Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sunday Salon - Guardian Unlimited's 124 science fiction and fantasy books to read....

The Sunday

So, for this week's Sunday Salon, I thought I would continue with the science fiction and fantasy theme, especially as I discovered yesterday that Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings has a wonderful post on Jan 22, '124 Science fiction and fantasy novels you must read before you die' list, that was published by Guardian Books also on the 22: you can find their list here: Guardian part one, for those who want to go see why the books were chosen. From there, you can find your way to part two and three. Please note that fantasy and horror are part of their criteria, and this is part of their greater '1000 novels everyone must read before they die' list.

So, here is the list, with the ones I've read in bold, the ones I have on my TBR pile italicized, and ones I've read other books by the author marked by an asterick (this is so I don't look quite so ill-read!):

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)

3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)*

4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)*

5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)

6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)

7. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)

8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)*

9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)

10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)

11. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)

12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)

13. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)

14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)

15. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)

16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)

17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)

18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)

19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)

20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)

21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)

22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)

23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)

24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)*

25. Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

26. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)*

28. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)

29. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)

30. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)*

31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)

32. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)

33. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)

34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000) * I hated this. I tried it, and will not ever finish it.

35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)

36. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)

37. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)

39. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988) *

40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)

41. John Fowles: The Magus (1966) *

42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)

43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973) *

44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)

45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915) *

46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)

47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)

48. M John Harrison: Light (2002)

49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) *

50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)

51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943) *

52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)

53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)

55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)

56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)

57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959) *

58. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)

59. PD James: The Children of Men (1992) *

60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)

61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)

62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)

63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)

64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977) *

65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)

66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)

67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)

68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)

69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)

70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)

71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)

72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)

73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954) *

74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)

75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)

76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)

77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)

78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)

79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)

80. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)

81. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)

82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)

83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)

84. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)

85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)

86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)

87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)

88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)

89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)

90. Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)

91. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)

92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)

93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)

94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)

95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)

96. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)

97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)

98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)

100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) *

101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)

103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)

104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)

105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)

106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)

107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989) *

108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)

109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)

110. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)

111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)

113. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889) *

114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)

115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)

116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)

117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999) *

118. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)

119. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)

120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)

121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83) *

122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)

123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

Apparently, I am reading all the wrong books by authors! Several authors I've read other works by, but the Guardian editors chose books that were representative of the author's influence, and on the field the book is published in. It's actually an interesting read in itself, for instance, for Douglas Adams, they write:
"Originating as a BBC radio series in 1978, Douglas Adams's inspired melding of hippy-trail guidebook and sci-fi comedy turned its novelisations into a publishing phenomenon. Douglas wrote five parts from 1979 onwards (the first sold 250,000 in three months), introducing the world to Marvin the Paranoid Android, the computer Deep Thought, space guitarist Hotblack Desiato (named after Adams's local estate agent) and the Guide itself, a remarkably prescient forerunner to the internet.
Andrew Pulver

There are several books on the list I have been meaning to read, without getting around to buying the book yet: Foundation, Lost Souls, The Stars My Destination, Foucault's Pendulum, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Red Shift, Revelation Space, Snowcrash....

Now, I did and I do disagree with this list. There is nowhere near the amount of fantasy authors that have shaped it, that should be on this list: no Tolkien, no Lewis, no Jane Yolen, no no Lord Dunsany or William Morris (Wood at World's End), no Jack Vance (Lyonesse), which I consider essential fantasy reading. How can the 124 novels to read not have The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, which shaped the fantasy field? So, read the list and let me know how many you have read! If you post about it, please let me know and I'll add your link below.

One thing I am rediscovering is my love of science fiction. I had moved away from reading it over the years, and I'm not sure why. I started with Isaac Asimov and Robert A Heinlein, but hard science fiction never interested me. I was more interested in space opera, in the theme of people exploring the stars. There has also been such an explosion in books available in every genre in the last 20 or 30 years, that it is hard to keep up with new books every year. One thing I have been considering is taking some time to read only in one genre for a while - say, catch up on my fantasy reading for several months, and then move to mystery, and then science fiction. I don't know. I do know I seem to be falling further behind in my reading, even though I am beginning to read more books per year now!

I have taken some time with making my lists of what I want to read here, and challenges I want to join, because I'm not sure what I want to read. I have been pulling books from my shelves in the past few weeks, and suddenly have two huge piles of fantasy and mystery books to read, plus some science fiction for Carl's ongoing mini Sci-fi Experience. I envy, sometimes, people who are happy to read in one genre only, because they aren't worried about books in other areas to read and have a chance to read all the really good ones all the time. Then, I think, what they are missing - I wouldn't have missed reading Middlemarch for anything, and I'm glad I read Dune and Farmer in the Sky (still one of my favourite scifi books ever), even though I don't read as much science fiction or classics as I do other areas. I love books. I love books in almost all areas, and I don't want to limit myself to one genre, as much as i think I want to. Because then suddenly there's great mysteries being published, and then all the great ghost stories, and there are so many good stories being told!

If you follow Carl's link to Sci-fi Signal, this is a fabulous site to discover everything new in the science fiction universe on all mediums - tv, movies, books, etc. Well worth checking out, if you enjoy science fiction.

