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Friday, 14 December 2018


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The Roger Zelazny pick is one of my absolute favorites. Well picked!

Certainly agree with the two on that list that I remember reading: "Dune" and "The Mote in the God's Eye". Truly brilliant, original fascinating work.

To that I would add "Book of the New Sun" (5 part series by Gene Wolfe that starts with "The Shadow of the Torturer")

Best ten TOP posts...

("Letter to George" would have to be on my list.)

I was in NYC talking to the late, great author and editor Algis Budrys, and we both found out that we were the only person the other had ever met who also did not like Dune.
I said that it was so negative, there were no likeable or admirable characters. He said that the protagonist loses his firstborn and it seemingly does not affect him.


The great thing about David's list is that every book on it is a great book (that everyone should read) even though it's not my list. There would be some overlap though. Nice to see John M Ford on it though (god, I miss you Mike. SF & Earth are both much poorer without you.)

As if anyone would care...

Princes of the Air John M. Ford
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel Robert Heinlein
Lord of Light Roger Zelazny
The Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold
Neuromancer William Gibson
Speaker for the Dead Orson Scott Card

Maybe there's some room for Liu Cixin and Philip K. Dick on that SciFi. list?

Very interesting to have this list, especially re Sci-Fi as it is so variable in range and quality.
A recent addition from me would be Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others, which contains the short story Arrival from which the movie was made.

What a good looking cover for Dune!
I haven't read any of these books though. But such list is interesting, just as it is when you mention books yourself in the blog (ex: how you did for author Tom Wolfe).
In science fiction I've enjoyed a lot This Perfect Day by Ira Levin but I can't remember how I heard about it in the 1st place!

A really fine list...I've ordered a couple (through your links), and I'm looking forward to reading them. Thank you David and Mike. I can't resist also suggesting the Broken Earth Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin: each of the three books has won the Hugo in the last three years. Ms. Jemisin's Hugo award winning speech this year is also not to be missed (find it on YouTube). She brings an entirely different voice and point-of-view to the genre, and she's brilliant. I've always enjoyed SciFi and it's good to see how it continues to grow and stay vital.

That shouldn't be rocket science (npi) for photographers!

For myself, five photographers come instantly to mind.

In no particular order, because that order changes from day to day while the names remain constant:

Sarah Moon
Deborah Turbeville
Hans Feurer
Peter Lindbergh
Saul Leiter

All fashion and sometimes art shooters, with Leiter also a wonderful shooter of city atmospherics, a form of street that perhaps owes more to environmental graphics than to the people.


I can give you my list of my five favorite Design of Experiment methodologies... 😉

The world can always use a good transfer function.

Particularly Elon Musk, these days, acc. to the latest article in Wired...that guy needs to hire a raft of Design For Six Sigma Master Black Belts, ai yai yai.

Mike - to answer your question, old girl friends...

That is a great list. Classic.

My favorite Sci-Fi author is Philip K. Dick, and so...my favorite 5 of his books (although this list can change day by day honestly as I enjoy all of PKD's book quite a lot):

1. A Scanner Darkly
2. Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
3. Marian Time Slip
4. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
5. Clans of the Alphane Moon

And of course PKD won the Hugo with The Man in the High Castle. And his Valis trilogy has a cult following.

Shout out to Iain Banks, his Culture series is epic.

And a fun read: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Star Trek fans will get a kick out of this one, and PKD fans too I think).

I think it's easier for me list authors than books.

I would have to add "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursala Leguin and "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley which, arguably, may have been the first science fiction novel and is still a fantastic read. If we are allowed to include books of short stories, "The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury.

For their 50th anniversary, Book of the Month Club put together a list of their editors 50 favorite books. I had read many of them but there were so many I hadn't and I tracked them down in used books stores and read them all. I was sorry when I finished the list.


I read a lot of science fiction...a lot! I've read 3 of those in the list and whilst I enjoyed them, they wouldn't be on my list. As much as I admire the Grand Masters of SF like Clarke, Heinlein and even Niven, I find modern authors write so much better.

There are too many marvelous books to restrict to 5 but mine would have to include all of the Hyperion Cantos books by Dan Simmons, Stephen Baxter's superb "Ring", Alistair Reynolds' Revelation Space books, Iain M Banks' Culture novels, Neal Asher's Polity stories, something by Peter F Hamilton, Gavin Smith and the lesser known, but still excellent, John Meaney's Pilot Universe stories.

