Updates: My Top 11 Science Fiction Novels from the 1960s

April 3, 2012 § 120 Comments

Everyone loves lists!

The 60s produced some of my favorite science fiction works.  Many authors moved away from the technologic naivete of pulp sci-fi and predicted less than positive futures (overpopulation, natural disaster, etc) and attempted to instill a more literary quality to their works.  I’ve cobbled together a top eleven list — I have probably forgotten a slew of amazing works that I read years ago.  Also, I read majority of them before I created my blog and hence do not have reviews — I’ve included a blurb for those without reviews.  I’ve linked those that do.  And, as I have promised before, a review of J. G. Ballard’s masterful The Drowned World (1962) is on the way!

EDIT: Over the course of reading the comments and glancing over my bookshelves I’ve discovered how much I’d forgotten had been written in the 60s (Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, etc).  As a result, I’ll put together a more comprehensive top 20 or so in the near future.

Feel free to list your top 11!

1. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (1968) — is by far the best of the overpopulated world genre (for additional works consult my index).  Brunner chronicles a dystopian future society in obsessive and awe-inspiring detail with shreds of newspapers, advertising jingles, quotations from invented books, and even current (60s) events.  Be warned: low on plot, heavy on world building, experimental structure…

(Steele Savage’s cover for the 1969 edition)

2. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (1969) — The Left Hand of Darkness remains Le Guin’s best work.  Not only is she literary, but the political ramifications of the premise — androgynous humanoids who randomly become male or female for one month of the year — is unforced and fully realized (she invents mythologies, believable characters, and fascinating societies).


(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3. Hawksbill Station, Robert Silverberg (1968) (MY REVIEW)

(Pat Steir’s cover for the 1968 edition)

4. The Drowned World, J. G. Ballard (1962)  – The world is slowly submerging due to a solar flare, a retreat into a uterine state — a resigned fate.  Our “hero” hides from the world in the upper floors of a hotel with limited gasoline to power his airconditioner.  A strange man arrives in a casino vessel to collect relics of a past era and a pumping device to “excavate”  a submerged city… Beautiful.

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition)

5. Synthajoy, D. G. Compton (1968) (MY REVIEW)

(Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon’s cover or the 1968 edition)

6. The Man in the Maze, Robert Silverberg (1968) (MY REVIEW)

(Don Punchatz cover for the 1969 edition)

7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick (1968) — Philip K. Dick’s best.  There are millions of reviews on the web so I won’t go into any details.  But, there’s a scene I remember poignantly — a “chicken head” is “tortured” by androids slowly remove the legs of a spider.  Even the androids realize the strange sanctity of every life in a world mostly devoid of life — and use it for their advantage.  A deeply philosophical work worth pondering.  Bladerunner (a great movie in its own right) in an effort to titillate viewers transformed the android character of the opera singer in the strange scantily clad snake lady — PKD was interested in an android perfecting a human artform and contributing to society not a member of society’s criminal underbelly

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition)

8. Dune, Frank Herbert (1965) — no words are needed.

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1967 edition)

9. The Man in an in a High Castle, Philip K. Dick (1962) — PKD has an uncanny ability to focus in on the banal and transform it into a deeply poignant and metaphoric moment, object, action.  It’s unlike any alternate history you’ll ever read — if American culture became the subject of only antiquarian interest…  Our everyman heroes create “american” pottery.  Read reviews and plot summaries online — I’ve only pinpointed a thematic element that particularly resonated with me.

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1974 edition)

10. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem (1961) — I’ve had little exposure to non-English language sci-fi.  But, Lem’s vision is the epitome of thought-provoking first contact novel. A philosophical work ruminating ever so delightfully on nostalgia, the nature of sentience, memory, pseudo-science….  Lem’s His Master’s Voice (1983), on a similar subject might be a better novel….  Another “classic” with tons of plot info available on the web.