I leave you now with final thoughts from Ursula K Le Guin, from her book of essays, The Language of the Night, Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. She defines science fiction as Outer Space, and fantasy as Inner Lands, in her A Citizen of Mondath essay. "I don't entirely understand why Dunsany came to me as a revelation, why that moment was so decisive....Whatever the reason, the moment was decisive. I had discovered my native country." p 26. Isn't that a beautiful moment of finding a kind of book that one belongs to? That is how I felt when I first read The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings: I had come home. There was, and is, nothing I love so much as a well-told, fully imagined fantasy novel. Something magical happens in exploring that Inner Land. Le Guin links fantasy and science fiction in an unusual way: 'The book [Lord Dunsany's A Dreamer's Tales,] belonged to my father, a scientist, and was a favourite of his; in fact he had a large appetite for fantasy. I have wondered if there isn't some real connection between a certain kind of scientific-mindedness (the exporative, synthesizing kind) and fantasy-mindedness. Perhaps 'science fiction' really isn't a such bad name for our genre after all. Those who dislike fantasy are often equally bored or repelled by science. They don't like either hobbits, or quasars; they don't feel at home with them, they don't want complexities, remoteness. If there is any such connection, I'll bet that it is basically an aesthetic one.
"The limits, and the great spaces of fantasy and science fiction are precisely what my imagination needs. Outer space, and the Inner Lands, are still, and always will be, my country."

Isn't that a beautiful way of expressing why so many of us read both fantasy and science fiction? And I also use that as my definition of science fiction and fantasy now: science fiction is Outer Space, and fantasy is Inner Lands.



Cath said...

I often think my reading life would be so much simpler if I only read in one genre and it's interesting to hear someone else say the same thing. It hasn't worked out that way though and I do believe that us eclectic readers are an interesting bunch. It seems we're fascinated by everything and hate to miss a good book be it sci fi, fantasy, crime or a classic. I wouldn't change it for the world but do envy those whose choices are much simpler when it comes to choosing their next read. My eclectic tastes have turned me into a terrible ditherer!

Nymeth said...

I can see why you have problems with the list. Part of what you dislike about is is what I like about it - that it's unconventional, that in a way it bridges the gap between genre and mainstream fiction. But I wish it had done so without leaving so many classic fantasy authors behind (it does seem that traditional fantasy was more neglected than sci-fi, doesn't it?)

I haven't read Lyonesse yet...I should, shouldn't I?

Ursula is so wise.

Susan said...

Cath: I like saying we are an interesting bunch! lol It does relieve me that you say the same thing, though Ursula points out in the same essay I quote from that she for about 15 years didn't read any science fiction at all, before she returned to writing it. She read widely in her formative years. I like books too much to restrict myself to one genre. I think it's a good thing in the long run, but yes, 'dithering' is another good expression for us!!

Nymeth: traditional fantasy suffers from having the same 5 authors mentioned,so they get left off these lists, but I think its' unfair - their legacy is important. How can Dracula be more important than LoTR? I think too that children's authors were on the whole left off - I was surprised to see Alan Garner on it, and especially not for his better known works, which I love! and I am beginning to realize a lot of good work is being done here. I think the list was British and sf in orientation.
Lyonesse really is a fabulous read. I gave my copy away years ago and am looking for another one now. I want to reread this book again.
Interesting that you like for reasons I don't - in my mind, science fiction is different from horror and from fantasy, and none of them should really be on the same list, because they don't have much in common, except, as Urusula says, it's aesthetic...maybe. And they stuck gothics on there too, so maybe it was under 'speculative' fiction, or 'fantastical' that they devised the list. The sites I link to (and Carl) are great for finding all the debates online about this list and others!!

Bybee said...

I've read 10 on that list! I'm a little surprised it was that high!

Michelle said...

I think this list is proving to be a good conversation starter! I am amazed at the number of books I've read on that list (16) and there are many more that I'd like to read. I had no idea!

Nymeth said...

Susan, you make an excellent point. It really would be more accurate to just call it "124 speculative fiction books".

Susan said...

bybee: actually, I was depressed to see i'd read only 17! It makes me feel so not well read at all! though since you don't read as much fantasy or sf as I do, 10 is good for you! ( Your fantasy bookslut must be happy! Mine is threatening to pack her bags if I don't up my quota really soon).

michelle: I know, there is such a wide variety covered on this list, as Nymeth and I have been discussing in these comments. You're right, it is a good conversation starter!!

nymeth: I guess next is to see who starts the next challenge for reading more books on this list! lol Not me, I'm planning the mythopoeic challenge :-)

L. Clarke said...

G,day I loved Dead Empires Fall by Walter Williams and Star Hammer.
I love science fiction writing and think it is a great mind expanding genre. I am a humanitarian but agree with the concept of therio primitivism for humans and their interaction with other species. I have tried to use it as a motive in my own fiction writing. I have tried to show the fundamental horrors of not being ontop of the food chain in my novel called Doom Of The Shem.
Doom Of The Shem is a science fiction novel that incorporates the horror of military action with the unavoidable hostilities that occur when an alien species invades a planet in search of food. The barbarity of war is brought to light by the work achieved by the nurses and medical personnel of the planets inhabitants. While a full blown military action story emerges from an ensuing war that involves the whole planet. It is especially centered on a squad of the planets army forces, who fight the alien invaders. These nasties try to subjugate captured species my genetic manipulation such as in Dr Moreau, and use these creatures to run fast food outlets across their empire, giving out a free plastic toy with every sale of a Happy Hatchling Brain Burger.