Best Books of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and More
- The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King; J.R.R. Tolkien)
Greatest fantasy tale ever written.
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle Book 1, Ursula K. LeGuin)
A very cool world of wizards in which knowing the true name of something gives you power over it.
- Dune (Dune Chronicles Book 1, Frank Herbert)
An entirely desert planet of giant sandworms and the prescience power of spice.
- Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
A dystopian novel that hits frighteningly close to home. For anyone who loves to read.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
The classic dystopian novel. Big Brother is watching. A must read for anyone who values freedom.
- Brave New World (Alduous Huxley)
Another fascinating dystopian novel, foretelling of genetic engineering, helicopters, television, and recreational drug use… written in the 1930s.
- Replay (Ken Grimwood)
An absolutely incredible work that demonstrates why science fiction is not just about space ships and robots. If you've ever wondered how your life could have turned out differently, this is a must read.
- Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs Book 1, Richard K. Morgan)
Cyberpunk science fiction at its finest. Near future world where people's minds exist digitally, allowing you to switch bodies.
- The Great Book of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber Books 1-10, Roger Zelazny)
Epic science fiction fantasy blend set in modern times. Infinite dimensions exist and can be easily traveled by a select family.
- Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
A beautiful 19th century novel of the human condition. For anyone who has felt the pangs of love or the agony of being an artist.
- The Hobbit (Prequel to The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)
An easy read that captures the imagination. A great starting point to get into the Fantasy genre.
- Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)
Don't see the movie. It doesn't even come close to this gritty Science Fiction masterpiece. A great read especially for those interested in the military.
- Ender's Game (Ender Wiggin Saga Book 1, Orson Scott Card)
One of best Science Fiction novels ever. You can easily escape reality and lose yourself in this enthralling tale of an intelligent young boy that captures some real truths about being a kid.
- Children of Dune (Dune Chronicles Book 3, Frank Herbert)
The only book in the Dune Chronicles I enjoyed as much as the first. A MILLION times better than Dune Messiah, so don't quit on book 2.
- The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle Book 3, Ursula K. LeGuin)
A stunning wizard fantasy that builds from the first two books. The story depicts the universal foe of death, described with such powerful imagery.
- The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett)
What a great detective novel! The perfect read if you're craving a trenchcoat and fedora 1920s mystery.
- Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
The extremely popular novel of a young man trying to hold onto his individuality in a world of phony social constructs.
- Lady Chatterley's Lover (D.H. Lawrence)
Possibly the best depiction of the human quest for true love in an imperfect world.
- For Us, The Living (Robert Heinlein)
Utopia in 2082 characterized by no marriage, private vs. public sphere, monetary allowance for all citizens, print money economy, and minimal clothing
- The Forever War (Joe Haldeman)
Time dilation due to near-speed-of-light space travel and its results on Earth while soldiers fight a distant alien enemy.
- The Lords of Discipline (Pat Conroy)
The best novel about life as a cadet, be it at The Citadel, VMI, or the Service Academies.
- Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
A poignant tale of an impoverished Irish family that is ghastly in it's suffering, yet able to evoke laughter and hope from an innocent childhood perspective.
- Xenocide (Ender Wiggin Saga Book 3, Orson Scott Card)
Outstanding return to form that makes the "Ender" series well worth the read.
- Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Terribly slow and tedious at times, this book grows on you the further you read. By the end, you'll understand that Frankenstein is a true masterpiece undeserving of the campy stereotype image of the movies.
- The Naked and the Dead (Norman Mailer)
Life in the military, especially in war, is too harsh to tolerate the superficialities of social norms. The only way to survive, to not go mad with fear, is to accept the fact that you are already dead. We are naked and vulnerable, despite our attempts at relevance with personal appearances and fleeting possessions.
- Lucifer's Hammer (Larry Niven & Pournelle)
A massive asteroid crashes into the earth sending everyone into a panicked struggle for survival. A fascinating look at how people might cope with the crumbling of modern civilization.
- Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield)
Awesome fictional tale based on the true events of 300 elite Spartan soldiers slaying a million of the invading Persian hordes. Inspiring for people about to join the military.
