David Brin's Science Fiction Recommendations

David Brin has put up an extensive list of books, in several categories.

There’s quite a few books in several categories that I haven’t read yet!


One that really caught my eye in the ‘fantasy - with brains’ section is that instead of regular Harry Potter novels, he included a Harry Potter fan fiction story. I’ve never read fan fiction, but given this recommendation, I think I’ll check this one out. Just reading through the first part of the first Chapter, it sounds like a parallel universe in which Harry Potter is brought up by loving parents.

I’ve already read quite a few of the recommendations, I’ll maybe comment on those in a follow up post later.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? I quite liked it, certainly more than a lot of books I paid money for. I think we have talked about it before if you search the board.

That’s a really interesting site, nice of Brin to do that. In the category “Huh! I never realized!” I have read everyone of those except Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. Considering that list contains some of my all time favorite novels, including Dune, Lord of Light and A Deepness in the Sky I will definitely have to check that one out.

This is an awesome list, thanks for sharing!

Great list. Seems strange to have the Foundation Trilogy listed under Young Adult and The Hard Stuff.

I will be using that list in the future.

I guess my only surprise is that he chose Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky” over “A Fire Upon the Deep”, I mean Iiked both but I liked “Fire” much more.

It contains Blindsight. It’s a good list. :)

EDIT (to make this statement a bit less P&R): Hey it’s like a who’s who of old folks who won awards for writing two decades ago!

I’ve read most of the list, but I wish it included stuff that’s being written now. It’s not like sci-fi has calcified in the last decade.

Read it years ago, close to when it was released. I quite liked it at the time, but don’t expect a traditional story, it’s more like a series of stories happening in this alternate universe, from the time of the Black Death up until close to now.

It’s only because of the way David sorted his list, but I was absurdly please to see The Windup Girl at the top of the list. Nobody does Biopunk like Paolo. The Water Knife hits even closer to home.

Because there’s a whole lot of shit out there right now, and no big names like there used to be. Call it the Post-Internet Sturgeon’s Law Corollary: 99.55% percent of everything is shit. The only thing I can do is track down “Best of Year X” collections to separate the gold from the chaff.

Any ‘best of sci-fi’ list that doesn’t contain Blindsight is suspect.

Some good books in there, some odd choices (Color of Magic for Pratchett? Going Postal is superior, as are any of the Tiffany Aching books)

Also as @Matt_W it favors older books too heavily.

Name a monster, all-time classic that’s come out in the last 5 years.

I suspect that’s a case of: “fuck it, I don’t want to pick, so just list the first one.”

For my money, “Small Gods.”

I too am shocked that an old guy’s reading list may not be 100% current.

It’s a good list. If you want someone up to the minute, I’d check out e.g. Martha Wells’ weekly book rec posts on Goodreads or the reviews in the back of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine or similar.

Is every book on Brin’s list a monster, all-time classic?

I think Becky Chambers’s Closed and Common Orbit is pretty spectacular. Seveneves is one of my favorite hard SFF novels ever; came out in the last 5 years. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series. Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, The Expanse, etc

I could name a bunch of books that I absolutely adored in the last five years that I felt stood a good chance of being a monster, all-time classic. But five years is just not long enough to actually award that status.


Anyway, I’ve read a lot of the Nebula and Hugo blah blah blah stuff from the past few years, and absolutely nothing has floored me. Ancillary left me wondering what the big deal was about, for example. The Expanse was fun, well-written populist semi-hard scifi that started great, but then fizzled out. Etc. Nothing that rocked my world.

The Three-Body Problem series was the last thing I read that made my jaw drop and my brain twitch.

My hope and project is that my taste doesn’t calcify as I get older. I like Brin’s list. It just seems odd to me. When I recommend books to people, I always recommend recently written fiction. Fiction isn’t timeless; it tends to reflect the milieu it was written in, even if it’s set in a different time or universe. I tend to be most entertained and most enlightened by recently written fiction is all.

That said, there are a few books on his list I wouldn’t mind checking out.

Annoia approves.

@scharmers well he does include one possible candidate, in Three Body Problem. Which is good!

The Imperial Radch trilogy by Anne Leckie, The Martian is slightly out of the arbitrary 5 year window but is one of my favorite recent reads, NK Jemisin I haven’t personally read yet but she has a few contenders.

I mean yeah, there are a few questionable choices for inclusion, but as for single lists of sci fi, it is a decent selection. But lets be honest, I have higher expectations from an author to seek out lesser known examples. Sticking to mostly already acknowledged classics is lazy. If you are a an award winning sci fi author, as he is, then I would want a deeper dive to find things overlooked from the standard goodreads, io9 list of great sci fi.

Hell, even pulling in some older but forgotten choices! The Stars My Destination is one of the best golden era sci fi novels I’ve read, and one most people probably haven’t heard of.