11. This Immortal, Roger Zelazny (1965) — Zelazny’s best work (yes, better than Lord of Light in my humble opinion) — tied Dune for the Hugo —  only in Zelazny’s world (perhaps Delany’s) would a man with mold growing on his face be the subject of a novel.  A post-apocalyptical vision of an Earth owned by aliens (for use it for tourism) filled with mutated lifeforms….

(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1966 edition)

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§ 120 Responses to Updates: My Top 11 Science Fiction Novels from the 1960s

  • They are all very good books! Having read steadily through the decade, it’s always interesting to see a retrospective selection of the best.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      It also might be interesting to read a list by a person who didn’t live through the 60s! It’s all retrospective for me…

      • It’s interesting to see who isn’t there. None of the Golden Age stalwarts like Heinlein, Simak, etc. and apart from late flowerers like Silverberg and Brunner, none of the real new wave. As I think I may have said elsewhere, I’m impressed that any of it is still readable in objective terms. I’m supposed to be overcome by nostalgia and think it all wonderful (which it wasn’t). It’s reassuring someone new still finds it good.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I’m no fan of Heinlein or Simak. I enjoy a few of their works but have never been swept away in any sense of the word. Remember, these are personal favorites — I’m not trying to put together a most influential (socially, politically, etc) works list.

    • Jeremy Hill says:

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I love that you have a Brunner book. He almost never gets a mention. I read the covers off The sheep look up, The whole man … and wrote an essay for english class about Stand on Zanzibar. The teacher was awed and I got called Browner for the rest of the year. Sad to say my 800 old sci-fi paperbacks moulder in a friends garage in ontario.

  • Saul Garnell says:

    Great list. All classics that must be read by any real fan of SF. Sadly, I can’t say I have gotten through them all, but your list makes me want to get them all under my belt.

    By the way, didn’t see THE FOREVER WAR, by Haldeman. If it’s not in this list, I’d guess it’s one of your top 20?

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      The Forever War is from the 70s not the 60s. Actually, surprisingly, it’s not one of my favorite works — a classic definitely but because I’ve read so much, not in my top 20 ;)

      • Saul Garnell says:

        Interesting. I just read it and found it quite good. The military voice was quite strong, and the ending is somewhat simple, but very satisfying. What exactly didn’t you like about it? Not trying to argue, just curious.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I read it a good 7 or so years ago but I distinctly remember enjoying the book — the sequel, Forever Peace was pretty good as well. Worth reading — a loose thematic sequel…

  • Richard says:

    The Zelazny looks interesting – I have Lords of Light and The Chronicles of Amber on the old TBR, but think I might hunt this down first… :)

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I did read it a long time ago — my opinion might change a bit if I gave it a reread. I enjoyed Lord of Light but wasn’t as impressed — This Immortal feels similar to a work by Delany….

  • Gregory Feeley says:

    An interesting list. Very strange to consider “This Immortal” (Zelazny’s preferred title was “. . . And Call Me Conrad”) superior to “Lord of Light” and “The Man in the Maze” better than its obvious inspiration, Budrys’s “Rogue Moon” (Budrys’s preferred title being “The Death Machine”).

    Do you consider “Slaughterhouse-Five” not SF? And I wonder if you know of Aldiss’s rather neglected “Greybeard.”

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I haven’t read Slaughterhouse-Five ;) It’s on my list. And Greybeard — sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.

      My Zelazny kick happened years ago — a reread of his famous Lord of Light might yield a different order.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      But, now that I think about it I’d probably include Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) — but again, these lists always leave out notable works by their very nature.

  • Anon says:

    The Stand on Zanzibar cover is by Steele Savage. He also did a bunch of Heinlein covers in the 60′s for Ace.

  • think you left out the best sf book of the past 20 years: Neuromancer by william gibson.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Ummm, this is a best sci-fi books of the 1960s list (the title). Not the 80s! And, Neuromancer was written more than 20 yeas ago….

      Regardless, thanks for stopping by.

