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So, an interesting conversation with Eric last night made me realize just how many gaps I have in my knowledge of fantasy and sci-fi literature. I didn't really start reading fantasy or sci-fi until...college, maybe? And even then, there are the classics that I've just...never gotten to. That's not to say that I don't know the basics - I know where my towel is, and how to get to Narnia, but that's more through osmosis of trivia than necessarily through reading the books myself.

So I ask you, friends of the internet - what do you think are the core, must-read books in fantasy and/or sci-fi? Assume I've read nothing - I am a blank slate. :)

Comments

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suibhne_geilt
Nov. 17th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
I can't help you much there, because I'm generally not into the idea of a "core" that everybody "must read". Maybe it's because I've met too many pretentious prick fans, who assume that their one favorite book is the be-all and end-all of fandom and immediately look down on you for not agreeing with them.

I also missed much of the canon of classics, both for genre literature and for modern literary fiction. I've got a degree in English, without having ever read Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, and any number of others that everybody has read. Likewise, I've gone through life without having read a single syllable of Narnia, Xanth, or Pern.

I don't feel that I'm really missing out, because so much quality fiction is being written, today, that I could spend the next five years just reading the interesting things that came out this year. Sure, I'll miss a cultural reference here and there, but that's OK.
gaviedrummer
Nov. 17th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
well if you are looking for suggestions, personally, I would recommend Dune and Snow Crash. they are a couple of my favorites. As always, opinions vary so I wouldn't list them as all time Must Reads... lol for me they are though.
sayessa
Nov. 17th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
If I knew what sci-fi/fantasy you prefer (epic, urban, space opera...) I could recommend a few.

My must-reads are Talion: Revenant by Michael Stackpole, Terry Pratchett's Discworld... I'll let you know if I think of any more.
fireballof3
Nov. 17th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
The Hobbit
Lord of the Rings
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A Game of Thrones (and the rest of the books of that series)
Ender's Game
The Martian Chronicles
2001 A Space Odyssey
At least one Piers Anthony Xanth book - Ogre Ogre springs to mind as a good one.

Those are the only ones that spring to mind offhand. Even Game of Thrones is a debatable series on the "must read" list. Time to dust off the library card methinks. ;-)
pict_shrink
Nov. 18th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
I'd go with Question Quest, personally. But that's because it's my favorite book of that series.
redsouffle
Nov. 17th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
Weeeeeelll then, looks like someone just wandered into my AREA OF EXPERTISE. To keep it simple, I'll restrict myself to ten each of science fiction and fantasy, and stick with ones I think have made the biggest impression on modern nerd culture - i.e., these may not be the best books ever written (although most of them are pretty damn good) but they are the ones people are most likely to have read AND to have had the greatest effect on the people who read them. In other words, these are the things you're most likely to hear quoted at Game Night.

In order of cultural importance, from most to least:

Science Fiction:
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Snowcrash - Neil Stephenson
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
One of: The Moon is a Harsh Misteress, Stranger in a Strange Land, or Starship Troopers, all by Robert Heinlein
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Startide Rising - David Brin
One of: Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed, both by Ursula LeGuin

Fantasy:
The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkein
Harry Potter (much as it pains me to say it) - JK Rowling
The Narnia series (or at least The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) - CS Lewis
His Dark Materials trilogy - Phillip Pullman
If you are a girl: The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
If you are a boy: The Sword of Shannara - Terry Brooks
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeline L'Engle
Any 2 Discworld novels - Terry Pratchett
The Sandman comics - Neil Gaiman/various
Peridido Street Station - China Meiville
Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen - Garth Nix


Seriously, though, at the bottom of every true nerd's soul is Ender's Game and/or Lord of the Rings. Trust me, I've checked.



gamethyme
Nov. 17th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I agree with His Dark Materials being a must-read. But that's because I thought it was crap.

Most of what you listed (other than that) came up in conversation last night. I'm glad to have someone with your distinguished credentials to back me up.
theonlymegumegu
Nov. 17th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
I'd have to recommend some Conan or Kull, or I guess any Robert E Howard fantasy, as he's often sited as being very important to the fantasy genre, specifically "Sword and Sorcery" style fantasy. (of course, the fact I've recently become an REH fan has nothing to do with this...) The Del Rey editions are probably your best bet.

Edited at 2008-11-17 10:21 pm (UTC)
may_not_follow
Nov. 17th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
"American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. Or, more to the point, anything by Neil Gaiman.

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K Dick. Also, most of his short stories are fantastic.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein.

"The Disposessed" by Ursula K. le Guin.

Those are essentials. Some of my personal favorites ...

There's a new anthology called "Seeds of Change" that is fully awesome. I read it in a night. The "Tears of Artemon" series by Sarah Ash is worth picking up, too, if for no other reason than it's a swords and sorcery type fantasy that doesn't use celtic/western-/northern-european mythologies as its basis.