Looking at my list, right now is a golden age for British science fiction, never seen so many brilliant writers active at the same time. Oh and a shout out to a Canadian as well, the incomparable Peter Watts.

One of the stupidest things I ever heard from a motivational speaker was "You can become an expert if you read 5 books on a topic."

A p.s. to my previous comment. For the aficionado, Sci-Fi means TV or movie science fiction, not books. SF has always been the preferred label.


I did a quick poll at work. Of people of my age who read Dune many years ago, mostly they enjoyed it, whilst finding the endless sequels almost unreadable.

For anyone who needs an antidote to Frank Herbert, I recommend the parody "Doon", which is fairly faithful to the plot of Dune, silly and funny at the same time and very clever surprisingly many times - particularly the beautiful capturing of Herbert's overblown and pseudo-deep and meaningful style. I don't have my copy to hand to get an exact quote so I have to paraphrase unfortunately, but the way the author swipes at Herbert by implying deep meaning in the most mundane phrases is so painfully accurate to the original:

Jazzica regarded her son Pall's face. His eyes, his nose, his lips......he was like his father in that.


I've owned only one Miata (a '99 10th anniversary car that was one of MY favorites) and no others on your list. But if I remember correctly, the Alfa Giulia came in a beautiful Kelly green that ranks as my number one favorite car color. Does that jive with your memory?


In 1962 the book "Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan was published as an ACE paperback. I believe the main character Anthony Rogers was later known as Buck Rogers. I read the paperback every few years... to me the best Sci-Fi novel ever written. Doubt that many people have even heard of it.

You can't leave John Varley off that list. My favorite SF book of all time is Steel Beach.

Thanks for the list! I've read three -- Herbert, Heinlein and Niven/Pournelle. I don't understand why I never tried Zelazny or Vinge, but I'll soon be reading them.

I'll second the nomination of John Varley to the list. I got hooked on Varley with his story "The Persistence of Vision" in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine and love the "Gaean Trilogy".

David did a good job with his list - half of his choices agree with mine :-) (Herbert, Heinlein, and Niven & Pournelle).

In the place of his other choices, I would substitute Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" and either Hal Clement's "Needle" or Clement's "Mission of Gravity". I was quite young when "Needle" was published and the human half of the two-part protagonist was also young, so it really made an impression on me.

On the other hand, there has also been some excellent writing in the years since those books were published, so I suspect that the primary reason I selected these as "favorites" is because they have stayed with me for so many years, not because they are necessarily "better" than some more recent writing that I also love.

- Tom -

I’ve not read any of these but after seeing Dune at the top of yet another list I decided to dive in. I’ve been meaning to read Dune for years. I went to the book shelf and found that I have two copies. One is a paperback from the 80’s and the other a hardback from 1965. Because David’s list says Dune was published in 1965 I looked up the value and got excited for just a moment until I realized mine is a Book Club first edition. I imagine I’m not the first to make that mistake.

The name Roger Zelazny is also familiar and sure enough I found his book Jack of Shadows in my stash as well. I can recommend Jack of Shadows. Thanks for the list David. I’m going to start at the top with my not quite first edition of Dune.

Definitely need Liu Cixin on the list for the "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy (The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death's End). I was raised from birth to be a SF junkie (mother and grandfather) and his trilogy has had a lasting impression on me. Mind blowing!

While I have not read SciFi in some time I continue to listen to music. Hence my top 5 desert island albums:

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Beethoven - 9th Symphony
The Joshua Tree - U2
Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits
Bach - Brandenburg Concertos

Good list on Amazon:


On the science fiction book side, I like David's list and I'd add a couple myself:

Asimov's original Foundation and Robot series (that must be 3 dozen books)

Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land - unconventional and controversial for 1961!

Rudy Rucker - Wetware - and the other "Ware" books

and a vote for Gibson's Neuromancer, Herbert's Dune and, well, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells works might belong on a list too .... there's no way way to choose just 5!

Steve Rosenblum: "The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury."
And since our Humble Ed. is watching benignly as this avalanche of SF memorabilia cascades down, how about recalling with nostalgia 'The Illuminated Man' by Duane Michals? It's one of my all time favourite photographs.
Yeah, 'Dune' was a good read way back in 1982. The SF bug bit me in school with 'Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future', a character in EAGLE comics(UK).

I read a lot of science fiction, but when I go back and re-read a lot of the old classics, they don't always have the same impact. The major exception is Philip K Dick, who was always out there in some weird but interesting place.

