Saturday, September 3, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

So I don't know about the rest of you fine and devoted readers, but it seems like I've been barely caring my weight around here lately. I blame it entirely on the WIP but have no fear, the Beta Draft is a sword thrust away from being complete!! More on that later…

Here, for your Labor Day enjoyment, is NPR’s Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books, along with some thoughts of my own, some nice pics, yada yada…

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

well of course

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

the first of many that I've never actually read. Every time I say I've never read this everybody's like, what??? I know, I know. But when I was in high school and this was popular EVERYONE was reading it and then just turned me off. Yes, I'm one of those people.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

I've extolled the virtues of this book before, along with a few others.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

I've read the first one. It's good. Not like, “fourth best book ever good,” but good.

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

Okay, so, The Scribblerati kept telling me two things about this book: that it was frakking awesome, and that my WIP was similar. So what did I do? I didn't read it, and I still haven't, but I have seen the HBO series and OMG is it frakking awesome! And yes, there are several similarities between it and my WIP.

6. 1984, by George Orwell

never read it (this is the beginning of a trend).

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury


8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

Started but never finished the first one. That was way back when I was just when I was just a young un so to be fair probably I should probably give it another shot.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Uh, no. Noticing a trend here?

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Now I have to say, I really don't have anything against Neil Gaiman. I think he's a really talented writer but I just don't honestly get why everybody is all Ga-Ga Pants for everything he writes. It just doesn't melt my butter.

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Really? #11?

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

I read the first one and I thought it was pretty good, good enough to buy the second and then I was like, man am I tired of all the series where you have to wait forever in between books. I'm just gonna wait until it's all done.

Still waiting…

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

OK, I get it, but do people feel obligated to vote these kind of stories or something?

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

**embarrassed** I really should do something about this….

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

Fascinating. A graphic novel made the NPR list! But then that opens up all sorts of arguments about why this or that graphic novel didn't make the list. And there's some really great stuff out there…

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

Oh, that's not what they meant…

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Now here's a “classic” that I actually have read. I read it when I was a teenager, which may be why I haven't read any more like this. It was good, but I was really more into a lot of things that haven't made the list yet.

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

Never heard of it.

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut


20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

oh please…

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

Care to guess?

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

I’ve heard of Margaret Atwood, of course, but not the book.

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

Only #23? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE! Even with the lackluster ending in the final volume this is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever produced.

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


25. The Stand, by Stephen King

I really need to read this.

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

No, but the move totally frakked with my teenage head.

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

I'm guessing the shower scene in the book is nowhere as near as exciting as it is in the movie.

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

I read several of these when I was really young and I wish I still had them – where did they go?

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

No, not her. I've never read the book, but I remember watching the classic movie adaptation back in the 80s, when I was 12ish. They were running it on that, what was it? Masterpiece Theatre on TNT? It blew my mind.

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

Finally were getting into some good stuff! I must have read the first five half-dozen times and while the second five started out with serious promise they really sputtered out at the end.

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

LOVE THESE! Yes they are full of tropes but they are fun!

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Beautiful book. 42 is a disservice.

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

This isn't a real book….

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

Great movie. And who doesn’t love Jodi Foster?

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

Not even in the top 50 - such a shame! I love these books so much I want to marry them!

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

Haven't read it but ...


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

I read the first one and, well, not so much…

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

Another one that I read the first novel of and not any more. No offense to Mr. Goodkind, but it makes me wonder, how many times can we write that same story again and again?

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

Weird book. I got like 100 pages in and still nothing had happened…

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

Okay, I probably should read that.

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

These books are like yummy candy.

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

Okay, so I probably shouldn't like these as much as I do, but damn I love these. Let me just say, there's a reason that the magic wielding people in my WIP are called Druids and it starts and ends with Terry Brooks.

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

Jason moma Man Crush!

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

I think those Robin Hobb books should probably be on my list.

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

Sweet! These make me want to get out my dragon dice.

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

I read this for a class in college and it single-handedly got me re-interested in science fiction after years of being nothing but a fantasy junkie.

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

Never heard of it.

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Or this one.

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

This is one of the first novels I ever read. I don't even think I was 10 and I was slogging through this one page at a time. But if there was one thing that's true then that is still true now, it's that there isn't enough magic.

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

Two words: Mara Jade!

These are easily the best Star Wars novels ever written. The only thing that comes close is Michael Stakpole’s X-Wing series.

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

Oh, Elric of Melnibone, I totally have a hard on for Stormbringer, even if it does eat souls.

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

Weird book.

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

I don't think I could read this today, but at the time, when I was a teenager, these were full of awesome.

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

Well, that's it friends. Thanks for sticking in there. It was a blast!

I'll leave you with this curious omission...


Mark Teats said...

