The most recommended hard science fiction books

Who picked these books? Meet our 322 experts.

322 authors created a book list connected to hard science fiction, and here are their favorite hard science fiction books.
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What type of hard science fiction book?


Book cover of Timescape

Andrew Fraknoi

From my list on science fiction books that use good astronomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astronomer and college professor who loves science fiction. For many years, I have kept a webpage recommending science fiction stories and novels that are based on good astronomy. I love explaining astronomy to non-scientists, and I am the lead author of OpenStax Astronomya free online textbook for beginners, which is now the most frequently used textbook for astronomy classes in the U.S. I actually learned English at age 11 by reading science fiction comics and then books for kids,  After many decades as a fan, I have recently realized a long-held dream and become a published SF author myself.

Andrew's book list on science fiction books that use good astronomy

Andrew Fraknoi Why did Andrew love this book?

I think this novel, by physicist Gregory Benford, is one of the best fictional representations of how science is really done and of the real world of scientists and graduate students.

It is also an early exploration of the concept of tachyons, particles that cannot move slower or as slow as the speed of light but always have to go faster. (These have been proposed only in theory, but what makes them exciting is that they would travel backward in time.) In the book, that property enables people in the future to communicate with us in their past.

Another thing I like about this book is that some of his characters are thinly disguised (or not disguised) versions of real astronomers of the time.

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year is 1998, the world is a growing nightmare of desperation, of uncontrollable pollution and increasing social unrest. In Cambridge, two scientists experiment with tachyons - subatomic particles that travel faster than the speed of light and, therefore, according to the Theory of Relativity, may move backwards in time. Their plan is to signal a warning to the previous generation.

In 1962, a young Californian scientist, Gordon Bernstein, finds his experiments are being spoiled by unknown interference. As he begins to suspect something near the truth it becomes a race against time - the world is collapsing and will…

Book cover of The Trumpets of Tagan

Daphne Self Author Of When Legends Rise

From my list on captured my ADD personality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to read. Reading since I was 3 years old, devouring book after book. As I grew, my taste expanded. Yet it was the sci-fi book, The Black Hole, by Disney that I discovered in second grade that captured my passion for writing and storytelling. I cannot count how many books I've read, but I can tell you the ones that have left a lasting impression on me. Because of that, I began to write my own stories. I've seven books written and published, the newest one releasing soon. While my tastes in books vary, only one thing remains consistent: finding the best books that capture me and hold me hostage!

Daphne's book list on captured my ADD personality

Daphne Self Why did Daphne love this book?

This was my first introduction to a series that was started in the early 70s. I love Star Trek. And the author once wrote a few episodes of that show. This book steered away from stereotypes. And I fell in love with Marik, an alien taken from royalty to occupation to servitude within the system who conquered his home. Yet to see his rise through the ranks and how he became respected and honored…this is a book I’ve read countless times. 

By Simon Lang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the only child of the empire's heir is kidnapped, the U.S.S. Skipjack's captain must act fast, especially when he discovers that the child's alien father is his second officer.

Book cover of Colossus and the Crab

David W. Burns Author Of Heart of Stone

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Fantasist Optimist Romantic fool

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David W. Burns Why did David love this book?

I find the entire Colossus trilogy fascinating, but this third book in the series is the most engaging, full of tense moments as the human protagonist finds himself in a battle of wits and wills with not one but two alien intelligences, each of which has designs on the human race that are both completely rational…and completely terrifying.

While the descriptions of computers and related technology are dated by today's standards (the books were written in the 1970s), these (and other) sins can be put aside in order to enjoy the real heart of the story:  the struggle against vastly superior life forms that are beyond human understanding.

The dialogue in each confrontation scene is riveting, with a climax that is both surprising and moving.  

By D. F. Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 22nd Century. Dr. Charles Forbin is Earth's most powerful man. As mediator between Colossus, the Super Computer, and the rest of humanity, Forbin holds the key to Earth's fate.

