1. 1984, George Orwell. My first dystopian novel and also the first book that caused me to sit and think about the changing state of the world after I had finished reading it.
2. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. While Orwell’s classic talks of a totalitarian government that gives its people nothing, Huxley’s novel describes a state where the people are distracted into an existence of mind numbing passivity. Possibly a more likely path for America at the rate we are going.
3. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. A thoroughly depressing novel for librarians, Bradbury’s work is both poignant and possibly a slightly bit prescient as we stare into a future dominated by social media and the Internet.
4. Atlas Shrugged/The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand. My literary introduction to parts of my current libertarian political philosophy, these two books differ in plot line and character development, but concur on the same theme of individuality and the value of one’s own work. While in my my opinion The Fountainhead is better written on account of Rand’s rather cardboard cutout characters in Atlas Shrugged (you can tell who is good or evil depending upon how attractive their physical appearance is), both have had a monumental impact on my beliefs.
5. The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons. An excellently woven space opera that bestowed upon me a dual feeling of regret (at having completed the series so quickly) and admiration (for the wondrous storytelling). This series has everything from space-faring combat priests to a galactic leader who gives speeches that combine the rhetoric of both Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
6. The Other End of Time, Frederik Pohl. This story blew me away As the title suggests this novel has an almost unprecedented scope as the story travels to pretty much the end of time. Amidst this massive scale is an intriguing story of a budding colony that struggles, survives, and thrives.
7. The Egyptian Novels, Wilbur Smith. Another fantastic tale of four novels that tells the story of several generations of Egyptian rulers and their struggles against enemies both foreign and domestic. The series is fictional as many of the ruling families in this series are guided by a super eunuch who is at once a scribe, accountant, steward, magician, as well as being much more.
8. The Long Walk, Stephen King (Richard Bachman). A harrowing story that really impacted me because of how close the age of the competitors in the “race” was to my own. Any story in which the “winner” goes insane at the end is most certainly a memorable one.
9. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood. Yes, there is kind of a dystopian theme here, but I really believe that these novels are some of the most critical in terms of understanding the oppressions and repressions of past governments (of their citizens) and how to avoid similar totalitarian states in current and future times.
10. The Harry Potter Books (#1-7), J.K. Rowling. They have to be on here, no matter the objection. They flew with me through childhood and into teenage adolescence and like millions of other people I rushed to my nearest bookstore the second thy claim out in order to claim my copy. The triumphs and failures of Harry and his friends have so impacted me that I almost cried when I finished reading the last one. There was just so much anticipation and joy associated with each one that for them to be over was simply devastating. But they were strong and enchanting throughout (even magical one might say) and they concluded well, and in the end that is all that really matters for this particularly memorable series.