# Friday, 04 January 2019

I remember when I first discovered the list. I read the headline: "Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books" and thought about all the science fiction and fantasy I read in my youth. Surely, I've read most of these, I thought.

Not even close.

I don't recall the exact number, but I know I had read less than 20. I had never even heard of many books on the list.

Still, I was determined. So I rolled up my sleeves, entered the book titles into a spreadsheet, and headed to my local public library, resolved to read every book on the list.

Upon closer inspection, I faced a bigger hurdle than I initially realized. The list did not contain 100 books. Many of the "books" were actually multi-volume series: Lord of the Rings is 3 volumes; Dune is 5; A Song of Ice and Fire is 5 large books and still growing; Wheel of Time is 14 volumes and each book averages 850 pages! In total, there were over 300 books in this list.

I did not want to commit to every single book in every series, so I resolved to read at least the first book in each series and to continue a series only if it interested me.

That was 7 years ago.

Last month, I finished The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, completing my goal. I have now read at least one book in each series of the list and I completed all but 10 of the series. I even went back and re-read many of the novels that I had read during my youth, such as Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, and Frankenstein.

The list was compiled by conducting a poll of NPR listeners; and, as with all polls, this list is subjective and is limited by those who choose to participate and the time at which it is taken.

It's difficult to argue with the top 5-10. All are classics and very few lists of this sort would deny the impact and quality of any of these. 

But some will quibble because their favourite book or series was left out.

Notably absent are Bram Stoker's Dracula", The Narnia Chronicles (although C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy was included), The Hobbit (although The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion made the cut), the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, and any works by H.P. Lovecraft.

This was my first time reading some authors of whom I had heard (Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and others) and many authors with which I was completely unfamiliar (Neal Stephenson, Max Brooks, Peter S Beagle, Joe Haldeman, and others)

For the most part, I greatly enjoyed these books. I took the time to review many of them afterward.

I gave the highest ratings to the following books:

  • Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
  • The Once and Future King by TH White
  • The Belgariad by David Eddings
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The only book I disliked was Kushiel's Dart.

Here are some of my observations after finishing this reading.

There is more variety in science fiction than in fantasy. Most fantasy novels are coming-of-age stories.

A few themes were repeated in multiple novels on the list.

The Arthurian Legend is recounted in the following:

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Once and Future King by TH White
  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  • The Space trilogy by CS Lewis
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

Time Travel is a primary topic in each of these stories:

  • The Time Machine by HG Wells
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

and is at least part of the following stories:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

Three novels dealt with the end of the World

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
  • Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Vampires are major characters in I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Sunshine by Robin McKinley and are mentioned in the Discworld series

Most authors appeared only once on the list but 16 appeared multiple times and a few (Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, and Ray Bradbury) appeared 4 times. Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein each had 3 books on the list. 11 authors were listed twice.

Two Graphic Novels made the list: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; and The Sandman by Neil Gaiman.

I found it interesting that every book on the list was originally published in English, except the two by Jules Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I chalk this up to the fact that an American radio network conducted the survey.

If you would like to read my detailed opinions on the books, I have posted reviews for many of them at goodreads.com 

If you are ambitious, below is the complete list:

