I began reading science fiction with John Christopher's The White Mountains, a story of alien invasion. My first adult experience with the genre was Arthur C. Clark's A Fall of Moondust. I watched Star Trek as a kid when it originally aired, and have been a devout fan ever since.
Below I list a number of other books which have been influential on my appreciation of science fiction, along with some reasons why.
Foundation and Empire Isaac Asimov
This is the first book I read of Asimov's Foundation trilogy and in my mind the best. Asimov pioneered the the grand sweeping epic covering the rise and fall of galactic civilization.
Stranger in a Strange Land and
I Will Fear No Evil Robert Heinlein
The fundamental study of Grok, the concept of completely knowing, set against an increasingly intolerant society.
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. LeGuin
The human as alien. The beginning of the book especially gives a strong characterization. The description of the journey over the ice-fields is inspiring.
A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter Miller Jr. Another epic, this time set in a post-apocalyptic future. The story of civilization's rise from the ruin and an extended dark ages.
Steel Beach John Varley
The story of civilization exiled to the moon by an unknown alien, technologically advanced but with nothing to live for. Or is there? One of my favourite books.
The Boat of a Million Years Poul Anderson
Sages in a feudal civilization predict the future destruction of the planet's star system. The mission to save the species becomes the defining element of a centuries-long history into the space age. Stirring, dramatic.
Ringworld Larry Niven
My favourite of Niven's Known Space series, this novel depicts the exploration of ring as large as earth's orbit constructed around a star. Best read after reading a number of Niven's other works, such as Protector, and save The Ringworld Engineers for after.
Time Enough For Love Robert Heinlein
The story of Lazurus Long and Family, this is in my view Heinlein's gentlest work and one of his best. Punctuated with the fascinating Notebook of Lazarus Long, a set of sayings. For example: "Moderation of for Monks; Live to Excess."
10 March 1996
Updated 15 August 1997
Updated 21 June 1999.
Updated 10 March, 2001
Updated 25 April, 2002
Updated august 30, 2004
Updated August 27, 2007