42 Great SF Short Stories 62 Great SF Books 10 Great SF Anthologies Women SF Writers

62 Great SF Books Every Fan Should Read

This is a personal list and I can only include what I've read, so apologies if it doesn't cover all bases. I've also tried to maximise the number of different authors rather than simply list many books written by certain favourite writers.

Entries are not in any particular order.

1.    Dune - Frank Herbert
2.    Foundation - Isaac Asimov
3.    The Past Through Tomorrow - Robert A. Heinlein
4.    Way Station - Clifford D. Simak
5.    The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
6.    Downbelow Station - C. J. Cherryh
7.    To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Philip José Farmer
8.    The Garmeants of Caean - Barrington J. Bayley
9.    Ringworld - Larry Niven
10.  Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
11.  The Stochastic Man - Robert Silverberg
12.  Rogue Moon - Algis Budrys
13.  The Space Merchants - Frederick Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth
14.  Gateway - Frederick Pohl
15.  Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
16.  Old Man's War - John Scalzi
17.  The Star King - Jack Vance
18.  Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delaney
19.  Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
20.  The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks
21.  The Crysalids - John Wyndham
22.  A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge
23.  The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov
24.  Midworld - Alan Dean Foster
25.  Protector - Larry Niven
26.  All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak
27.  Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg
28.  The Drowned World - J. G. Ballard
29.  All Systems Red - Martha Wells
30.  Other Days, Other Eyes - Bob Shaw
31.  Time Out of Joint - Philip K. Dick
32.  Deathworld - Harry Harrison
33.  Mars - Ben Bova
34.  Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
35.  Hothouse - Brian Aldiss
36.  The Book of the New Sun - Gene Wolfe
37.  We the Underpeople - Cordwainer Smith
38.  The Gate of Ivrel - C. J. Cherryh
39.  Hyperion - Dan Simmons
40.  The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
41.  The Door into Summer - Robert A. Heinlein
42.  Between the Strokes of Night - Charles Sheffield
43.  Eon - Greg Bear
44.  Greybeard - Brian Aldiss
45.  Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
46.  Camouflage - Joe Haldeman
47.  The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury
48.  The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
49.  Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
50.  1632 - Eric Flint
51.  Timescape - Gregory Benford
52.  Transit - Edmund Cooper
53.  Why Call Them Back from Heaven? - Clifford D. Simak
54.  The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
55.  Fire with Fire - Charles E. Gannon
56.  The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
57.  All Judgement Fled - James White
58.  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
59.  Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg
60.  The Boat of a Million Years - Poul Anderson
61.  The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula LeGuin
62.  Forever Peace - Joe Haldeman

42 Great SF Short Stories, Novelettes and Novellas

Again, in no particular order, and maintaining as much breadth as possible...

1.    Nightfall - Isaac Asimov
2.    Arena - Fredric Brown
3.    Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
4.    The Cold Equations - Tom Godwin
5.    Scanners Live in Vain - Cordwainer Smith
6.    There Will Come Soft Rains - Ray Bradbury
7.    Coventry - Robert A. Heinlein
8.    Neutron Star - Larry Niven
9.    Tricentennial - Joe Haldeman
10.  I am Crying All Inside - Clifford D. Simak
11.  Blood Music - Greg Bear
12.  I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison
13.  Incarnation Day - Walter Jon Williams
14.  The Last Question - Isaac Asimov
15.  Kaleidoscope - Ray Bradbury
16.  Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge - Mike Resnick
17.  The Waveries - Fredric Brown
18.  Bears Discover Fire - Terry Bisson
19.  Black Destroyer - A. E. van Vogt
20.  Billenium - J. G. Ballard
21.  The Green Hills of Earth - Robert A. Heinlein
22.  Redeemer - Gregory Benford
23.  The Night Whiskey - Jeffrey Ford
24.  Bloodchild - Octavia E. Butler
25.  Rescue Party - Arthur C. Clarke
26.  Mimsy Were the Borogoves - Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore
27.  An Experiment in Gyro-Hats - Ellis Parker Butler
28.  The Queen of Air and Darkness - Poul Anderson
29.  By Any Other Name - Spider Robinson
30.  Light of Other Days - Bob Shaw

31.  With Morning Comes Mistfall - George R. R. Martin
32.  Beer Run - Michael McCollum

The Final Report on the Lifeline Experiment - Timothy Zahn
34.  Roadside Rescue - Pat Cadigan

35.  The Ballad of Lost C'mell - Cordwainer Smith

36.  Voice in the Dark - Jack McDevitt
37.  Ancestral Voices - Nat Schachner
38.  Desertion - Clifford D. Simak
39.  A Song for Lya - George R. R. Martin
40.  Liar! - Isaac Asimov
41.  Trinity - Nancy Kress
42.  Fool Killer - Stanley Mullen

10 Great Science Fiction Story Anthologies

1.    The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1: 1929-1964 - Ed. Robert Silverberg (1970)
          This collects all the best short stories from between 1929-1964 (limited to 1 per author) voted by SFWA, and really is essential reading for SF fans
2.    Dangerous Visions - Ed. Harlan Ellison (1967)
          Perhaps the most famous anthology of original stories ever published. See also the sequel, Again, Dangerous Visions
3.    Best SF, Science Fiction Stories - Ed. Edmund Crispin (1955)
          This volume kicked off a short running series, all edited by Crispin, and they are very good
4.    A Treasury of Science Fiction - Ed. Groff Conklin (1948)
          T he first real SF anthology, this collects 30 classics from the golden age (some overlap of course with the Hall of Fame book)
5.    Galaxy, Volume 1 - Eds. Pohl, Greenberg & Olander (1980)
          Collecting a best-of from Galaxy magazine, it includes a few classics (such as Damon Knight's To Serve Man)
6.    Spectrum - A Science Fiction Anthology - Eds. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest (1961)
          Kingsley Amis was quite the science fiction fan and he collected his favourite stories in the Spectrum series, of which this is the first.  All look good
7.    The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume One - Ed. Jonathan Strahan (2007)
          There are many current 'Year's Best' style anthologies.  This is a good one and this first volume, which I read, was very good
8.    The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction - Ed. Gardner Dozois (2005)
          Dozois anthologised a 'Year's Best' series for over 30 years, and in that time it was the one to read. It's a lot to trawl through now so this is a good alternative
9.    Women of Wonder, the Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s - Ed. Pamela Sargeant (1995)
          I've not read this anthology, but it collects some great work and looks like an excellent anthology of women SF writers 
10.  The Best Science Fiction of the Year - Ed. Terry Carr (1972)
         Terry Carr edited perhaps the highest regarded 'Year's Best' anthology series before Dozois, and they are well regarded so look out for works edited by him

Great Women SF Writers

Given the authors I have read the most books by are predominantly men, this website might give the impression that I don't appreciate women writers of SF, or that I'm entirely ignorant that there are great female SF writers out there, and that there have been since before the golden age. To offer a counterpoint to this, I here list a selection of women writers who are perhaps the best recognised and respected in the genre. They are presented in birth order, from earliest (Shelley) to most recent (Martine). The list may well grow as I read more female authors in future.

Mary Shelley (1797 - 1851) Author of Frankenstein, one of the first SF novels; I read this recently, and it's definitely worth a read if you haven’t previously given this classic a go 

C. L. Moore (1911 – 1987) Also published as Lewis Padgett with husband and co-author Henry Kuttner; winner of multiple Retro-Hugo Awards, including for the classic short story, Mimsy Were the Borogoves 

Andre Norton (1912 – 2005) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award. Norton wrote a huge number of SF and fantasy books, both for YA and adults, spanning 7 decades

James Tiptree, Jr (1915 – 1987) Professional name used by Alice Sheldon, Tiptree won multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards in a very highly regarded writing career 

Leigh Brackett (1915 – 1978) The original Queen of Space Opera, and much beloved author of the John Stark novels, Brackett also famously penned the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, but sadly died before the film went into production 

Judith Merril (1923 – 1997) Published early stories with Cyril Kornbluth (under the name Cyril Judd), Merril became a significant figure in the SF golden age, both as a writer and as a pioneer editor of ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies 