Hi Shawn,
Thanks for posting. Interesting to see what books come up in lists like this. I'm pleased to say I've read 27 of the books on this list... that being said I have a lot more to go. Personally I would rank "The Stand," "The Road" and "I am Legend" higher on the list. I've read some Asimov and Heinlein but find their stuff hard to get through (love the movie version of StarShip Troopers). I'm currently reading "American Gods" but finding the pacing a bit slow for my tastes--although Gaiman has some great humor and writing in his books. I was always a Sandman fan. A few of these books are in my six-foot high reading stack (like Sunshine and Hyperion)--I just need to get to them.

Jon said...

The Kingkiller Chronicles are #18? Seriously? I mean, I'm only part-way through the first one, but there is no way--NO WAY--those books crack the top 20.

I'm calling bullshit on NPR.

Jon said...

As I read on, my incredulity only grew. Patrick Rothfuss is better than Cormac McCarthy? Really? And Richard Matheson too? Mary Shelley? Robert E. Howard? Kurt Vonnegut??? Are you kidding me? H.G. Wells? Richard Adams of Watership Down? The Kingkiller books are better/more influenetial than Watership Down?

It's like the list was put together by metal head fantasy fans from some backwater community college?

The influence Stephen King has on pop culture alone should demand that he be ranked better than Patrick Rothfuss. Arthur C. Clarke? T. H. White? T. H. White, really? Neal Stephenson?

Joe Haldeman?

Isn't Forever War supposed to be one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever? I mean, jesus, Rothfuss is nothing but an R. A. Salvatore clone, how does he get ranked higher than Drizzt Do'Urden?

And you're totaly right, Shawn. No JK Rawlings? What planet are they speaking of? Earth 2, where Harry Potter was never written?

And my own personal WTFing: No Joe Abercrombie? No Richard K. Morgan? If Rothfuss can make the top 20 of this list, then those two guys should be no-brainers.

Phillip K. Fucking Dick????


A travesty, an absolute fucking travesty. Patrick Rothfuss wouldn't exist without these people. Of course, I don't blame Rothfuss, he didn't create this list, but I may write an angry fucking letter to the gaggle of backassward ultra-morons that did.

....Or maybe not.

Either way: Hate Vibes!

Jon said...

Ah... upon closer inspection, the reason for this list's idiocy becomes clear.

It's us.

It was us all along...


Shawn Enderlin said...

Oh, I know, it's kind of ridiculous. I kept reading the list and thinking, am I the only one who thinks this is bizarre? Although maybe it's accurate, if you're like a 60 year old English prof. ( Although certainly not a hip philosophy prof! )

PS Jon, I was wondering if this would get your dander up. :-)

PPS Mark, agreed on Asimov and Heinlein.

Lisa said...

I liked the first Kingkiller quite a bit-I wrote a review post of it awhile back. What seems odd to me is that the series isn't finished yet: so how can it rank so high when no-one's been able to contemplate the whole?

Jon said...


Qlaudie said...

I agree that Kingkiller, being incomplete, shouldn't be eligible, yet. Although that first book is a doooooozy. Good stuff.

I would have put Thomas Covenant way farther up, personally. I think it was a game changer, one of the first fantasy books to go all internal and psychological and shit.

It's interesting, Shawn, because you definitely have a range of sci-fi fantasy books that you like...and I'm going to go ahead and be the devil's advocate here. (hideous Rowling oversight notwithstanding.) Because, although I like a lot of what you like, I think there's a point where we diverge, and that this list represents a bigger spectrum of sci-fi writers and readers that covers both of our tastes.
A LOT of the books you haven't read, or to which you said "huh," or never heard of it" , are favorites of mine, or at least ones that I've read and enjoyed.

The Eyre Affair, Doomsday Book, Handmaid's Tale, all of Neil Gaiman's stuff that they included here, Clockwork Orange, Slaughterhouse 5 ... love, love, love.

Also, I'd say that many books by Vonnegut, Huxley, Wells, etc, are not on the list because people felt like they had to be, they're on the list because they are incredibly powerful literature, haunting stories, mind blowing ideas.

I agree with some of the stuff you said about the order of the list - and I was pretty 'meh' about Jonathan Strange too (Even though all signs pointed to me loving it, I just wasn't drawn in)... although the movie 'Contact?' Really? Jody foster or no... yeah. I'll just leave it at that. ;)

And my little bit of outrage: where the frak is Jonathan Letham?

Qlaudie said...

It occurs to me now that not only is Harry Potter overlooked, so is Narnia, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, the Taran books, etc.
I haven't seen the original source for this post, but I'm thinking that they decided to eliminate anything that could be construed as "Young Adult."
Of course, you could argue that point as well...

Shawn Enderlin said...

I do believe they kept YA out of it, which is a shame because in many respects there's a LOT of overlap, especially in the fantasy genre.

After all, more than one of these "fantasy" books are based on the young hero saves the world trope and the line between that and YA isn't that thick.

Again, Harry Potter anyone?