The best science fiction novels with superior ideas from the 1950s that will literally blow your mind

John L. Flynn Author Of Murder on Air Force One
By John L. Flynn

Who am I?

I'm a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and I've been nominated for three Hugo Awards for my writing. I’ve written SF and mystery novels most of my life, and the total number of my books is 20. I've also taught creative writing at the college and university levels for 18 years, and several of my students have published out of my creative writing courses. I've also volunteered in the past to assist with the Writers of the Future contest. I was featured as a SF author in the documentary Finding the Future. I've appeared on television, notably the Sci-Fi Channel, spoken on the radio, and at science fiction conferences.


I wrote...

Murder on Air Force One

By John L. Flynn,

Book cover of Murder on Air Force One

What is my book about?

When Inspector Kate Dawson, a homicide detective with the SFPD, is called, little did she know what would be waiting for her at San Francisco International Airport. Air Force One has landed with a corpse in the lavatory; the victim is a beautiful Fox News reporter, known as the "fair and balanced" girl. Apparently, she enjoyed kinky foreplay, but it just went too far...or did someone purposely murder her? Madame President, First Man, a senator, several Pentagon generals, secret service, and a slew of reporters were all aboard. Dawson's only clue: a lipstick container, which contains microfilm dating back to 1947, the crash at Roswell, the Truman letter, the MJ-12, the military-industrial complex, and a shadow government hiding the greatest secret of the Cold War era.

The books I picked & why

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Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Why this book?

Fahrenheit 451 is the best dystopian novel of the 1950s in which firemen work as enforcers burning books rather than putting out fires because a societal mob claims that the world’s unhappiness and discord are the result of ideas expressed in books. A woke mob that prefers to watch tv rather than read books has determined what is wrong with each book. Blacks are offended by Little Black Sambo so it must be burned. Whites are offended by Uncle Tom’s Cabin so it must be burned. Cigarette companies burn books that portray cigarette smoking as dangerous. There’s bound to be something offensive in every book, so every book is burned. A fireman named Guy Montag decides to fight back. Bradbury’s imaginative work is still fresh today.

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Fahrenheit 451 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Over 1 million copies sold in the UK.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic…


Childhood's End

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Childhood's End

Why this book?

This book starts with city-sized spaceships taking up residence above all the major world cities, much like the movie Independence Day. But instead of coming to conquer the Earth, they have come to help us reach the next stage in our evolution. They themselves cannot reach a higher level; they are known as the Overlords, and they look like Satan, but they are benign benefactors who wish to unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. They have a higher plan for Earth’s inhabitants. This book is meant to expand your mind with all of the thoughtful ideas that are presented. Fascinating.

Childhood's End

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Childhood's End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arthur C. Clarke's classic in which he ponders humanity's future and possible evolution

When the silent spacecraft arrived and took the light from the world, no one knew what to expect. But, although the Overlords kept themselves hidden from man, they had come to unite a warring world and to offer an end to poverty and crime. When they finally showed themselves it was a shock, but one that humankind could now cope with, and an era of peace, prosperity and endless leisure began.

But the children of this utopia dream strange dreams of distant suns and alien planets, and…


The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The Martian Chronicles

Why this book?

This is a collection of short stories which detail Earth’s attempts to colonize Mars in the early 21st Century, and the parallels to early settlers' attempts to settle the West in the 19th Century are purposeful, with the Martians representing the Native Peoples of the West. Bradbury’s writing is very poetic and full of metaphors. The stories that form The Martian Chronicles are timeless ones that remind me of the best of The Twilight Zone, and Bradbury wrote for the TZ.

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Martian Chronicles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Martian Chronicles, a seminal work in Ray Bradbury's career, whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time's passage, is available from Simon & Schuster for the first time.

In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor— of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work…


A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Book cover of A Canticle for Leibowitz

Why this book?

In 1971, I wrote a short story for a creative writing class at a Catholic HS in Chicago in which humans had just rebuilt the world after a 2,000-year-old apocalypse and were making their “first” landing on the moon (only to discover our Apollo mission had already gone there). My instructor, a Jesuit brother gave me Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz to read. I had never even heard of it, but it blew my mind. I found it to be imaginative and thought-provoking. While the novel had very little in common with my story, its kindred spirit presented a primitive post-apocalyptic world in which knowledge was key to both worlds. The fact that Jesuit brothers had stored knowledge in a monastery (in what was supposed to be Utah) for so many centuries waiting to reveal the truth expanded my mind even further. The novel itself is based upon 3 short stories written by Miller, then collected finally into this Hugo-winning novel. 

A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Canticle for Leibowitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth…


I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson,

Book cover of I Am Legend

Why this book?

I Am Legend is the best Science Fiction novel ever written about vampires and the whole notion of surviving the end of the world. I read it once a year because it is short, and the novel never ceases to blow my mind. Several movies have been made from the book, with the best being The Omega Man with Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, the last living man on Earth in a world populated by (in the novel, vampires; in the movie version with Heston, zombies). The novel also inspired Night of the Living Dead. Matheson’s writing places you right in the middle of Neville’s living nightmare as he attempts to survive each day and night with only his intellect. Excellently written, you will not easily forget Neville’s struggle for existence as the book keeps asking you what would you do in Neville’s place.

I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked I Am Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An acclaimed SF novel about vampires. The last man on earth is not alone ...Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth ...but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville's blood. By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn. How long can one man survive like this?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, totalitarianism, and epidemics?

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