Welcome to an insightful journey through the world of '16 Best Science Fiction Books for Beginners to Read in 2023,' written by Muhiuddin Alam on the book recommendations and reviews site, ReadingAndThinking.com.
As a leading authority in the field of literary expertise, I've authored numerous articles, many of which can be found on this site.
With the growing interest in sci-fi books for beginners, I have received numerous requests for recommendations. In response, I'm pleased to share my expert insights in this article.
Within this post, you will discover my recommendations, which are based on my in-depth study and testing in this field, including books like Dark Matter, Ender's Game, Flowers for Algernon, Replay, and Cat's Cradle.
These aren't just the best sci-fi books for beginners on this topic. Below, you'll find 21 books with detailed descriptions of each of these outstanding resources, helping you make well-informed decisions in your journey through the easy-to-read sci-fi book genre.
People that are newer to sci-fi and are looking for where to start to see. if they enjoy the genre and to see what types of sci-fi they might like so with that in mind each book that is on the list I picked for a particular type of reader.
for example, if you're looking for action you might like this if you enjoy comedy you might like that.
so I can almost guarantee there should be at least one book on this list that you should enjoy and hopefully many more.
The 16 Best Science Fiction Books for Beginners to Read in 2023
Top 16 science fiction books for beginners that sound quite easy to throw together doesn't it let me tell you I had an absolute nightmare with this one actually that sounds a bit dramatic let's get some perspective, please.
I had to think about some books for a couple of hours I got through it I survived what I ended up doing was approaching this one from a fairly unique angle it's not just 16 indisputable classics that every sci-fi noob should read nor is it easy to read entry-level sci-fi books I've created a magnificent framework a scaffolding of science fiction.
because if you're brand new to this genre and you read my list in the order you'll go on a grand tour of science fiction and then when you're finished you'll be ready to dive in much deeper you don't want 16 entry-level science fiction books you want to progress as you go if you've read any of these books then simply read the next one on the list or try one of the alternatives that I'll talk about.
Here we recommend The 16 Best Science Fiction Books for Beginners in 2023.
16. Dark Matter: A Novel
This book is for readers who are fans of Christopher Nolan and I went with The Dark Matter by Blake Crouch in a dark matter a man gets abducted and when he wakes up the world at first appears to be the same but then his wife isn't his wife his son was never born and instead of a college professor, he is a celebrated physicist.
so the questions are what's real and what's not really how did everything change and can he change it back so the story is different but in terms of the tone, this felt a little bit to me like a memento or inception with its mind-bending concepts so it also has a film-like quality where each scene feels like a chapter and it moves at a breakneck pace so if that sounds like your kind of thing checks out dark matter.
15. Ender's Game
This book is for readers looking for military sci-fi and or smart kids and I went with Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card so in the future humanity is at war with an insect-like alien species and fearing an invasion the international fleet enlists gifted children in order and trains them in order to become commanders at battle school.
So Ender's game has deep characters philosophical questions tactical battles and an immensely satisfying plot it's interesting to see this setup of the military training trope from the perspective of kids super-intelligent kids but kids nonetheless and ones that I grew to be incredibly connected to so ender's game absolutely deserves to be a classic and is one of the all-time favorites I hope you love it too.
14. Flowers for Algernon
This book is for readers who don't want any spaceships or aliens and I went with Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys.
this is the softest sci-fi on the list if you're just looking to dip your toe into the sci-fi waters then this classic offers some fantastically written light speculative fiction and the premise of the book is that a man with a low IQ is offered an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence after it successfully worked on a mouse he takes the surgery and it starts to work but the mouse starts to regress so the question becomes will the same happen to him and is there anything he can do to stop.
so this story is told through journal entries and we follow his journey through the narrative but also we see how the journal entries are written themselves because as he becomes more intelligent his ability to write and articulate himself changes as well I think this book is a real literary achievement that packs an emotional punch and yeah it's it's sci-fi.
This book is for readers looking for time travel and I went with Replay by Ken Grimwood now time travel is a pretty well-known concept in sci-fi.
so even if you're newer to the genre it's probably something you're already interested in or familiar with although this might be one of the lesser-known books on the list in replay we follow a man who is stuck in a bit of a rut and then he dies at the age of 43 he wakes up 25 years earlier when he's 18 and remembers everything from his previous life now 25 years later the same thing happens again so it's a groundhog day type concept but instead of being stuck in a time loop of one day he is reliving 25 years.
so the questions become what will he do differently what will he repeat why is he in this time loop and is there anything he can do to get out of it this is a very premise-based book so if that idea is hooked you pick it up and see how it plays out.
