Amazon’s 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime

Amazon’s 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime

I really appreciated that Amazon sent me an e-mail on this one! For some reason, I’m not seeing a press release, so this definitely gave me a needed heads up.

Amazon has done their latest list of “Books to Read in a Lifetime”, and I figured I would have read pretty much all of the “Science Fiction & Fantasy Books”**. 🙂

While I do think of myself as an eclectic reader, that wasn’t always really the case. I used to read a lot (a lot!) of SF&F.

After I became the manager of a brick and mortar bookstore, though, I made a conscious effort to broaden my reading. I encouraged (not required) my employees to read a book from every section in the store…and I did that myself.

I suppose the fact that I haven’t read as many as I had anticipated has to do with the chronological distribution.

However, it may have to do with the selection as well. 🙂

I would certainly recommend some others…that’s not to say that these aren’t all worthy: as I mentioned, I haven’t read quite a few of these.

First, here’s the list on Amazon:

100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Second, Amazon was also nice enough to include a table for me of the list…I added a column to indicate whether or not I have read it.

First Pub Title Author Read?
1949 1984 (Signet Classics) George Orwell Yes
2001: a Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke Yes
1960 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr. No
1996 A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) George R. R. Martin Yes
1968 A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle) Ursula K. Le Guin Yes
1962 A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet) Madeleine L’Engle Yes
2003 Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs Novels) Richard K. Morgan No
2001 American Gods Neil Gaiman No
2011 Among Others (Hugo Award Winner – Best Novel) Jo Walton No
2013 Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) Ann Leckie No
2014 Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Jeff VanderMeer No
Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1) Robin Hobb Yes
1985 Blood Music Greg Bear No
1932 Brave New World Aldous Huxley Yes
1953 Childhood’s End Arthur C. Clarke Yes
2004 Cloud Atlas: A Novel David Mitchell No
1998 Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1) Anne Bishop No
1975 Dhalgren Samuel R. Delany Yes
1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick Yes
1992 Doomsday Book Connie Willis No
1968 Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern – Volume 1) Anne McCaffrey Yes
1965 Dune Frank Herbert Yes
1985 Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet) Orson Scott Card Yes
1953 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury Yes
1994 Foreigner: (10th Anniversary Edition) C. J. Cherryh No
1818 Frankenstein Mary Shelley Yes
1990 Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Neil Gaiman No
2008 Graceling Kristin Cashore No
1989 Grass Sheri S. Tepper No
2002 Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Book 1) Laurell K. Hamilton Yes
2005* H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (Library of America) H. P. Lovecraft Yes
1997 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J.K. Rowling Yes
2010 How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel Charles Yu No
1986 Howl’s Moving Castle Diana Wynne Jones No
1989 Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos) Dan Simmons No
1954 I Am Legend Richard Matheson Yes
1950 I, Robot Isaac Asimov Yes
1976 Interview with the Vampire Anne Rice Yes
2004 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel Susanna Clarke No
2003 Kindred Octavia E. Butler Yes
2001 Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy) Jacqueline Carey No
1977 Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1) Stephen R. Donaldson No
1984 Neuromancer William Gibson Yes
1984 Nights at the Circus Angela Carter No
2005 Old Man’s War John Scalzi No
1991 Outlander Diana Gabaldon No
1982 Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad) David Eddings Yes
2000 Perdido Street Station China Miéville No
2011 Ready Player One: A Novel Ernest Cline Yes
1993 Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) Kim Stanley Robinson No
2014 Red Rising Pierce Brown No
1976 Riddle-Master Patricia A. McKillip No
1970 Ringworld (A Del Rey book) Larry Niven Yes
1995 Sabriel (Old Kingdom) Garth Nix No
2009 Sandman Slim: A Novel Richard Kadrey No
1969 Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut Yes
1992 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson No
1961 Solaris Stanislaw Lem Yes
1959 Starship Troopers Robert A. Heinlein Yes
2010 Stories of Your Life and Others Ted Chiang No
1961 Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein Yes
1983 The Color of Magic (Discworld) Terry Pratchett No
2001 The Curse of Chalion (Chalion series) Lois McMaster Bujold No
1984 The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising Sequence) Susan Cooper No
1974 The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle) Ursula K. Le Guin Yes
1988 The Dragonbone Chair: Book One of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Tad Williams No
1990 The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) Robert Jordan No
1974 The Forever War Joe Haldeman No
1995 The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Philip Pullman Yes
2013 The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.) Helene Wecker No
1982 The Gunslinger: (The Dark Tower #1)(Revised Edition) Stephen King No
1990 The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood No
1979 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams Yes
1937 The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkien Yes
2008 The Hunger Games (Book 1) Suzanne Collins Yes
1968 The Last Unicorn Peter S. Beagle Yes
1969 The Left Hand of Darkness (Ace Science Fiction) Ursula K. Le Guin Yes
1984 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2) C. S. Lewis Yes
1954 The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition J.R.R. Tolkien Yes
2009 The Magicians: A Novel (Magicians Trilogy) Lev Grossman No
2014 The Martian Andy Weir Yes
1950 The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury Yes
1983 The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley Yes
2007 The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle) Patrick Rothfuss No
1987 The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure William Goldman Yes
2009 The Road Cormac McCarthy No
2012 The Rook: A Novel Daniel O’Malley No
1996 The Sparrow: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) Mary Doria Russell No
2003 The Speed of Dark (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) Elizabeth Moon No
1956 The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester Yes
1977 The Sword of Shannara Terry Brooks No
1895 The Time Machine H. G. Wells Yes
2003 The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger No
2010 The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive, The) Brandon Sanderson No
2009 The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi No
1870 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne Yes
2005 Uglies Scott Westerfeld No
2015 Uprooted Naomi Novik No
2011 Wool Hugh Howey Yes
2006 World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War Max Brooks No

