The Basic Bookcase
The Top Shelf: The Classics
12 May 1999
I'll start from the top. Assuming that each book is 19mm thick (about 0.75"), we can fit 35 books on this shelf. Since virtually all of them are available as mass-market paperbacks, and 72cm (28") is actually a bit on the narrow side for a real bookshelf, 35 books should fit quite comfortably.
The books on this shelf are all speculative fiction, whether marketed as such or not. Initial release dates range from the eighth century to the present. It's my bookcase, so I make the rules! Unlike the farce of so many "best of" lists, I don't claim that #1 is "better" than #2 or #35 (especially since they're alphabetized). Read them all! And not all of them "hold up" in every respect. For example, one can certainly argue that Asimov's characterization is not all that good. However, any serious writer of speculative fiction needs to understand the commercial, idea-driven short story, and Asimov is probably the best the genre has produced at that subspecies. Further, the entire robot series changed the way both the speculative fiction community and the world at large think about robots. (The very word "robotics" is credited to Asimov.)
One ground rule for this shelf that applies to no other: An author will be represented only once, with either a coherent multibook set or a single book.
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