tallying up sci fi/fantasy exposure

So from this randomly selected (via Google) list of the 100 best sff books of all time, I have read 24. I thank my dad for this number, of which I’m rather proud, given that it was arrived at unintentionally.

If you have 10 minutes to kill, scroll through and do your own tally. I don’t care if you consider yourself a sff reader or not—it’s interesting to see where mainstream crossover occurs, too.

(Not having read the majority of the books on this list, and minus the rather large and sad fact that it doesn’t feature the works by any authors of color (ETA: sorry, I overlooked Samuel Delaney–thanks Waltermonkey for pointing this out), some of whom have been very important to the sff canon, it seems like a nice jumping-off point for a list. But the color post is one for another day. For today, we shall, with these pitiful excuses, comment on The Establishment.)

PLEASE tell me in the comments which books you’ve read, what you thought of them, etc. Feel free not to read any further on this post—the rest is just my tally.

I’m not going to reference the list again, so I’ll definitely forget some, but here are titles I’ve read that I remember checking off:
-Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
-Mists of Avalon,
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
-The Wheel of Time (obvi)
-Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (thanks, Dad, for reading these to me when I was four and very sleepy—I remember the night he got SO IRRITATED with me when I drifted off during the grand escape by barrel down the river. “You missed one of the best parts,” he told me sniffily. I was a great disappointment to him that day, I think.)
-Watership Down, by Richard Adams
-Ubik, which is my only Philip K. Dick novel
-funny how bad my memory is; I’ve forgotten the rest of the list.

Here are titles I wish had been on the list:
-Kindred, by Octavia Butler, a 1976 publication that’s now a classic/staple of SFF
-The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russel (interesting to me that -Canticle for Leibowitz, which is great writing but rather less speculative, made the list but Sparrow didn’t)
-Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke (probably the most influential straight classic sci-fi I’ve ever read)
Silk Road, by Jeanne Larsen, for which I’m an unofficial one-woman publicity team. Gosh I wish even more people would read this book so I can talk about it with them!
-The Once and Future King, by TH White
-Interesting to me that nothing by Neil Gaiman made the list, especially since he’s made some significant contribution to widening sff readership in the last decade
-Also interesting that C.S. Lewis didn’t make the list, nor did H.G. Wells
-I got in an argument with someone the other day that Beloved is actually sff, but that doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion.
-I’m sure there are many others but that’s what I’ve thought of just now

And the books that are on the list that I really want to read after discussions at Sirens:
-Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K Le Guin
-Swordpoint, by Ellen Kushner
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, which I have yet to get around to

I’ll stop here. Please chime in!

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15 Responses to tallying up sci fi/fantasy exposure

  1. Wisteria789 says:

    I think I got to 21. I may have been distracted by the pretty covers, so it’s possible that count is inaccurate. You never read Once and Future King?!? Are you sure?

  2. haha no, my dear, that’s one of the titles i wish had been on the list!!!

    i read The Once and Future King AT YOUR BEACH HOUSE in 1999. it was the weekend of my 16th birthday, and it was the first time i ever ate shrimp. i remember it very, very vividly.

  3. oh… also… what are your 21? (you know, unless you have, like, work you need to do instead of sitting here and listing them…)

  4. jalluisi says:

    I have 22, also arrived at unintentionally 🙂 I do have to say, if you haven’t read ENDER’S GAME, get thee to the library. It’s not my personal #1 SFF book, but it would definitely be in my top 10, maybe even my top 5. A WRINKLE IN TIME was a book that comforted me greatly in my childhood and early adolescence. I read THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS many times as a teen and in college. Ray Bradbury is, IMO, the best SF writer of all time and I have read both of his books that appear on this list (hell, as a graduate student I wrote a curriculum unit around THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES). I had no idea that Ursula LeGuin had written so many well-regarded novels – I’ve read THE WIZARD OF EARTHSEA but none of the others, which I may now have to seek out. Yes to WoT, though I didn’t keep up with it, I got bored after about book 7 and never went back to it. And OMG, BRAVE NEW WORLD is very deserving of its place on this list above 1984 and ANIMAL FARM, I think – all three wonderful, classic SF examples, but I think BRAVE NEW WORLD doesn’t get the attention it deserves; it’s really the best book of the three.

    Like you, I’m baffled about the lack of Gaiman and C.S. Lewis on this list. Really? NEVERWHERE and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE aren’t top 100 material? I beg to differ. I would kick some of that Heinlein to the curb to include these. And one of my personal SFF books of all time that almost no one has ever heard of is THE HOUNDS OF THE MORRIGAN by Pat O’Shea – if you like Celtic mythology mixed with your children’s fantasy, you need to read this (think THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE but with strong Celtic influence).

  5. ooo, THE HOUNDS OF THE MORRIGAN–never heard of it! thanks for the rec!

  6. Faye says:

    You have totally done better than me. I’ve only read 12 books on this list! I think it’s extremely SF dominated, too, which I don’t read a lot of. And, well, I always take “Greatest books” lists with a grain of salt.

    I’ve read:

    96. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
    82. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
    57. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
    47. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    40. Animal Farm by George Orwell
    31. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    26. 1984 by George Orwell
    22. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
    13. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
    7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

  7. Thirty two of them. Yes, I read a lot of SF from an early age. It had characters who couldn’t stand unaided or breath the air or aged too quickly or whatever and were they considered disabled – no. They were just different and often superior. This little girl with braces and crutches put aside Nancy Drew and gobbled down the SF. Then in the seventies there was that wonderful explosion of feminist SF. For the list to include nothing by Joanna Russ is just screwy.

  8. Well, you’ve all got me beat. For a staunch, lifelong sff reader, I’ve only read a dismal 7!! However, where was David Brin?? Please tell me I didn’t trudge through The Uplift War in seventh grade JUST to impress my sci fi loving dad?? (Okay, it’s a good book, too).

    And if you’re going to read Anne McCaffrey, I recommend The Rowan. It’s a bit cheesy, but I loved it when I was a teen.

    I’m so relieved that you have, in fact, read The Once and Future King. This list really skews to sci fi in my opinion. Otherwise I would decry the lack of Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter which is AMAZING.

  9. Melina says:

    I’ve apparently got eleven: Mists of Avalon, Flowers for Algernon, The Hobbit, Cat’s Cradle, Hitchhiker’s Guide, A Wrinkle in Time, Fahrenheit 451, LOTR, Frankenstein, Master and Margarita, Alice in Wonderland. Six of those are things I read in school and probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. (Vonnegut and Bradbury, I’m looking at you.)

    I liked A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, but I re-read it recently and I was surprised at how important the Christian themes are to the story – all of that washed right over me when I was ten, but I found it hard to take at thirtyone. Most of them I liked a lot, though. I don’t know how you can have this list without TH White and CS Lewis, but there’s definitely a few things on there that I’ve been meaning to read, and some things I’d never heard of that sound interesting enough that I’ll look for them at the library…

  10. emilycross says:

    I got 4

    Such an awful score, lol. This is why I set up the basics challenge originally. Great list though, wish I’d seen this earlier – would been so much handier when I made my own.

  11. darn it. why did i post this?! now there are just even more books in my amazon cart. blarg.

    Sandra–I’d never heard of Joanna Russ until you mentioned her. Do you have a particular jumping-off point you’d recommend?

    Jennifer–The King of Elfland’s Daughter is the one Marie Brennan talked about in her keynote, yeah? This is one of those “how the heck have I missed this?” kinda books.

    • Well, probably her most famous piece is the short story “When It Changed.” Then there’s the novel “The Female Man” and the non-fiction “How to Suppress Women’s Writing.”

      And I so agree with you about Octavia Butler. I still have my 1978? Pocket edition of Kindred.

  12. waltermonkey says:

    “it doesn’t feature the works by any authors of color”

    It does. Samuel Delany is black. He’s also gay, if that matters to you.

    “C.S. Lewis didn’t make the list, nor did H.G. Wells”

    Wells did. War of the Worlds is #44.

    The books you didn’t mention which are two of my favorites of all time (from the list) are Slaughterhouse-Five and Hitchhiker’s Guide. Dune is incredible, but you have to enjoy using a glossary, and the Baroque Cycle was magnificent, but it’s 2600 pages.

    • Dude. Thanks. I can’t believe I overlooked those. Ha. Clearly I blasted through the list too quickly and don’t deserve to be generating media of my own 🙂

      Interesting re: Delaney–it does matter to me (maybe it shouldn’t, but that’s a different conversation)! I’m very interested to read some of his stuff now.

      I’ve read SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5, HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE, and DUNE, but not the Baroque Cycle. What was your tally? I imagine you hit a nice number. After all, it’s partly thanks to you I ever got through #55.

  13. Heather says:

    So I am ashamed that I have only read 8 of the books on the list. Those books are:

    Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey
    The Hobbit by Tolkien
    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    1984 by George Orwell
    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    If I include movies I have watched, I don’t feel so bad:

    I Am Legend
    Alice in Wonderland
    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    War of the Worlds
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    Okay, yes I do feel so bad. I am a writer and the gaps in my knowledge are way too wide! Ahh!

    I plan to read Jordan’s Wheel of Time, just as soon as I make sure the ending is good. Sounds dumb when I put it like that, but I was a huge fan of the show Lost. After an inexcusable ending (imho) like the one that show provided, I just don’t trust endings anymore. I think I know a blog that will let me know how Wheel of Time goes in the end… I wonder which blog that would be lol

    I agree about the startling lack of Lewis, Gaiman, and Brin. I think I’ll throw Terry Goodkind in there for good (get it, good?) measure. Sword of Truth anyone?

    Thanks for the cool post btw! Lovin it!

    Okay, back to work…

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