50 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels That Everyone Should Read

This is one of the 280 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick

    Set in a futuristic world, the novel follows Joe Chip, a technician at a psychic agency, who becomes trapped in a reality-altering phenomenon after a mission on the Moon goes wrong. As his reality begins to unravel, Chip and his colleagues find themselves in a bizarre world where time seems to be moving backward and a mysterious product called "Ubik" appears to be the only thing that can save them. The book explores themes of reality, entropy, and human perception in a surreal and often humorous manner.

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

    A young prodigy is enlisted into a military academy in space, where he is trained through complex war games to combat an impending alien invasion. Despite his initial struggles with isolation and manipulation by the academy's leaders, he rises through the ranks due to his strategic genius and leadership skills. The protagonist grapples with the moral implications of war and the cost of his own humanity, as he is groomed to be the Earth's ultimate weapon against the alien threat.

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

    This epic high-fantasy novel centers around a modest hobbit who is entrusted with the task of destroying a powerful ring that could enable the dark lord to conquer the world. Accompanied by a diverse group of companions, the hobbit embarks on a perilous journey across Middle-earth, battling evil forces and facing numerous challenges. The narrative, rich in mythology and complex themes of good versus evil, friendship, and heroism, has had a profound influence on the fantasy genre.

  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a dystopian future, this novel presents a society where women are stripped of their rights and are classified into various roles based on their fertility and societal status. The protagonist is a handmaid, a class of women used solely for their reproductive capabilities by the ruling class. The story is a chilling exploration of the extreme end of misogyny, where women are reduced to their biological functions, and a critique of religious fundamentalism.

  • Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

    The novel follows the journey of a poet with amnesia, known only as the Kid, through a dystopian city named Bellona. The city has been isolated from the rest of the world following a catastrophic event of unknown origin. The Kid navigates through a society where time, identity, and reality are all fluid, engaging with various groups of outcasts and explorers. The narrative is marked by its experimental style, incorporating elements of science fiction, surrealism, and metafiction.

  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

    This epic fantasy novel is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where 'summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime'. The story follows three main plot lines: the Stark family's struggle to control the North; the exiled Targaryen siblings' attempt to regain the throne; and the Night's Watch's fight against the supernatural beings beyond the Wall. As these stories intertwine, a game of power, politics, and survival unfolds, where you either win or you die.

  • A Clash Of Kings by George R. R. Martin

    In the sequel to the epic fantasy saga, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are plunged deeper into chaos and war. As the late king's heirs and self-proclaimed successors vie for the Iron Throne, a myriad of conflicts and alliances emerge. The novel follows the multiple perspectives of noble families and their members, each entangled in the deadly game of power, loyalty, and betrayal. Amidst the turmoil, supernatural threats loom as an ancient darkness reawakens in the far north, and across the sea, the last scion of a deposed dynasty seeks to reclaim her birthright with the help of fire-breathing dragons. The story weaves together political intrigue, battles, and dark magic in a richly detailed world where seasons last for years and the struggle for control could lead to the realm's salvation or its ultimate doom.

  • A Storm Of Swords by George R. R. Martin

    In this epic fantasy novel, the third installment of a series, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are engulfed in a brutal civil war with multiple factions vying for the Iron Throne. As treachery and magic intertwine, characters navigate complex political intrigues and battle for survival amidst a landscape where seasons can last for years. The narrative weaves together the fates of noble families, with key figures facing betrayals, forming alliances, and confronting supernatural threats. The book is renowned for its unexpected plot twists, including shocking deaths and strategic marriages, all leading to a climax that reshapes the power dynamics of the realm.

  • A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin

    In this installment of the fantasy series, the realm is reeling from the aftermath of a devastating war. Power vacuums have left chaos in their wake as various factions vie for control. The narrative shifts between multiple perspectives, following characters who navigate the treacherous political landscape, seeking to claim or consolidate power. The book delves into the intricacies of rule, the cost of authority, and the fragility of peace, painting a picture of a fractured kingdom where alliances are as fleeting as shadows and where the crows feast on the casualties of human ambition and strife.

  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

    In the fifth installment of the epic fantasy series, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance as various contenders for the Iron Throne continue their complex, often violent, maneuvers. In the East, Daenerys Targaryen struggles to maintain control over the city of Meereen while dealing with the impending threat of the slave masters and her increasingly uncontrollable dragons. To the North, Jon Snow, the newly appointed Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, grapples with the complexities of leadership and the looming threat of the Others. Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister's journey eastward is fraught with danger and unexpected alliances as he seeks redemption and purpose. The novel weaves together the intricate tales of these characters and more, all set against the backdrop of a world where the supernatural becomes increasingly present and the game of thrones grows ever more deadly.

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    This classic novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The scientist, horrified by his creation, abandons it, leading the creature to seek revenge. The novel explores themes of ambition, responsibility, guilt, and the potential consequences of playing God.

