Ursula K. Le Guin. The greatest science-fiction novel ever written. The story of Hainish emissary Genly Ai and his adventures on the planet Gethen-also called Winter-is harrowing, tragic, and hopeful. The whole world is in this book.
The White Plague Frank Herbert. When his family is killed in a terrorist attack, a micro-biologist executes a unique-and catastrophic revenge. This is Herbert’s best novel, back in print after years of neglect.
One Wizard Place D. M. Paul. Kase and Murdox, agents of the Incantation Enforcement Agency, seek a rare dragon's claw to save the life of an Elf-king (he’s slowly turning to stone). Light and satiric, frequently hilarious.
Out of the Silent Planet C.S. Lewis. Philologist Elwin Ransom seeks a night’s lodging at an isolated country house-and wakes up on a ship bound for Mars. Rich and thought-provoking, far more adult than Lewis’s Narnia series. The first of the Space Trilogy.
The Sparrow Mary Doria Russell. Eight explorers, led by the Jesuits, head for Alpha Centauri to make contact with whomever has been sending glorious music to Earth. After initial success, things go horribly wrong. One of the best First-contact novels ever written.
The Elder Worlds Seth Kerin. One afternoon young Ryan Rose goes out hiking through the Vermont woods, he meets an odd young woman who leads him through a little ring of stones-and finds himself Earth's champion in a battle against the forces of Chaos. A deft mix of sci fi and fantasy, with a likable hero and just the right amount of gruesomeness.
Alpha Rising G.L. Douglas. Two astronauts set off on a mission to rescue stranded comrades, and end up needing rescue themselves. Soon, they're on a new mission to collect life from other planets, because Something Big is about to happen.
We Yevgeny Zamyatin. Welcome to Onestate-clean, orderly, nothing out of place. No dirt, no deprivation, no individual thought This is fine with D-503, until he meets a woman named I-330, who turns his world, and his worldview, upside down. A dystopian masterpiece.
Shardik Richard Adams. Is Shardik a god, or just an ordinary bear? Does the young priest Kelderek worship or exploit him? There are no easy answers in this dark and harrowing tale about nature, cruelty, spiritual belief, and humanity's yearning for what's right. This is Adams's richest book.