Science fiction has been my go-to genre for about two decades now. For a number of years, it was the only genre of books that I read, so I’ve decided to put together my personal guide for science fiction staples.
This list is focused on some good authors for those who haven’t read much, if any, sci-fi. These authors are some of the best in the genre and most have careers that span decades. I’ll also be including some recommendations on which books are the most easily accessible.
Asimov is arguably the most famous author of science fiction, and another of the ‘Big Three.’ He is most well known for developing the laws of robotics (he is even credited with creating the word ‘robotics’). He was a prolific author and has hundreds of published works. He wrote in multiple genres, including history, literature, mystery, religion, and non-fiction.
The original Foundation trilogy (the prequels and sequels aren’t nearly as good), The Gods Themselves, and I, Robot
Personally, I don’t really like Bradbury all that much. Bradbury never considered himself a science fiction author, since he didn’t care all that much about accurate science. He liked exploring ideas, and considered himself more of a fantasy author.
Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man
Orson Scott Card
Card has been a controversial figure over the last decade or so due to his outspoken political beliefs, but maintains his standing as one of the most influential science fiction writers of the 80s and 90s. His primary genres are science fiction and fantasy, but has also written religious fiction. Card has never been afraid to push boundaries in his writing and often delves into controversial subjects, including pedophilia and child soldiers.
Ender’s Game, Enchantment, and Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Arthur C. Clarke
One of the ‘Big Three’ science fiction authors of the 50s and 60s, Clarke is a great introduction to hard sci-fi. He was knighted in 2000 for his contributions to literature. Clarke’s ideas are scientifically sound (or were sound at the time his books were published), and he really explores wider consequences of technological advancement.
Rendezvous With Rama, Fountains of Paradise, and his short stories.
For a while, Michael Crichton was one of the most bankable science fiction writers. At least 13 of Crichton’s novels were adapted to movies (more if you count sequels), and he wrote (or co-wrote) another handful of successful movies. He probably falls more into the techno-thriller genre than true science fiction, especially since many of his works take place in modern times, but his books are an entertaining and accessible introduction to science fiction ideas.
Jurassic Park, Sphere, and Terminal Man
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick often wrote about the nature of reality, with many of his characters questioning what is real. Drugs are also featured in many of his works, as Dick was a regular user for much of his life. The combination of these two features lead to Dick’s writing being a bit of an aquired taste. His style can be very confusing as the reader is never completely sure if what is happening is real, a drug-induced hallucination, or something else altogether.
Start with one of his short story collections, they’re much easier to get into than his novels. If you can handle his style, try Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
Robert A. Heinlein
The last of the ‘Big Three’ authors, Heinlein’s works often contain a lot of social commentary, and occasionally extreme ideas (especially for the time). His ideas can be polarizing, but it is always apparent that he has put a lot of thought into his works. Heinlein was also very aware of his target audience, and his youth oriented books are very different from his adult oriented books in both style and tone.
Double Star, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Tunnel in the Sky, and Starship Troopers
I considered putting H.G. Wells in this spot as both of them are classic sci-fi authors that deserve to be read, but decided to go with Verne simply because his books are just a bit more accessible. Verne is one of the most popular authors in the world, and has more titles translated than William Shakespeare. He is also one of the most influential science fiction writers ever, with many notable scientists crediting Verne with sparking their desire to pursue scientific interests.
Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea