• The cover of the book Kindred

    Kindred

    While I could go on forever about Octavia Butler’s contributions to science fiction as a whole, Kindred is a book that’s important not only for readers of science fiction, but to any American reader. Originally published in 1979, the novel follows a modern Black woman named Dana who’s transported to Antebellum-era Maryland to save the life of a slaveowner’s son.

     
  • The cover of the book The Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad

    This novel follows Cora and Caesar, two slaves in the southeast United States seeking to escape slavery via the Underground Railroad, which in Whitehead’s alternate history is a literal rail system. The Underground Railroad won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence.

     
  • The cover of the book The Left Hand of Darkness

    The Left Hand of Darkness

    While Le Guin’s classic novel is much more speculative than other titles on the list, it’s also one of the most well-known. Set on a planet populated with ambisexual humans, The Left Hand of Darkness explores themes of gender and balance. The current editions of the novel include an introduction in which Le Guin describes the novel as a “thought experiment,” which can lead to some fascinating book club discussions.

     
  • The cover of the book Frankenstein

    Frankenstein

    Another excellent suggestion for more reluctant book clubs is the novel that founded the science fiction genre as we know it. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus explores themes of isolation, prejudice, and a hubristic desire to play god, which are pretty evergreen as themes go. A landmark of Romantic and Gothic fiction, Frankenstein is a solid sci-fi classic, even two hundred years later.

     
  • The cover of the book Station Eleven

    Station Eleven

    This post-apocalyptic journey explores the survival of human culture in the aftermath of a devastating disease by following a traveling troupe of actors in the Great Lakes region. Emily St. John Mandel received the Nebula Award in science fiction for the novel, which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.