  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

    The novel is a gothic fantasy set in the bizarre and intricate world of Gormenghast Castle, home to the ancient and eccentric Groan family. The story begins with the birth of Titus Groan, the seventy-seventh Earl, who stands to inherit the castle and its strange traditions. The narrative follows the castle's eccentric characters and their bizarre rituals, including the ambitious kitchen boy, Steerpike, who seeks to manipulate the castle's traditions for his own gain. It's a dark and surreal exploration of ritual, power, and madness.

  • Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

    Set in a vast, crumbling castle named Gormenghast, the story follows the life of Titus Groan, the heir to the Earl of Groan. The narrative explores the complex, rigidly structured society within the castle and the struggles and intrigues of its eccentric characters, particularly the scheming kitchen boy Steerpike. As Titus grows older, he begins to rebel against the stifling traditions of Gormenghast, setting the stage for a dramatic clash between the old and the new.

  • Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake

    "Titus Alone" is the third book in a series where the protagonist, Titus Groan, leaves his ancestral home, Gormenghast, to explore the world beyond. He stumbles upon a technologically advanced city, a stark contrast to his gothic homeland, and faces a series of adventures and challenges. The book delves into themes of identity, belonging, and the clash of tradition versus modernity, as Titus grapples with his past and uncertain future.

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

    In the late 21st century, the moon has become a penal colony where the inhabitants, known as "Loonies", live under harsh conditions and are exploited by the Earth's government. A supercomputer named Mike, a one-armed computer technician named Mannie, and a revolutionary named Wyoming Knott lead an uprising against the Earth's oppressive rule. With Mike's intelligence, Mannie's technical skills, and Wyoming's charisma, they successfully instigate a rebellion, navigating political intrigue, military strategy, and complex human relationships along the way.

  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

    "Kindred" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that follows the life of Dana, a young African American woman living in the 1970s. Suddenly, she finds herself inexplicably transported back in time to the early 19th century, where she becomes entangled in the lives of her ancestors, who are enslaved on a plantation. As Dana navigates the brutal realities of slavery, she grapples with her own identity, the complexities of race, and the enduring legacy of the past. With its powerful storytelling and exploration of the connections between past and present, "Kindred" is a profound examination of history, race, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.

  • The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

    The novel is a groundbreaking work of science fiction that explores themes of gender, politics, and identity. Set on a planet called Gethen, where the inhabitants are ambisexual, shifting between male and female, the story follows an envoy from Earth who struggles to understand this alien society. As he navigates the complex political landscape of Gethen, he must also grapple with his own preconceptions about gender and sexuality. The book is a profound exploration of difference, otherness, and what it means to be human.

  • Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny

    The book revolves around a protagonist who awakens with amnesia in a hospital on Earth and soon discovers he is a member of a royal family from Amber, the one true world of which all others, including Earth, are but shadows. As he regains his memory, he learns that he is one of nine brothers vying for the throne in a realm where politics are as perilous as swordplay, and betrayal is common. The protagonist must navigate a complex web of intrigue, magic, and shifting alliances in his quest to claim his rightful place in the eternal city. His journey is fraught with danger as he battles unknown enemies and seeks to unravel the mysteries of his past and the nature of Amber itself.

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

    Set in a parallel 19th-century England, this novel tells the story of two practicing magicians, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Norrell, who aims to restore magic to respectability in England, is initially thrilled by Strange's natural aptitude for magic, and the two form a student-teacher relationship. However, their partnership soon deteriorates into rivalry as Strange, driven by the loss of his wife to the fairy realm, seeks to reintroduce the old, wilder forms of magic that Norrell disdains. Their conflict escalates, culminating in a magical duel that has profound consequences for the future of magic in England.

  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    The novel follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran who has become "unstuck in time," experiencing his life events out of order. This includes his experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden during the Allies' firebombing, his post-war life as a successful optometrist, his abduction by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, and his eventual death. The book is a critique of war and a demonstration of the destructive nature of time, with a nonlinear narrative that reflects the chaos and unpredictability of life.

  • The City & the City by China Miéville

    In a unique blend of noir detective fiction and speculative fantasy, the book explores the coexistence of two distinct cities occupying the same geographical space, yet remaining invisible to each other due to a strict set of societal rules and the mysterious force of "Breach" that enforces them. When a young woman is found murdered, a seasoned inspector must navigate the complex and often perilous overlap of these two cities to solve the crime. His investigation challenges the rigid separation of the cities, uncovering a conspiracy that blurs the lines between the two and threatens the very fabric of their existence.

  • The Once and Future King by T. H. White

    This novel is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, from Arthur's childhood tutelage under the wizard Merlyn to his eventual death. The story follows Arthur's journey from a naive boy to a wise and just king, his establishment of the Round Table, his marriage to Guinevere, and his complex relationship with his illegitimate son, Mordred. The narrative explores themes of power, justice, war, and human nature, offering a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of a well-known mythical figure.

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    This novel reimagines the Arthurian legends from the perspectives of the women involved. It centers around Morgaine, Arthur's half-sister, who is a priestess of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's queen. The story explores their roles in the political and spiritual conflicts that arise as Christianity begins to replace the old pagan ways. It delves into themes of love, loyalty, and power, while offering a fresh take on a classic tale.

