This is not a 100 Best SF post

October 16, 2011 at 7:49 am (best lists)

Recently (by my busy standards) there was another blip on the “Best SF” screen, this one a popularity contest by NPR that satisfied almost no-one.

And for me (among others) it raised the question: What is “best”?  Does it include staying power?  Scope?  Subject matter?  And who gets to decide?  When it comes down to it, every person’s experience of a book is different.  Every list of the “best” is subjective.

And there’s nothing stopping me from creating my own list!  My criteria were two: the book must have made a strong impression on me, and I must have not changed my mind since I first read it.  Whether they can be considered “best” by some objective (hah!) standard is completely beside the point.

So, without further ado, I give you

Fifty F&SF Books that Blew My Mind

  1. Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
  2. Carol Berg, The Books of the Rai-kirah
  3. Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
  4. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  5. Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
  6. Lois McMaster Bujold, Ethan of Athos
  7. C. J. Cherryh, Cuckoo’s Egg
  8. Gordon R. Dickson, Dorsai!
  9. Amanda Downum, The Drowning City
  10. E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros
  11. Claudia J. Edwards, Bright and Shining Tiger
  12. Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue
  13. Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
  14. Alan Dean Foster, Nor Crystal Tears
  15. Neil Gaiman, The Sandman
  16. William Gibson, Neuromancer
  17. Barbara Hambly, Those Who Hunt the Night
  18. Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love
  19. James Hilton, Paradise Lost
  20. Christopher Hinz, The Paratwa Trilogy
  21. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  22. M. Bradley Kellogg, Lear’s Daughters
  23. Janet Kagan, Hellspark
  24. Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan
  25. Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint
  26. Megan Lindholm, Wizard of the Pigeons
  27. Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
  28. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen
  29. Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness
  30. Ursula K. LeGuin, The Word for World is Forest
  31. R. A. MacAvoy, The Grey Horse
  32. Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Sang
  33. Vonda M. McIntyre, Dreamsnake
  34. Patricia A. McKillip, The Riddle-Master Trilogy
  35. Carla Speed McNeil, Finder
  36. Elizabeth Moon, Remnant Population
  37. George Orwell, 1984
  38. Terry Pratchett, Thud!
  39. Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens
  40. Mickey Zucker Reichert, The Last of the Renshai
  41. Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
  42. Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
  43. Dan Simmons, The Hyperion Cantos
  44. Sherwood Smith, The Inda series
  45. Wen Spencer, A Brother’s Price
  46. George R. Stewart, Earth Abides
  47. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
  48. Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  49. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
  50. T. H. White, The Once and Future King

So, there you have it – now you know how to write a novel that will impress me!  … Well, no.  This doesn’t help at all, does it?  They’re virtually all different.  The only thing they have in common is me.  To my way of thinking, this is the only really legitimate kind of “best” list.

Your mileage, as they say, may vary.  As it should be.



  1. Paul (@princejvstin) said,

    I’d have to think long and hard to come up with a list such as yours, Kris.

    • diaryofatextaddict said,

      That’s why it took me something like 2 months to finish it, eh? It was quite an exercise.

      I may start working on a list of another 50 really excellent F/SF books that didn’t quite make the mind-blowing list.

      • Paul (@princejvstin) said,

        And I see newly self published author and acquaintance of Mine Bryan Thomas Schmidt decided to answer your entry. 🙂

  2. 70 Most Memorable Science Fiction & Fantasy Books I’ve Read (to date) | Bryan Thomas Schmidt said,

    […] Author Kris Keegan did it, so I thought a list of my own top genre books would be fun. I am not listing these in any particular order. And where series are involved, I just list the series rather than individual books. But this is a list of books with great meaning to me. Unlike the NPR list which was definitely flawed, this one reflects the books which changed my life in many ways. Some because they opened my mind to new possibilities. Some because they were such a ball. Others for philosophical or craft reasons. In any case, it’s a personal list. I’m sure many of your favorites might be missing and some listed you might question. Feel free to recommend books for future reading in comments. […]

  3. jenn said,


    “The World for World is Forest”

    It’s ‘word’ isn’t it?
    I’ve not read it.

    Not read a lot of this list. Looks like a ‘to do’ list to me. Thanks!

    • diaryofatextaddict said,

      Drat! You’re right, thank you.

      And I think lists that include obscure things (and some of these are quite out of print, I believe) are more interesting, don’t you? Anybody can read the most popular books. Finding some of these would be a real challenge … for those who don’t, like me, already own them. 😎

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