One of the first things that stands out to me is the lack of books that are putatively for children. No Oz? No Wind in the Willows?

Second, and it’s understandable, it looks like it’s one book per author. 🙂

I may add to this post later (have to start my two hour commute this morning). 🙂 I’m hoping to be able to give you a little more insight into the list, but before I do…here are a few I might have included (sticking to my presumed rule above, one book per author):

  • The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney
  • The Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (I think the Wizard of Oz is actually the one in the series I like the least)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (illustrated by Jules Feiffer)
  • Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock (not sure if that’s necessarily the Elric of Melniboné book I’d pick but it’s the first one that comes to mind…and Elric would be included)

Hm…interesting to me that actual science fiction novels aren’t coming to mind first as much as fantasy. That might be because of how I’m reacting to the list.

What do you think? How many have you read? What would you include? What do you think of their selections? If you had questions to ask of the editors who compiled the list, what would they be?  Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: an earlier version of this post mistakenly thought they limited the list to books published in 1949 and later, because that was the first year in the first column. 🙂 Sorry about that…it’s not sorted by date.

Update: I want to thank my readers, and apologize to them at the same time. 🙂 I sent this post out this morning when it was half-baked: certainly, the sloppiest post in the more than six years that I’ve been doing ILMK. There were some mitigating factors, but that’s not important. The main thing is that my readers kindly pointed out true deficiencies in the post, and I have improved it because of that. Thanks, readers!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things. 

** For my take on science fiction and fantasy genre definitions, see Content, tone, or intent: what makes a genre?

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


22 Responses to “Amazon’s 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime”

  1. Scotto Says:

    Is the rest of the list coming later? It seems to be sorted alphabetically and ends at the “N”s.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Scotto!

      I appreciate the heads up!

      There was a paste error there somewhere, but I’ve corrected it now. I think that what happened is that when I pasted it into a Google doc from the e-mail, it may have been more than Google would take at a time. On the other hand, I might have just made the error. I’ve had super long workdays recently, and there has been a local tragedy which has been on my mind.

      However, I simply shouldn’t have sent it out this morning without reviewing it more carefully this morning. I’ll be more careful in the future.

      • Scotto Says:

        Hey, no worries man. I got what I paid for. Thanks for the post. Someday when you are taking your commute in a self-driving car you’ll have plenty of time to proofread. 🙂

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Scotto!

        Seriously, I really want a self-driving car! I saw one of the Google cars (I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area) before they announced it…I didn’t know what it was. 🙂

  2. jjhitt Says:

    Though I personally don’t care for him, CS Lewis belongs on there somewhere. And Cornbluth and Kuttner.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      For Lewis, I would go with The Screwtape Letters. I’ve read a lot of Lewis, including Narnia and the “Space Trilogy”, but Screwtape to me is the most fun, and perhaps a bit more unusual.

      For Cyril Kornbluth…I think that The Space Merchants would be the traditional choice. 🙂

      Which one would you choose for Henry Kuttner? I’m not sure I’d put Kuttner in the 100, myself…but I won’t claim to be completely versed in the canon.

  3. John Aga Says:

    Conversations like this are always fun! First on my list T.H. Whites’s “The Once And Future King”. Second, C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”, starting with “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. Third, Robert Howards “Conan the Cimmerian” stories. As far as I know the best complete collection of Conan stories are in three volumes “The Coming of Conan The Barbarian” (covering stories published during1932-33). “The Bloody Crown of Conan” (covering stories published during 1934). “The Conquering Sword of Conan” (covering stories published 1935-1936). The man invented “Sword and Sorcery”!!! Robert Heinlein, and you could pick from many……”The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”, “Star Ship Troopers” (The movies was an abomination!), “Stranger In A Strange Land”, “Double Star”, “Farmer In The Sky” (one of many in his so called Juvenile Series. On a even more personal note, one of my favorites “Tunnel In The Sky”, a survival story about high school students stranded on a distance alien world during a high school survival field trip gone horrible wrong!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      It would be hard to argue with any of your choices. 🙂 I think I’ve read everything you listed here (I went through all of the Howard Conans at one point…by the way, Howard’s non-fantasy fiction is worth reading as well)…except the Tunnel in the Sky! Might see if I can read that one, on your recommendation.