  • Zone One by Colson Whitehead

    The novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a pandemic has turned many people into zombies, or "skels." The protagonist is a survivor who is part of a team tasked with clearing out the remaining skels in Zone One, the area in and around lower Manhattan. The story alternates between the present and the past, revealing the protagonist's experiences during the initial outbreak and his struggle to hold onto his humanity in the face of such devastation.

  • Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J. K Rowling

    The story follows a young boy, Harry Potter, who learns on his 11th birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own. He is summoned from his life as an unwanted child to become a student at Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. There, he meets several friends who become his closest allies and help him discover the truth about his parents' mysterious deaths, the dark wizard who wants to kill him, and the magical stone that holds immense power.

  • Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J. K Rowling

    In this second installment of a magical series, a young wizard returns to his school of witchcraft and wizardry for his second year, only to find that a mysterious entity is petrifying his classmates. With the help of his friends, he uncovers the dark history of the school, including a secret chamber hidden within the castle. Inside this chamber lurks a creature controlled by a memory from the past, and the young wizard must face it to save his school.

  • Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J. K Rowling

    In this third installment of the popular fantasy series, the protagonist enters his third year at a magical school, only to find out that a notorious prisoner has escaped from a supposedly inescapable prison and is believed to be after him. As the school year progresses, he learns more about his parents' history, uncovers secrets about his professor, and discovers a magical map. He also learns to summon a powerful defensive spell, confronts the escaped prisoner, and uncovers the truth about his parents' betrayal and death. The book ends with him saving an innocent life and learning a valuable lesson about the complexity of human nature and the importance of true friendship.

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K Rowling

    In this fourth installment of a popular fantasy series, a young wizard finds himself unexpectedly entered into a dangerous tournament between rival schools of magic. He must compete in a series of challenging tasks, including a deadly dragon chase and a terrifying underwater rescue mission. Meanwhile, he's dealing with regular teen issues like crushes, jealousy, and school dances. But as he unravels the mystery behind his selection for the tournament, he uncovers a dark plot that puts his life in danger and hints at the return of a powerful dark wizard.

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K Rowling

    In the fifth installment of this iconic series, the young wizard Harry Potter returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, only to discover that much of the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic, is in denial about the teenager's recent encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry is also beset by disturbing dreams while the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been stationed at Hogwarts to protect the school, and Harry's budding abilities as a wizard are put to the test. Meanwhile, a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix, is working to fight Voldemort and his followers, and Harry's role in the coming conflict is becoming ever more significant.

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K Rowling

    In the sixth installment of the series, the protagonist returns for his sixth year at a magical school, where he excels in potions class with the help of an old textbook once belonging to the mysterious "Half-Blood Prince". As he delves deeper into his enemy's past through private lessons with the headmaster, he learns more about the Dark wizard's history and his own destiny. Amidst this, the school is no longer the safe haven it once was, and danger lurks within the castle walls. The year ends with a devastating loss, setting the stage for the final showdown.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K Rowling

    In the final installment of this popular series, the protagonist and his friends decide to leave their school to complete the mission left to them by their late headmaster - to destroy the remaining pieces of the antagonist's soul, hidden in various objects. As they journey through the wizarding world, they uncover the truth about the antagonist's past and the legend of the Deathly Hallows. Amidst the escalating war, they are captured and narrowly escape, leading to the ultimate battle at their school where many lives are lost. The protagonist learns he must sacrifice himself to truly defeat the antagonist, but is given a second chance at life and finally triumphs, ending the war. The story concludes with a glimpse into the peaceful future they have all earned.

  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    The novel follows the story of a young girl named Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they embark on a cosmic journey to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace's father. The father, a scientist, has been missing since he discovered a new planet using the concept of Tesseract, which is a wrinkle in time. Guided by three mysterious celestial beings, the children travel across different dimensions, face evil forces, and learn about the power of love and self-sacrifice.

  • A Wind In The Door by Madeleine L'Engle

    In this fantastical science fiction novel, a young girl embarks on an extraordinary adventure to save her ailing brother. With the help of a few peculiar friends, including a cherubim and a teacher who transforms into a dragon, they journey into the microscopic universe within the brother's cells. There, they face the malevolent force of Echthroi, creatures determined to spread chaos and unmake the fabric of reality. As the protagonists confront challenges that test their courage and understanding of the universe, the story delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and the interconnectedness of all life, ultimately revealing that the fight to maintain balance and harmony is as much internal as it is external.

  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle

    In this science fiction-fantasy novel, the protagonist embarks on a time-traveling quest to prevent a global catastrophe. Guided by a unicorn, the protagonist uses a powerful rune to mentally leap through time and space, inhabiting the lives of different people throughout history who are connected to the present-day threat. As the protagonist influences the actions of these individuals, the narrative weaves a complex tapestry of interconnected events, emphasizing themes of family, love, and the interconnectedness of all things. The story challenges the protagonist to understand the ripple effects of actions across time, ultimately aiming to alter the course of history to save the world from impending doom.

  • Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle

    In the novel, two teenage brothers accidentally travel back in time to the era just before the biblical flood. Stranded in a pre-deluvian world filled with seraphim, nephilim, and other mystical beings, they find themselves embroiled in the lives and struggles of the people of that time. As they search for a way back to their own time, they encounter love, temptation, and the impending catastrophe of the great flood, learning valuable lessons about responsibility and the complexity of human nature along the way.

  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

    Four siblings are evacuated from London during World War II and sent to live with an old professor in the countryside. In his house, they discover a magical wardrobe that serves as a portal to the land of Narnia, a world filled with mythical creatures and ruled by an evil White Witch. The children are soon caught up in a struggle to free Narnia from the witch's eternal winter, aided by the majestic lion Aslan. The story combines elements of fantasy, adventure, and Christian allegory.

  • Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    In this fantasy novel, four siblings are magically transported back to the realm of Narnia, where they find that centuries have passed and the land is ruled by a tyrannical king. They join forces with the rightful heir to the throne, a young prince, and an assortment of mystical creatures to restore peace and justice to the kingdom. The story is filled with battles, adventures, and lessons about courage, friendship, and faith.

  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    The third installment in a fantasy series, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" follows the adventure of Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace, as they are magically drawn into a painting and onto a Narnian ship headed for the edges of the world. Alongside their old friend, King Caspian, they encounter sea serpents, dragons, and new lands filled with strange creatures as they journey to the end of the world. The novel explores themes of courage, friendship, and the struggle between good and evil.

  • The Silver Chair: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    In this installment of the Chronicles of Narnia series, Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole are called to Narnia by Aslan, the great lion, to find and rescue Prince Rilian, the missing son of now elderly King Caspian. Their journey takes them deep into the underworld, where they encounter a variety of strange and dangerous creatures, including the enchanting and malevolent Green Lady. With faith, courage, and the guidance of a few loyal friends, the children strive to fulfill their mission and return the lost prince to his rightful place.

  • The Horse and His Boy: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    This book is the third installment in a popular fantasy series and follows a young boy and a talking horse as they embark on a dangerous journey to escape from their lives of servitude in the south. Along the way, they encounter a young runaway and her talking horse, and together, they journey north to the magical land of Narnia. Along their journey, they discover that they are part of a greater destiny and that their lives are intertwined with the fate of Narnia itself.

  • The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

    The book is a prequel to the popular fantasy series, and tells the story of two children who stumble upon magical rings that transport them to different worlds. They encounter a wicked queen, awaken a powerful lion who creates a new world, and inadvertently bring the queen into this new world, setting the stage for the rest of the series. The book explores themes of creation, temptation, and the consequences of one's actions.

  • The Last Battle: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    In the final installment of the series, Narnia faces its darkest hour. A false Aslan is commanding everyone to work tirelessly for the cruel Calormenes. Many Narnians are deceived by this false god and his prophet, an ape. However, a small band of loyal Narnians, led by King Tirian, fights back against the invaders. The friends of Narnia, children from another world, are summoned once again to help in this last battle. The fate of Narnia hangs in the balance and the final battle between good and evil determines the future of the magical land.

  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

    "His Dark Materials" is a fantasy trilogy that follows the journey of a young girl named Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, across parallel universes. Throughout their adventures, they encounter a variety of mythical creatures, confront religious and political systems, and grapple with complex themes such as free will, original sin, and the nature of consciousness. The series also delves into the mysteries of Dust, a strange particle integral to the multiverse's function.

  • The Female Man by Joanna Russ

    "The Female Man" is a thought-provoking science fiction novel that explores the lives of four women from different dimensions and time periods. As they navigate their respective worlds, the women confront gender inequality, societal expectations, and the limitations imposed on them by a patriarchal society. Through their encounters and conversations, the novel challenges traditional gender roles and offers a powerful critique of sexism and discrimination.

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

    This classic science fiction novel follows the adventures of Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and harpooner Ned Land as they are captured by the enigmatic Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus, a technologically advanced submarine. As they journey 20,000 leagues under the sea, they encounter a variety of sea creatures and underwater phenomena. The narrative explores themes of exploration, scientific discovery, and man's relationship with nature.

  • Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

    Set in a dystopian future Toronto that has been abandoned by the government and cordoned off from the rest of Canada, the novel follows a young, spirited woman of Caribbean descent who must navigate the perilous, gang-ruled cityscape while harnessing her newfound, ancestral spiritual powers. As she grapples with her identity and the demands of the community that relies on her, she is drawn into a dangerous quest to save her dying grandmother and confronts a malevolent spirit. The story is a rich tapestry of Afro-Caribbean culture, folklore, and tradition, exploring themes of resilience, heritage, and the transformative power of love and family.

  • Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

    The novel is a psychological exploration of human limitations and failures set against the backdrop of space exploration. When a psychologist arrives at a research station orbiting a distant planet covered entirely by a sentient ocean, he discovers the crew in disarray, haunted by physical manifestations of their subconscious fears and desires. As he grapples with the ocean's inscrutable nature and its unsettling ability to materialize human thoughts, he is forced to confront his own guilt and regret, embodied by the apparition of his deceased wife. The story is a philosophical meditation on the impossibility of truly understanding alien intelligence and the painful isolation of the human condition.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    This comedic science fiction novel follows the intergalactic adventures of an unwitting human, Arthur Dent, who is rescued just before Earth's destruction by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for a galactic travel guide. Together, they hitch a ride on a stolen spaceship, encountering a range of bizarre characters, including a depressed robot and a two-headed ex-president of the galaxy. Through a series of satirical and absurd escapades, the book explores themes of existentialism, bureaucracy, and the absurdity of life, all while poking fun at the science fiction genre and offering witty commentary on the human condition.