  • mark says:

    An addition that I would like to propose to your list:
    Samuel Delany – especially The Einstein Intersection.
    I would suggest striking Hawksbill Station.
    Anyway, a list indicates a great deal about the list-maker… and yet, these are a wonderful group of stories! grazie mille!

  • katkasia says:

    Great post, and I have to say that you make me realise how much I have to catch up on yet! I do love Philip L. Dick though – he was one of a kind (which may be just as well.)
    My list would contain a fair bit of John Wyndham too. he had such a talent for telling a good story deceptively simply.

  • Grace says:

    Great list! I’ve only read a couple of these (Dune and Left Hand of Darkness), but I’m thinking that I’m definitely going to have to track down copies of Stand on Zanzibar and Solaris.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I think I warned you about Stand on Zanzibar, right? But, if you’re in an avant-garde accepting mood then procure a copy as fast as possible! It’ll be worth it.

      • Grace says:

        Yep, you warned me. I like avant-garde though, so it should be awesome. I’m keeping an eye out for it next time I’m used bookstore shopping.

  • George L. Duncan says:

    Great list. Can’t argue with any of the books. Takes me back to the golden age of science fiction. However, I will have to find a copy of The Man in the Maze. I really like Silverberg but somehow missed that book. Need to re-read Hawksbill Station too.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Thanks for the kind words! What are your top 11 (or 10, or 5, or 3) sci-fi books from the 60s?

      The Man in the Maze is Silverberg at his darkest. A fascinating character study — unfortunately, people get preoccupied with the “mystery” of the maze which is never solved — it’s simply a backdrop for the character study.

  • Very nice list. Dune and Lem are shoe-ins, Ballard rocks out, Hawskbill Station is amazing, and you can’t have a best list without Electric Sheep.

    I haven’t read Synthajoy, or This Immortal—I hear good things about it, it’s on my buy list—and Left Hand is in my TBR pile (bad experience reading The Dispossessed in college has delayed further LeGuin). And I think my lack of Brunner is apparent.

    So to make up for those four with books I -have- read, my list would add The Einstein Intersection, Flowers for Algernon, Slaughter-House Five, and another Dick—take your pick, Palmer Eldritch, Dr. Bloodmoney, Ubik. I might even replace High Castle with Ubik—as a history buff, High Castle fascinates me, but it always felt like nothing happens in it, whereas Ubik blew me away for some reason.

    I have a lot of ’60s novels on top of my TBR pile: Babel-17, Camp Concentration, Brunner, more Delany, more Ballard… so my list will probably be different in another six months.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      What was your bad experience with The Dispossessed? I also enjoyed The Einstein Intersection but haven’t read Slaughter-House Five yet — as I pointed out in a different comment I’d probably include Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle instead of either Synthajoy or This Immortal — but, these are the problems with coming up with lists, especially short ones!

      • Partly the difference in reading a novel for pleasure and reading a novel for scholarly purposes, partly that one of the requirements was reading The Dispossessed in both chronological and -then- normal order… let me tell you what’s a terrible, terrible idea.

        I also forgot that Dangerous Visions and Pavane were from the ’60s. Canticle for Leibowitz is another strong contender, but I felt it hadn’t aged as well last time I read it.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I’ve remembered so many more good books from the 60s — I haven’t read Pavane yet — it’s a testament to the quality sci-fi of the decade. I’ll have to make a longer list….

  • [...] Joachim Boaz has his excellent picks for the best 11 science fiction books of the 1960′s, and he’s looking for opinions on favorite 50′s sci-fi. [...]

  • Lavender Menace says:

    Awesome. I will add the ones I haven’t read to my list. I think The Left Hand of Darkness is always going to top my list though.

