Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Recommendations

My apologies for not posting more regularly, it has been a crazy summer.  I got a post-doc, moved cross country, and am already in week two of teaching. Most of my social writing has been on Facebook rather than here.  In fact, Facebook is the impetus for this post.  But first, a little backstory.

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. As a grad student, I read “for fun” more than pretty much any other grad student I knew. Reading speculative fiction is one of my primary stress-relief mechanisms, and I read really fast, so I get through a fair bit given the quantity of stress I have to deal with. This means that when my advisor or friends in the department wanted recommendations for lighter, fun reading in the speculative fiction vein, they often came to me. I kept a bookcase in my apartment that was full just of books that I would recommend to people, selecting based on what I knew of their tastes.  When I moved, a lot of people said they would miss my recommendations, and could I maybe make a list of what they hadn’t gotten to borrow yet? I realized it might be more effective to create a list of the books that I most often recommend.  I posted the list on Facebook. I’ve now started getting requests for me to re-post those lists, because Facebook doesn’t let you keep permanent links to posts. Also, I’ve started getting requests from students for sci-fi/fantasy reading lists because I’m teaching a sci-fi and ethics course this fall. So I thought I had better post them somewhere where I don’t have to friend my (rather awesome) students on Facebook.

The rules: one list of twenty books each for Science Fiction and General Fantasy.  One half list of 10 books each for YA fantasy and Urban Fantasy. If I suspect everyone and their brother has heard of the books and/or is watching the TV show or movie based on them, they’re not on the list (Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, George RR Martin, etc.). I am not allowed to post more than one book by any author in the same generic category. Some of these titles are really stand alone recommendations; others you should think of as starter drugs, and if you like one, go find everything else the author has written. (If you want to know the difference, ask.) I only list first titles in a series, even if later books are better. Suggestions are in no particular order.

On to the lists!

Science Fiction

1. Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
2. John Scalzi, Old Man’s War
3. Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
4. Sharon Shinn, Archangel
5. Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
6. Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia’s Honor
7. Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
8. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
9. Anne McCaffrey, Dragonflight
10. C.J. Cherryh, Foreigner
11. H. Beam Piper, Fuzzy Sapiens
12. David Weber, On Basilisk Station
13. Vernor Vinge, Rainbow’s End
14. Elizabeth Bear, Hammered
15. Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
16. Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood
17. Mira Grant, Feed
18. Julie Czerneda, Survival
19. Isaac Asimov, Caves of Steel
20. Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

General Fantasy

1. Sharon Shinn, Mystic and Rider
2. Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
3. Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
4. Cherie Priest, Boneshaker 
5. Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon
6. Gail Carriger, Soulless
7. Patricia McKillip, The Riddle-Master of Hed
8. Lois McMaster Bujold, Curse of Chalion
9. Anne Bishop, Daughter of the Blood
10. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
11. Charles de Lint, Moonheart
12. Stephen Lawhead, Taleisin
13. Audrey Niffenegger, The Timetraveler’s Wife
14. Jo Walton, Among Others
15. Ilona Andrews, Fate’s Edge
16. Lev Grossman, The Magicians
17. Emma Bull, et. al., Shadow Unit (might actually be sci-fi…)
18. Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (might not be fantasy, but I’m not sure what it is…)
19. Neil Gaiman, American Gods

20. N.K. Jemisin, One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms


YA/Children’s Fantasy 
1. Robin McKinley, Blue Sword
2. Tamora Pierce, Alanna: The First Adventure
3. Kristin Cashore, Graceling
4. Michael Chabon, Summerland
5. Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
6. Garth Nix, Abhorsen
7. Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan
8. Patricia Wrede, A Matter of Magic
9. Mercedes Lackey, Arrows of the Queen
10. Shannon Hale, The Princess Academy

Urban Fantasy
1. Patricia Briggs, Moon Called
2. Robin McKinley, Sunshine
3. Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking
4. Jim Butcher, Storm Front
5. Kelley Armstrong, Bitten
6. Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue
7. Jim C. Hines, Libriomancer
8. Justine Labalestier, Team Human
9. China Mieville, Perdido Street Station
10. Kat Richardson, Greywalker