Katherine MacLean (1925 – 2019) A successful writer from 1949 through to the ‘90’s, MacLean won the Nebula Award for her novella The Missing Man 

Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award; most well-known for her Dragonriders of Pern books, McCaffrey wrote successful SF for decades, winning Hugo, Nebula and BSFA Awards in the process 

Pauline Ashwell (1928 – 2015) A British writer, discovered by John. W. Campbell, who published in Astounding, and then Analog from 1958 through to 2000.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award; possibly the most famous female SF writer, Le Guin won Awards for many novels now considered classics, including The Lathe of Heaven, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, the Earthsea quartet and others 

Julian May (1931 – 2017) A personal favourite female SF author, most famous for the excellent Saga of Pliocene Exile. May first published a story in 1951 in Astounding (Dune Roller), and the following year she chaired the 10th WorldCon in Chicago, the first woman to do so (at the age of 21!) 

Joanna Russ (1937 – 2011) A SF writer, and an academic feminist, Russ won multiple awards for her fiction; her most famous work probably being The Female Man 

Margaret Atwood (1939 – ) An important SF author, who pretends she’s isn’t; notable for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale 

C. J. Cherryh (1942 – ) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award. One of my favourite SF writers (see author page dedicated to Cherryh). Worthy winner of multiple awards

Elizabeth Moon (1945 – ) An award-winning author (Hugo for her novel The Speed of Dark), Moon writes engaging and entertaining space opera. I especially liked her Vatta’s War quintet. 

Connie Willis (1945 – ) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award. A ‘big name’ in SF, Willis has won awards with numerous stories and novels, including The Doomsday Book and Black Out/All Clear 

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) Author of the classic short story Bloodchild (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards for best novelette), and the Xenogenesis novel sequence, starting with Dawn, which I very much enjoyed 

Joan D. Vinge (1948 – ) A highly readable author, I’ve enjoyed Vinge’s work whenever I’ve come across it (such as the novella Media Man, in 1976 Analog) 

Nancy Kress (1948 – ) A great SF author who has penned excellent short stories and novels. Her shorter work includes award winning stories such as Beggars in Spain and Trinity, and her novel output includes the Probability trilogy, Yesterday’s Kin books and The Eleventh Gate, which I recently read and enjoyed 

Vonda N. McIntyre (1948 – 2019) Perhaps most famous for her Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel, Dreamsnake; McIntyre published many highly regarded stories over her career, including Star Trek books 

Lois McMaster Bujold (1949 – ) Recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award. Famous principally for her Vorkosigan space opera series and her Curse of Chalion fantasy series. I’m not personally a huge fan, but her books are hugely popular in the genre 

Pat Cadigan (1953 – ) Identified most with the cyberpunk subgenre, Cadigan is best known for her excellent short fiction, though her novel Synners won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. I really like her short story Roadside Rescue

Catherine Asaro (1955 – ) Award-winning author most well known for her popular Skolian Universe books, Asaro has won 2 Nebula Awards and been nominated for 3 Hugo’s

Martha Wells (1964 – ) Author of the award-winning Murderbot novellas, which are great reads; I’ll be looking out for more SF from Wells, who has been most well known for fantasy to date 

Ann Leckie (1966 – ) Author of the Imperial Radch trilogy, starting with Ancillary Justice which I liked a good deal 

Mary Robinette Kowal (1969 – ) Winner of the 2008 John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, Kowal has since won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards for The Calculating Stars (which I really must read soon) 

N. K. Jemisin (1972 – ) Multiple award-winning author of, among other books, The Broken Earth trilogy, each of which won the Hugo for best novel in three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018 

Nnedi Okorafor (1974 – ) Nigerian-American author of considerable reputation, she has received the Hugo, Nebula, and Eisner Awards for her work 

Arkady Martine (1985 – ) Winner of last year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel with A Memory Called Empire. I quite enjoyed this novel and I’m looking forward to the sequel from this new author who’s a welcome addition to the field  

C. L. Moore

Leigh Brackett

Nancy Kress