Important Science Fiction
I'm not looking merely for works that you like, but works that have had some sort of impact, either on you personally or the genre in general. I'll start with those I believe to have had the greatest influence on the genre.
There is, I believe, one author who has done as much to shape science fiction as Tolkien has done for fantasy. This would be Isaac Asimov. He gave us the Three Laws of Robotics . . . he gave us the very /word/ robotics. Almost every modern image of a robot traces back to something from Asimov's works (except for the evil, megalomaniacal ones). So, I'll start with his Robot novels:
The Rest of the Robots (This is an anthology including numerous short stories and also the two complete novels The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. The Caves of Steel is important not only for being the first of the Daneel Olivaw novels, but also for introducing the science-fiction mystery.)
The Robots of Dawn
Robots and Empire
These last two continue the Daneel Olivaw novels, after the death of Elijah Bailey.
The Foundation books are equally important. I will go ahead and list all those Asimov wrote, in the order in which they take place, and then discuss a few distinctions among them.
Prelude to Foundation
Forward the Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Foundation and Earth
Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation comprise the so-called Foundation Trilogy. These were first written as a series of short stories, published in magazines, and later collected into those three books. The two sequels were written years later, by popular (and publisher) demand, after Asimov himself had expressed no further desire to continue with that universe. I believe the prequels were written even later than that, probably should not be read until after reading the trilogy, and may be safely skipped entirely. There is also a so-called Second Foundation Trilogy, three novels written in recent years by three separate authors, none of whom are Asimov. Please, please don't read these. You have been warned. (I didn't even bother to list them.)
And then there are several important short stories by Asimov. When seeking out these, make sure you find the original Asimov short stories, not the novelizations by Robert Silverberg. (One of those has been
made completely butchered into a movie.) The short stories tend to be the title story of anthologies, and the rest of the stories tend to be worth reading as well. Hey, it's Asimov.
"The Bicentennial Man"
"The Ugly Little Boy"
Minor spoiler for "The Bicentennial Man" perhaps, though since there's a movie most people probably already know this much:
There's two more authors I want to discuss briefly, but this wall of text is already long enough. I'll make separate posts later, probably in a few hours. Meanwhile, feel free to discuss.