- Foundation (Foundation Book 1, Isaac Asimov)
Highly intelligent science fiction where centuries pass between chapters with new heroes each generation to utilize the knowledge of the predictable trajectory of human history to hasten the rebirth of the declining Galactic Empire.
- Foundation and Empire (Foundation Book 2, Isaac Asimov)
Even better than the first book. Stays with the main characters rather than jumping forward generations.
- The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Dystopian world where pollution has led to fewer and fewer women being physically capable of having children. The resulting government and social constructs are bizarre yet fearfully captivating.
- Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos Book 1, Dan Simmons)
Who would think to build an intergalactic sci-fi epic around the works of one of the most impressive poets of the 19th century, John Keats? Seems like a ridiculous combination, yet it works through a character driven delivery in the vein of "The Canterbury Tales." A great testament that we may be done with the past, but the past is never done with us. WARNING: This book is only half of the story, with no semblance of an ending. You must read "Fall of Hyperion" immediately afterwards to get legitimate closure.
- Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos Book 2, Dan Simmons)
Often times, we cringe at the prospect of hating the sequel to a book we liked. Sequels often fall short. In this case, the story gets far better. Definitely a must-read for science fiction fans.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
An American classic, character driven, with a rough-around-the-edges child's wisdom cutting through the supposed just views of society - a powerful insight into a time when slavery was normal.
- Lord Valentine's Castle (Robert Silverburg)
A wanderer with amnesia befriends a troupe of jugglers as he slowly unravels his memories, struggling whether he may be one of the most powerful men on earth or simply delusional.
- Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
What were the founders of the atomic bomb doing on the day of Hiroshima? Science is at a point where self-extinction is all too probable. Short, quick chapters, yet plenty of wit and insight into human society.
- Left Behind (Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins)
A thrilling page turner about the sudden disappearance of half the world's populace.
- Lord of Light (Roger Zelazny)
This book gets better with every chapter as we see the interactions between gods. Much like the Roman gods (Zeus, Ares, Hermes, Aphrodite, etc.) except in a Hindu version.
- The Iliad (Book 1, Homer)
One of the oldest books ever written. The definitive war epic portraying the jealousies of kings and the unquenchable rage of Achilles. Just don't expect to find references to a Trojan Horse or Achilles' Heels.
- The Odyssey (Book 2, Homer)
The grandfather of fantasy and imagination in literature. Be regaled by tales of the crafty Odysseus.
- Children of the Mind (Ender Wiggin Saga Book 4, Orson Scott Card)
A thoroughly enjoyable finale to an awesome sci-fi series. Not to be missed.
- The Eye In the Pyramid (The Illuminatus! Part 1, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson)
A disjointed mindfrag of conspiracies and myths revealed. It's a detective story, a sci-fi novel, political commentary, and a raunchy romance novel all rolled into one.
- Crime and Punishment (Fydor Dostoyevsky)
A insightful look at inconsistency of morality in how it applies to nobodies versus people like Napoleon. Very slow book most of the way with a difficult protagonist. Yet, several scattered masterpiece chapters.
- Elric of Melnibone (Michael Moorcock)
What an intriguing beginning. Unfortunately, the fascination and excitement take a plunge as the second half of this book loses its focus.
- The Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks)
Classic meat and potatoes fantasy on par with "The Lord of the Rings," with an interesting twist.
- Flowers For Algernon (Daniel Keyes)
A mentally handicapped man has brain surgery and becomes a genius. Great story about the drawbacks of intelligence and the horror of losing one's self-consciousness.
- The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle Book 2, Ursula K. LeGuin)
The sequel to A Wizard of EarthSea a more subdued, localized adventure, yet still a very fun read definitely worth reading beyond the first book.
- Digital Fortress (Dan Brown)
Captivating story about cryptology within the National Security Agency (NSA), the agency that spies on our emails.
- White Noise (Don DeLillo)
Great book about how abnormal the average family really is. In our materialistic suburbia, there's no such thing as happily ever after.
- Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
Life is hard. Survival is rarely easy. As in nature, there are the strong and the weak. The smart and the dumb. Natural selection. As in society, there are lambs and there are wolves. The weaker sex may not be as strong physically, but in society the mind and lips make for an unpredictable battleground.
