Ok, so NPR put out a list of the most popular sci-fi fantasy books, and people are checking to see how many they read. My tastes must be different, because my read list is pretty slim. In fact, I'm just going to list the ones I've read, with filler to plump up the slack.
The Lord Of The Rings The only book on the list that makes me feel smug just for having read it. I started trying to read it twice before finally plowing through. Reactions are mixed; Tolkien gave generations of geeks a solid foundation for High Fantasy, but as a story I can see why the publishers had their fingers crossed.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Douglas Adams is my hero. Here you have a man who rose to fame and spent his professional career writing the same story over and over for different formats.
Ender's Game No. Books named after chess moves sound to me like they are too clever to be any good.
Dune It was good until the midpoint. I don't think any writer could maintain that level of byzantine intrigue without the story collapsing, which it did. I think it's popularity stems from incorporating all the things Americans love. Imagine the Middle East controlled by Central European nobility playing by Godfather rules.
1984 Only on the list because a decade of schoolchildren had to read it, based solely on the date. "Just like 1984" is second only to "Just like Hitler" when you want to condemn someone else's political behavior.
Fahrenheit 451 Much better than the above. Movie is a classic too.
The Princess Bride No. Like the movie, though.
The Wheel Of Time Oh hell no. When a series is described by Other Books Displaced or Total Shelf Space, it's too much. Almost bought the video game, but heard that it was hard.
Animal Farm Yeah, just like everyone else. It's superior to 1984, but plays second fiddle.
Neuromancer Didn't really like it that much. People were cyberpunk in the 80's like they are vampyre now. Seemed more of a fad than a novel.
Watchmen Read it a chapter at a time at Hastings. Does that count? Liked the movie too.
Slaughterhouse-Five Saw the movie, and that convinced me not to read the book.
Frankenstein I have not read Frankenstein, nor have I seen any of the original movies.
2001: A Space Odyssey Somehow I found myself in a Russian literature course, and Dr. Smith decided that we should read Nabokov. One day I was walking to class and found Dr. Smith walking next to me. He was a little worried about focusing the semester on Nabokov instead of the usual stuff, and asked how I liked Ada. We had reached class by then, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote Nabokov on the blackboard. "So here is Nabokov. Nabokov intimidated Stanley Kubrick on the set of Lolita." I wrote Kubrick on the board under Nabokov. "Kubrick directed 2001, written by Arthur C. Clarke, who said everytime he talked to Kubrick, he had to go lie down for fifteen minutes." Clarke is under Kubrick. "Clarke is smarter than the grad students, and somewhere in here is Dr. Smith. That I can actually read and understand this book is pretty amazing."
The Martian Chronicles Shows that the fiction is more important than the science.
Watership Down One of the few books on this list that I would consider a classic of literature, not just sci-fi fantasy.
Dragonflight Can't remember. Read some McCaffrey though, and thought it was good.
The Time Machine Had the whole thick H.G. Wells tome. Think Stephen Baxter penned a sequel that I have to read someday.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea I think this story ranks higher than the rest of Verne's work because of the Disney treatment. Thought Five Weeks in a Balloon was better.
The War Of The Worlds Yes. Seen the movies, seen the TV show, read the book. Fortunate enough to be a classic in print, radio, and silver screen. Enough already.
Ringworld Thought other books by Niven were better. Guess the whole mammoth engineering thing got people's attention.
The Silmarillion I found this book to be a fun and easy read. Get your Cliff Notes first.
The Once And Future King Partly. My problem is that I've never found an Arthurian novel that left me satisfied. Like T.H. White though.
Childhood's End Had my Clarke phase in high school.
Contact Saw the movie. Sagan needed to stay away from fiction.
Stardust Saw the movie, then read the book. The movie was superb; way better than the book.
The Last Unicorn Again, saw the movie. Rankin/Bass may not have the best animation in the world, but they know the elements of a good story.
Conan The Barbarian Read it way back when Frank Frazetta covers were all the rage. Couldn't go to a garage sale without seeing a pile of Conan books. Just recently picked up a collection and started reading it again. Conan really isn't the person that most people, even his fans, seem to think he is: he is always willing to help, and capable of seeing the hidden potential in anyone, even if they can't.
Rendezvous With Rama Clarke likes to flirt with "You can't understand all the mysteries of the universe."
The Mars Trilogy Got through the first one. A book that actually made me mad. If I write a Mars colonization book, it will be about Chris strapping on his jetpack and getting his trillion dollars back from a handful of ingrate scientists. Look, if you want to wander around a frozen rocky wasteland building your perfect hippy commune, load up your Damnation Alley van and head to Baffin Island on your own dime.
Lucifer's Hammer First end of the world book I read.
The Xanth Series Some of them. Started Piers Anthony by reading On a Pale Horse, which remains my favorite Anthony book. Read Xanth because Piers Anthony books were everywhere.
Not on the list:
Isaac Asimov. Never could get into his books. Always liked reading his essays, though. His guides to the Bible and Shakespeare are top notch reference guides.
Terry Pratchett. I've read his books, just none on this list. Guards! Guards! was the first I read, and the end was a little to socialistic for me: the solution to all problems is to hire everyone with endless money provided by the idle rich who don't even know it's gone. Kind of a cheap ending.
Stephen King. Only read Pet Sematary and thought an entire book's worth of material could be carved out of the middle with no effect on the story.
Philip K. Dick. I really must some day.
Starship Troopers I read Armor instead, and played Outwars.