  • What, no Nova (seriously – no Nova?), but the (in Science Fiction circles almost consistently overrated) Man in the High Castle which is actually one of Dick’s weaker efforts? I am flabbergasted. :P I’m not all that fond of Do Androids… either; his best one in my opinion is Ubik. Love that you included the Lem, and for another non-English masterwork, I’d suggest Hard to be a God, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, surely a classic.My own list would probably also figure Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration and A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter A. Miller, possibly Davy by Edgar Pangborn, and I am sure there are more I just can’t think of right now…

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I too love A Canticle — oops, I was under the erroneous impression that it was published in ’59…. I haven’t read Camp Concentration or Davy yet so perhaps the list wil change ;)

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Ubik is a wonderful novel… not sure it’s better than Do Androids Dream or Man in a High Castle though ;) But definitely top 25 books…. Perhaps I’ll expand this list after I read Disch etc.

  • Since my pingbacks have apparently failed me — My Top 11 ’60s SF list.

  • What do you say about L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth?

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Uh, that is complete and utter crap ;) Reading it felt similar to chewing gravel…

      Did you enjoy it?!?

      • No, just picked it up and went 10% in and am about to give up. Will review shortly. However, it’s on some list of best novels in the English language – which caused me to notice….

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        Do you know why? Because Hubbard had all his scientologist followers (he created the “religion”) read the book and to this day the scientologists buy his books to keep it up in the best seller lists — wikipedia discusses their mass purchasing/voting strategies.

      • I knew about scientology. Wow, what a concept! Ok. ’nuff said.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        It is really funny seeing the book on best English lit lists :) hehe, but now you know why!

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      And, it was published in the 80s — this is a best of the 60s list.

      • Yes, didn’t find a better place in your site to post my question….

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        Hehe, I’ve had a lot of people try to suggest books for my 60s list which aren’t from the 60s — sorry.

        But yes, scientologists continue to vote Battlefield Earth into any best of list… A critic’s list (unless they are a scientologist — and lots of early sci-fi writers were — A. E. van Vogt for example) will not list Battlefield Earth.

  • Phill Nelson says:

    I really enjoyed reading your list. It made me think back to my SF reading for the 60′s. I love Roger Zelazny. I think I would put both “Lord of Light” and “This Immortal” on my list. I also loved his “Dream Master”(I think that was the 60′s also). Dune is a natural for any list, There’s an early McCaffrey called Restoree that’s a great book. Thanks again for your list.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Thanks for stopping by! Isn’t Restoree a pseudo-satire of women’s roles in sci-fi? I loved the Pern books when I was a kid but haven’t read any of her “sci-fi proper.”

  • Ed Norman says:

    I would like to suggest that you consider Dr. Orpheus (1968, by Ian Wallace) for your list. One of my all-time favorite sci-fi books!

  • Okay, from the classic to the obscure. I remember a paperback scifi novel of this era that took place on another planet where novitiates in a secret order to could see the future through “extrapolation”. I was the first time I had seen the word and once I understood the meaning, I assumed that it was used in order to avoid denigration of the characters as “psychic”. Sadly, that’s all I really remember, except that it got thrown out at some point and I never did recall the title. Any ideas on what this proto-Jedi book might have been?

  • Read most of those when they were published in the sixties. As you say we each have our own favorites. My favorite author is Heinlein his ability to tell more than just a story. Asimov comes next and Dick as well as Clarke. Zelazny’s work I read most of it as it was published and have copies of much of his work that I have bought in the last twelve years as my home burnt thirteen years ago and I lost over 2,000 hardback books and that again in paperback. Love to read and have since I found science fiction when I was in what is now called middle school, it was junior high back then. Stopped counting at 10,000 books read. Now with the ereaders I have over 2,000 to read on mine. Will continue to read until either my eyes can’t or I die.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Hmm, unfortunately, although I’ve read at least 14 or so Heinlein novels his work doesn’t resonate with me. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is by far my favorite of his — his later work is unreadable — some of his earlier juveniles are fine — and yes, Starship Troopers is probably the best of the juveniles.

      Asimov is another author which has never appealed to me — the Foundation trilogy was interesting but ultimately, doesn’t live up to the hype.