And while 2001: A Space Odyssey is essential, two of Clarke's other books, "Childhood's End" and "Against the Fall of Night" have been perpetual favorites of mine. Also, "The Lathe of Heaven" by le Guin.
theonlymegumegu
Nov. 17th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
Sorry to butt in w/ icon praise...
But it is awesome. I think the general answer would have to be "intimidate both physically and mentally". XD
morningdozer
Nov. 18th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
I know when I was younger "A Wrinkle in Time" made an enormous impression on me as well as most of Narnia. I would say to hold your own with any fantasy nerd LOTR and the Hobbit are musts. And hey, if you're a glutton for punishment (or REALLY want to impress nerds) give "The Silmarillion" a shot;-)
overandout
Nov. 18th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
I'm by no means an expert, but I love Katherine Kerr's novels. I've been reading them since high school. (About 14 years!)
deleva
Nov. 18th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
I would never presume to thrust anything into anyone's face and say "you must read this or you know nothing about the genre!" I will certainly say, "You MUST read this because I think you will LOVE IT!" But if you're looking for the recognized classics... Also please keep in mind that I haven't read all of these either... :)

Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card

"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman- Harlan Ellison (purely brilliant. This I will say I think you should read because I really do think you'll love it. It's a short story.)

Stranger in a Strange Land- Robert Heinlein (be cautious of Heinlein though. He is a classic speculative fiction writer, and it is pretty clear that many of his opinions are expressed through his writing, and you might not always agree with him. In one part of SIASL I got so mad I nearly threw the book against the wall. ONly my "never harm any book" doctrine kept me from it... Nonetheless, recognized classic... Aaron might lean towards suggesting Time Enough for Love)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick

The Chronicles of Prydain- Lloyd Alexander (before there was Harry, or His Dark Materials, there was Narnia, a Wrinkle in Time, and Prydain. It was the basis of the Black Cauldron)

Lud-in-the-Mist- Hope Mirlees (one of the first fantasy novels ever written, all the way back in 1926. Not a lot of people know about it, but it's part of fantasy's history)

The Last Unicorn- Peter S. Beagle (I can't believe I'm the first to recommend this!!!)

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury (scared the ever lovin' shit out of me. This book represented my idea of Hell... But I'm reasonably confident that Carl would instantly disown me if I didn't include a Bradbury...)

The Once and Future King- T.H. White

2001: A Space Odyssey- Arthur C. Clarke

Lord of the Rings- Tolkien

Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis (you are excused from reading a Horse and His Boy. Booooorrrrrinnnng).

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (this is another one that I really think you'll like; I reread it recently, and it cracked me up as much now as it did the first time I read it).

Something by Piers Anthony- I think with him, it's just a matter of what interests you. The man's done virtually everything. I loved the Xanth series when I was a kid but some of them come off as a little juvenile these days, though someone else recommened Ogre, Ogre which is an excellent one, as well as Nightmare. Both stand the test of time well. I preferred the Incarnations of Immortality personally, though.

Shannara Series- Terry Brooks (personally, I don't see it. not my faves, but again, recognized classic)

I feel like I've gone on forever, and yet that there are a million I've missed. I'll let you know if I think of any more... Conversely, you may let me know if I've given you quite enough! :)
pict_shrink
Nov. 22nd, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant was an interesting read in middle school, though I haven't read it since then. Incarnations of Immortality is definitely my favorite series by him, though, and re-readable (unlike most of the later Xanth books).

And for fantasy, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, and Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion.
Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall series, and the Ship Who Sang/City Who Fought (and others of that series).
Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series, if you want it really dark (though I'm told that the rest of his stuff is crap).
Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and The Children of God.
deleva
Nov. 23rd, 2008 12:09 am (UTC)
D'oh! I totally forgot the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant! Though I must confess that it's hard to get past the fact that for the first couple of books you HATE HATE HATE the main character. Or I did anyway... I only perservered through the first book because of Foamfollower. As for his other stuff, I LOVED The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through (Mordant's Need Duology). If you like his writing style, it's a lot lighter than the Covenants and VERY good!
deleva
Nov. 18th, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
Wow. That comment I posted was wicked long. :)
(Anonymous)
Nov. 24th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
I'll second the Thomas Covenant trilogies (yes, there's two of them), but keep in mind that they're considered to be the second most depressing series of books EVER (beaten only by Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy).

Also, for light high fantasy stuff, David Eddings can be a lot of fun. Like a nice palate cleanser between serious books.

In science fiction, yes, Ender's Game is a must. There is literally nothing else like it anywhere, ever, by anyone.

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny is one of the best fantasy/science fiction series ever written, as is the second Amber series. But then, ANYTHING EVER WRITTEN by Zelazny should be read over and over and over again.

And Richard K. Morgan's sci-fi is wonderful stuff IMO. Not always nice, or pretty, or happy (Morgan is one pissed off human being sometimes), but probably the best new sci-fi writer I've come across in a LONG time.

--Stultz
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