For my money, there are many current authors who have a far better grasp of narrative and far more believable and three dimensional characters. So my honourable list are all current authors, including:

Kameron Hurley for the Bel Dame series.
Ann Leckie for the Ancillary series.
Neil Gaiman for American Gods (and others).
James S Corey for the Expanse trilogy.
Charles Stross for the Laundry Files series.

But there are probably just as many I could have included, including the late Iain Banks (RIP), David Brin and China Mieville.

I think the problem with modern times is that we have so much more choice, and so much of it is so good. It seems a shame not to celebrate it.

SciFi used to be my favorite genre. I would have found a spot for Foundation by Isaac Asimov on my Top 5 list.

thanks a lot, everyone.

allow me to add one of my favourites: Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany


E.E. "Doc" Smith The Skylark of Valeron and the Lensmen series were originally published in pulp-SF magazines as serials (1930s-40s). I read them as paperbacks, in the 1950s.

H. Rider Haggard's She (1886), was among the first lost-world-SF novel. I saw the movie She (1935) in the late 1940s, later-on I read the book.

Robert A. Heinlein Space Cadet (1948). It was written long before the term space-cadet entered the popular lexicon.

John Norman His Gorean (1966-88) series about a male-dominated bondage world, seems to be a reaction to feminism. As was H. Rider Haggard's She.

As I grew older I found the above authors to be too imperialist/fascist for my tastes.

Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's Prescient The Space Merchants (1952) is much more to my liking. ...businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge trans-national corporations.

Times change, and I change. I haven't read any SF in a while. No more police procedurals either—I have had the new Harry Bosch hardback setting on my nightstand, unread, for many mouths now.

I'm now reading Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and Timothy Denevi's Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson's Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism

Five favorites, e.g. SF, or cars, or cameras, musicians, anything? Since there are too many I like/have liked over the years, I started thinking of five of anything--and struggled. This is the "older" list, but there may be a modern one, too. In no particular order:

A.E. Van Vogt

Lotus 7

Leica M2


Charles Mingus' "Black Saint and Sinner Lady"

Loving all these lists, maybe a list of lists could be next? BTW is listing a particularly bloke /chap/guy [Australia/England/US] thing?

In reply to Phil Wilkins: yes, it is a male thing. Which leads me nicely to five favourite movies, in no order.

  • High Fidelity (2000). A movie about obsession with music and records, top five lists and the slightly sad business which is being male, and it has John Cusack and Jack Black: just a lovely film.
  • Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) by Wim Wenders, (1987). A film about Berlin shortly before the wall came down, and it has angels in it: all the best films have angels in them. I just love this and I always will. If there is a dubbed version do not watch it (this is true for any film).
  • Whiplash (2014). A film about drumming, obsession and (slightly) jazz. When this came out I saw it three times in a week.
  • Blade Runner (1982, any of the non-voiceover versions is fine), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). The first film changed what the future will be like; the second is much better than people give it credit for. Fortunately I don't have to ration myself with either because they both really must be seen in a cinema.
  • A matter of life and death (1946). This is just wonderful, obviously. Very, very few films have ever been objectively as good as this, quite regardless of whether I like them or not.
  • Notting Hill (1999), because of Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant & London being London.

And so many more: I was going to have Blue Juice (1995) which is terrible but which I love, and whatever it is fashionable to say you can't miss out Citizen Kane or The third man because they are objectively brilliant (the second of these should be on the main list). And Silver linings playbook and Do the right thing. I can't actually write a top five: perhaps I could sort out fifty.

[That was pretty good, though. I loved the image in "Wings of Desire" of angels having to sit around listening to humans think, and being bored by it. --Mike]

You can't help but notice these novels are kinda... old. Like the person doing the selection is a bit out of date himself. Also, picking out five out of thousands is hopeless task.

I’m also surprised that nobody mentioned Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. I like to recommend it to people who say they don’t like SF. Here are five of my favorites, in no particular order (and not the same as five “best”, a much harder and mostly different list):

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress
Solaris, Stanislav Lem
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
The City and the Stars, A. C. Clarke

A bit of a theme of augmented or artificial intelligence with the first two, and you can add 2001 to that chain of thought. I recommend Lem’s detective novels, also, though he takes a ... nonstandard approach.

Norm: Interesting, I used a lot of Acu-1 and a lot of Autofine. I still wonder if I should have investigated Diafine more thoroughly.

Picking five out of thousands is indeed a hopeless task, if one approaches it starting from zero or if one intends it to be anything stronger than personal opinion :-)

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