What Should Be In The High School Library SciFi Section?

As many of you know, my wonderful wife works in the high school library. Even if you didn’t know that, it’s still true. Seriously though, one of the areas the library is severely lacking in is the science fiction department. Really, it’s slim pickings. So here is my request: Please leave in the comments what books you think should be in a high school library’s science fiction section. If all the recommendations come from me, it will basically just be full of my favorites. While that would suit me just fine, the thought of growing similar minded geeks is a bit unsettling. Please keep in mind:

  • Our community is pretty conservative, so graphic alien on alien action is likely a deal breaker.
  • Please don’t recommend a book that is in the middle of a series. Recommend the whole series. Seriously, my OCD can’t handle that nonsense. πŸ™‚
  • Newer authors are encouraged. The classics are certainly not to be left out, but really — we want to introduce kids to new authors as well.
  • I think that’s it!

So please, leave your thoughts in the comments. Also, if you know anyone that would have an opinion on the issue, please pass a link along. I’m really hoping to get a good list together for her. Thank you!

36 thoughts on “What Should Be In The High School Library SciFi Section?”

  1. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – this is probably my favorite book of all time. I read it in high school. Although I’m not sure if that is more fiction, but I’ve always thought it’s a little sci-fi-ish. I’m not a SCI FI fan, so that’s all I got… I’m directing Tom to this post though cuz yeah…

  2. Note: my suggestions are more on the fantasy side

    Anything by Garth Nix. He has the Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel, Lirieal, Abhorsen) and a smaller series that is true sci fi for young adults.

    Terry Pratchett rocks.

    Age of Five series by Trudi Canavan.

  3. Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.” You can get the whole series (try “Ender’s Shadow” for another character’s POV) or just standalone. My mom is now teaching “Ender’s Game” in her middle school lit classes based on my rec and her kids L O V E it. She says they come through it feeling like world-changers.

    I wish I could recommend Iain M. Banks, but his work is wayyyyyyyy too edgy (and even profane) for young people. Superb writing, really just the best stuff out there, but I don’t think there’s any way it’ll pass standards set in a conservative community.

    I’ve now listed and deleted about four other books/authors but realized they were more fantasy than sci-fi. Ugh.

  4. The Heinlein YA novels, of course. No High School Library is complete without them, especially Orphans Of The Sky and Starship Troopers.

    I’ll have to think about some more current YA stuff. Anything but that stupid emo vampire crap.

  5. I’d have to push for the classics. In addition to Beep’s suggestion of Fahrenheit 451 and Topher’s plug for Asimov:

    Frank Herbert: Dune (just the first book; later entries get racier and also just aren’t as good–but the first is a masterpiece, and kids can seek out the later ones if they want to)

    Philip K. Dick: The Man In The High Castle any of the “Collected Stories” volumes of short stories, esp. the first or any volume including the short story “Roog” (there are other PKD books I could plug, but given the parameters you’ve mentioned, e.g. the conservative area, I don’t know that they’d be as appropriate)

    Arthur C. Clarke: 2001, Rendezvous With Rama (I’d also cautiously recommend Childhood’s End, though it does include religious themes that might be controversial in a very religiously conservative locale)

    Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles, I Sing The Body Electric, Something Wicked This Way Comes (the last being fantasy, but whatever)

    That’s all that’s coming to mind right now. I’ll leave it to others to nominate kid-friendly Heinlein (his best works violate all of your conditions, I think).

  6. “Print is dead.” — Dr. Egon Spengler.

    That being said,
    Hitchhiker Trilogy
    Some Asimov and some Heinlein. The only H that come to mind are Stranger In A Strange Land, which might be a no-go, and Starship Troopers. I think, if you put in Troopers, you should also stock Haldeman’s Forever War.
    Dune, despite the fact I couldn’t get through it.
    Ender’s War.

    And yeah, that list is all about 20 years old or MUCH MUCH more. Nothing kills a love of reading like a college education. Just ask Egon.

  7. “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, 1962. I loved that book, still have my copy from when I was a kid. Not so much a laser guns and rocket ships scifi, more of a odyssey through dimensions type.

  8. One book that I recall reading in high school was “Star Surgeon” by Alan E. Nourse. I think that quite a bit of Dr. Nourse’s science fiction was targeted at the juvenile and young adult audience.

    I recall enjoying all of Ray Bradbury’s writing at that age, too.

  9. ALL of the works of Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, Asimov and H.G. Wells.

    Also include the works of Terry Goodkind in the fantasy section and Anne McAffery has many books good for both the fantasy and the scifi sections.

    I found it VERY funny one day at the main library in Dallas TX, someone had shelved copies of the Holy Bible, the Torah and the Quoran side be side in the SciFi/fantasy section. I guess someone wanted to make a quiet statement on their own beliefs.

    Only in the US could a person get away with such. I’m sure many will take offence to it, but I found it to be enlightening. Imagine trying that in Tehran or Jeruselem.


  10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy was mentioned. I second that.

    Ben Bova has written several good books. My personal favorite is Mars, but I list that just as a starting point.

    Space by James Michener is really good.

    I would think a few Star Trek and Star Wars books would be good. Maybe the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn from Star Wars.

    As a person who is an avid reader of the Star Trek novels, it is hard to recommend just a few. Maybe the four-part Invasion! series which crosses the generations (TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY), would be a good place to start.