      I’m glad that you stopped by! Your knowledge on the subject is greatly appreciated! I’m relatively young (mid-20s) so I haven’t amassed a collection nearing that size yet.

      • Susan E says:

        My favorites of his were Citizen of the Galaxy, Star Beast which is a hoot, and Have Spacesuit Will Travel (where I was introduced to the concept of a wavicle and that to the rulers of the galaxy democracy and communism would be indistinguishable). Starship Troopers was very clever, they tried to bring the libertarianism and experimental novel structure across in the movie but was ultimately disappointing. I read them as a child and still have an affeciton for them.

        I’ve read much of his adult fiction but like you did not care much for them except perhaps The Door into Summer that was pretty priceless, with the cat who was going back and forth between the various doors of the house sure that one of them would have nice weather on the other side of it.

        I think any scifi buff should probably read Stranger in a Strange Land once, just for its trippy turn everything upside down view of the 60s, and to understand aging hippies with terms like “grok” and “I am but an egg”. I think it was a follow up to a really good juvenile Red Planet (a decade between the two). but so was Podkayne of Mars that I totally loathed, although the scene where its OK to have sex in public but disgusting to eat in public on Venus still sticks in my head.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I’ve read all of those and again, they were all readable but none of them (besides perhaps Starship Troopers) really resonated with me….

        I enjoy his juveniles perhaps more than his more mature novels — Starman Jones has to be one of the best juveniles ever written. And Orphans of the Sky — one of his novels to discuss a generationship.

  • hornblower says:

    A Canticle for Leibowitz. (1960) Walter Miller. Very yellowed and very good.

  • Tremendous list. His Master’s Voice blew me away when I read it, so even though it didn’t make the cut (and I think I’d have gone for Solaris too) I’m glad to see it getting a shout out.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Well, it would have made the cut if it was from the 60s ;) It would be on my best of the 80s list! Or even in my top 15 or so all time sci-fi novels.

      • In all honesty I have no idea when any of Lem’s novels were written. I hadn’t realised they were spread over that distance of time.

        I must reread some Lem, he really is brilliant.

  • Bob Blough says:

    I just went through and wrote 40 more possibilities that should be considered and then lost the whole list before posting it. SIGH. The only one on your list I have not read is Synthajoy (although I liked two of his 70′s novels – The Steel Crocodile and The Unsleeping Eye) but I agree with all the others – here are some of my favorites that I would also consider:

    Thorns by Robert Silverberg
    Nightwings by Robert Silverberg
    The Masks of Time by Robert Silverberg
    City of Illusions by Ursula K. Leguin
    Jagged Orbit by John Brunner
    Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
    Time is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak
    Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany
    Nova by Samuel R. Delany
    Pavane by Keith Roberts
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
    Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
    Greybeard by Brian Aldiss
    Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
    The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
    Past Master by R.A, Lafferty (Slipstream before it’s time?)
    Chthon by Piers Anthony
    Emphyrio by Jack Vance
    Davy by Edgar Pangborn
    Ubik by Phillip K. Dick
    The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
    Martian Time Slip by Philip K. Dick
    Ring of Ritornel by Charles Harness
    Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith
    The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch
    Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch
    Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
    Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    There that’s from memory – I really loved the 60′s for SF (started reading in the early 70′s). Anyway – you are right about Canticle for Leibowitz being a 1959 book – the confusion (I believe) is because it won the 1961 Hugo for best book of 1960.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      A wonderful list! I’ve read a portion of them — I do love Martian Time-Slip — it’s actually my favorite of PKD’s novels, but, I didn’t include it on the list because I find that Do Androids and The Man in a High Castle are conceptually and intellectually more stimulating.

      Yup, I genuinely forgot to include Cat’s Cradle — I loved it. I have Camp Concentration on my shelf (and Norstrilia, The Masks of Time, Rite of Passage, Greybeard, Jagged Orbit, Nightwings on my shelf waiting to be read).

