Quiz: can you name these fictional characters?

A US blogger has come up with a, erm, novel way to help us visualise what various characters from famous fiction look like. But can you match the faces with the descriptions?


So who is who? Answers at the bottom…

So who is who? Answers at the bottom? Photograph: Brian Joseph Davis

All fiction is a work of the imagination. We read the same words but everyone has their own picture of what the characters look like. My Lady Chatterley is not your Lady Chatterley. Nor is either of ours DH Lawrence’s. So where do we get our images from and how do we create them? Do we bend the text to make it fit familiar figures that are knocking around in our subconscious? Or does the power of the description create something unique? And what about those characters we also encounter in film? If you were to read Casino Royale now, would you have Daniel Craig in mind? Or Sean Connery? Or, if you’re weird, George Lazenby?

US blogger Brian Joseph Davis, co-founder of the website Joylandhas come up with a fresh approach. Working from the author’s descriptions, he has used law-enforcement composite software to create photofit images. Can you match them to their descriptions?


Humbert Humbert (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

“Gloomy good looks … Clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice … broad shoulder … I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male.”


Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert)

“She was pale all over, white as a sheet; the skin of her nose was drawn at the nostrils, her eyes looked at you vaguely … Her eyelids seemed chiseled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared.”


Keith Talent (London Fields by Martin Amis)

“Keith didn’t look like a murderer … Keith looked like a murderer’s dog, eager familiar of ripper or body snatcher or gravestalker. His eyes held a strange radiance – for a moment it reminded you of health, health hidden or sleeping or otherwise mysteriously absent.”


Tess (Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy)

“She was a fine and handsome girl – not handsomer than some others, possibly – but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape …”

Answers: 1) Keith Talent; 2) Emma Bovary; 3) Humbert Humbert 4) Tess



Why We Shouldn’t Hate the Word “Like”

Think “like” is an offense on the English language introduced by Valley Girls in the 1980s? Think again.

Language gripes have the staying power of cockroaches and Betty White. Complaints about “their” being used as a singular pronoun are rarely quelled by the fact that it’s been used that way since the 1300s. The seemingly harmless “no problem” continues to annoy people who feel “you’re welcome” is the only acceptable response to “thank you.” (Myself, I favor, “That’s what your mom said.”) Let’s not even get into the complaints about “whom”—a word as dead as disco that just won’t go away.

Then there’s “like,” especially the type I just overheard on the street: “I’m just, like, so excited because I’m, like, so passionate about it.” That’s the version people think is almost always used by women and teens and makes anyone sound foolish. Recently, the wonderful Emma Thompson came out as a like-hater. I can’t say I like “like” much myself, but this word is surrounded by more illusions than a magician’s convention, and they should be dispelled.

First, let’s take the mostly non-controversial meanings. No one I know has a problem with “like” as a comparative word, but I guess that’s because I missed the fifties by two decades. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in an excellent essay: Winstons’ “tastes good, like a cigarette should” slogan was loathed by fans of “as,” to which the company’s next ad responded, “What do you want, good grammar, or good taste?” In reality, “like” with this sense is extremely established; it’s been around since the 1600s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. As usual, the language peevers were wrong about the wrongs they tried to right.

“Like” in the sense of “liking” is similarly non-offensive, at least until the takeover of Facebook’s ubiquitous “like” feature. This use of “like” reduces the term to an effortless, meaningless gesture, much like the “favorite” feature on Twitter. As Victor Pineiro writes, “’Like’ is a vast expanse, covering things I feel lukewarm about, things I’m fond of and objects toward which I exhibit a smoldering passion. But give me a sunny day and some good music and there are few things I don’t like—which makes the button a notoriously easy impulse click.” Not a lot to like there.

Facebook is also home to some old-fashioned peeving, as seen in the groups “Abolish inappropriate use of the word LIKE in the English Language” and “Excessive misuse of the word ‘LIKE': A Manifesto.” The latter refers to “like” as a “common scourge” that acts as a parasite on its “unaware hosts.” This sense of “like” as a disease can also be found in the writing of far more informed sources, such as etymologist Anatoly Liberman, who calls it a “plague.”

