10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated

10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated

10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.CompulsivelyQuirky.com

Science-fiction is my all-time favorite genre to read, to watch, to experience. And it shocks me that not everyone loves reading about dystopian societies, time travel, aliens, zombies, and spaceships.

I've had many a friend or student ask me for book recommendations if they were thinking about dipping their toe into the science-fiction pool. Over the years, I've learned that figuring out what kind of story a person loves to engage their imagination in is the key to recommending a great first foray into a genre that can be incredibly stereotyped.

Depending on reading preferences, these are the ten science-fiction books that I've recommended multiple times to various types of readers who want to give science-fiction a try.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune ~  10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

Many people love this book.

Many consider it to be the Bible of science-fiction.

If someone is wanting a true initiation into complex science-fiction world building, then Dune is the clear choice.

Why will they love this book?

Frank Herbert crafts a tale set in the far future where his characters vie for control over the spice Melange that is the most valued commodity in the universe.

This battle for spice control affects not only generations of people, but also their politics, religion, technology, economy, and environment.

The various factions have these entangled relationships that can make the reader's head swim. There are many names to keep track of, but there is also a helpful glossary called "Terminology of the Imperium" at the back of the book. 

At 604 pages, this Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel may not be a quick read, but a deep read. Readers who question the veracity of whether or not science-fiction has an literary chops should delve into the philosophical ideas explored here.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale ~ 10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated  ~ www.CompulsivelyQuirky.com

Who will love this book? 

The small-minded reader who only picks up books recommended by The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and the like. This person forms book clubs to inflict their literary standards on their friends in an effort to gain control over a world in which we have little control.

This person will appreciate Margaret Atwood's comments about how her stories are not science-fiction; they're speculative fiction. I'm sure this is a brilliant marketing strategy formed to sell more books.

Why will they love this book?

Thematically, this book delivers!

Written at the height of the televangelist movement in the 1980s, this story is set in a near future theocracy where women's rights are severed. With war on-going, this society plagued by infertility assigns women to roles like Handmaiden, where they are trained in subservience by other women, the Aunts, and then passed around households to be inseminated by the male head of household and bear children for the Wives to raise.

For the analytical thinker, this book provides hours of conversation. The various gender and class roles, the near future dystopian setting, and the utter lack of consistency in this perverse world that preaches the value of religious right uniformity are just a few topics to keep readers thinking, questioning, and discussing. Even the snobbiest of book snobs reluctant to try science-fiction will find plenty of philosophical merit in this award-winning novel.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game ~ 10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.CompulsivelyQuirky.com

Who will love this book?

While this book is often considered literary bait for adolescent boys, almost anyone who enjoys philosophizing on the nature of humans and warfare will find this story engaging.

Outer space battles and video games do play large roles in the plot, but the complex questions about leadership, what it means to be human, and the struggle to balance ruthlessness and compassion within war will win over adult readers.

Why will they love this book?

The book is full of moral dilemmas and shades of gray. The reader empathizes with all of the characters, so it doesn't matter who wins or loses certain contests; the story is really about how these characters live with the consequences of their actions.

In the near future, the human race is threatened by technologically superior hostile aliens. The people of Earth create a Battle School to recruit child military proteges to train as a new generation of leaders with the sole purpose of saving humanity from annihilation. The story centers on Ender, a genius child and underdog, who struggles within Battle School to balance his proclivity for empathy with his consistent need to win at any cost.

Card lures in the younger readers with his video game stylings, but he presents complex questions for readers to consider.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War ~  10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

Old Man's War is another military science-fiction book pick, so readers who like to consider the consequences of war and the toll on our humanity will love this story.

What sets Scalzi's story apart from Card's is the humor.

This book questions what makes us human and the moral implications of colonization through the eyes of a sarcastic, intelligent, and competent smart-ass solider. 

Why will they love this book?

The main character is John Perry, who enlists in the Colonial Defense Force at age 75. The CDF wants retirees who carry a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom joining their army. They genetically upgrade each retiree with new younger bodies and send them off-planet, never allowed to return to Earth. 

John Perry is hilarious. As we travel with him through the various stages of recruitment, upgrading, training, and combat, we get to see the grunt's perspective on this interstellar war for territory. Even though the plot moves quickly, the observations on war and colonization highlight how much perspective the human race lacks.

For every great battle scene, there are great questions raised for the reader who wants to consider our place in the universe.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Grimspace ~ 10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.CompulsivelyQuirky.com

Who will love this book?

Anyone who prefers to read romance novels, but swoons when Han Solo tells Princess Leia, "You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life." 

Why will they love this book?

Grimspace is a bit of Firefly with some Battlestar Galactica and a splash of The Matrix mashed up into science-fiction crack.

Sirantha Jax is a self-deprecating smart-ass with a rare gene that allows her to jump spaceships through grimspace. She's rescued from a mental ward by a scoundrel-type and recruited to help create a new breed of grimspace jumper. Of course, there's a romantic sub-plot!