When Colossus, an awe-inspiring technological creation, suddenly became self-aware and took upon itself the task of righting humanity's wrongs with no regard for humans themselves, Forbin intervened. He took the decision to turn off his great machine - but could not do it alone.

Forbin called upon invaders from Mars. The Martians did their fastidious work, shutting down Colossus. The Earth descended into chaos. Rival factions sparred for supremacy, with…

Book cover of New York 2140

Carl Abbott Author Of Imagining Urban Futures: Cities in Science Fiction and What We Might Learn from Them

From my list on science fiction with really cool cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered science fiction at age nine with Rocketship Galileo and Red Planet and have never lost my love for speculative worlds, even after growing up to follow a career teaching and writing about the history of cities and city planning. In recent years, I’ve also begun to write about the field of SF. So it is one-hundred-percent natural for me to combine the two interests and explore science fiction cities. I try to look beyond the geez-whiz technology of some imagined cities to the ideas of human-scale planning and community that might make them fun places to visit or live in if we could somehow manage to get there.  

Carl's book list on science fiction with really cool cities

Carl Abbott Why did Carl love this book?

For me, the worst thing about New York is getting stuck in traffic.

In the New York of 2140, that’s not a problem because rising sea levels have drowned much of Manhattan and motorboats zip through the flooded streets like it’s a high-rise Venice. Future New York is also a city whose residents are coping with the planet’s new reality.

In the midst of climate gloom, it is refreshing to imagine a scenario where New Yorkers can come together through cooperative action to take control of their own future.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked New York 2140 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A towering novel' - Guardian

'Relevant and essential' - Bloomberg Businessweek

As the sea level rose, every street became a canal, every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

New York Times bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson delivers a bold and brilliant vision of New York in the next century.

'New York may be underwater but it's better than ever' - New Yorker

'Massively enjoyable' - Washington Post

'Gripping . . .…

Book cover of The Worthing Saga

Nathaniel Hardman Author Of School

From my list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid, and I love when the two genres meet. I’m also fascinated by the power of stories and language, which has led me to work as an intern at a literary agency and later as an editor at a website that reviewed and gave feedback on unpublished manuscripts. I love finding ways to imbue stories with the kind of magic that can transport us to new worlds.

Nathaniel's book list on magic-in-space for middle schoolers

Nathaniel Hardman Why did Nathaniel love this book?

I read it at eleven and thought it was cool and exciting and different. I read it at seventeen and thought there might be some meaning behind the story.

I read it as a young father and thought, “Holy cow! It’s the meaning of life! A sci-fi/fantasy exploration of the creation and the fall of man… it’s an allegory for Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. And it’s so good!” But don’t let the depth intimidate you; it’s a super compelling story about a young man in hyper-advanced society who has a gift that gets him in trouble. A total page-turner.

Now I want to go read it again. I wonder what I’ll notice this time…

By Orson Scott Card,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It was a miracle of science that permitted human beings to live, if not forever then for a long, long time. Some people, anyway. The rich, the powerful, they lived their lives at the rate of one year every ten. Somec created two societies: that of people who lived out their normal span and died, and those who slept away the decades, skipping over the intervening years and events. It allowed great plans to be put into motion. It allowed interstellar empires to be built. It came near to destroying humanity. After eons of decadence and stagnation, a few seed…

Book cover of Double Star

Stefan Vučak Author Of In the Shadow of Death

From my list on hard science fiction by old masters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became hooked into science fiction as a kid the day I read an illustrated book of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. From then on, science fiction became an important part of my reading repertoire. Having wide-ranging interests, I enjoy military techno-thrillers, Anglo-French naval warfare, Greek/Egyptian/Roman mythology, most sciences, history of religions, with an occasional novel that strays from the norm and adds a sparkle to my reading. Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills are very close to my heart. Just shows that I’m different. After all, I must do something when I am not writing my own novels! Although I have an extensive library of modern science fiction works, I am fond of many oldies.