Despite these exaggerated, medicalized descriptions, there is nothing particularly flu-ish or vermin-like about “like”—all of its uses obey rules and have meaning. One sense functions like “said,” as in “He was like, ‘Whoa.’” Another is what linguists call a discourse marker; words such as “like” and “you know” and “um” separate words and phrases in a way that sounds will-nilly but is governed by rules. It seems like you can stick “like” anywhere in a sentence, but you can’t and people don’t. In speech, discourse markers help us communicate. There’s nothing remotely new about this; the OED has an example from 1778: “Father grew quite uneasy, like, for fear of his Lordship’s taking offence.”

A few years ago, Alexandra D’arcy wrote a comprehensive look at disliked “like” in the linguistics journal American Speech called “Like and Language Ideology: Disentangling Fact from Fiction.” One of the fictions is that “like” is an Americanism inflicted on us by the Valley Girls of the eighties. That’s incorrect, as it is older (see the previous paragraph) and can be found among English-speakers all over the world. In fact, the existence of elderly “like” users in the U.K. and New Zealand disproves the American-ness of like as well as the supposed youth-iness. In another blow to stereotypes, women don’t use “like” more often than men. “Like” really is more common among teens than other groups, but all age groups from teens to geezers use it. Everyone uses “like.” Maybe that’s why everyone seems to hate it.

At this point, I wish I could say “Put that information in your pipe, smoke it, and take it easy on ‘like’ from now on.” But all the citations and study in the world can’t dispute the reality that saying “like” too much makes people sound like morons. And while I’d love to throw it off the roof of a high building, I can’t. It’s far too ingrained in our speech, with too many meanings and uses. We’re, like, stuck with it.




E-books Can’t Burn


Jacqueline Rush Lee, Little Red Book (Devotion Series), 2008

Interviewed after winning England’s Costa Prize for Literature in late January, the distinguished novelist Andrew Miller remarked that while he assumed that soon most popular fiction would be read on screen, he believed and hoped that literary fiction would continue to be read on paper. In his Man Booker Prize acceptance speech last October, Julian Barnes made his own plea for the survival of printed books. Jonathan Franzen has also declared himself of the same faith. At the university where I work, certain professors, old and young, will react with disapproval at the notion that one is reading poetry on a Kindle. It is sacrilege.

Are they right?

In practical terms it is all too easy to defend the e-book. We can buy a text instantly wherever we are in the world. We pay less. We use no paper, occupy no space. Kindle’s wireless system keeps our page, even when we open the book on a different reader than the one we left off. We can change the type size according to the light and our eyesight. We can change the font according to our taste. Cooped up in the press of the metro, we turn the pages by applying a light pressure of the thumb. Lying in bed, we don’t have that problem of having to use two hands to keep a fat paperback open.

But I want to go beyond practicality to the reading experience itself, our engagement with the text. What is it that these literary men and women are afraid of losing should the paper novel really go into decline? Surely not the cover, so often a repository of misleading images and tediously fulsome endorsements. Surely not the pleasure of running fingers and eyes over quality paper, something that hardly alters whether one is reading Jane Austen or Dan Brown. Hopefully it is not the quality of the paper that determines our appreciation for the classics.

Could it be the fact that the e-book thwarts our ability to find particular lines by remembering their position on the page? Or our love of scribbling comments (of praise and disgust) in the margin? It’s true that on first engagement with the e-book we become aware of all kinds of habits that are no longer possible, skills developed over many years that are no longer relevant. We can’t so easily flick through the pages to see where the present chapter ends, or whether so and so is going to die now or later. In general, the e-book discourages browsing, and though the bar at the bottom of the screen showing the percentage of the book we’ve completed lets us know more or less where we’re up to, we don’t have the reassuring sense of the physical weight of the thing (how proud children are when they get through their first long tome!), nor the computational pleasures of page numbers (Dad, I read 50 pages today). This can be a problem for academics: it’s hard to give a proper reference if you don’t have page numbers.

But are these old habits essential? Mightn’t they actually be distracting us from the written word itself? Weren’t there perhaps specific pleasures when reading on parchment scroll that we know nothing of and have lived happily without? Certainly there were those who lamented the loss of calligraphy when the printing press made type impersonal. There were some who believed that serious readers would always prefer serious books to be copied by hand.

What are the core characteristics of literature as a medium and an art form? Unlike painting there is no physical image to contemplate, nothing that impresses itself on the eye in the same way, given equal eyesight. Unlike sculpture, there is no artifact you can walk around and touch. You don’t have to travel to look at literature. You don’t have to line up or stand in the crowd, or worry about getting a good seat. Unlike music you don’t have to respect its timing, accepting an experience of a fixed duration. You can’t dance to it or sing along or take a photo or make a video with your phone.