  • Dune by Frank Herbert

    Set in a distant future, the novel follows Paul Atreides, whose family assumes control of the desert planet Arrakis. As the only producer of a highly valuable resource, jurisdiction over Arrakis is contested among competing noble families. After Paul and his family are betrayed, the story explores themes of politics, religion, and man’s relationship to nature, as Paul leads a rebellion to restore his family's reign.

  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel presents a society under the total control of a totalitarian regime, led by the omnipresent Big Brother. The protagonist, a low-ranking member of 'the Party', begins to question the regime and falls in love with a woman, an act of rebellion in a world where independent thought, dissent, and love are prohibited. The novel explores themes of surveillance, censorship, and the manipulation of truth.

  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

    In a future America where the federal government has largely collapsed and been replaced by corporate entities, a computer hacker and pizza delivery driver becomes embroiled in a plot involving a dangerous new drug and a computer virus called "Snow Crash". He is joined by a teenage skateboard courier and a host of other characters in a high-stakes race to uncover the truth behind the virus and its origins in ancient Sumerian culture. The narrative explores themes of linguistics, philosophy, computer science, religion, and cryptography.

  • The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

    In a future where teleportation is possible, Gully Foyle, a lowly spaceship crew member, survives a catastrophic accident and is left stranded in space. Driven by a burning desire for revenge against those who abandoned him, he undergoes a physical and mental transformation, becoming a force to be reckoned with. As he navigates a world filled with political intrigue, powerful corporations, and mysterious psychic abilities, Gully's journey becomes a thrilling exploration of identity, revenge, and the power of the human spirit.

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson

    In this groundbreaking cyberpunk novel, a washed-up computer hacker is hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack. As he navigates a dystopian future filled with artificial intelligence, corporate espionage, and virtual reality, he must confront his own past and the dark realities of the digital world. The narrative explores themes of technology, identity, and consciousness, pushing the boundaries of science fiction literature.

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    A recently released convict discovers that his wife and best friend died in a car accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who hires him as a bodyguard. As they journey across America, it is revealed that the stranger is an old god, traveling to rally his fellow forgotten deities to wage a war against the new American gods born from society's modern obsessions with media, technology, drugs, celebrity, and more. The story blends elements of fantasy, mythology, and Americana to explore themes of faith, belief, and the nature of American identity.

  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    This science fiction novel centers around Hari Seldon, a mathematician who has developed a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory. With it, he can predict the future on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second great empire arises. To shorten this period of barbarism, he creates two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy. The book follows the first few centuries of the Foundation's existence, focusing on the scientists as they develop new technologies and negotiate with neighboring planets.

  • Foundation And Empire by Isaac Asimov

    "Foundation And Empire" is a science fiction novel that continues the epic saga of a future Galactic Empire. As the Foundation, a group of scientists and scholars, grows in power and influence, they face a formidable enemy in the form of the Mule, a mutant with mind-controlling abilities. With the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance, the Foundation must navigate political intrigue, military conflicts, and the enigmatic Seldon Plan to ensure their survival and preserve the knowledge of humanity.

  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    "Second Foundation" by Isaac Asimov is a science fiction novel set in a future galactic empire. The story follows a group of individuals who possess extraordinary mental abilities known as "psychohistory." As the empire crumbles, they work secretly to manipulate events and guide humanity towards a new era of peace. However, a dangerous adversary emerges, threatening to unravel their plans and plunge the galaxy into chaos. The novel delves into themes of power, control, and the unpredictable nature of human behavior.

  • Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov

    In this science fiction novel, the protagonist, Golan Trevize, is sent on a quest to discover the origins of the Foundation, a society established to preserve knowledge and culture in the galaxy. Alongside a scholar, Janov Pelorat, and a telepathic woman, Bliss, Trevize's journey leads them beyond the boundaries of the known galaxy to two secretive worlds: Gaia, a planet with a collective consciousness, and Earth, the long-forgotten origin planet of humanity. The novel explores themes of free will versus determinism, the role of individuality within a collective society, and the search for a balanced path to galactic harmony, all while questioning the validity of the Seldon Plan, a predictive model for the future of civilization.

  • Foundation And Earth by Isaac Asimov

    In this science fiction novel, the continuation of an epic saga, the protagonist seeks the origins of humanity to save a vast galactic civilization. Journeying from world to world, the quest leads to the discovery of a planet called Earth, long shrouded in mystery and legend. Alongside complex characters and artificial intelligences, the narrative explores themes of power, history, and the search for a greater understanding of humanity's place in the cosmos. The story weaves together strands of politics, philosophy, and the future of human evolution, culminating in a profound revelation about the interconnected fate of the galaxy's myriad inhabitants and societies.

  • Prelude To Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    In this science fiction novel, a young mathematician arrives at the galactic empire's capital planet, hoping to present his revolutionary theory of psychohistory—a mathematical framework capable of predicting the future of large populations. While his ideas are initially met with skepticism, they soon attract the attention of the empire's political figures, who see potential for both control and upheaval. As the protagonist navigates the complex political landscape, he is pursued by various factions seeking to use his theory for their own ends. Along the way, he explores different cultures and subcultures of the sprawling empire, all while attempting to refine his nascent theory and understand the true implications of his work for the future of humanity.

  • Forward The Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    The book is a science fiction novel that serves as a prequel to a renowned series, chronicling the life of a brilliant mathematician who develops a revolutionary theory of predicting the future on a large scale. Set against the backdrop of a decaying Galactic Empire, the protagonist works to refine his psychohistorical method in hopes of reducing the period of chaos and barbarism predicted to follow the Empire's inevitable fall. The narrative weaves through political intrigue, personal tragedy, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge, as the protagonist and his colleagues lay the groundwork for a foundation designed to preserve and expand human knowledge, and to serve as a beacon for a future enlightened civilization.

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

    This book introduces readers to a flat, disc-shaped world balanced on the back of four elephants who stand on a giant turtle. The story follows an inept and cowardly wizard named Rincewind who is tasked with guiding a naive tourist through this chaotic and fantastical world filled with dragons, trolls, and magic. The narrative is a satirical take on fantasy genre clichés, with humorous and witty commentary throughout.

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

  • Among Others by Jo Walton

    The novel is a captivating blend of fantasy and coming-of-age story, told through the diary entries of a fifteen-year-old girl who has survived a tragic accident that took her twin sister's life and left her with a crippling injury. She navigates the complexities of adolescence, boarding school life, and family drama while also dealing with the magical abilities she inherited from her mother. As she seeks solace in the pages of science fiction and fantasy novels, she grapples with her own magical powers and the ethereal creatures that only she can see, leading to a poignant exploration of grief, growth, and the transformative power of storytelling.

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel explores a society where human beings are genetically bred and pharmaceutically conditioned to serve in a ruling order. The society is divided into five castes, each with its specific roles. The narrative follows a savage who rejects the norms of this new world order and struggles to navigate the clash between the values of his upbringing and the reality of this technologically advanced, emotionless society. His resistance prompts a deep examination of the nature of freedom, individuality, and happiness.

  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

    In this enchanting fantasy tale, a solitary unicorn, believing she is the last of her kind, embarks on a poignant journey to discover what has become of the other unicorns. Along the way, she is joined by a bumbling magician and a tough yet tender-hearted woman. Together, they face trials and confront an evil king to unravel the mystery of the missing unicorns. The unicorn must also grapple with the complexities of love, the loss of innocence, and the painful beauty of existence, as she seeks to restore her kind and witness the return of magic to the world.

  • The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard

    "The Drowned World" is a dystopian science fiction novel set in a future where rising global temperatures have caused the polar ice caps to melt, submerging major cities under water. As the Earth becomes a tropical wasteland, the protagonist, a biologist named Robert Kerans, explores the surreal and decaying landscape of flooded London. Amidst the dangerous and primal environment, Kerans confronts his own psychological disintegration while encountering a group of eccentric characters who have adapted to the new world in bizarre and unsettling ways.

  • Witch World by Andre Norton

    In a high-fantasy realm where magic intertwines with the fates of kingdoms, a man from our world stumbles through a gate into a land where witches wield power and their dominion is absolute. As he navigates this new world, he discovers his own latent magical abilities and becomes embroiled in a struggle against dark forces threatening to overwhelm the Witch World. With the help of powerful allies, he must learn to harness his newfound powers and play a crucial role in the battle for the world's survival, challenging the very notions of destiny and his place within this mystical universe.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

    In this dark fantasy novel, two thirteen-year-old friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, encounter a sinister traveling carnival that arrives in their small Midwestern town just before Halloween. The carnival's malevolent proprietor, Mr. Dark, possesses the power to grant the townspeople's deepest desires, but at a terrible cost. As the boys uncover the nightmarish truth behind the carnival's attractions, they must confront their own fears and temptations. A battle between good and evil ensues, with the fate of their souls and the soul of the town hanging in the balance. The story is a coming-of-age tale that explores the struggle between youth and maturity, and the recognition that every individual harbors both darkness and light within them.

  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

    A Victorian-era scientist invents a machine that allows him to travel through time. He first journeys to the year 802,701 A.D., where he encounters the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults who live in harmony but lack curiosity and drive. He later discovers the Morlocks, a nocturnal, subterranean species who prey on the Eloi. After rescuing an Eloi named Weena, the protagonist loses his time machine and must devise a plan to recover it and return to his own time, all while exploring the social and evolutionary implications of the two distinct societies.

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a haunting tale of three friends, who grow up together at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they mature, they discover a dark secret about their school and the purpose of their existence, which is to become organ donors for the rest of society. The story is a profound exploration of what it means to be human, the morality of scientific innovation, and the heartbreaking reality of love and loss.

  • Little, Big by John Crowley

    "Little, Big" is a complex tale that weaves together elements of magical realism, fantasy, and family saga. The story follows the Drinkwater family who live in an eccentric house known as Edgewood, which is somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. The family is connected to the realm of Faerie, and the narrative explores their interactions with this magical world. The book spans multiple generations and intertwines the lives of its characters with the cycles of history and myth, creating a multi-layered narrative about love, family, destiny, and the nature of storytelling itself.

  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

    In a world where telepathic dragons and their riders protect the land from the destructive Thread that rains down from the sky, a young woman unexpectedly becomes the new Weyrwoman, bonding with the last queen dragon. As the traditional ways of the past clash with the urgent need to defend their world, she and her enigmatic dragonrider ally must rediscover ancient secrets and take to the skies in a perilous quest to unite the dragonriders and save their planet from annihilation. Their journey is fraught with challenges, both political and personal, as they strive to harness the full power of the dragons and ensure the survival of their way of life.

  • Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

    In this sequel to the pioneering science fiction-fantasy novel set on the planet Pern, the inhabitants continue to grapple with the deadly threat of Threadfall, a spore that devours all organic material in its path. As the dragonriders, who telepathically bond with dragons to fight Thread, struggle with internal conflicts and the challenge of adapting to new technology, the protagonist seeks to unite the old ways with the new to ensure the survival of their world. Tensions rise between the conservative old-timers and the progressive new generation, leading to political intrigue and a quest for harmony between the dragonriders and the rest of the Pernese society.

  • The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey

    In a world where telepathic dragons and their human riders protect the land from threadlike spores that rain down from the sky, "The White Dragon" follows the young Lord Jaxom and his unique dragon, Ruth. As the smallest and only white dragon on the planet, Ruth's intelligence and ability to travel through time make the duo an extraordinary pair. Jaxom, caught between his noble responsibilities and his bond with Ruth, must navigate political intrigue and ancient traditions as they work together to prove their worth. Their journey is one of self-discovery, as they embrace their unique roles in a society that values conformity, ultimately playing a pivotal role in the survival and evolution of their world.

  • Moreta by Anne McCaffrey

    In a world where telepathic dragons and their riders protect the populace from threadfall, a virulent plague threatens to decimate both human and dragonkind. The novel follows Moreta, one of the dragon riders, as she races against time to find a cure and orchestrate a daring plan to save her world. As the epidemic spreads, Moreta must navigate the intricate politics of her society and the limitations of her own mortality, culminating in a desperate act of heroism that solidifies her place in the annals of her world's history.

  • Nerilka's Story by Anne McCaffrey

    Set in the universe of Pern, "Nerilka's Story" follows the tale of a young woman from a noble family who is disillusioned with her father's apathy towards a devastating plague. After her family's refusal to aid the suffering population, she takes matters into her own hands, assuming a false identity to distribute medicine and supplies to those in need. Along her journey, she faces challenges and finds herself in the midst of political intrigue, personal growth, and unexpected romance. The story is a testament to courage, compassion, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

  • Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

    In this science fiction novel, a group of colonists from Earth seek to establish a new society on the distant planet of Pern. As they struggle to adapt to their new environment, they are unprepared for the deadly Thread falling from the sky, which destroys all organic matter it touches. The colonists' survival depends on genetically engineered dragons, created from native lifeforms, which can burn the Thread out of the sky with their fiery breath. The bond between the dragons and their human riders becomes the cornerstone of Pernese society, as they work together to defend their home against the periodic onslaughts. The novel explores themes of pioneering, human ingenuity, and the forging of a symbiotic relationship between humans and dragons in the face of adversity.

  • Renegades Of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

    In this installment of a science fiction series set on the planet Pern, the narrative follows a diverse group of characters as they uncover the ancient history of their world while contending with the deadly Threadfall that periodically threatens all life on Pern. As the renegades, who operate outside the traditional social structures of the planet, explore the Southern Continent, they discover evidence of their ancestors' technologically advanced society. These revelations come amidst political intrigue and the struggle for survival, as the characters must collaborate to harness old technologies and defend their homes against the relentless, life-destroying Thread.

  • All The Weyrs Of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

    In this science fiction novel set on the planet Pern, humanity faces the ongoing threat of Thread, a deadly organism that rains down from the skies, destroying all organic matter it touches. The inhabitants of Pern, including the dragonriders who traditionally protect the land, discover an ancient artificial intelligence that offers a chance to permanently eliminate the Thread menace. As they work to understand and activate this ancient technology, they must overcome internal political struggles and the skepticism of their peers to unite the planet's disparate communities and weyrs (dragon lairs) in a monumental effort to save their world from the relentless destruction of Thread and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for Pern.

