The future is now, so obviously you and all of your book-nerdy friends should be reading science fiction. If a book like
I, Robot or Dune is a hard sell for your circle, don't worry. I've got 15 sci-fi novels for your book club. Even if your book club reads science fiction on a regular basis, these books will come in handy whenever you need to ease a new member into futuristic reading.
When many people hear "science fiction," they imagine what fans of the genre call "hard sci-fi": books and movies that rely on scientific accuracy and/or are more focused on space battles and terraforming than on interpersonal relationships or learning about alien cultures. Hard sci-fi can be great, if that's what you're into, but it's also the reason why so many folks out there believe that they just aren't science-fiction people, and balk at the idea of reading a sci-fi novel. There's also a particularly
toxic strain of sci-fi gatekeepers who like to frame their anti-diversity arguments as a matter of "hard" vs. "soft sci-fi," which certainly doesn't help bring new fans into the fold.
A few hard sci-fi titles made the list below, but I promise that even they will
appeal to newcomers. Check out the 15 sci-fi novels I think you should use to introduce your book club to the genre, and share your favorite gateway sci-fi titles with me on Twitter!
'The Children of Men' by P.D. James
Less than 30 years before the beginning of P.D. James'
Children of Men, sperm counts across the world dropped to zero. Now, the final generation of humans, known as Omegas, live high on the hog in the U.K. as their country descends into chaos. But when one member of a small band of political reformers turns up pregnant, she must be protected from the state itself. After reading the book, you can watch the movie together! Click here to buy.
'The Lathe of Heaven' by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Lathe of Heaven centers on George Orr, a man who has become addicted to drugs in an attempt to stop dreaming. You see, George's dreams alter reality for everyone else, but he still remembers the way the world used to be whenever he wakes up. Click here to buy.
'The Martian' by Andy Weir
One of the small handful of hard sci-fi novels on this list, Andy Weir's
The Martian is a thoroughly researched and calculated story about an astronaut who must terraform a small corner of Mars when he is left behind in the wake of a failed mission. Click here to buy.
'Annihilation' by Jeff VanderMeer
The first installment of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy,
Annihilation follows four women — known only as the biologist, anthropologist, psychologist, and surveyor — into the mysterious Area X: an uncharted place where the laws of physics do not seem to apply. Click here to buy.
'Kindred' by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler's time-travel novel follows Dana, a young black woman living in California in the mid-1970s, who finds herself ripped backward in time and space to the Maryland plantation on which her ancestors lived and were enslaved in the years preceding the Civil War.
Click here to buy.
'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin
As a cataclysmic event alters the landscape, Essun, an orogene born with the power to control and direct seismic activity, learns that her husband has killed their son and kidnapped their daughter, both of whom shared their mother's special abilities. Now, with the world falling apart around her, Essun begins her long pursuit of her husband, intent on avenging her lost children.
Click here to buy.
'Snow Crash' by Neal Stephenson
Set in a near-future version of our world in which land masses and governments have been bought by corporations,
Snow Crash follows a young hacker named Hiro Protagonist as he uncovers a conspiracy involving the Sumerian language and a VR-version of the Internet known as the Metaverse. Click here to buy.
'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
Poor Arthur Dent is just an unassuming Englishman on the day his friend Ford Prefect shows up to make a series of startling announcements: He, Ford, is an alien, and the Earth is about to be blown up to make way for an intergalactic superhighway, but he and Dent can catch a ride on a passing alien spacecraft before the demolition begins.
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'Oryx and Crake' by Margaret Atwood
Told in a series of flashbacks,
Oryx and Crake is the story of three people — propagandist Jimmy, bioengineer Crake, and sex worker Oryx — brought together by the Crakers: a humanoid race invented by Crake. Click here to buy.
'Midnight Robber' by Nalo Hopkinson
Inspired by Caribbean folklore,
Midnight Robber follows Tan-Tan, who has been kidnapped by her murderous father and spirited away to New Half-Way Tree, an alternate version of their home planet of Toussaint, where criminals and convicts live in exile. Click here to buy.
'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go takes place at the fictional Hailsham school, where Kathy and her friends, Tommy and Ruth, are raised with an eye toward personal health, fitness, and artistic ability. Giving away how this novel fits into the sci-fi mold would require me to spoil one of its biggest twists, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Click here to buy.
'Future Home of the Living God' by Louise Erdrich
Set in a near-future version of the U.S. in which women have begun giving birth to less-evolved humans,
Future Home of the Living God follows the pregnant Cedar, who seeks out her Ojibwe birth mother as the world she knows falls apart. Click here to buy.
'The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet' by Becky Chambers
The ragtag crew of the
Wayfarer just landed a job that will make them all rich: drilling wormholes to a distant planet. But, like any good comedy, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet doesn't make their job easy. As a series of unfortunate events threaten to derail them, the people of the Wayfarer must band together in order to complete their mission. Click here to buy.