Literature is made up of words. They can be spoken or written. If spoken, volume and speed and accent can vary. If written, the words can appear in this or that type-face on any material, with any impagination. Joyce is as much Joyce in Baskerville as in Times New Roman. And we can read these words at any speed, interrupt our reading as frequently as we choose. Somebody who reads Ulysses in two weeks hasn’t read it any more or less than someone who reads it in three months, or three years.

Only the sequence of the words must remain inviolate. We can change everything about a text but the words themselves and the order they appear in. The literary experience does not lie in any one moment of perception, or any physical contact with a material object (even less in the “possession” of handsome masterpieces lined up on our bookshelves), but in the movement of the mind through a sequence of words from beginning to end. More than any other art form it is pure mental material, as close as one can get to thought itself. Memorized, a poem is as surely a piece of literature in our minds as it is on the page. If we say the words in sequence, even silently without opening our mouths, then we have had a literary experience—perhaps even a more intense one than a reading from the page. It’s true that our owning the object—War and Peace or Moby Dick—and organizing these and other classics according to chronology and nation of origin will give us an illusion of control: as if we had now “acquired” and “digested” and “placed” a piece of culture. Perhaps that is what people are attached to. But in fact we all know that once the sequence of words is over and the book closed what actually remains in our possession is very difficult, wonderfully difficult to pin down, a richness (or sometimes irritation) that has nothing to do with the heavy block of paper on our shelves.

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.

Add to that the e-book’s ease of transport, its international vocation (could the Iron Curtain have kept out e-books?), its indestructibility (you can’t burn e-books), its promise that all books will be able to remain forever in print and what is more available at reasonable prices, and it becomes harder and harder to see why the literati are not giving the phenomenon a more generous welcome.

February 15, 2012, 3:55 p.m. – 

Tim Parks



The Oddest Book Titles



  • 8th International Friction Stir Welding Symposium Proceedings, various authors.
  • The Generosity of the Dead, by Graciela Nowenstein.
  • Winner: Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way, by Michael R Young.
  • Myth of the Social Volcano, by Martin King Whyte.
  • What Color is Your Dog?, by Joel Silverman.




  • The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, by Ellen Scheri, Maria Dubinsky.
  • Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich, by James Yannes.
  • Winner: Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes, by Daina Talmina.
  • Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, by Ronald Arkin.
  • What Kind of Bean is this Chihuaha?, by Tara Jansen-Meyer.
  • Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter, by David Crompton.




  • All Dogs have ADHD, by Kathy Hoopman.
  • Baboon Metaphysics, by Dorothy Cheney.
  • Christian Texts for Aztecs, by Jaime Lara.
  • Curbside Consultation of the Colon, by Brooks Cash.
  • A God or a Bench, by Anne Betty Weinshenker.
  • Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings, by Kuzhali Manickavel.
  • Living with Dormice, by Sue Eden.
  • Malformed Frogs, by Michael Lannoo.
  • Sketches of Hull Authors, by Reginald Walter Corlass.
  • Strip and Knit with Style, by Mark Hordyszynski.
  • Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring, by Lietai Yang.
  • Winner: The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Frommage Frais, by Philip Parker.
  • The Emotional Life of Contemporary Public Memorials, by Erika Doss.
  • The Large Sieve and its Applications, by Emmanuel Kowalksi.
  • The Price of Everything, by Russell Roberts.
  • Toilets that Make Compost, by Peter Morgan.




  • Are Women Human? and Other International Dialogues, by Catherine MacKinnon.
  • Cheese Problems Solved, edited by PLH McSweeney.
  • How to Write a How to Write Book, by Brian Paddock.
  • I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen, by Jasper McCutcheon.
  • People Who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Doctor Feelgood, by Dee Gordon.




  • Better Never to Have Been: the Harm of Coming into Existence, by David Benatar.
  • D Di Mascio’s Delicious Ice Cream: D Di Mascio of Coventry – an Ice Cream company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans, by Roger De Boer, Harvey Pitcher, Alan Wilkinson.
  • How Green Were the Nazis? 
- Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich, edited by Franz-Josef Brueggemeier, Mark Cioc, Thomas Zeller.
  • Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium, edited by Robert Anderson, Juliet Brodie, Edvar Onsoyen, Alan Critchley.
  • Winner: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, by Julian Montague, published by Harry N Abrams.
  • Runner Up: Tattoed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan: Magic Medicine Symbols in Silk, Stone, Wood and Flesh, by Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov, Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov, Alex Binnie.