      Ubik was great fun — again, almost all of PKD’s novels are top quality. Way Station didn’t resonate with me. I found Thorns to be readable (I have a review on my blog if you’re curious) but not near his best of the 60s. Same with City of Illusions, a great book but not nearly as good as Le Guin’s more famous ones. If I were extending the list — Babel 17 OR Nova (more likely Nova) would find a way into the top 15 or so.

      So yes, I’ve read a great portion of those books and they’re all good!

  • jameswharris says:

    My 11 would be, at the moment at least, in no order:

    + Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
    + Empire Star/Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany
    + Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
    + Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein
    + Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
    + Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick
    + Mindswap by Robert Sheckley
    + The Last Starship From Earth by John Boyd
    + Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
    + Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
    + Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I’m very curious to know your reasoning behind The Last Starship From Earth! I wrote a rather scathing review a while back…. Was very unimpressed.

      • jameswharris says:

        The Last Starship From Earth is a rather funky book, and I can see why readers wouldn’t like it, and maybe if I reread it now I wouldn’t like it as much as I remember it. But back in the 1960s when I was reading SF as a teenager, writing, plotting and storytelling didn’t count as much as ideas. The Last Starship From Earth had a lot weird ideas in it, especially as an alternate history of a world that had a different Jesus and science developed sooner. Also, the society in it really was a satire on the 60s, and I’m not sure how that would go over now.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I found it funky as well — in the bad way. It wanted to blend alt history and sci-fi but didn’t carry it out very well. And, it didn’t take itself seriously but didn’t seriously want to be a satire either… I was left with a rather bland, “oh, that probably wasn’t worth my time” feel.

  • Carl V. says:

    Haven’t read many of these, but Dune would for certain be on my list. And given that this would be a “favorite” list some Heinlein and Harrison would be on there for certain.

    The Ballard book looks/sounds great. Gonna add that to my list of books to look out for when at the used bookstores.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I highly recommend Ballad’s corpus of sci-fi novels — High-Rise (1975)(perhaps not sci-fi….) is worth reading as well. He’s a really moody, dark, ruminating author — my type!

  • Carl V. says:

    And as we’ve talked about covers here before, it makes me wanna cry seeing how the publishers wrecked that excellent Powers cover for The Man in the High Castle.

  • Forever Peace is one of those “there was no sequel” books for me, like Highlander 2 or Matrix Revolutions. I thought it diminished the original novel. Interesting to hear another view.

  • Jesse says:

    I just stumbled across your post, and I have to say, great list!! Of course everyone has their preferences, but I can find no reason to disagree with any of the choices, except one: Synthajoy. The reason: I haven’t read it! But your review entices. I’ll have to check it out!

    It’s not so often I stumble across a site that doesn’t revel in the mindlessly entertaining side of sf, so, looking forward to reading over your other posts!!

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      D. G. Compton is a great and sadly underrated/under read author. If you don’t want to read Synthajoy I suggest his most famous work, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1974).

      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Susan E says:

    It is sort of hard, can’t assume that when I first read them was when they were published. For instance, I would have put Hal Clement’s Needle on there but it was actually first published in 1950, I bought my Ace copy in 1964. So that’s out. It is still a great book and author. It’s been fun to be reminded of some of these oldies. I first saw your blog on Io9
    My faves are: (although I am sure I will think of others I should have perhaps better listed).

    The Boy Who Bought Old Earth and The Underpeople by Cordwainer Smith
    The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by PKD
    Davy by Edgar Pangborn.
    Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson but also Tau Zero
    Saga of Lost Earths by Emil Petaja (& the rest of Kalevala series)
    Uncharted Stars by Andre Norton (hard for me to pick just one)
    Witch World also by Andre Norton
    Sword of Aldones by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
    Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley
    Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon
    The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson
    Stormbringer by Michael Morcock
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
    The Maker of Universes by Phillip Jose Farmer

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      A great list! I’ve read a few of them — Lord of Light, The Three Stigmata, and Witch World. I’ve put the rest on my list. I enjoy Norton but would be reluctant to place her on a best of list.