Stefan's book list on hard science fiction by old masters

Stefan Vučak Why did Stefan love this book?

From the first page, I loved the self-centered, egotistic main character full of himself. When his deluded sense of self-worth got him into inevitable trouble, I smiled, thinking he walked into it with eyes open. It came as a pleasant surprise to see the character evolve beyond himself and slowly encompass a wider reality that would benefit Earth and Mars… with considerable risk to himself.

A dash of romance, this powerful story, regrettably short, blew me away. I don’t care that the book is old, but I feel the theme stands the test of time as very enjoyable entertainment. A marker with which I judge every book, and this one shines.

By Robert A Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe was - as usual - in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake - failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe's own life was on the line - for if he wasn't assassinated,…

Book cover of FlashForward

James A. Cusumano Author Of Cosmic Contact: The Next Earth

From my list on sci-fi novels that entertain and enlighten.

Why am I passionate about this?

Three events in my life have had a profound effect on the narratives created within my novels. After receiving a chemistry set for my 10th Christmas, I succeeded in causing an explosion, resulting in my extended hospitalization. While in the hospital, I had a near-death experience (NDE). During an amateur telescopic outing with a friend during our teenage years, we experienced a UFO sighting. While doing my doctoral thesis in experimental quantum physics, I began to sense a strong link between elements of quantum physics and consciousness. These events occasionally entered my thinking over the next decades. I developed a passion for writing novels to explore links between quantum physics and consciousness.

James' book list on sci-fi novels that entertain and enlighten

James A. Cusumano Why did James love this book?

I love this book because of its excellent job of tackling the nature of free will and consciousness and their impact on the human condition.

In 2009, particle physicist Lloyd Simcoe designed a high-energy experiment for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), designed to detect the Higgs Boson. Success would bring him the Nobel Prize. During the experiment, all those present lost consciousness for two minutes and seventeen seconds.

As it happens, the loss of consciousness is global. Without warning, seven billion people on Earth black out for those two minutes and seventeen seconds. Millions die as planes fall from the sky, people tumble down staircases, and cars plow into each other. People experience a glimpse of their life twenty-one years and six months in the future. Some see only darkness, death? The interlocking mosaic of these visions threatens the present and the future.

This book pursues profound questions. Do we…

By Robert J. Sawyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Suddenly everyone in the world loses consciousness for two minutes. Planes fall from the sky, there are millions of car crashes, millions die. And when everyone comes round they have had a glimpse of their life in the future.

When it awakes the world must live with the knowledge of what is to come.

Some saw themselves in new relationships, some saw exciting new technologies, some saw the stuff of nightmares. Some, young and old alike, saw nothing at all ...

A desperate search to find out what has happened begins. Does the mosaic of visions offer a clue?


Book cover of Armor

Wayne Santos Author Of The Chimera Code

From my list on science fiction and fantasy books with a ton of action.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Canadian-Filipino science fiction and fantasy author who’s grown up on a steady diet of genre novels, movies, television, anime, and video games. I’m just as happy writing about the intricacies of hacking a system as I am about the ways magic can enrich or complicate lives. I’ve always loved explosive action in other media but since I’ll never be a director with resources to trash real cars or demolish buildings, I became a novelist. You can have all the actions and explosions you want without needing a 100 million dollar budget, and I’ve found some amazing examples of other writers who do just that.

Wayne's book list on science fiction and fantasy books with a ton of action

Wayne Santos Why did Wayne love this book?

While a lot of people look to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as the first book to tackle powered battle armor, and soldiers using them to fight aliens, Armor made a far greater impression on me and had me coming back to it again and again.

Felix is a volunteer in a war against the aliens nicknamed “ants,” and while he can’t stand the carnage and senseless loss of life, he’s also very, very good at combat. The first quarter of the book is like the Normandy invasion set on another planet, with amazing battles and acts of, if not courage, survival. A gripping tale of the toll of war.