  • Ancient Starch Research, by Robin Torrence and Huw J Barton.
  • Bullying and Sexual Harassment: A Practical Handbook
  • Circumcisions by Appointment; A View of Life in and Around Manchester in the Eighteenth Century, by Roy Westall
  • Dining Posture in Ancient Rome, by Matthew Roller.
  • How to Toilet Train Your Cat: The Education of Mango by Eric Brotman.
  • Introduction to Adult Swallowing
  • Knitting with Dog Hair: Better a Sweater From a Dog you Know and Love Than From a Sheep You’ll Never Meet, by Kendall Crolius.
  • Living with Sheep: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock, by Geoff Hansen and Chuck Wooster.
  • Nessus, Snort and Ethereal Powertools: Customizing Open Source Security Applications, by Neil Archibald, Gilbert Ramirez, Noam Rathaus, Josh Burke.
  • Winner: People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders – and What to Do About It, by Gary Leon Hill, said to have sold 15,000 copies.
  • Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, by Meera Nanda.
  • Queen Victoria and Ping-pong: Diaries of a Girl a Century Ago, by Gwendolen Freeman.
  • Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa, by Simon Milledge.
  • Scouting for Boys
  • Short Walks at Land’s End
  • Soil Nailing: Best Practice Guidance, by C Dew, B Ozsoy, NJ Wharmby, J Judge, AD Barley, A Phear.
  • Urogenital Manipulation
  • What Bird Did That?: A Driver’s Guide to Some Common Birds of North America, by Burton Silver.




  • The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox
  • Application of High Tech Squids
  • Winner: Bombproof Your Horse, by Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden
  • Detecting Foreign Bodies in Food
  • Equids in Time and Space
  • Sexual Health at your Fingertips




  • Winner: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan
  • Design for Impact: 50 Years of Airline Safety Cards
  • Hot Topics in Urology
  • 227 Secrets Your Snake Wants You to Know, by Paulette Cooper.
  • The Voodoo Revenge Book: An Anger Management Program You Can Really Stick With




  • The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy: Open Your Mind to Greater Creative Thinking
  • First You Take a Leek
  • Forensic Examination of Rubber Stamps
  • Winner: Living with Crazy Buttocks, by Kaz Cooke.
  • Melons for the Passionate Grower
  • Passing Gas
  • Postmortem Collectibles, by C L Miller.
  • Red-Haired Irishwomen on the Bog
  • Second-hand Parrots: A Complete Owner’s Manual
  • Six-Legged Sex: The Erotic Lives of Bugs
  • Wigglers, Undulators, and Their Applications
  • Without Regret: A Handbook for Owners of Canine Amputees
  • Women and Integrated Pest Management




  • The Art and Craft of Pounding Flowers: No Paint, No Ink, Just a Hammer!
  • Winner: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service, by Gerard Forlin.
  • Fancy Coffins to Make Yourself, by Dale Power.
  • The Flat-Footed Flies of Europe
  • Lightweight Sandwich Construction
  • Tea Bag Folding




  • Did Lewis Carroll Visit Llandudno
  • Winner: High Performance Stiffened Structures
  • Psoriasis at Your Fingertips, by Tim Mitchell, Rebecca Penzer, Gillian Clarke, Jane Taylor.
  • The Sexual Male: Problems and Solutions
  • Wood Carving with a Chainsaw




  • Betel Chewing Equipment of East New Guinea
  • Good Practice with Violence.
  • Guide to Eskimo Rolling, by Derek Hutchinson
  • Lakeside Car Parks
  • Male Genitalia of Butterflies of the Balkan Peninsula, with a Checklist
  • Procrastination and Task Avoidance: Theory, Research and Treatment
  • Toothpick Culture and Ice Cream Stick Art
  • Winner: Weeds in a Changing World
  • Women and Wasteland Development




  • Winner: Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders in Supermarket Cashiers;





  • Winner: Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers (In 2008, this also won the prize as the oddest oddest title of the 30 years of competition)




  • Winner: Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes,
  • Earthworms of Ontario;




  • Winner: Highlights in the History of Concrete




  • Winner: American Bottom Archaeology




  • Winner: How to Avoid Huge Ships



  • What do Bunnies do all day?




  • Winner: Versailles: The View From Sweden




  • Winner: Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Personal View;




  • Winner: The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today




  • Winner: The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling




  • Winner: Population and Other Problems: Family Planning, Housing 1,000 million, Labour Employment
  • What do Socks do?




  • Winner: Last Chance at Love – Terminal Romances
  • New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers;




  • Winner: The Joy of Chickens




  • Winner: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice
  • 100 Years of British Retail Catering
  • 50 New Poodle Grooming Styles


Contenders of Unknown Date


  • Attractive and Affectionate Grave Design
  • God’s Chewable Vitamin C for the Spirit
  • Gymnastics for Horses
  • Hair Loss for the Next Millennium
  • A Method for Calculating the Size of Stone Needed for Closing End-Tipped Rubble Banks in Rivers
  • Pedagogical Lexicography: A Case Study of Arab Nurses as Dictionary Users
  • Postal Rates in Iceland 1870-1997
  • Stick Making: A Complete Course
  • A Theory of Shopping


Just Odd


  • Amputation Stumps, Their Care and Aftertreatment, Godfrey Huggins, 1918.
  • Build Your Own Hindenburg
  • Constipation and Our Civilization, by JC Thomson, 1943.
  • Daddy Was an Undertaker, McDill, McGowan, and Gassman, 1952.
  • Explosive Spiders and How to Make Them
  • Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer’s Fecopoetics
  • A Government Committee of Inquiry on the Light Metal Artificial Leg, by Henry Hulme and Chisholm Baird, 1923.
  • Heave Ho, My Little Green Book of Seasickness, by Charles Mazel.
  • Italian Without Words
  • The Lull Before Dorking
  • Monumental Beginnings: Archaelogy of the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road
  • More Balls Than Hands, by Michael J Gelb (about juggling)
  • Old Age: Its Cause and Prevention
  • On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers
  • Optical Chick Sexing
  • A Pictorial Book of Tongue Coating, 1981.
  • The Punctured Thumb, or, Cactus and Other Succulents, by George Ashley.
  • The Romance of Leprosy, by E Mackerchar, 1949.
  • The Romance of Proctology
  • Round Ireland with a Fridge, Tony Hawks
  • So Your Wife Came Home Speaking in Tongues! So Did Mine!
  • Waterproofing Your Child
  • Who’s Who in Barbed Wire
  • Why Bring That Up? – A Guide to Seasickness, by JF Montague, 1936.
  • The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India


In 2008, a book celebrating the prize winners and nominees was released:

Joel Rickett,

How to Avoid Huge Ships: And Other Implausibly Titled Books,

Aurum Press, 2008,

ISBN: 9781845133214.



Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K.

Book cover design never seems to garner much discussion in the literary world, but, as readers, we are undoubtedly swayed by the little billboard that is the cover of every book we read. Even in the age of the Kindle, we are clicking through the images as we impulsively download this book or that one. I’ve always found it especially interesting that the U.K. and U.S. covers often differ from one another, suggesting that certain layouts and imagery will better appeal to readers on one side of the Atlantic rather than the other. These differences are especially striking when we look at the covers side by side. The American covers are on the left…

cover cover
The American cover is especially striking, with the bird and skeleton looking like something out of an old illustrated encyclopedia. And the wide black band suggests something important is hidden within. The British version feels generic, with the beach-front watercolor looking like a perhaps slightly more menacing version of the art you’d have hanging in your room at a seaside motel.
cover cover
Maybe these big black bands are a trend in American book cover design, but I think it wins the day here as well, imparting plenty of mystery on the half-hidden, murky photograph that it partially obscures. The British cover is somewhat striking as well, and I do like the watery, bleeding text effect. And whoever thought that floating dandelion seeds could impart foreboding? Maybe this one’s a tie, actually.
cover cover
It’s always interesting when the two covers are riffs on the same motif. I like both, but I think I think the yellow on black of the British version grabs me more.
cover cover
Both are good, but I love the creepy addition of the flies on the British version.
cover cover
The U.K. cover tries admirably to evoke the campus setting of the novel, but I love how the U.S. cover offers a stylized suggestion of the lettering used on old baseball uniforms.
cover cover
I don’t love either of these, and the painted out face and the hedge maze both seem a bit heavy-handed in the visual metaphor department.
cover cover
There’s something too advertisement-slick about the U.S. version, while the British version has a dark playfulness that I like.
cover cover
The American version isn’t doing much for me, but I love pretty much everything about the British version, up to and including the way the white splotch behind the title is seeming to reference the sun or moon.
cover cover
The American version is surprisingly bland, while the U.K. cover is a great riff on classic ocean liner posters.
cover cover
The British cover goes with another generic, tropical landscape, while the American cover has some great, mysterious detail going on in that border.
cover cover
I don’t love either of these. The American version is visually convoluted, while the British one feels underdone.

