Top “must' reads in SF of the 60's? Hummmm! Maybe so - maybe not.
Of all “best of” or “top 10 (or 100)” lists there will be critics, loud critics, psychopathic critics or any number of malcontents, offended by the exclusion of their favorite novel.
However, those who posit such personal opinion list based on no more than their own emotional state of mind are so egocentric as to be no more than a fart in a wind storm, and deserve to be subjected to “enhanced grilling”
The 1960s were a great decade for literary science fiction — it was a time when new writers were bringing new themes into the genre, and exploring old themes in radically new ways. We could easily have created a list of 100 great books published in that time. This list is intended purely to whet your appetite. I've only picked one book from each author, even though celebrated writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Samuel Delany and Philip K. Dick published several notable books in the 1960s.
Following are the selections of the 60's gems that are assigned to the “must read” list.
But, should they be?
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) A man has gotten "unstuck in time," living the events of his life out of order, all while being watched over by a seemingly benevolent group of aliens.
Samuel Delany, Babel-17 (1966) This is a novel of ideas that's also an incredible war story.
J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962) Though the post-apocalypse sub-genre is nearly as old as SF itself, it wasn't until Ballard came along that people really started to enjoy it.
Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Sang (1969) McCaffrey captured imaginations in the 1960s with this story about the relationship between a cyborg ship and her captain.
Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (1962) Dick was a master of bizarro dystopias, and this alternate history is one of his most incredible.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) One of the first novels in set hin her "Known Worlds" universe, this remains one of LeGuin's masterpieces. An single alien ambassador is sent to a world to make first contact with its inhabitants —
Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) Though many authors had imagined Moon colonies before, in this novel Heinlein tries to offer a plausible scenario of what a Moon society would look like after generations of living offworld.
Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) One of the most popular children's science fiction novels of all time, L'Engle's story takes her preternaturally mature young heroes far across space to many worlds
Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (1961) Lem wrote many mind-bending SF novels, but this early 1960s exploration of how humans try to communicate with an intensely alien intelligence is truly incredible
Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise (1968) A group of tourists land on a beautiful, uninhabited world for a lunchtime stop during their space cruise. Unfortunately they get stranded, and our rich idlers must fight to survive. This is the dark side of space opera.
Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 (1968) Clarke and Stanley Kubrick worked together to develop the story for the classic film 2001. While the film was being shot, Clarke wrote the companion novel about the discovery
Frank Herbert, Dune (1965) (Ed. note — this book was added to the list by popular demand!) Dune is perhaps one of the first truly modern space operas. Call it the birth of the astropolitical novel. Herbert pulls us headlong through an exciting but never simplistic tale of a spacefaring civilization