- The Woodlanders (D.H. Lawrence)
Masterful story about life and love in a rural English village, expertly contrasted by the backdrop of the harsh, unfeeling world of Nature.
- The Summons (John Grisham)
About the complications of inheritance and what happens after a rich guy dies. Really good mystery that builds throughout.
- The Testament (John Grisham)
A woman doctor helping poor natives in the Amazon jungle is suddenly the heiress to a massive fortune. Except no one has heard from her in years. Can the lawyer find her before time runs out and the money goes to the greedy relatives?
- Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein)
An outstanding look at love, sex, and marriage from a 1960s perspective with a science fiction bent.
- Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
A fascinating western tale delving into the dark side of man. I'm not into westerns, generally, but this is an awesome story.
- The Invisible Man (H.G. Wells)
It really would be cool to be invisible sometimes. But not all the time. That would probably suck.
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert Heinlein)
A futuristic laissez-faire moon colony with technical difficulties. A fascinating futuristic society.
- The Rainbow (D.H. Lawrence)
Life goes on. There are highs and lows, but what art rarely captures is the repetitiveness, the endless transition of generations. This great book is a marathon in describing life, rather than a one sentence summary. Life is full of love and tragedy. It is unplanned, unrehearsed, awkward, unjust, and random. There are no perfect parallel storylines to tie together. There are no fairytale endings. Life simply goes on.
- American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
There's God and then there's gods in the classic Greek & Roman sense. Just imagine these gods, who've been around for millenia, blending in with modern American culture, each with their own agenda.
- Taps (Willie Morris)
A genuine tale of a young American boy growing up during the Korean war. Though far from the battlefields across the sea, the boy experiences the effects of death as he plays Taps on his trumpet at military funerals and gets a job working in a funeral home. Outstanding book about male youth as well as a critical perspective on the sad side of military service.
- A Canticle For Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller, Jr.)
Ever thought what the future would be like if nuclear holocaust actually happened? This book shows America's outcome centuries after "The Great Fire", centered on a community of Catholic monks.
- The Broker (John Grisham)
Another fun Grisham novel. Definitely worth reading if you like his other books.
- Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs Book 2, Richard K. Morgan)
Not anywhere nearly as good as "Altered Carbon." However, a decent story if you simply must have more after "Altered Carbon."
- The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)
A compelling tale of revenge. Also, a very intriguing future world in which people are just learning how to teleport themselves with their mind.
- Sons and Lovers (D.H. Lawrence)
A masterful tale exploring the intricacies of emotions between family members. Love, romance, and jealousy depicted with tremendous insight.
- Heretics of Dune (Dune Chronicles Book 5, Frank Herbert)
This is where the Dune series gets back to having lots of action instead of boring talking all the time. This is also where Frank Herbert realized that the giant sandworms are what made this series interesting in the first place.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
Story of a young girl with a passion for books as she grows up in Brooklyn. Very worthwhile tale of youth from the female side.
- Ringworld (Larry Niven)
Fascinating artificially constructed world. The physics of how Ringworld exists is cool. The characters are of rather silly design, but it's a fun read good enough for serious sci-fi fans.
- The King of Torts (John Grisham)
The lawyer world of lawsuits is both fascinating and despicable in its excess.
- A Fire Upon The Deep (Vernor Virge)
An excellent sci-fi epic in which the closer you get to the center of the universe, the more the strong gravitational fields slow space travel and hamper technology. At the universe's outer rim known as The Beyond, humankind mistakenly unleashes a cosmic monster bent on enslaving all civilizations.
- Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer - Part II: Lords of Destruction (James Silke)
This is rated "R" barbarian fantasy for its gritty, gory, and sexual content. The Frazetta cover alone inspires powerful imagery throughout the book.
- Wieland, or The Transformation (Charles Brockden Brown)
A classic novel that evolved the structure of its medium, this is an old but captivating murder mystery with a surprising twist ending. A good read if you liked "The Sixth Sense."
- Homeport (Nora Roberts)
An entertaining page-turner of a romance novel set in Maine that may appeal to readers not usually interested in the Romance genre.
- The Giver (Lois Lowry)
Classic young adult book on the life lessons of selflessness and true happiness.
- Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
This is Charles Dickens epic tale of a fascinating weave of 19th century characters, regular people like us, suffering the griefs and joys of the human condition.
- Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Before Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell first launched into international literary fame with this story of a community of thinking, talking farm animals symbolizing the conflicting philosophies of government.
- Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon)
Pop culture references abound, rather too thickly, in this thick stew of storylines set during World War II. Nice premise of a secret agent dispatched to stop Hitler's V2 Rockets, but a bit too stream of thought.
- The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The iconic novel representative of the Roaring Twenties: Prohibition, young wealth, and a classic love triangle.
- Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Set in the post-Great War era, a story that poignantly portrays mental illness and the reality that love and marriage are not always "happily ever after" but rather filled with heart wrenching suffering and trials.
- The Jungle (John Sinclair)
A masterpiece encapsulating the life of Chicago immigrants in America around 1900. A truly remarkable view of the lack of sanitation in the food industry of the era, and the brutal factory worker life.
- Call of the Wild (Jack London)
The defining literary work of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest during the dog sled, Gold Rush era. For lover's of nature and animals.
- A Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Jump from the Wild West to the red deserts of Mars, and you have an American gunslinger's out of body experience turn into a heroic adventure among a fierce alien culture.
- Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles Book 6, Frank Herbert)
The final book of the Dune Chronicles focuses predominantly on the political intrigue and subterfuge of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. A respectable close to one of the most unique and detailed Sci-Fi series.
- The Man in the High Castle
What if Japan and Germany won World War II? This alternate reality dystopia portrays the lives of regular Americans living under foreign rule in San Francisco and Colorado.
- God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles Book 4, Frank Herbert)
Sadly, nearly all the characters of the previous books are left behind as this book takes place 40,000 years in the future. Interesting, but far too much talking and painfully little actually happens.
- Speaker for the Dead (Ender Wiggin Saga Book 2, Orson Scott Card)
Very humanistic tale of humanity and our fears of death. More of an emotional tale as there is virtually none of the outerspace, alien fighting action of the first book.
- The Once and Future King (T.H. White)
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This is the book to read if you're even the least bit excited about King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Phillip K. Dick)
If you already watched Blade Runner, it may be a bit distracting as you try to connect with this book. Some great food for thought for what it means to be human in the context of artificial intelligence. However, like William Gibson's Neuromancer, I found I never really felt captivated by the story or characters.
- Dreamcatcher (Stephen King)
Don't see the movie. The book is actually pretty entertaining with some scary alien critters.
- The Chamber (John Grisham)
Hard to imagine how it would feel, sitting on Death Row. Very interesting to explore the thoughts of the characters on our universal fear.
- The Batman Murders (Craig Shaw Gardner)
You mean to tell me I can read original novels about comic book superheroes? Discovering such joys is why used book stores are awesome.
- House Made of Dawn (N. Scott Momaday)
Poignant tale with powerful insight into the individual Native American tribes of the Southwest.
- Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
A good book, but I wished I'd read it before seeing the amazing movie adaption, Apocalypse Now. Hard to forget a movie like that and lose yourself in the book.
- The Thin Red Line (James Jones)
A decent book on World War II in the Pacific, but I hated the movie so much.
- Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
- Moll Flanders (Daniel Dafoe)
- Shattered Chains (Magic: The Gathering) (Clayton Emery)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne)
- The Lord of the Flies (William Gerald Golding)
- Utopia (Thomas More)
- Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Book 1, Stephen R. Donaldson)
- Neuromancer (William Gibson)
The birth of the Cyberpunk genre. Although it is a fascinating world, the characters didn't captivate me.