12. Cat's Cradle: A Novel
This book is for readers looking for thought-provoking comedy and I went with Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
I actually left my copy of Cat's Cradle at my parent's house so this is The Sirens of Titan standing in its place also a good book.
so anyway there's probably really only a handful of writers that actually make me laugh out loud while reading and Kurt Vonnegut is one of them in cat's Cradle the narrator travels to interview the children of the co-creator of the atomic bomb and he learns about a substance called ice 9 that freezes any water that it comes into contact with the then travels to a fictional Caribbean island and learns about this irreverent religion called boccanonism and it all comes together.
this book combines some heavy themes with absurdist humor I highly recommend it to anyone who's trying to make sense of a seemingly nonsensical world this book really sparked a love of sci-fi for me and I hope it does for me and you too.
11. Leviathan Wakes
This book is for readers looking for space opera and I went with Leviathan Wakes by James s Corey. so this is kind of the opposite of my Flowers for Algernon recommendation if you are looking for space action check out the first book in the Expanse series it can be read as a standalone but if you enjoy it you can continue the series as well as watch the tv show.
the book is set in the future where humans can travel between planets but not yet between stars and it alternates between two main storylines we follow Jim Holden who he and his crew find a secret and come into possession of a secret that powerful people are willing to kill for and detective miller who is trying to track down a missing girl.
so this book offers action-adventure as well as a noir detective story in space it is the longest book on the list but it is very fast-paced and very readable so I think this is the kind of thing you're looking for.
10. The Martian
This book is for readers looking for a survival story I Went with the martian by Andy Weir the martian is set in the year 2035 and we follow an astronaut who is stranded on Mars he must improvise in order to survive because everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
this is also quite a funny book as to how he deals with these impending dire situations by cracking jokes that might not work for everyone but they mostly landed for me.
but what really makes this book a success is how Andy Weir makes science exciting, for example, there is a chapter in which he triangulates an incoming storm and it's epic somehow and Weir had me on the edge of my seat for mathematics which is impressive.
it's sharp, it's funny, it's great and when you finish reading the book you can then watch the Matt Damon film.
9. Red Rising
we're still being very gentle with the sci-fi it's okay so let's try Red Rising by pierce brown it's actually the first book in a series but you can stop after the first three of the first trilogy so if you like this read the other two books before moving on now we have a story that is set much further in the future a good seven or eight hundred years.
I think humans have spread out around the solar system but the general day-to-day stuff the general style of the book is like a normal non-science fiction book it's actually about the class system which is modeled on the Roman empire and how the oppressed working classes of the slaves lead a revolt from within there is super technology and energy manipulation on show.
but you could swap any of that stuff out for normal day-to-day stuff and it wouldn't really affect the story at all it's very similar in tone to the Hunger Games which I also recommend for a complete beginner but not instead of Red Rising which is the superior series especially the second book golden sun.
8. Childhood's End
This book is for readers looking for big ideas and I went with Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke in Childhood's End aliens arrive and throughout the story, we try to learn whether they are here to destroy Earth and help advance human society or something else now-classic sci-fi is often known for focusing more on the ideas than characters and that's not always the case but it often is.
so if you're a character first reading this might not appeal to you but if you're looking to dig into some deep sci-fi concepts this book packs technology culture aliens' evolution and much more into what is just a 200-page book
yes, it does have aliens so let's see what you think of Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke this one covers a few bases for the unaffiliated it's a first-contact novel which is proof that aliens exist for the first time in our history it's an extrapolation of the future of the human race.
and it was written in 1953 so you get that golden age style that so much classic science fiction has if you prefer this style of writing to the more modern stuff.
so I read this last year and I think about it all the time so hopefully, if you read it you enjoyed it too and you'll be thinking about it for a while.
science fiction isn't all about aliens and spacemen and flying saucers it's time to get dark and cerebral with the 1949 dystopian vision of George Orwell's 1984 sometimes referred to as speculative fiction this subgenre is more about people and politics and perception of the world around us.
now we're in the realm of ideas and satirical commentary on the current state of the world but projected onto a really dark future you will enjoy the ride but these books rarely have heroes or happy endings this is the corner of science fiction that overlaps with general fiction most people who don't read sci-fi have read 1984, brave new world, Fahrenheit 451, the handmaid's tale.
I just picked 1984 because it's the most famous one of the bunch but if you haven't read any of those books I just mentioned please sort that out.
6. We Are Legion
let's get back to something much more modern and fun with a book that I only read a couple of weeks ago but it's going straight on the list. it's Dennis E. Taylor's We Are Legion - we are Bob.