  • vintage45 says:

    Can’t miss with that list. I remember when Dune first came out the question being asked was “How far did you get in it?” Most of us SF fans pushed ahead and were glad we did.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I love Dune — as with so many other readers it was the first sci-fi book that really grabbed me. It inspired me to start accumulating the piles and piles that I now own.

  • [...] Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations, Top 11 Science Fiction Novels from the 1960s. I’m looking forward to exploring some of [...]

  • Wesley says:

    Reblogged this on Word Alive and commented:
    Great blog I just found. Blog author Joachim Boaz creates a list of some of the best scifi/dystopian/social science novels he has read. Being my graduate studies focused on dystopia I have been really interested in what scifi novels from the 60s have to offer.

  • Mark Joseph says:

    Here are my 10 favorite (thus far) 1960s science fiction novels:

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    A Canticle for Leibowitz
    Stand on Zanzibar
    The Man in the High Castle
    Clans of the Alphane Moon
    This Immortal

    The 11th spot is left blank; I’m saving it for “The Left Hand of Darkness” which I will be reading soon.

    Others that I liked from the 1960s: Le Guin’s first SF trilogy (Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions), Space Opera (Jack Vance), Time Tunnel (Murray Leinster), Rite of Passage (Alexei Panshin), Up the Line (Silverberg), Rogue Dragon (Avram Davidson), Way Station (Simak), Greybeard (Aldiss), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

    Ones that I liked OK, but didn’t think were great: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Emphyrio (Jack Vance), The Einstein Intersection (Delany), Picnic on Paradise (Joanna Russ), The Wanderer (Leiber). And, I’ve read a few that I liked minimally or didn’t like at all. I’m currently reading Delany’s Nova, and have to catch up on Vonnegut and Lem, as well as the PKD novels that I haven’t read yet. Wishing you many happy days of reading!

  • Caroline says:

    A very interesting list and I will be able to test whether or not I don’t like 60s Sci-Fi as i have the Left Hand of Darkness and Solaris here to read.
    I think I might also try The Man in The High Castle at some point.

  • Caroline says:

    I’ve posted too quickly. I’ve read and reviewe Dune two years ago as part of a readalong and I was one of the rare who had problmes with that as well. To be fair, the images are still in my mind, the world buidlung is great but I was not so keen on the story telling.
    Loking over my shelves I seem to like 50s (Bradbury) and 80s (Sheri S Tepper).

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      And Stand on Zanzibar? Hehe — the only reason I ask is because it’s my favorite sci-fi novel…. I like the early late 60s and early 70s — Brunner (Stand, The Sheep Look Up, etc), Malzberg, Silverberg, Russ, Compton etc.

      • Caroline says:

        I haven’t read it. It sounds interesting but I’m afraid I’ll find it too theoretical.

      • Mark Joseph says:

        Not to worry. Even though there are definitely some experimental sections, you get used to them quickly, and most of the book is really a great read. I rated it 4 1/2 out of 5, and highly recommend it.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I agree — it might take a while to get into (the plot slowly unfolds along with the vividly descriptive world conveyed via fragments of various invented books, news clips, etc) but the plot itself is rather straightforward despite the complexity of the framework. But then again, all the social ruminations are so much more intriguing than the actual progression of the narrative.

  • […] Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations, Top 11 Science Fiction Novels from the 1960s. I’m looking forward to exploring some of […]

  • Elizabeth says:

    Interesting lists brings back memories. I’ll have to read SF again. I was an avid SF reader in the 60s & 70s, mostly through reading Analog magazine & Amazing stories (I think-it’s been many years). I’m trying the remember a short story not a novel about overpopulation. The image that has stuck in my mind was an adolescent girl standing on a bridge over the tank? where bodies were dumped to be processed (maybe into food, not sure). A very dark story. Does anyone know the title or author for such a short story.

