academic paper the KU list would be an ideal resource. However, if I just want to quickly find a piece of classic science fiction to read, their text based list just becomes daunting. At over 100 authors and at least 300 books, where to start? Frankly when I sit down to read a book, I don’t want to spend an hour reading book reviews or commentary. And there is the rub. We all say we don’t judge books by their cover. But when we are standing in a book store — you know, that place that just closed down the street where they used to sell books on printed paper — just cruising to pick up a quick read, the majority of us do judge books by their cover. Ask almost any author, and they can tell you horror stories of how the publishing company screwed up their best work by putting the wrong cover on their book.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Boarders of InfinityLois McMaster Bujold, The Boarders of InfinityEdgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter Adventures on Mars CollectionEdgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter Adventures on Mars CollectionPat Cadigan, MindplayersPat Cadigan, MindplayersKarel Capek, R.U.R.Karel Capek, R.U.R.Orson Scott Card, Ender's GameOrson Scott Card, Ender's Game
C.J. Cherryh, At the Edge of SpaceC.J. Cherryh, At the Edge of SpaceArthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of ParadiseArthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of ParadiseHenry Clement Stubbs, Mission of GravityHenry Clement Stubbs, Mission of GravityL. Sprague De Camp, Lest Darkness FallL. Sprague De Camp, Lest Darkness FallSamuel R. DeLany, Einstein IntersectionSamuel R. DeLany, Einstein Intersection

For instance, take the cover of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot in this blog post. (The book covers are alphabetical by author; it’s in the first row.) Here is a double-edged sword if there ever was one. The movie was popular, and movies do drive people to read books later so they can compare the two. So on the one hand, Will Smith might help sales. On the other hand, if the movie stunk — and there are those who didn’t like the Will Smith film — you just slapped a really bad cover on one of the most important books in all of science fiction. From a book seller’s point of view, tough call.

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Cory Doctorow, Little BrotherCory Doctorow, Little BrotherHarlan Ellison, Again, Dangerous VisionsHarlan Ellison, Again, Dangerous VisionsCarol Emshwiller, Carmen DogCarol Emshwiller, Carmen DogWilliam Gibson, NeuromancerWilliam Gibson, Neuromancer
Kathleen Ann Goonan, Queen City JazzKathleen Ann Goonan, Queen City JazzNicola Griffith, AmmoniteNicola Griffith, AmmoniteJames Gunn, The ListenersJames Gunn, The ListenersH. R. Haggard, SheH. R. Haggard, SheJoe Haldeman, The Forever WarJoe Haldeman, The Forever War

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