Discovering sci-fi and fantasy

When I was growing up, I completely avoided reading anything in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. In my teens and early twenties, I settled on historic fiction, general fiction, and memoirs, with some mystery (i.e. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) mixed in. Those tiny paperbacks with their barely legible words just never appealed to me. I saw rows of Star Wars paperbacks in my brother’s room and assumed that Sci-Fi was all about laser battles in space 99% of the time, and was for uber-nerds. And that fantasy was about elves and unicorns and was for people who couldn’t deal with the realities of this world. I never read any of the Lord of the Rings books, and barely made it through Redwall with all the talking animals.

I was introduced to sci-fi a few years back when a friend recommended Story of Your Life and Others to me. I had read barely any sci-fi and wasn’t a huge fan of short stories — but this — this was sci-fi?? Fascinating thought experiments combined with riveting plots, stories in alternate realities…this was not at all what I expected.

More recently when I was transitioning into more leadership roles at work, I asked a colleague if he could recommend any reading that would help the transition. Rather than the dry business management books I expected, he said that he finds a lot of inspiration for what makes someone a leader that people want to follow from fiction, and recommended Ender’s Game and the other books in the Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series. I devoured 3–4 books in the series, taking advantage of my BART rides to and from East Bay, using valuable commute time that would have otherwise been spent on reddit on my phone.

I first dabbled in fantasy after watching the first season of Game of Thrones — and read all the released books. To be honest, I found it a bit of a chore towards the end. More recently, I read (and re-read) both of the published books in the Kingkiller Chronicles, which set my bar for fantasy absurdly high.

As I approach 30, with one two year-old and another kiddo on the way, I’m realizing that I’m pretty much fully an adult. Surprisingly, a lot of the things I find myself newly drawn to are the things I avoided as a child, and I’m overcoming a lot of “oh that’s not something I would be interested in” biases. As a parent, one of the things I think about is how to combat the social conditioning that makes children group certain types of hobbies, books, careers, toys with certain types of people, and dismiss them as “not for me”?

For the last year or so, I’ve been playing catch up with some fantasy and sci-fi classics and more recent releases, and would love more recommendations. If anyone else is interested in starting to explore these genres, here are some of the books I’ve enjoyed:


  • Story of Your Life and Other’s (Ted Chiang)
  • Wool (Hugh Howey)
  • Dust (Hugh Howey)
  • Shift (Hugh Howey)
  • The Martian (Andy Weir)
  • Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
  • Nexus (Ramez Naam)
  • Cruz (Ramez Naam)
  • Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) — and subsequent books
  • Ender’s Shadow (Orson Scott Card) — and subsequent books
  • The City & the City (China Mieville)


  • Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss)
  • Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss)
  • The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Words of Radiance (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)

What are your favorite Sci-fi or Fantasy books? Respond to this post with your favorites!

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