  • Miky says:

    You’ve convinced me to read John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. I own the SF Masterworks Edition, it’s been sitting on my shelf for a few months now, and its honestly been staring me down. Right after I’m done with Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, I’m jumping into Brunner.

    Most of my experience with Silverberg extends to his 70s work (Dying Inside, The Book of Skulls…), but I’m actually reading backwards so the 60s are next as far as he’s concerned.

    Don’t shoot me for this but I’m not Dune’s biggest apologist. I was born in 1991, Dune in 1965, but unlike some other 60s novels it dated badly. Sure, it was written with aplomb, knowledge, and a skillful prose, but I just wasn’t convinced throughout. Paul Atreides was just too unconvincing a Messiah. Granted, it should be on any meritocratic list, but as far as a list built on preference goes, it’s not in my the top 30, let alone top 11.

    I wish I could confidently draw my own list but I’ve not read near enough books to do that. What I an convinced of is that half of it would be comprised of Philip K. Dick novels: Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Martian Time-Slip… Definitely, Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and maybe Delany’s Babel-17. The rest of the positions are uo for grabs.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I created this list a long time ago. I suspect my current one would be rather different.

      There are so many amazing New Wave novels from the later 60s that I hadn’t read yet. Also, Le Guin’s novel should in no way stand in for all the other amazing novels written by women in that period (as it tends to do on lists).

      • Miky says:

        That’s true, but “The Left Hand of Darkness” was the novel in which Le Guin finally started to come into herself. I still largely prefer “The Dispossessed”. But as far as the 1960s go I’m hard pressed to think of any female author that surpassed her, other authors are Joanna Russ, Anne McCaffrey and Zenna Henderson, and I’ve not yet read any Henderson. If you have any books to recommend of that period I’d appreciate it a lot.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I prefer The Left Hand of Darkness l)

        Joanna Russ wasn’t publishing novels in 60s. Her first novel is Against Chaos which was published in 1970.

        Here are some worthwhile 50s/60s novels written by women.

        C. L. Moore’s 50s novels can be quite fun — her most mature/serious is Doomsday Morning (1957).

        Kit Reed’s Armed Camps (1969) is wonderful.

        Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)

        The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett (1953) — she is a great “pulp” writer if you’re in the mood for pulp.

        Judith Merril’s Shadow of the Earth (1950) is great for a late 40s/early 50s novel. As are most of her 50s/60s short stories.

        I have some reviews of these on my book review list.


      • Mark Joseph says:

        Actually, Russ’ first novel was “Picnic on Paradise” from 1968. Then “And Chaos Died.” Her third major novel was “The Female Man” (1975), which is the book I’m reading now.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        You’re right. I forgot about that one. Need to find a copy. I’ve read The Female Man, And Chaos Died, and her best (in my minority opinion), We Who Are About To… I want to tackle some of her short works.

      • Mark Joseph says:

        Cool. I thought “Picnic on Paradise” was pretty good, though it dragged at the end, and “And Chaos Died” almost unreadable. So far (I’ve read about a third of the book) “The Female Man” is the best of the bunch. I have the other one you mentioned–but I’d never even heard of it until I came upon it unexpectedly in a bunch of books we were given. Not the 60s, of course, but I think the best SF novel by a woman I’ve read is “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” And, of course, “The Hunger Games.”

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        “but I think the best SF novel by a woman I’ve read is “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” And, of course, “The Hunger Games.” — umm, really?

        No way! Eh, but I’m not in the arguing mood ;)

      • Mark Joseph says:

        S’OK; I’m not either. I was reasonably certain I’d get some reaction.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I want to read some of Margaret St. Clair’s SF as well — namely, The Sign of the Labrys (1964)…. I have it on my shelf thankfully.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I also think that we shouldn’t forget all the brilliant short stories written by women of the era, Miriam Allen deFord, St. Clair, Merril, etc.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I recommend this site (a review collating site) for a good range of female SF authors pre-2000.

        I submit my reviews to it as well.


    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I love Paul as a messiah — a conflicted on, the best type.

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