  4. John Aga Says:

    I just found this in my most recent news letter:

    The article is titled “Kindle Store eBook Prices Are Rising … Or Are They?”, dated 5 Oct 15 by Steve Windwalker. I believe is is worth checking out.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      I have read the post, and I do have some slight relationship with Windwalker (we e-mail occasionally…we’ve never met in real life). That post is worth reading…I track prices quite closely, though, and I do think some segments have clearly gone up. Maybe I’ll write something about Windwalker’s post…

  5. Lady Galaxy Says:

    When I click your link, it takes me to a page that has the words FROM THE AMAZON BOOK EDITORS
    100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy
    Books to Read in a Lifetime
    followed by a link to the Goodreads page where you can vote, but I’m not sure if the Goodreads list is the same as the Amazon list. Off to the side are pictures of the covers of three books. There is no additional list.

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      The link is now taking me to a longer list of books. The problem earlier might have been on Amazon’s end. When your link didn’t work, I tried the link from Goodreads which took me to the page described in my earlier comment. So I tried the link from the original article on Omnivoracious, and it didn’t work either. I’ve only read 15 books from the Amazon list. I had read 27 of the top 100 showing at the time on Goodreads. I’m surprised at some of the obvious omissions. They overlook The Stand, Carrie, The Shining, Salem’s Lot and choose The Gunslinger to represent Stephen King?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I thought that might be another glitch in the post, but when I tested it (from the published blog), it worked fine for me. Right under those three books is where I see the 100…maybe it is your browser?

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        Perhaps you didn’t see my follow up which is still awaiting approval. Despite the time stamp, I didn’t post it at 1:58 AM on 10-9 unless I went through a time portal, because right now it is 12:57 AM on 10/09/15. Anyway, I posted it before you posted your reply. And yes, my computer does have me in the right time zone, and my computer clock is set to the US Naval Observatory Master clock.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Yep, I hadn’t seen it…when I replied. 🙂

        The weirdness in times is probably because the blog runs on Greenwich Mean Time…I figured that was best, since it is international.

  6. John Aga Says:

    This list only has 44 books. Where are the other 56 books?

  7. Kari M Says:

    Neil Gaiman is actually on the list twice. (“American Gods” and “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”). I actually read both, and would be hard pressed to decide which one I liked better, although Good Omens was lighter.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kari!

      Good catch! I had that glitchiness with the list, and hadn’t noticed that.

      Certainly Gaiman is deserving of recognition…but more so than every other science fiction and fantasy author? That’s an interesting choice on Amazon’s pat…

  8. Donald T. Marion Says:

    I grew up reading the monthly sci-ci pulp of the 1940s and 50’s. All of the great/golden age of writers were there…are there. All the others on the list would be somewhat interesting if I were a teenager. IMO, Fantasy is not on my list of great science fiction. I have read many on the list beyond the mentioned pulp, but when considering a top 100 list of books – not authors, I find your list to be one created for Political Correctness. At my age, PC is a waste of time. Thanks for posting, so I can see what I didn’t and haven’t missed in true Sci-Fi.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Donald!

      I enjoy a lot of those authors from the pulps…and it’s interesting to me that you think they are all covered. Personally, I would consider the pulps to be more in the 1930s and 1940s than into the 1950s (when the war-induced paper shortage was over, and we moved away from the pulp magazines). If we talk authors in the science fiction pulps, I would say some of these come to me first:

      * H.P. Lovecraft (who often uses science fiction justification for horror themes). Lovecraft is represented…oh, and I’d find it very unlikely that most people would consider Lovecraft to be politically correct. 🙂 Given the author’s racial attitudes, I’ve been called to task for being positive about the writing. That’s a whole discussion we’ve had before in the blog
      * E.E. “Doc” Smith: not represented
      * Isaac Asimov: represented with I, Robot
      * Frederic Brown: not represented

      Some others would include: John W. Campbell (an author in addition to being an editor); Clifford Simak; A. Merritt; Lester Dent; and so on.

      Next, you say “your list”…perhaps I wasn’t clear that this is Amazon’s list. 🙂 They did send it to me, but I didn’t compile this one, and wouldn’t have made these same choices. You may want to contact them to give them your opinion. I think if you use

      it may reach the editors, although it’s not specifically a Kidle list.

      Third, I agree with you: fantasy would not be on my list of great science fiction…and this is not presented by Amazon as a list of great science fiction. 🙂 As I’ve discussed in the post I link for my opinion on these genres, I would include science fiction on a list of great (small f) fantasy novels, but not the other way around. For me, science fiction is a subset of fantasy…although there is also a fantasy subset of fantasy. 🙂

      Finally, as to your suggested loss of capability as you have aged, I would not give up hope. Some people choose to reject books they were capable of enjoying at one age, for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly a smoother path to simply broaden your scope so you can continue to enjoy what you have while learning to appreciate additional materials, but it’s not the inevitable path. There are people who put aside certain types of books who can learn to appreciate them again later. You may yet again be able to enjoy those books you read as a teenager while also enjoying books you might not have had the life experience to fully appreciate at that age.

  9. An ILMK interview with Adrian Liang, Amazon Books Editor | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Amazon’s 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime […]

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