    1984 by George Orwell

  11. Orson Scott Card has a lot of great books. There is of course the entire “Ender’s Game” series and parallel “Ender’s Shadow” series, both of which are pretty good and definitely in the YA SciFi genre. Then there is also “Pastwatch (The Redemption of Christopher Columbus)” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    I would also mention the “Hyperion” series by Dan Simmons, a little less YA, but very good SciFi.

  12. I would suggest
    The Rookie by Scott Sigler
    Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty
    7th Son by JC Hutchins
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
    and second the Enders series by Orson Scott Card

  13. Wanted to mention that the first 3 entries are relatively new authors, and while Sigler’s audio version of The Rookie is VERY edgy the print version was intended as YA

  14. I’m with Jim – the Heinlein juveniles.

    Also, Philip Pullman’s books (of course).

    Everything by Niven and Pournelle.

    Lloyd Alexander’s The Prydain Chronicles. Singularly responsible for turning me onto reading, although technically they’re fantasy.

    Let us know if Donna does another Amazon wish list!

  15. Heartily concur that Niven’s and Pournelle’s The Mote in G-d’s Eye (my first “hard” science fiction book – The Gripping Hand is also worthy) and Michener’s Space ( a fantastic fictionalized account of the history of space flight) would be excellent contenders. Also a good addition – Niven’s and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. I don’t seem to remember racy scenes, but there were religious issues brought up, which befits a disaster/post-apocalyptic novel. I think it would be great for high school students, but I’m a product of a Los Angeles high school. Obviously, YMMV. (Also as obvious – Janiece and I are Niven/Pournelle fangirls. Seriously, their stuff rocks the Casbah.)

    1984 was a life-changing book for me in high school, so I completely agree as to its inclusion. Also agree about the oh so froody Hitchhiker’s trilogy.

    Unfortunately, I can’t come up with anything original right now, because 1) I’m coming to the party late and 2) my brain is its usual fried self. If my brain wakes up and finds an unmentioned book on its dusty bookshelf, I’ll drop you a comment.

  16. The Last Spaceship by Murray Leinster

    This was in my junior high & high school libraries. It is the first scifi I remember reading on my own and turned me into a scifi addict for life!! Most of Leinster’s books have been re-released in paperback over the last couple of years.

  17. My favorites include both the Robots and Foundation series by Asimov, Tokien (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), and A.E Van Vogt – specifically Slan and both “The Weapon Shops of Isher” and “The Weapon Makers”. I agree with Jim on the Heinlein YA novels. I read them as an adult and they are great, especially “Farmer in the Sky”.

  18. Some David Brin, at least Earth as a standalone (still a fascinating & relevant piece of near-future scifi, even at >10 years old). Possibly Kiln People (as it’s his most recent novel, plus quite good), too. Next would come his “Uplift” trilogies (two of them), starting from the first novel he ever published, Sundiver.

    In addition, I wasn’t myself aware, until just now, that Brin has published some YA novels. (A category I have no familiarity with. As a “young adult” I was reading the hard stuff, including all of that racy Heinlein that people have mentioned. Personally, I feel there was no other single influence that had a more positive impact on the adult I grew up to become.) Anyway, info at http://www.davidbrin.com/yabooks.htm

  19. Oh! And some Neal Stephenson, duh.

    Cryptonomicon is an obvious go-to selection. (If the community can handle one morphine-addicted soldier, whose affliction is portrayed in a far from positive light, and brief mention of Alan’s “penis proposition”.)

    Snow Crash was also an interesting read, plus how can anyone not respect a novel in which the lead character is named “Hiro Protagonist”? πŸ™‚

    I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t yet read his latest, Anathem, so I can’t comment on that book.

  20. Others have suggested Iain M. Banks but, as has also been noted, there are scenes in many of his books that could throw them out of the running. Still, they are just so darn good…Feersum Endjinn is one of my favorites!

  21. What about something by William Gibson? I read (and liked) “Count Zero” (a sort of follow-up to Neuromancer) in a course in graduate school.

  22. Again, old post is old, but if suggestions can still be made:

    I agree with everyone who mentioned Heinlein. Some of his stuff is almost surely too “racy” to get into a conservative school library, but he must have some acceptable stuff. I also agree with the Madeleine L’Engle recommendation, but I’d say the series should all be there, not just the first one. Also agreed with including: Asimov, Tolkein, Orson Scott Card, H. G. Wells, and John Scalzi’s books. I haven’t personally read them, but I know Robin Hobb and Terry Goodkind come highly recommended as all.

    I suggest Ben Bova, who writes futuristic space survival type stuff, that I read like 10 yrs ago so I don’t recall details but it should be plenty “safe.” Um, Terry Pratchett? I’ve actually not read them myself, but my husband is a huge fan and I saw the UK movie made based on the Discworld series and it was very amusing, and I think he’d be safe, they’re humorous, not racy. Piers Anthony? I’m not sure what a conservative school would make of the Incarnations of Immortality series (which covers the “characters” of Death, Fate, Time, Nature, War, etc) but I thought it was great, and there’s also the very popular Xanth series, which I’ve not yet checked out but may be interesting, and really I’d recommend him in general, he’s written tons.

    Annnd that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I hope their library has grown and continues to do so! =)


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