The Basic Bookcase

The Third Shelf: Awakenings (1900–72)

06 July 1999

The Third Shelf We'll assume that each of these books is 20mm thick (about 0.79"), thus fitting 36 books on this shelf. Since virtually all of them are available as paperbacks, and 72.0cm (28.3") is narrower than ideal for a real bookshelf, 36 books should fit comfortably.

These books all saw print before the end of the Apollo program in December 1972. They are almost all American and British science fiction. As a group, they reflect the optimism that went along with the space program. As the space program limited itself, however, so did science fiction in the mid-1970s; fantasy was not yet a viable commercial publishing category.

Some of these books don't hold up very well, such as Heinlein's "future history." Nonetheless, a speculative fiction writer should be familiar with all of them, because they have all had significant (if often unconscious) influence on more recent work in the field.

Work by some of these authors also appears on other shelves. I encourage anyone who likes these books to read more by the same authors.

And, without further ado . . .

1 Poul Anderson, Tau Zero
2–4 Isaac Asimov, Foundation, Foundation's Edge, and Second Foundation None of the tacked-on successors belongs on this shelf.
5 Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves
6 Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
7 James M. Blish, A Case of Conscience
8 John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar
9 James Branch Cabell, The Cream of the Jest
10 James Branch Cabell, The High Place
11 L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
12 Samuel R. Delany, The Einstein Intersection
13 Samuel R. Delany, Nova
14 Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
15 Thomas M. Disch, Camp Concentration
16 Thomas M. Disch, 334
17 L.P. Hartley, Facial Justice
18 Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
19 Robert A. Heinlein, The Past Through Tomorrow
20 Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
21–24 Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Darkest Shore, and Tehanu Tehanu is outside the period, but it should be read with the previous three.
25 Doris Lessing, Briefing for a Descent Into Hell
26–28 Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone
29 Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp, The Complete Compleat Enchanter
30 Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
31 Keith Roberts, Pavane
32 Cordwainer Smith, Norstrilia
33 Norman Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron
34 Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
35 Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
36 H.G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come


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