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SF Books for People Who Don’t Read Science Fiction

Many of us tend to get stuck in a groove of reading certain genres, but there is a whole world of wonderful books out there to explore. We also know that science fiction can be intimidating—there are so many different categories! From space operas to robot apocalypses, science fiction books often feature high concept plots and settings. At their core, though, they still tell very human stories, and that’s why we think everyone should be enjoying them. Here’s a list of some of our favorite SF and SF-adjacent titles to get you started.

Counterweight by Djuna, translated by Anton Hur

From one of South Korea’s most revered science fiction authors, whose identity remains unknown, comes a stunning blend of cyberpunk and noir about the world’s first space elevator and a crucial piece of data which could determine humanity’s future. Featuring shadowy corporations, captivating characters, political intrigue, and chilling AI, this is part literary sci-fi, party detective fiction, and part social commentary that will appeal to even the most casual genre fan.

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ExhalationExhalation by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang is a giant in the SF world for his incredible award-winning short stories. You might be familiar with his work already—“Story of Your Life” was the basis for the Oscar–winning movie Arrival starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. This latest collection features nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories and would be a great entry point for anyone new to science fiction.

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9780307739452How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Charles Yu’s playful take on science fiction tropes is a delightful read for die-hard fans and newbies alike. The book features capital-H Heroes, time travel, and a self-conscious and emotional operating system named TAMMY, but at its heart, this is a novel about a son searching for his missing father and potentially finding himself along the way.

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9780385721677Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The first novel in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy introduces readers to Snowman Jimmy and a world that has been destroyed by mankind’s extended reach. If you know The Handmaid’s Tale, you won’t be surprised by this stunningly built alternate reality that feels a little to close for comfort. This time, Atwood takes on runaway experimentation and corporate greed in a story told from the perspective of someone who loved those most guilty of these crimes against humanity.

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9780307947307The Stand by Stephen King

Stephen King is best known for his horror writing, and although there’s plenty to be scared by in this novel, this 1,000+ page apocalyptic novel counts as SF in our book. This read is chock full of memorable characters engaged in a battle for good and evil against a backdrop of a world ravaged by plague. So what are you waiting for?

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9780804172448Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

You might not realize this book is SF until a few chapters in and by that point, you’ll have already fallen for Emily St. John Mandel’s breathtaking novel. The book bounces between life before and about ten years after society’s collapse due to a fast-moving flu. Early on there’s a list of things you’ll never see again after the collapse of society that we still think about regularly.

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9781101974490The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

We recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this book’s publication and were blown away by how well the science at the center of the novel holds up. That’s mostly because this is actually a story about humans and our habit of not quite living up to our potential.

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9780375706684Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

We’ve saved the best for last! One of the most profound and bestselling science fiction novels of all time, Dhalgren is the perfect choice for dipping your toes into the sf pool. Here you have a novel set in a fictional city in the U.S. and something…has happened. Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism.

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