The Bobby Verse book One You're Ready for Bigger Things Now and We Are Legions gets pretty big for such a light and punchy book it's extremely easy to digest but it definitely flexes that sci-fi muscle it's about a guy called Bob who dies and wakes up 100 years in the future with his consciousness downloaded into a spaceship which can clone itself and explore the galaxy while trying to save the human race admit it.
if you are a beginner this is exactly what you signed up for this is science fiction.
5. House of Suns
now we can start melting your brain hard science fiction it's very heavy on the concepts and the technology but go with it it's absolutely awesome and of course, I'm gonna recommend my boy Alastair Reynolds's House of Sons I talk about this guy.
I actually reread and reviewed this a few weeks ago and it's still every bit as amazing as I remember so far we haven't really left the local vicinity we're either still on Earth or we can see it in the distance and although we have gone into the future we do have a grasp on when we are "house of sons" is going to all over that now let's follow some characters that live for so long they meet up with their buddies every hundred thousand years and share tales of building star dams and meeting a civilization of sentient machines or some godlike creatures.
I nearly put Revelation Space on this list but the House of Sons is a standalone novel so if you love it read Revelation Space the original trilogy as a bit of a detour.
4. A Canticle for Leibowitz
the end of the world is a very common theme in science fiction or at least stories about the other side of the apocalypse it's one of my favorite things.
I bloody love The End of the World so many too many great books to choose from but I'm gonna pick a canticle for Liebowitz because it doesn't just deal with that aftermath it picks humanity up again and takes us back to the future back to the future it's nothing like back to the future again.
It shows us that science fiction is not only about robots shooting lasers or talking toasters it's also about humans everything up.
It's time to get weird because up until now most of this stuff is kind of realistic or feasible a version of our world but in the future but there's a whole wad of science fiction that's just crazy now at this point you can read anything by Philip k dick it's all good I'm happy with that knock yourself out.
3. To Your Scattered Bodies Go
it's time to get weird because up until now most of this stuff is kind of realistic or feasible a version of our world but in the future but there's a whole wad of science fiction that's just crazy now at this point you can read anything by 'Philip k dick'.
but why don't you try 'Philip Jose' farmers to your scattered bodies go I say have a go it's not hard to read it's not the language or the concept that is particularly out of reach it's just extremely playfully mental a famous British adventurer dies on earth.
he then wakes up in a dark room is that what happens and he's then transported naked to the side of a river where every human that ever lived throughout history also lives along this river including Hermann Gurin the famous nazi he happens to be in the local area then it gets weird these concrete mushrooms pop up and dispense food and clothes and hallucinogenic drugs.
it really pushes the boundary of this genre it's very weird and that's why it's on the list.
This book is for readers who want people to stop recommending Dune and I went with Dune by Frank Herbert now the tune is the highest-selling science fiction book of all time and arguably has the most passionate fan base and while it might not quite be my personal number one I do love it and it is considered the gold standard for sci-fi also the film did just come out so now is a good time as ever to read it.
it's quite simply many people's favorite book of all time it's very intricate in its politics and its character motivations it has amazing world-building and it feels important if you really are a beginner and you haven't read any of this stuff at all it's like in fantasy the lord of the rings is required reading no one single book can ever represent what we science fiction fans love about this genre and of course, we rarely agree on what's the best.
so Dune tells the story of noble houses feuding over a desert planet that contains a valuable spice resource and there's also a duke sun that has enhanced mental capabilities which he doesn't fully understand.
it's still under 500 pages so if you're looking for rich world-building and themes with some fantastical elements I think you'll really enjoy Dune.
1. Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun
I've already mentioned there is no single book that can finish off this list with a flourish there is no grand finale or final word this is an introduction this is just the beginning but if you've come this far you may as well experience something special something unique and this had to be last on the list because this would have definitely scared away all the noobs.
it's the Book Of The New Sun The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe I've read this book a few times I've read the whole series a few times I've re-read this book very recently and reviewed it I've read guidebooks on how to read this book and I still don't quite know what the hell's going on it's an intimidating thing that is very hard to explain to someone that's not into what would you call it an adjacent reading the story is there.
there is a plot but the way that it's written just it's the shadow of the torturer it's the book of the new Sun it's set in a far future where the sun is dying but technology is it's not just futuristic it's already gone around the block a few times and it's a world that feels medieval but it's it's millions of years in the future maybe it's as you can tell it's hard for me to even explain what it is please just read it.
it's not on the list because it's complex and highbrow it's there because I absolutely love it I have gone on that journey of science fiction discovery and I arrived at the book of the New Son and it gave me an extraordinary experience and it still gives me a great deal of pleasure just like your mom.
Conclusion: Best Science Fiction Books for Beginners
was hard to put together sci-fi books for beginners but they were a lot of fun. so these are my top 16 sci-fi books for beginners. if you did enjoy make sure to share and subscribe for more sci-fi content coming soon.