- The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy)
- The House of Mirth
- Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
- The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
- Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
- A Day No Pigs Would Die (Robert Newton Peck)
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
- A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
- The Bretheren (John Grisham)
- My Teacher Is An Alien (Teacher Book 1, Bruce Coville)
- My Teacher Fried My Brains (Teacher Book 2, Bruce Coville)
- My Teacher Glows In the Dark (Teacher Book 3, Bruce Coville)
- My Teacher Flunked the Planet (Teacher Book 4, Bruce Coville)
- The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
- A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quartet Book 1, Madeleine L'Engle)
- A Wind in the Door (Time Quartet Book 2, Madeleine L'Engle)
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quartet Book 3, Madeleine L'Engle)
- Many Waters (Time Quartet Book 4, Madeleine L'Engle)
- Anastasia Has the Answers (Anastasia Krupnik Book 6, Lois Lowry)
- The Silmarillion (Prequel to The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien)
- The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
- Across Five Aprils (Irene Hunt)
- The Other Wind (Earthsea Cycle Book 5, Ursula K. LeGuin)
- Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles Book 2, Frank Herbert)
- The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
- Isaac Asimov's Robots in Time Book 1: Predator (William F. Wu)
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS:
- The Collected Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
- The Dubliners (James Joyce)
- Tales From Earthsea (Ursula K. LeGuin)
- The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre
- The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
What will the future be like once we achieve the technology to enable us to start colonizing Mars? Will we do better as a society with a chance to start over?
- Short Stories of John Cheever
- Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe
- I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
- Collected Robot Short Stories of Isaac Asimov Vol.I-II
- The Casualty (Heinrich Boll)
- Azazel (Isaac Asimov)
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving)
- "The Dead" (James Joyce)
- "The Rule of Names" (Ursula K. Le Guin)
- "The Root and the Ring" (Wyman Guin)
- "The Most Dangerous Game" (Richard Connell)
- "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" (Jack Finney)
- "Bird of Prey" (John Collier)
- "The Man Who Could Not See Devils" (Joanna Russ)
- "The Detective of Dreams" (Gene Wolfe)
- "Feathertop: A Moralized Legend" (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
- "The Green Magician" (L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt)
Last installment of a fantasy series in which magic is a form of mathematical science. Main characters land in old Ireland and meet the legendary Cuchulainn.
- "The Magic Fishbone (Charles Dickens)
- "The Stonecutter" (Japanese Fable)
- "The Goddess on the Street Corner" (Margaret St. Clair)
- "Mi Li: A Chinese Fairy Tale"
- "The King and His Three Daughters"
- "Our Fair City" (Robert A. Heinlein)
Story about a sentient mini-tornado that lives in the city and collects old newspapers.
- "A New Arabian Night's Entertainment"
- "The Dice-box: A Fairy Tale"
- "The Peach in the Brandy"
Non-Fiction: Personal Effectiveness
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey)
- Getting Things Done (David Allen)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
- Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
- What Color Is Your Parachute? (Richard Nelson Bolles)
- Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families (Stephen Covey)
- Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)
- Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Marc Weissbluth, 2005)
- Your Baby's First Year For Dummies
Non-Fiction: Business & Economics
- Managing to Learn (John Shook)
- The Goal (Elihyu Goldratt)
- Economics for Dummies (Sean Masaki Flynn)
- Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (Charles Wheelan)
- The Puritan Gift (Ken Hopper & Will Hopper, 2009)
- Fundamentals of Project Management (James P. Lewis)
- What Would Google Do? (Jeff Jarvis)
- Project Management for Dummies (Stanley E. Portny)
- The Little Black Book of Project Management (Michael C. Thomsett)
- Operations Management (Jae K. Shim & Joel G. Siegel)
Non-Fiction: Philosophy & Politics
- Eight Modern Essayists, Fifth Edition (William Smart, 1990)
- The Revolution (Ron Paul)
- End the Fed (Ron Paul)
- The Ethics of War & Peace (Paul Christopher)
- The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff)
- Candide (Voltaire)
- The Republic (Plato)
- Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
Non-Fiction: Arts & Entertainment
- Marley and Me (John Grogan)
- Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation (Jeffrey Meyers, 2000)
- Patriot Reign (Michael Holley)
- Eintstein's Dreams (Alan Lightman)
- Hiking & Backpacking in Big Sur
- Hiking in L.A.
- The Book of Mormon
- The Holy Bible: New Testament
- The Doctrine & Covenenants
- The Pearl of Great Price
- The Holy Bible: Old Testament
- The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren)
- The New Era
- The Kitabiaqdas
For this list, books that are part of a series are listed separately (still ranked based on overall quality), but notating which book of the series it is.
I also felt it was important to distinguish the short story books from the novels, as they are distinct entities in the world of literature.
When it comes to overall skill as an author, I feel these are the best because of high quality & quantity of their publications:
Ursula K. LeGuin