I mentioned a plan to list the books from NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy list that I plan to read. Here it is.
Remember, you have standing permission to skip the list. (Or skip to the bottom. Or whatever.)
Books I plan to read for the first time this year
A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin: I’ve read A Game of Thrones, and I loved it, and now I’m going to go ahead and read the whole thing. This will, of course, involve re-reading the first book.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: I read about half of this at some point when I was younger, but for some reason I never finished it.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Phillip K. Dick
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King (7 books): I’ve read The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, but not the rest.
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
The Belgariad, by David Eddings
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Ringworld, by Larry Niven
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien: I once checked this out from the library and tried to read it. The attempt was aborted.
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Cryptonomicon, by Neil Stephenson
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
The Forever War, by Joe Halderman
Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett: Pratchett is one of my favorite authors, but I doubt I’ve even read a third of his work.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson (3 books): I’m not going to worry about The Second Chronicles or The Last Chronicles for now.
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (. . . 19 books?): 19 books? Really? I knew there’d be a couple of series in there that would inflate the number over a hundred, but I figured the books I’d already read would in turn drop the number a bit. 19 books. I don’t know enough about the Vorkosigan saga to even begin to decide how to chop that down. Still, I’ve heard they’re really good . . .
The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: I think this is the one where they had to cut the manuscript size by 10%, so they figured out how many words per page that was and went through the manuscript page-by-page tightening up the prose. Writing Excuses has told the story a couple of times.
The Sword of Truth, by Terry Goodkind: 12 books. Thirteen if you count the prequel. Oh, dear.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke: Hey, I was about to read this one anyway! Sweet.
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
The Conan The Barbarian series, by R.E. Howard: I’ve read Robert Jordan’s Conan books, but not the originals.
The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson: This has been sitting on the shelf by my computer for almost a year. I keep thinking I’ll read it next, but then I see this other really good book that would fit into it eight or nine times with room to spare.
Sometimes I think I’m not cut out to be an epic fantasy fan.
The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
The Kushiel’s Legacy series, by Jacqueline Carey. I’m not even going to look up how many books are in it. I know I’m doomed.
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’ve read a lot of Le Guin’s stuff – Rocannon’s World was actually one of the earliest sci-fi books I can remember reading – but by no means have I read everything. I meant to fix that this year, but it didn’t happen.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. I keep thinking of this song by Rachel Bloom (NSFW) when I come across the Bradbury books, and it’s really catchy. If I’m not careful I’m going to burst out singing it in the supermarket, and that would be a very bad thing.
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire: And probably Son of a Witch too, since the copy I have contains both of them.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson: I got the first book for $3 while it was on sale a couple of weeks ago. This sounds like a good series. Well, obviously, what with it being on the list and all.
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart: And the sequels.
The Codex Alera series, by Jim Butcher
The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury: (“. . . the greatest sci-fi writer in his-tory . . .”)
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis: I’ve read the first book, and it was really good. It was short, too, which is an increasingly appealing trait as I look at this list.
Books I Plan to Re-Read This Year
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card: I haven’t read this since before ASMSA, which is a damn shame, and it’s not a long book.
Dune, by Frank Herbert: I read it once before and thought it was, well, okay. Then, later, I learned just how INCREDIBLY AMAZING it apparently is. I’ve tried to reread it several times, but never gotten more than a few pages in. This seems like a good time to give it another try. The NPR actually lists “The Dune Chronicles,” but I’ve heard only bad things about the sequels. I might give them a try some time, but probably not this year.
The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (at least 3 books): I last read this in . . . middle school? I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read the whole series or just the original trilogy.
The Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) (14 books, since I’ll be reading New Spring as well): This has been on my list for a while. I didn’t re-read the whole series before A Gathering Storm, but it’s been long enough that I want to do a full re-read before starting Towers of Midnight. As a result, Towers has been sitting unread on my shelf for nearly a year now. This must end.
The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss (1 book remaining): I’ve been re-reading these alongside Jo Walton’s re-read on Tor.com, and I’m finally caught up again. So I’ll be finishing up Wise Man’s Fear at a pace of about five chapters a week as I read along.
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (4 books): I’ll actually re-read the whole series, even though only the first book is on the list. I haven’t read these since middle school. Or grade school. I’m not sure. Was I a Clarke fan yet in 5th grade? Maybe Mom remembers . . .
The Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman: I’ve read . . . a lot of this. Most of it. Maybe all of it. It’s worth re-reading to make sure.
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys: I don’t remember if I read the short story version or the novel version.
Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke: I’m certain I’ve read this – there was a period in my childhood when I read basically everything by Clarke I could find, anywhere – but I don’t remember which one it is. Is it the one that has the hyperevolved raccoon in the sequel?
Contact, by Carl Sagan: Yet another one that I picked up and put back down when I was younger. I think I might have been seven or eight at the time. My grandfather had a huge sci-fi collection, and I was always digging through it. That’s where I got my introduction to Clarke and Asimov, first read A Gun for Dinosaur, and read a really fantastic time-travel short story that I have never since been able to find.
A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne: I’ve read this, I’m sure I have. I think. I’ve read a lot of really old Journey to the Center of the Earth books. Is this the one where they go down through a dormant volcano, and get lost at (subterranean) sea on a raft? Or is this perhaps the one with the drill machine and the – naked tribal woman, right, that would be Burroughs. I think this is the volcano one. That one was good. I read it a lot as a kid.
Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke: This is one of my all-time favorite books. I don’t know if I’ll read the sequels or not this time. Well, I’ll probably at least read Rama II — but then of course I’d have to read The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed. And I now know there are two more novels in the Rama universe that Gentry Lee wrote later on, and I’d probably better stick to just Rama I this year because this list is getting pretty big.
The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov: Again, probably around middle school when I last read this.
Books I Might Re-Read This Year, Time and Inclination Permitting
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien: I’ve actually only read them once or twice, back in high school, and I’ve been meaning to reread them for a while. (The Hobbit, on the other hand, I’ve read rather a lot.) They are pretty long, though, and I have a lot of reading to do. However, I’ve never read The Silmarillion in full, and it might be a good idea to read them together.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I probably won’t re-read the whole series this year, but I stand a good chance of rereading at least the first book.
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Watchmen, by Alan Moore: At some point I’ll probably watch the movie and re-read the book. I still haven’t seen the movie.
I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson: This is right up there with the Rama series on my favorite-books-of-all-time shelf. Er, actually, I think I like this better than the Rama books. Wow. I never knew that. These are long, dense books, but they’re so, so worth it.
Books I Have read, and Will Not Re-Read This Year
1984, by George Orwell
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Stand, by Stephen King
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
The Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
World War Z, by Max Brooks
Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett: One of my favorites, but I’ve got to chop the list down to size somehow.
The Legend of Drizzt series, by R. A. Salvatore: I used to be such a huge Drizzt fan. I probably still like the books, actually, I just have so many bad memories of Drizzt clones in gaming . . .
Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville: Great book. Incredibly depressing.
The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony: If I ever read this entire series back-to-back, I think I would explode. Maybe in 2013.
Right. So I was going to keep a tally of how many books are actually on my list, but I lost hope around the third or fourth epic fantasy series. Seriously, I’m starting to see why some people dislike them so much.
A couple of things jumped out at me while I was making this list. For one thing, there are a lot of books here that I started and never finished. Some of these I may have just been too young to appreciate at the time. (I read about half of Frankenstein when I was, oh, nine or ten. I think I was seven or eight when I first picked up Contact. Both were eventually dropped because they were too boring.) On the other hand, I read a lot of stuff when I was young. I would have been in sixth or seventh grade, I think, when I started reading Asimov; I got hooked on Clarke a bit earlier. I think. It’s all a little fuzzy that far back. But I clearly remember reading Carson of Venus when I was in third grade.
Another thing I noted is that I read a great deal of classic sci-fi around middle school. I don’t know exactly when I read most of it, but I’d say between fifth and eighth grade or so was when I read every Clarke, Asimov, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs book available in my home library, my grandfather’s library, the school libraries, and the public library. I clearly remember a period of time when I would turn in my finished books at the public library, go to where the Clarke books were on the shelves, and grab whatever was next in line. One year for Christmas I got the collected short stories and the collected essays of Clarke (equally large volumes); the book of essays is on hand as I speak, but my beloved book of his short stories is nowhere to be found. I really wish I knew where it is.
But enough reminiscing. I have a lot of reading to do before January 2013.