When Randy and Garth blogged about this list, I copied it and worked through it. The part about marking the ones you loved get interesting. There were books I loved once, but have lost their bloom, and some now seem to have been a great waste of time.
A blended fantasy list allows for consideration of Tolkein and Bradley, but them brings in the childish but fantastically popular Rowling. If they are going to include a magical orphan fantasy, why omit Peter Pan? (Answer – it was a stage play not a novel?).
Some the books are a surprize. Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, a story of a submarine surfacing at the end of a nuclear war, struck a chord at the height of the Cold War, but it seems to only marginally fit in the sf box. Others are on the list because they are the canonical works of recognized authors, presenting big ideas that have seeped into popular consciousness, although they are crap writing.
There are omissions. I think the list gave too much attention to Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein with multi-entries. It gave attention to a couple of LeGuin’s books, including the gender-bender Left Hand of Darkness and the fantasy Wizard of Earthsea but missed The Dispossed..
I discovered sf when I was 10 or 12, and read my way through the collection at the St. James Public Library, which was a good Canadian suburban library, with decent coverage of British as well as American writers. My interest waned in my 20’s, so my personal golden age would cover the 60’s and the 70’s, including the early mid-career LeGuin, Silverberg, Niven, Farmer, Pohl, Dick, Ellison, Delaney, Haldeman.
I liked Asimov and Clarke when I was a teenager, but their charms have worn thin. I think their work appealed to me when I was looking for intellectual, ideological and emotional support in my interests in science and systematic criticism of society. I liked Harrison’s clever satirical Stainless Steel Rat. I read Dune and other books by Herbert, but I never liked the mystical sweep of history theories. I can see where he got his ideas, and how they play out in the Star Wars movies. Heinlein was a great craftsman who played with ideas, but he became a kind of Leary figure in his late years – a militarist libertarian passing as a hippie.
I followed Gibson. I missed Card and most of the other writers who started writing in the 80’s. I liked Spider Robinson’s early Callahan’s stories but lost interest in his fannish and self-referential space Dance stuff – enough about how his wife was unjust treated by the modern dance community because she was busty. I read several books by Robert Sawyer, who seems to write to the angst of the middle-aged Canadian male, trying to sound sensitive (politically correct) reasonable and always sounding a little earnest, obsessive and pretentious.
The rules were to bold the ones I have read, and italicize the ones I started but never finished, strikeout the one I read and disliked, and star the ones I loved. I have changed the rules. I have starred the ones I still like, and used the > symbol for a book which was greater then than I find it now.
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien *
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov >
3. Dune, Frank Herbert >
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein >
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke >
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick*
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury >
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr *
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison*
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison*
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin*
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny*
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick*
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven*
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut*
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner*
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein >
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer*