The best science fiction books that will change your perspective

Who am I?

I am an American author and have been an avid reader of science fiction for nearly forty years. I studied science fiction in college, along with biology and other subjects. My undergraduate honors thesis was a discussion of postwar Japanese science fiction that included a translation from the original. I have a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and have published papers on learning in machines, humans, and humpback whales. I have taught and studied in Japan and Singapore, and critiqued fiction for several years with critters.org. I have published many science fiction stories from various perspectives. The Hugo finalist, "Asymmetrical Warfare" tells the story of an alien invasion of Earth from the invader’s perspective.


I wrote...

Cooling Season

By S.R. Algernon,

Book cover of Cooling Season

What is my book about?

Cooling Season explores the aftermath of the Cygnan civil war from many perspectives. The ambitious corporate fixer James Fergus has control of the pivotal town of Silver Falls and pursues a bold plan to consolidate his power and achieve lasting peace. His plans put him at odds with forces who would drag Cygnus back into war.

Meanwhile, the younger generation comes of age. David Varanasi and Kim Korsakova, now teenagers, struggle to find their place in a world full of heroes, villains, and ghosts. Will their actions save Cygnus or push it over the brink?

The books I picked & why

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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Why this book?

This Japanese novel is actually two interleaved and interconnected stories, one set in the bustling, alienating landscape of contemporary Japan and the other taking place… well, as the title suggests, at the End of the World. It makes for a gripping page-turner with a unique perspective on the human mind.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following.

Tracking one man's descent into the Kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy.


Footfall

By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle,

Book cover of Footfall

Why this book?

I have a soft spot for stories written from non-human perspectives, and Footfall sticks out in my mind as a prime example of the subgenre. It follows the story of an invasion of Earth by a species called the Fithp, which has a herd-like social structure. The scenes told from the point of view of the invading Fithp present the first contact and alien invasion tropes in a new way. 

The unfolding conquest of Earth gives us a glimpse into Fithp minds and, most importantly, a look at ourselves from an outside perspective. It is a bit of a slow burn, but for me the world-building paid off in the end.

Footfall inspired me to write several short stories about alien invasion.

Footfall

By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Footfall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered by many readers the best alien invasion novel to date, FOOTFALL was called “thought-provoking and exciting” by Library Journal and “the best of its genre” by The New York Times.

An alien craft is approaching Earth. Attempts to communicate go unanswered. The welcoming committee of Americans and Russians at a space station is blasted, its occupants killed or captured. Soon the entire Earth, with special emphasis on the United States, is bombarded by asteroids, destroying dams, highways, and infrastructure. The message to humans: total surrender or death to all. A giant rock, the “footfall”, is launched towards Earth, causing…


Winter Tide

By Ruthanna Emrys,

Book cover of Winter Tide

Why this book?

I have always been a fan of Lovecraft, but the unfathomable remoteness of his fearsome creations left me dissatisfied. Ruthanna Emrys flips the Lovecraftian script on its head and tells tales within Lovecraft’s universe from the perspective of the characters that Lovecraft vilified. In a world that celebrates diverse perspectives far more than in Lovecraft’s day, Winter Tide gives readers a chance to appreciate the richness and creativity of Lovecraft’s world through the eyes of its marginalized characters.

Winter Tide

By Ruthanna Emrys,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Winter Tide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two decades ago the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to a desert prison, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god, Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, emerging without a past or a future.

Now it's 1949, and the government that stole Aphra's life needs her help. FBI Agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the…


Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

By Edwin A. Abbott,

Book cover of Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Why this book?

Flatland deepened my interest in mathematics, science fiction, and social commentary when I first read it in the ‘80s. It is a (literally) pointed satire of 19th-century society that remains relevant today. The characters are literally two-dimensional shapes on a flat plane. The protagonist’s attempts to grapple with a mysterious third dimension forces him to re-evaluate both the cosmos and the social order in his community. This book is mind-expanding in the best sense of the word.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

By Edwin A. Abbott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Flatland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This masterpiece of science (and mathematical) fiction is a delightfully unique and highly entertaining satire that has charmed readers for more than 100 years. The work of English clergyman, educator and Shakespearean scholar Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926), it describes the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women-thin, straight lines-are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status.
Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland…


Flowers For Algernon

By Daniel Keyes,

Book cover of Flowers For Algernon

Why this book?

I could not leave Flowers for Algernon off my list because it inspired my pseudonym and exemplifies what I value most highly in science fiction: its ability to show us the human (and non-human) mind facing new situations. 

The experience of Charles Gordon challenges assumptions about intelligence that remain relevant to society today. Neurodivergent people and people whose intelligence or learning abilities don’t measure up to a particular standard are too often ignored, overlooked, or demonized. Flowers for Algernon illustrates that our worth and the validity of our life experience do not depend on our cognitive abilities.

Flowers For Algernon

By Daniel Keyes,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Flowers For Algernon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charlie Gordon, a retarded adult, undergoes a brain operation which dramatically increases his intelligence.

Charlie becomes a genius. But can he cope emotionally? Can he develop relationships?

And how do the psychiatrists and psychologists view Charlie-as a man or as the subject of an experiment like the mouse Algernon?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the brain, alien invasions, and investigations?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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