NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy

If you’re a fantasy or science fiction reader, you’ve probably already seen NPR’s top 100 list of science fiction and fantasy novels.  This list is based on nominations from the public, with some review by a panel of three experts to ensure that a consistent definition of science fiction and fantasy was applied.  To that end, no horror or young adult, although NPR tells us those categories are coming.  To give you an idea of how many voted, the book rated #100 on this list received 1,452 votes.  Lord of the Rings received 29,701.  The list skews British, and overwhelmingly male – but the exclusion of young adult books may have taken out a lot of books by female authors like J.K. Rowling, Ursula LeGuin, and yes, Stephenie Meyer.

What do I think of the list?  Well I’m happy to say I’ve read quite a lot of these.  The top 50 seems pretty spot on to me – although I’m a pretty mainstream reader.  I don’t claim to know the finer points of the genre, and as a nomination-based list, this isn’t meant to tell us the highest quality, just the most popular.

I have some gripes with the lower fifty – Wicked?  The Kushiel series seems pretty cheesy to me but I haven’t read it.  I’m not sure anything seems obviously missing, although if you’re interested you can see the full list of nominations here.

What I’d recommend from this list?  I don’t think you can go wrong with the first seven, although they won’t be for everyone.  After that, The Princess Bride, Animal Farm, Slaughterhouse Five, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Stand, The Martian Chronicles, and Watership Down, are all personal favorites.  I can also recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes, I am Legend, and the Eyre Affair.  On a slightly more girly note, but still good reading, are The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Outlander series.

Books on this list I need to read?  I’d like to read more by Asimov, Heinlein, Gaiman and Pratchett.  I’ve read books by them that aren’t on this list – and it’s hard to know which books to read by these prolific authors so the list helps.  I’ve been meaning to read something by Jules Verne.  I’ve never read Robert Jordan but I’m wondering if I ought to. I also don’t think I’ve read anything by Niven though my husband recommends him.

I’ve read many of the female authors on this list except for Lois McMaster Bujold, Mary Stewart, and Connie Willis (this year’s Hugo winner).  I think more of the female authors on this list are fantasy, although some like LeGuin and McCaffrey cross genres.  I would call Shelley and Atwood science fiction.  Are there more good female fantasy writers than science fiction writers?  Is there a lack in both categories?

I’ve bolded the books I’ve read, or read part of (in the case of series, not individual books). There are a few where I didn’t finish a book, or I read it so long ago I’m not sure.

What do you think of the list?  What’s missing? What would you recommend?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

  9 comments for “NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy

  1. August 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Just so you know Kim Stanley Robinson is not a woman. He’s a multi-Hugo winning sci-fi author of some repute so you should check him out. You really should check out some of Ursula Le Guin’s sci-fi if you want female authors — she’s one of the best. The Left Hand of Darkness is pure class.

    • August 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Ack! Thanks for the correction. A lot of names are hard to tell — I shouldn’t have assumed. I’ve struggled a little bit with LeGuin. Tried The Dispossessed but didn’t love it.

  2. August 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I recommend Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin….

    THe list is lacking somewhat in old classics…. Heavily geared toward new works — sadly.

  3. August 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Wow, thanks for bringing this list to my attention! I have been really getting into science fiction lately and will definiely check out some of the titles on the list.

    I’ve only scanned the list – but I didn’t see any John Wyndham? Did I miss him somwhere? It seems a bit strange to me that he wouldn’t have something on the list. He’s the master in my books.

    • August 24, 2011 at 12:15 am

      That’s the point I was making — the list is sorely lacking in old classics — the works of John Wyndham for example — the tip of the iceberg.

      • August 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

        I’ll check out John Wyndham. I think of Wells, Verne, Shelley and Orwell as classics, but I don’t doubt this list missed a lot. I read a critique that most of the top rated books are also movies — is that because the best books get made into movies, or because what gets made into movies become our favorite books?

  4. August 26, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I did question some of the selections on this list as well. I guess Wicked counts as fantasy and World War Z is sci fi (though I’d think of it as more of a horror novel) but I guess the voters have spoken. I have to second Joachim’s recommendation of Cat’s Cradle as well as suggesting Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.

    • August 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

      Both of those suggestions sound great, thanks! I think the line between horror, fantasy and sci fi can be pretty blurry. I think the line between young adult and adult is pretty blurry too. Nearly every adult I know loves Harry Potter, so I’m not sure excluding those makes sense.

  5. mv_mom
    September 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    If you haven’t yet, *read* Domesday Book. Given what else you’ve picked, you’ll love it.

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