The debate over the best sci-fi books remains a rage-point among nerds since before people even identified as nerds. But there are some books every sci-fi fan must read, regardless of how "mainstream" or "far-fetched" its ideas or plot points may seem. In the realm of sci-fi, there exists certain required science fiction books for nerds to boast any sort of credibility. If you find yourself getting into science fiction, you might be wondering how to prove you’re a true nerd like all the loudest guys (you know they're guys) on your fave sub-Reddit. Name drop one of these titles for some immediate nerd cred, or at the very least an understanding of what it means to appreciate sci-fi.
The more on this list you can check off the closer you'll get to the sci-fi nerd singularity. No shortage of great science fiction novels exists, with numerous titles written by some of the most imaginative authors to put pen to paper. But to become the king of the nerdiest of nerd hobbies the following must be experienced.
The story of a desert planet prized for its valuable spice continues to serve as a gateway to advanced science fiction novels since its publication in 1965. When the Atreides noble family gets tasked with controlling the planet, Arrakis, most members of the family fail to realize it as a plot to disrupt the clan's power. Author Frank Herbert continued the saga across several more novels (with other authors producing even more beyond that). It’s the first novel, however, that has become one of the most beloved works of science fiction literature of all time. After its publication Dune won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Its status has only grown since with millions of copies sold, a cult classic film adaptation, and comparisons with monumental works in other genres such as Lord of the Rings.
Author: Frank Herbert
First Published: 1965
#51 on The Best Books for Teens
#30 on The Best Fantasy Book Seriessee more on Dune
One of the best parts of science fiction lies in its ability to provide allegories for the real world without sounding preachy or didactic. The pinnacle of these allegorical sci-fi novels is perhaps Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. The story of an endless, unwinnable war between humans and aliens draws on Haldeman’s experiences while serving in the Vietnam War. Several parallels connect the fictional war to the real one, along with the time one loses while serving in a conflict. The book went on to win the Locus, Hugo, and Nebula awards, and still contains important allegorical lessons for the world today.
Author: Joe Haldeman
First Published: 1974
#12 on The Best Sci Fi Book Seriessee more on The Forever War
Douglas Adams’s best selling novel actually started its life as a radio broadcast in the UK. Since its publication, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has become a beloved text for nerds throughout the English-speaking world. The intergalactic comic adventure sees the Earth destroyed and its protagonist thrust into a world of curious alien cultures. A cult hit with American audiences, Hitchhiker’s Guide placed fourth in the BBC’s “Big Read” survey to find the most beloved book in the UK.
Author: Douglas Adams
First Published: 1979
#25 on The Best Novels Ever Written
#27 on The Best Books for Teenssee more on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The sheer volume of Neal Stephenson’s opus, both in page count and subject matter, presents an intimidating challenge for even the most strident nerd. Post-apocalyptic yet steeped in prehistoric mythology, Snow Crash follows the dual life of Hiro Protagonist, who lives in the real world as a pizza deliveryman and in the virtual world as a fearsome warrior. When a virus threatens to destroy the contents of the Internet, Protagonist rises to face the mysterious threat.
Despite its daunting reputation, the book achieved a far reaching influence on the modern world, including in the development of the modern Internet and online terminology such as the term "avatar." Perhaps the book’s most impressive bona fide is its inclusion on Time’s list of the hundred best English-language novels written since 1923.
Author: Neal Stephenson
First Published: 1992
Also Rankedsee more on Snow Crash