  • The Chronicles Of Pern: First Fall by Anne McCaffrey

    In this collection of novellas set within a richly detailed science fiction world, human colonists on the planet Pern face unexpected challenges as they adapt to their new home. The book chronicles the earliest days of the settlement, including the discovery of the deadly Thread which periodically rains from the sky, decimating all organic matter it touches. The settlers must band together, forging a symbiotic relationship with the native dragon-like creatures to combat this threat. As they struggle to survive and maintain their technology-dependent lifestyle, they lay the foundation for the unique society that will define future generations on Pern.

  • How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

    In this metafictional novel, a time machine repairman, trapped in a time loop, searches for his father and the meaning of his existence within a universe that operates on science fiction tropes. As he navigates a landscape filled with paradoxes, dog-eared pages of his life, and a self-aware narrative, he confronts his past and the nature of reality itself. The book blends emotional depth with quantum mechanics, exploring themes of family, memory, and the passage of time, all while breaking the fourth wall and challenging the conventions of storytelling.

  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

    This novel tells the story of a young princess who is bored with her life and decides to go live with dragons instead of marrying a prince as expected. She becomes the servant of a dragon and learns about magic, dealing with wizards, and how to outsmart those who underestimate her. The book is a humorous and empowering twist on traditional fairy tale tropes, emphasizing the importance of intelligence and independence over beauty and obedience.

  • Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

    In this enchanting fantasy sequel, a spirited princess teams up with the King of the Dragons to find a missing monarch and tackle the magical troubles plaguing the Enchanted Forest. Together with a cast of quirky characters, including a witch, a floating blue donkey, and a stone prince, they embark on a whimsical adventure that challenges traditional fairy tale norms. Through wit, courage, and clever problem-solving, they navigate a world where magic is real and dragons might not be what they seem, all while uncovering a deeper conspiracy and learning about the true nature of friendship and duty.

  • Calling On Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

    In this enchanting fantasy novel, the third installment of a beloved series, a princess-turned-witch and her companions, including a talking cat and a dragon, embark on a whimsical adventure to stop an evil plot that threatens their kingdom. Along the way, they encounter a diverse cast of characters, including a witty magician and a mischievous young witch. With a blend of humor, magic, and a touch of romance, the group uses their wits and magical abilities to outsmart their enemies and protect their magical world from danger. The story is a celebration of friendship, ingenuity, and the importance of embracing one's unique talents.

  • Talking To Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

    In this enchanting fantasy novel, the story follows a young protagonist who embarks on a perilous journey through a magical forest to find his missing father, the King. Along the way, he encounters a cast of whimsical characters, including a feisty princess, a deceitful witch, and a variety of talking animals. His adventure is filled with riddles, spells, and dragon encounters, which challenge his wit and courage. As the final installment in a series, the book wraps up the overarching narrative with clever twists and the revelation of long-held secrets, ultimately leading to a confrontation with a powerful enemy and a quest to restore peace to the kingdom.

  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

    In a magical land where witches and wizards exist, a young hat maker named Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch and transformed into an old woman. Determined to break the curse, Sophie seeks refuge in the mysterious moving castle of the feared wizard Howl. As Sophie navigates the castle's enchanting rooms and encounters its eccentric inhabitants, she discovers the power of love, friendship, and self-acceptance. Together with Howl and his apprentice Michael, Sophie embarks on a captivating journey filled with adventure, magic, and unexpected twists that will change their lives forever.

  • Castle In The Air by Diana Wynne Jones

    In this enchanting sequel to a beloved fantasy tale, a young carpet merchant's dreams soar when he acquires a magical flying carpet. However, his aspirations are complicated by his accidental betrothal to a princess and the subsequent kidnapping of his intended by a wicked djinn. As he embarks on a perilous quest to rescue her, he encounters a motley crew of allies, including a mischievous genie, a soldier, and a resourceful witch. Together, they navigate a tapestry of magic and adventure, where nothing is as it seems, and the power of true love and cleverness are tested against formidable magical foes and the machinations of fate.

  • House Of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

    In this enchanting fantasy tale, a young girl named Charmain Baker is sent to house-sit for her great-uncle, who is a wizard. Upon arrival, she discovers that the house has magical properties, with rooms that constantly shift and change, and a multitude of mysterious doors leading to unknown places. As Charmain becomes embroiled in magical adventures, she encounters an apprentice wizard, a magical dog, and a host of magical problems that she must solve. Throughout her journey, she learns about her own untapped magical abilities and the importance of responsibility and self-discovery. The story weaves together whimsy, spells, and fantastical creatures, creating a rich tapestry of a world where magic is as common as bread and as unpredictable as the weather.

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

    The book is set in a seemingly perfect community without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, where everything is under control. The protagonist is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world. He discovers the dark secrets behind his fragile community and struggles to handle the burden of the knowledge of pain and the concept of individuality. He must decide whether to accept the status quo or break free, risking everything.

About this list

Flavor Wire, 90 Books

Explore the realms of magic and the future with Flavor Wire's "50 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels That Everyone Should Read." This expertly curated list offers a gateway for those new to the genre and a treasure trove for avid fans. Highlighting only the most compelling narratives, the list includes a single work or series per author, focuses on novels with adult appeal, and excludes short stories. It's a diverse collection designed to spark imagination and discussion among readers of all levels. Dive into these essential reads and expand your literary horizons.

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