NPR Announces Top 100 Sci-Fi, Fantasy Titles

August 11, 2011

Like moths to the flame, tribbles to the quadrotriticale, or sandworms to a Fremen thumper, we science fiction and fantasy fans are irresistibly drawn to “best of” lists. So NPR’s list of the “Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books” (as chosen from 237 finalists by over 60,000 listeners) will surely generate much agreement and argument in fan circles.

How many of these books have you read? (Am I reduced two steps in geek rank for confessing I’ve only read 28? Maybe I can get partial credit for having read the first three novels of the #4 entry, or the original short story version of #38.)

Is there anything on the list you think shouldn’t be? Each of these books seems squarely in the sf or fantasy genre (though calling #13 a fantasy seems something like calling Moby-Dick “a sea thriller” and leaving it at that).

What’s missing? Well, the 137 other finalists that didn’t make NPR’s cut, sure. But which of your genre favorites would you argue, with your dying breath, deserves to be enshrined among these hallowed hundred?

Should multi-volume series really have been allowed to count as single entries? Perhaps NPR has actually given us a list of their top 100 sf or fantasy stories.

And what (if anything) does this list of books say about us, their readers? Do you see any trends that make you think? Why, for instance, are three of the top ten vote-getters dystopias? Are we losing hope in a bright, shiny, jetpack- and flying car-filled future? Or should we instead regard Tolkien’s list-topping triumph as a positive sign that we still respond to heroic values and the victory of good over evil?

Like NPR’s list or loathe it, it’s nice to know so many people have opinions of literary sf and fantasy to share. People are still reading—meaning the future envisioned in the #7 entry remains, for the time being, safely shelved in the “fiction” aisle.

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12 comments on “NPR Announces Top 100 Sci-Fi, Fantasy Titles

  1. there were some glaring omissions, but overall not a bad list of books to read. I have read 52 of them and have several more either ready to read or on an extended read list.

  2. i’ve read so many of these, but i have SO MANY more to read! clever trick they did there by adding whole series as one mention. lol. it looks like it’s actually about 150+ books.

  3. Mike Poteet Aug 11, 2011

    @Budd — 52! I am duly impressed. Yes, I thought it seemed like a strong list overall, too. What were some of the most “glaring omissions,” in your opinion? I was going to mention some but then realized NPR is holding out some for future polls — children’s fantasy (though I’m sure several will argue that Harry Potter shouldn’t be segregated like that, a la the New York Times Bestseller Lists), and horror (Stoker’s Dracula all the way!)

    @Dave — Yes, at least 150 if they’re really listing “books.” On the other hand, re: Lord of the Rings: Tolkien himself always insisted that he had not written a trilogy, but one long novel, published in three parts only as a concession to the limits of publishing in his day. He’d love the one-volume editions in all the bookstores now!

  4. Armor- by John Steakley is the biggest. It is one of favorite books of any genre, it just isn’t very well known for whatever reason.

    Altered Carbon- By Richard Morgan.

    The name Octavia Butler has been mentioned as missing and I completely agree that she should be on there.

    The Fred Saberhagen Berserker series has a place.

    They put Neil Gaiman on there 4 times, but they didn’t put him on for Good Omens. I am not saying that he should be on there 5 times, but if he is on there for something other than Sandman, it should be Good Omens.

    • Michael Aug 12, 2011

      I have heard of Butler but must confess I’ve not read her yet. I did hear her speak at Philcon one year, though, and she was tremendously engaging. As for Saberhagen’s Bersker books: I just picked up the first one in mass market paperback a few months ago — have been wanting to read that series since middle school! I enjoyed Gaiman’s “American Gods” and have the 10th anniversary edition ready to go on my Kindle. (I also thoroughly enjoyed his “Doctor Who” episode this spring!)

  5. Joshua Aug 12, 2011

    Lots of options for the read-Along! (insert shameless plug here)

    • Michael Aug 12, 2011

      Yes indeed! (I just started chapter 2 of “Wizard of Earthsea” this morning – looking forward to next week!)

  6. I think that Brent Weeks’ The Night Angel Trilogy should be added to this list somewhere. I recently finished reading them and they were all phenomenal.

  7. My thoughts on that:

    1. “The Lord Of The Rings” as #1: I agree.

    2. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, #2, really?

    3. In my opinion (or taste), “The Foundation Trilogy” should be #3 instead of #8, and “I, Robot” as #2 instead of #16!

    4. At least “Brave New World”, “1984” and “Dune” are among the Top 10.

    5. “Contact” (#50) is so much better than “Childhood’s End” (#49).

    6. Good to see Lewis’ “The Space Trilogy” in this list, even in the last position of it.

    7. No Harry Potter’s books? Amazing, all things considered.

  8. Mike Poteet Aug 13, 2011

    Yeah… I liked Hitchhiker’s Guide and Restaurant, and no ill will toward Douglas Adams — but the number two spot does seem too high. By a bit. And I wonder what it says (if anything) about the general public’s ability to discern satirical science fiction from non-satirical. (Or if perhaps it is sending us genre geeks a message not to take ourselves so seriously?!)

  9. Alyssa Aug 15, 2011

    I was happy to see the Kingkiller trilogy at #18! Considering the third book hasn’t even come out yet! Definitely keeping this list as a future reading list

  10. タロン Aug 22, 2011

    I am proud to say i have read 29 of the books on this list, and there were glaring mistakes. I think Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files i a certain entry

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