102 Essential Science Fiction Books

Edwin Abbot, Flatland

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Poul Anderson, Tau Zero
Piers Anthony, Macroscope
Isaac Asimov, I Robot
Paulo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
Ian M. Banks, Consider Phlebas
Greg Bear, Blood Music
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward
Gregory Benford, Timescape

Alfred Bester, The Stars my Destination

Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time
James Blisch, Cities in Flight
Ben Bova, The Towers of Titan
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Planet Savers
David Brin, Startide Rising
Fredric Brown, The Lights in the Sky are Stars
John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Boarders of Infinity

Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter Adventures on Mars Collection
Pat Cadigan, Mindplayers
Karel Capek, R.U.R.
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
C.J. Cherryh, At the Edge of Space
Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise
Henry Clement Stubbs, Mission of Gravity
L. Sprague De Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
Samuel R. DeLany, Einstein Intersection

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
Harlan Ellison, Again, Dangerous Visions
Carol Emshwiller, Carmen Dog
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Kathleen Ann Goonan, Queen City Jazz
Nicola Griffith, Ammonite
James Gunn, The Listeners
H. R. Haggard, She
Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

Harry Harrison, Deathworld

Raymond Healy, Aventures in Time and Space
Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
Frank Herbert, Dune
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
C. M. Kornbluth, The Best of C. M. Kornbluth
Nancy Kress, Beggers in Spain
Henry Kuttner, Fury
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Disposessed

Fritz Lieber, Conjure Wife

Stanislaw Lem, Solaris
Jack London, Before Adam
Ian R. MacLeod, Song of Time
Ian McDonald, The Dervish House
Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God
Barry Malzberg, Beyond Apollo
George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream
A. Merritt, The Moon Pool
China Mieville, Perdido Street Station
Michael Moorcock, Gloriana
Richard K. Morgan, Market Forces
James Morrow, Shambling Towards Hiroshima
Linda Nagata, Deception Well
Larry Nivin, Ringworld's Children
George Orwell, 1984
Alexei Panshin, Rite of Passage
Frederik Pohl, Works of Frederik Pohl
Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God's Eye
Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars
Pamela Sargent, Venus of Dreams
Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Healer's War
Robert Sheckley, The Status Civilization
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Frankenstein
Lucius Shepard, Green Eyes
M. P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud
Robert Silverberg, Dying Inside
Dan Simmons, Hyperion
Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean
Norman Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron
Olaf Stapeldon, Last and First Men
George R. Stewart, Earth Abides
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
Charles Stross, Accelerando
Michael Swanwick, Stations of the Tide
William Tenn, Venus is a Man's World
Sheri S. Tepper, The Gate to Women's Country
James Tiptree Jr., Brightness Falls From the Sky
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
A. E. Van Vogt, The World of Null-A
John Varley, The John Varley Reader
Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep
Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
Ian Watson, The Embedding
H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
Jack Williamson, The Humanoids
Connie Willis, Lincoln's Dreams
John Wyndham, Day of the Triffids
Eugene Zamiatin, We
George Zebrowski, Macrolife

Last year NPR put out a list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy novels as voted on by their listeners. Such lists can be helpful for keeping up with the current zeitgeist of a genre (or in their case, genres). However, lists voted on by the public tend to severely underestimate the influence of older works which are not currently on everyone’s mind. For a more balanced picture of a genre, you need to find a list like the one created by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. They created their Basic Science Fiction Library to help public libraries know what books they should carry and to help scholars understand which authors have been influential in shaping science fiction over time. Many of these books are older; not all of them are either in print or available for the Kindle. However, the majority can be found.

By Erik Wecks -February 5, 2012 – Follow @erikwecks