Should come as no surprise to anyone that science fiction books are as popular today as they’ve ever been, they allow us to transport ourselves clear across the galaxy to explore universes filled with adventure, excitement, and surprise – even as modern technology brings us closer and closer to the worlds classic sci-fi envisioned so long ago.
Below we highlight some of the best science fiction books ever written, classics and contemporary options that any fan of the genre would love to read!
Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition
This is one of the most influential science fiction titles ever written but also happens to be one of the best books in general written in the last 100 years as well. The story follows a young boy tasked with growing up under the constant threat of alien invasion while exploring his unique gifts and abilities that can contribute to the coming war as well.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Painting a very scary dystopian future, particularly for women, this title has gained a tremendous amount of popularity in the last 10 years and has even been turned into a critically acclaimed TV series. Filled with high drama, suspense, and intrigue it’s a great title for anyone serious about sci-fi.
The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past)
This book tells the story of Earth recognizing that an alien invasion is imminent, but also moves through 400 years that show the conflict and how things shake out. It’s a great entry point for this sci-fi trilogy.
Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2)
The second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, many people find this to be the best book in the series – as well as the best movie that was adapted from this title. There are twists, turns, sacrifices, and betrayals that fans of sci-fi will be moved by.
A very modern title that’s starting to grab a lot of attention in the sci-fi community, this book was a finalist for the Hugo Award and many find it to be even better than its prequel. Following an alien that brokered peace between two warring worlds and societies, the relationships and drama in this title are really what helped to set it apart from everything else.
The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle)
Stephen King described this as one of the best books ever written, and not just one of the best science fiction titles, it highlight some of the deeper, darker, and moral and ethical questions that sci-fi sometimes does not want to plumb. The story follows a brilliant physicist as he tries to unite two different planets that have known nothing but war and conflict in their history.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
It would be impossible to have any list of the best science fiction titles without this book included. A full compilation of all five of the Douglas Adams books that make up the Hitchhiker series you get everything that makes this title so special under a single cover. One of the must-read sci-fi titles for sure.
A classic in the sci-fi genre, but also a nice crossover with the horror genre as well, Mary Shelley hit an absolute home run when she wrote Frankenstein on a bit of a lark oh so many years ago. There’s just something about the human side of this scientific experiment gone wrong, the creation of the Frankenstein monster, that continues to captivate readers still today.
The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition (Ace Science Fiction)
The 50th anniversary of this science fiction book brings together some gorgeous cover artwork but the story is just as good today as it was 50 years ago. The story revolves around a Galactic emissary conducting a mission to the Winter planet all with a singular goal of trying to bridge the distinct gulf between his people and the people he has been sent to work with.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Penguin Galaxy)
Though 2001 is a masterpiece in the world of cinema a lot of people are unaware of the fact that the story (written more than 50 years ago) was first put forward in novel form. They quickly became one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite books and one that he was desperate to turn into the master class in filmmaking he later created on-screen. The story today is just as riveting, just as captivating, and just as tense as it was when it was first penned.
Snow Crash: A Novel
Time magazine described this as one of the 100 best English language novels ever written, a novel that is unique, completely distinct, and unlike absolutely anything else that has ever come before it. The book follows a pizza delivery boy in the “real world” but shows that when he plunges into the digital metaverse he becomes a warrior prince – and that’s just the beginning. Let’s just say it’s a wild ride.
The War of the Worlds
Another classic of the sci-fi genre that fans of these types of books just can’t skip, The War of the Worlds is culturally one of the most significant books ever written as well. The radio playing scared the daylights out of America when it was the first broadcast by Orson Welles, but the book written by HG Wells is even better.
Brave New World
Some people hold Brave New World (written in 1931) right up there with 1984 as one avenue that modern society could take if we allow technology to profoundly change our culture, our society, and the very essence of humanity itself. Considered to be groundbreaking when it was first written nearly 100 years ago the book hasn’t aged all that much and still gives a very strong warning of the future we could very well see become a reality.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Getting an opportunity to plumb the depths of the deepest oceans with Captain Nemo in the most highly regarded English, unabridged modern translation available on the market today is possible with this title. The story leaps right off the page filled with tension, action, and adventure. It’s easy to see why it is such a beloved science-fiction book even though it was written in 1875.
When this book was first published it became an immediate sensation, winning both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best science fiction novel of the year. The adventure story told here is engaging right from the very first page, and the scope and scale of the story as it takes you throughout the galaxy – as well as the world-building aspects of Ringworld itself – help to separate this title from the rest of the pack.
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, Book 1)
The first book of a trilogy that’s been hailed as a complete masterwork of science fiction (from the same author that created The Hollow Man), we are introduced to a gang of ragtag characters led by one of the most charismatic and interesting people to ever leap off the pages of sci-fi books. A galaxy is at war, seven different pilgrims look to solve critical riddles, and the twists and turns here will leave you ripping through the pages and hungry for more.
The Time Machine (Enriched Classics)
This story was written almost 100 years ago but remains engaging, interesting, and full of intrigue. An adventure story wrapped around a science fiction mystery, the ins and outs of the Time Traveler and his experiences are something you have to read for yourself to fully understand. This enriched classic updates the language a bit to make it easier for modern readers.
The Forever War
The coolest thing about this book is that it was almost never written at all. The idea for this story was drummed up at a meeting of the Iowa Writers Workshop as a fun little thesis to bounce around but later became the basis for a story that’s gone on to win the Hugo and Nebula awards while being turned into plays, graphic novels, and now a feature film. This book has been long hailed for its realistic grittiness and view on intergalactic warfare, with much of these scenes based on the experiences of the author when they were serving in Vietnam. Many authors have dubbed this the greatest military sci-fi novel ever written.
Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
Fahrenheit 451 paints a horrific picture of what our society could become if we give in to the “Era of the Screens”. We learn about a futuristic firefighter that isn’t hired to put out flames but is instead hired to burn books. Ranking right up there with Brave New World and 1984, there are bits and pieces of this novel that are starting to look more and more like reality and less like science fiction – and that isn’t great news. That may make reading Fahrenheit 451 even more important today than it ever was in the past. It doesn’t hurt that the writing, characters, and the story is pulled off to perfection, of course.