The writing is functional, but moves the plot forward as quickly as Jax jumps through grimspace. There are no beautifully-turned phrases that make the reader stop to contemplate their place in the universe. Instead, the details of the ship crash that landed Jax in a psych lock-up are slowly teased out. Aguirre mixes up point of view from Jax's narration to character dialogue to a certain character reading Jax's thoughts. The book is over before you know it, and then you're quite happy that there are five sequels! Hmmm, this crack good!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games ~  10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

Anyone who loves Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" will appreciate the world of Panem.

Suzanne Collins takes that grizzly idea of gambling with human lives to new lows in this world where children are released into an arena to kill each other for sport and televised entertainment.

If you are disgusted by the appeal of "reality TV" within our culture, then you'll love The Hunger Games.

Why will they love this book?

While some people criticize the limited world building, this novel packs a heart-rending punch. Katniss is a strong female character with some serious emotional limitations. Even though Katniss is confused through a good portion of the book, she keeps her head on straight to do her best to survive.

Several scenes are emotionally riveting. And the emotions run the gamut from poignant and affirming to audacious and combative. Even with first-person narration, this novel keeps the reader guessing about whether or not Katniss will survive.

One note on the audiobook: the woman who narrates does a terrible job. She is not the voice of Katniss and I would strongly suggest that you not waste any money on the audiobook version of this novel. 

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes ~ 10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

This space opera will appeal to anyone who gets frustrated by how physics gets the short-shrift in most science-fiction. In this universe, space travel has physical consequences, which are gross, but fantastically realistic.

Also, readers who prefer mysteries will like detective Miller and his quest to uncover the mystery of a missing girl.

Why will they love this book?

The characters.

The mystery of the missing girl unites the surly burned-out Detective Miller with the crew of the commandeered Rocinante lead by an idealistic captain, Jim Holden.

Their search for the truth entangles them in conspiracy theories and political intrigue between the people on Earth and Mars with the people beyond the Asteroid Belt. The two main characters rarely agree and have polar opposite viewpoints, but they really are on the same side.

Sure, the plot of figuring out where the missing girl is keeps the book moving along, but the various characters are fascinating. Each one is an archetype, but their dialogue weaves together commentary on prejudice and stereotypes amongst a great deal of humor. The interactions amongst the characters makes this novel a quick read. 

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z ~  10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

People who appreciate great survival stories will find much to love in this novel. 

Why will they love this book?

Max Brooks makes you feel like the Zombie War actually happened. He convinces you that zombies really were on the brink of decimating the human population.

His subtitle "An Oral History of the Zombie War" brilliantly  immerses the reader into this post-apocalyptic world.

Within the introduction, Brooks explains that he was hired by The United Nation's Postwar Commission to travel the world, gather stories and statistics, and write the final report on the affects of the Zombie War.

His report was seriously edited and the stories involving any human factors were deleted. In response, Brooks releases this oral history that does not focus on the facts and figures, but the human stories of survival.  

What follows is a series of tales from around the globe showcasing the technological, social, economic, environmental, and political hardships of the survivors and the setbacks they endured to preserve humanity. While zombies are present, they are not the focus of the story. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One ~  10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

Anyone who loves 1980s trivia questions will adore this homage to 80s pop culture. 

Geeks with any sense of nostalgia will devour this book.

Why will they love this book? 

This book possesses an unputdownable quality.

Set in the near future where most of humanity avoids the dismal state of the world by immersing themselves in a virtual reality simulation called the OASIS, the main character Wade is an affable teen underdog set on winning a treasure hunt that would award him ownership of the OASIS.

The original programmer of this role playing multi-planet universe is a quirky entrepreneur, think Steve Jobs or Willy Wonka, who loved the 1980s.

Wade has to solve riddle after riddle staying ahead of the other competitors without getting himself killed. You get hooked on following Wade's adventures and completely lose yourself in this book.

The audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton who does a fantastic job of bringing Wade to life. I highly recommend it!

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Legion ~ 10 Science-Fiction Books to Recommend to the Uninitiated ~ www.Compulsively Quirky.com

Who will love this book?

Anyone who is fascinated by the notion of multiple personalities, schizophrenia, and psychology in general.

And this book is short. It's really a novella, so if you like the idea of trying out a shorter piece of genre fiction, then this story is a good starting point.

Why will they love this book?

The amazingly original psychological premise of this novella will blow you away. 

The main character Stephen Leeds is a millionaire who declares himself perfectly sane, but his "aspects" are mad.

His "aspects" are the hallucinations who store his genius because he cannot house all of his accumulated knowledge in one brain. And every "aspect" has a distinct voice and personality. And many of them are hilarious!

The question of how we define sanity and insanity permeate this story. But it's also a mystery that involves tracking down a camera that sees through time. What's not to love?


These are ten science-fiction books that I've repeatedly recommended to people who would like to try out a new genre. What science-fiction books have you recommended to your friends? Please let me know in the comments.

The Meatballs School of Relationship Minimalism

The Meatballs School of Relationship Minimalism

Book Hoarder or Minimalist? Do I Have to Choose?

Book Hoarder or Minimalist? Do I Have to Choose?