Rank Title Author Books In Series Books I Read Year Read
1 The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien 3 3 1985
2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 5 5 1985
3 Ender's Game Orson Scott Card 1 1 2013
4 The Dune Chronicles Frank Herbert 5 5 1988
5 A Song of Ice and Fire George RR Martin 5 5 2012
6 1984 George Orwell 1 1 1982/2018
7 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1 1 1977
8 The Foundation Trilogy Isaac Asimov 3 3 1985
9 Brave New World Aldous Huxley 1 1 1986
10 American Gods Neil Gaiman 1 1 2012
11 The Princess Bride William Goldman 1 1 2017
12 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan 14 1 2012
13 Animal Farm George Orwell 1 1 1986
14 Neuromancer William Gibson 1 1 2012
15 Watchmen Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons 1 1 1990
16 I, Robot Isaac Asimov 1 1 1981
17 Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein 1 1 2010/2018
18 The Kingkiller Chronicles Patrick Rothfuss 3 1 2012
19 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut 1 1 2012
20 Frankenstein Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 1 1 1976
21 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Pilip K.Dick 1 1 2011
22 The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood 1 1 2013
23 The Dark Tower Stephen King 8 8 2013
oo 2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1978
25 The Stand Stephen King 1 1 2016
26 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson 1 1 2013
27 The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 1 1 1976
28 Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 1 1 2012
29 The Sandman Neil Gaiman 10 10 2015
30 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 1 1 1990
31 Starship Troopers Robert Heinlein 1 1 2000
32 Watership Down Richard Adams 1 1 2012
33 Dragonflight Anne McCaffrey 1 1 2012
34 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Robert Heinlein 1 1 2012
35 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr. 1 1 2012
36 The Time Machine HG Wells 1 1 1977
37 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne 1 1 1975
38 Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes 1 1 2011
39 The War of the Worlds HG Wells 1 1 1975
40 The Amber Chronicles Roger Zelazny 10 10 2014
41 The Belgariad David Eddings 5 5 2017
42 The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley 1 1 2014
43 The Mistborn Trilogy Brandon Sanderson 3 3 2012
44 Ringworld Larry Niven 1 1 2014
45 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K LeGuin 1 1 1986
46 The Silmarillion JRR Tolkien 1 1 1988
47 The Once and Future King TH White 4 4 2016
48 Neverwhere Neil Gaiman 1 1 2015
49 Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1977
50 Contact Carl Sagan 1 1 2011
51 Hyperion Dan Simmons 1 1 2013
52 Stardust Neil Gaiman 1 1 2017
53 Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson 1 1 2013
54 World War Z Max Brooks 1 1 2013
55 The Last Unicorn Peter S Beagle 1 1 2017
56 The Forever War Joe Haldeman 1 1 2014
57 Small Gods Terry Pratchett 1 1 2015
58 The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Stephen R Donaldson 3 3 2014
59 The Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold 23 10 2016
60 Going Postal Terry Pratchett 1 1 2014
61 Mote in God's Eye Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1 1 2013
62 The Sword of Truth Terry Goodkind 12 1 2018
63 The Road Cormac McCarthy 1 1 2012
64 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Susanna Clarke 1 1 2014
65 I Am Legend Richard Matheson 1 1 2014
66 The Riftwar Saga Raymond E. Feist 3 3 2018
67 The Sword of Shananara Terry Brooks 3 3 2017
68 Conan the Barbarian Robert E Howard 3 3 2016
69 The Farseer Trilogy Robin Hobb 3 3 2017
70 The Time Traveler's Wife Audry Niffenegger 1 1 2005/2018
71 The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson 1 1 2018
72 Journey to the Center of the Earth Jules Verne 1 1 1976
73 The Legend of Drizzt Series RA Salvatore 24 1 2017
74 Old Man's War John Scalzi 1 1 2014
75 The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson 1 1 2015
76 Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clarke 1 1 1990
77 The Kushiel's Legacy Series Jacqueline Carey 9 1 2017
78 The Dispossessed Ursula K LeGuin 1 1 2017
79 Something Wicked This Way Comes Ray Bradbury 1 1 2017
80 Wicked Gregory Maguire 1 1 2006
81 The Malazan Book of the Fallen series Steven Erikson 10 1 2018
82 The Eyre Affair Jasper Fforde 1 1 2017
83 The Culture series Iain Banks 10 1 2018
84 The Crystal Cave Mary Stewart 3 3 2018
85 Anathem Neal Stephenson 1 1 2016
86 The Codex Alera Series Jim Butcher 6 1 2017
87 The Book of the New Sun Gene Wolfe 4 4 2018
88 The Thrawn Trilogy Timothy Zahn 3 3 2014
89 The Outlander series Diana Gabaldon 7 1 2017
90 The Elric Saga Michael Moorcock 6 6 1990
91 The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury 1 1 2016
92 Sunshine Robin McKinley 1 1 2017
93 A Fire Upon the Deep Vernor Vinge 1 1 2015
94 The Caves of Steel Isaac Asimov 1 1 1988
95 The Mars trilogy Kim Stanley Robinson 3 3 2014
96 Lucifer's Hammer Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 1 1 2015
97 Doomsday Book Connie Willis 1 1 2015
98 Perdido Street Station China Mieville 1 1 2017
99 The Xanth series Piers Anthony 40 1 2018
100 The Space trilogy CS Lewis 3 3 2013
Friday, 04 January 2019 09:23:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
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