The 9 Best Classic Sci-Fi Books of All Time (And Still Worth Reading)

If you’re a fan of modern science fiction, sometimes it can be nice to go back and see where it all started.

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There’s no shortage of good sci-fi books, with several great new science fiction novels coming out every year.

But just because there are a bunch of great books coming out doesn’t mean we should ignore the stories that built the genre. To truly appreciate modern examples of science fiction, it’s nice to revisit the classics every so often.

That said, being old doesn’t necessarily mean a book is good. Even for well-regarded stories, some hold up better than others. That’s why we’ve put together a list of sci-fi classics that still hold up.

Here are the best classic sci-fi books to read if you haven’t yet.

1. The Martian Chronicles

You can’t go wrong with almost any Ray Bradbury, but the only loosely connected short stories that make up The Martian Chronicles are bite-sized, making this an easy read.

The stories range from sheer sci-fi wonder to humor to sadness, and even the weaker stories in the collection are worth reading at least once.

2. Out of the Silent Planet

C.S. Lewis might be best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, but his Space Trilogy is equally worthy of attention.

Out of the Silent Planet is the first and most straightforward in the trilogy, and worth reading even if you never read the two books that followed it.

Lewis made no bones about the debt this novel owes to H.G. Wells, so if you’re a Wells fan, definitely don’t miss this one.

3. Foundation

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy is a major influence on modern science fiction, and this first novel of the same name is the one that started it all.

A sprawling whole made up of five interconnected short stories, this novel incorporates characters from Asimov’s earlier works, but they aren’t required reading if you want to start here.

4. Brave New World

Brave New World isn’t just talked about as one of the most important works of science fiction of all time, but one of the most important books of the last century.

One part social satire and one part dystopian look at a world that seems increasingly familiar, this isn’t exactly a feel-good novel. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading.

5. The War of the Worlds

The oldest novel on this list by a fair margin, The War of the Worlds was a major influence on, well, most everything.

Though it was essentially a sci-fi twist on the invasion literature that was popular at the time, it was unlike anything that came before. While some of the ideas seem unusual now due to the time it was written, it’s still surprisingly readable.

6. Pirates of Venus

While Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan and the Barsoom series, his Venus series is often overlooked.

This first book in the series came later than Burroughs’s more popular works, so it has the benefit of experience. This is more science fantasy than science fiction, as there is very little actual science, but that makes for a fun read.

7. Starship Troopers

Robert Heinlein was a prolific author, so much so that his body of work definitely has low points.

Starship Troopers is not one of those points. A fantastic early example of military sci-fi, this book possesses a subtlety and wit that you won’t find in the film of the same name.

8. Childhood’s End

As evidenced in his best-known work, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke was never short of big ideas. Childhood’s End, which follows a suspiciously peaceful alien invasion, is another example of this.

There is a sort of melancholy that settles over the entire book, which may not be what you’re looking for, but certainly suits the events of the story.

9. 1984

Aldous Huxley was at one time George Orwell’s French teacher and later critiqued his work.

Maybe this has something to do with why 1984, like Brave New World, is a look at a dystopian yet somehow familiar world that has you feeling like you need a pick me up when you’re finished reading it.

Looking for Classics on the Cheap?

You can buy most of the books on this list for relatively affordable prices. Assuming you want to buy ebook versions, you can get them even cheaper. That said, you can save even more if you opt to buy them used.

If you’ve got a local used book shop, that’s probably your best bet. Those shops are becoming rarer though, so that may not be an option. If you haven’t got a local shop:

Inspirational Quotes by Fictional Characters

One of the best things about fiction is that it can change lives. A profound scene with profound characters can often reach deeper—and be more meaningful—than any nonfiction book can.

Here at whatNerd, we’ve experienced our own share of amazing fictional characters who have blessed us with their wisdom.

And we’ve compiled all of those inspirational quotes into a simple PDF that can be printed and pinned to a wall as a reminder. Download the printable PDF below and let fiction change you:

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