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.
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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.
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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.
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The science fiction genre often gets viewed as a twentieth century phenomenon, even though true nerds know the rich history of sci-fi owes so much to pioneer authors like H.G. Wells. In The Time Machine, Wells dreams up the titular device that would fast become a staple of fiction of all kinds. Influential too was the post-apocalyptic tale of conflict between the peaceful Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks. Countless film adaptations, homages, and parodies over the years ensured that The Time Machine’s reputation never dimmed in the century since it was published. Humans may be no closer to time travel than they were a century ago, but the concept remains just as compelling.
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Isaac Asimov’s name is synonymous with sci-fi and I, Robot may be his greatest achievement. The collection of interconnected short stories concerning robotics inspired countless authors, artists, and filmmakers since its publication in 1950. Don’t be fooled by the 2004 film adaptation that reimagines the books as a straight action film. Delving into Asimov's I, Robot is much more of an intellectual exercise. Asimov’s three laws of robotics, originated here, burn themselves into the memories of every true sci-fi nerd.