By John Steakley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Felix is an Earth soldier, encased in special body armour designed to withstand Earth's most implacable enemy - a bio-engineered, insectoid alien horde. But Felix is also equipped with internal mechanisms that enable him and his fellow soldiers to survive battle situations that would normally destroy a man's mind. This is a remarkable novel of the horror, the courage and the aftermath of combat - and how the strength of the human spirit can be the greatest armour of all.

Book cover of Friday

Kfir Luzzatto Author Of Chipless

From my list on realistic science fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author who is also a patent attorney and an engineer, I often deal with projects that are the closest thing to science fiction. That is one of the driving forces behind my urge to write science fiction. However, I very much prefer realistic stories that may potentially come true to hard science fiction with intergalactic travel, robots all over, and time machines (although I have written space opera and a few other hardcore SF tales, and must admit having had fun with them). Still, I like realistic science fiction much more. It leaves more room for character development, and I find myself engrossed in it more easily.

Kfir's book list on realistic science fiction

Kfir Luzzatto Why did Kfir love this book?

Robert Heinlein excels himself in this story narrated in the first person by a young woman, who is not really a human but rather a synthetic person but one you can relate to. Published in 1982, when much of the technology it describes was not yet in the realm of possibility, this book shows us an image of a chaotic world that may well be in our future. Serious issues sprinkled through this book’s pages are hidden between fun, fast action, a bit of licentious behavior, and some absurdity. Fun is guaranteed.

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A CAEZIK Notable book. CAEZIK Notables is a series of speculative-fiction books marking important milestones in science fiction or fantasy. Each book published in the series has a new introduction highlighting the book’s significance within the genre.

“A charming protagonist in a story as sleekly engineered as a starship. This one should fly.”―Publishers Weekly

Friday is a secret courier and ardent lover. Employed by a man she only knows of as “Boss”, she is given the most awkward and dangerous cases, which take her from New Zealand to Canada, and through the new States of America’s disunion, all the way…

Book cover of Snow Crash

Jools Cantor Author Of The Trellis

From my list on real-life time machines through sci fi.

Why am I passionate about this?

Science fiction lets us readers escape into space or travel through time, but I believe it is most effective when grounded in our primal anxieties. Classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale resonate because the dark futures they describe drive us to prevent their prophecy. These stories give us a window into the world that birthed them by crystalizing the authors' fears into a work of fiction. When I read each book on this list, they transported me to the time they were written. En route, they showed how much our world has changed and how much we humans haven’t.

Jools' book list on real-life time machines through sci fi

Jools Cantor Why did Jools love this book?

Out of the Cold War and into the Metaverse, this was published in 1992 and captures the infancy of the Information Age we live in. More so than the other novels on the list, this story is fun, on top of being wildly creative and smart.

Whether it’s riffing on anarcho-capitalist enclaves run by franchisee governments, the pathology of language and ancient Babylonian grammar, or the ups and downs of being the world’s best swordsman online but a pizza delivery driver for the mafia in real life, the story exudes a manic energy and levity brought on by the dawn of a new era.

It is both cyberpunk and mocking cyberpunk. It is juvenile and jaded. It is absurd and prophetic. If you’re not having enough fun in 1992’s actual future, pick up Snow Crash and enjoy the ride.

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Snow Crash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The “brilliantly realized” (The New York Times Book Review) breakthrough novel from visionary author Neal Stephenson, a modern classic that predicted the metaverse and inspired generations of Silicon Valley innovators

Hiro lives in a Los Angeles where franchises line the freeway as far as the eye can see. The only relief from the sea of logos is within the autonomous city-states, where law-abiding citizens don’t dare leave their mansions.

Hiro delivers pizza to the mansions for a living, defending his pies from marauders when necessary with a matched set of samurai swords. His home is a shared 20 X 30…