This six-part series is intended to guide new science fiction readers toward books that they may find enjoyable. Here's what's on tap:

Part 3: Award Winners

A natural place to turn for book suggestions is to books that have received awards since they have been recognized for superior achievement—at least in theory. Winning an award does not automatically mean that it is enjoyable to the masses, especially beginners. That said, your chances of finding a worthwhile read by scanning a list of award-winning books are pretty excellent.

The science fiction and fantasy field has plenty of award lists to choose from, each encompassing a wide range of reading choices. Here is a sampling of major sf/f awards and some award-winning books that might be a good first step into the world of the fantastic. (Note: I just look at novels here; short fiction will be addressed in a future installment.)

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The Hugo Awards have been around for more than 55 years. Recent Hugo Award-winning novels include:

  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, which explores a post-oil era Bangkok where genetic mutation is common and corporate greed leads to bio-terrorism.
  • The City & the City by China Miéville is an existential thriller set in a pair of bizarre cities.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is about a young boy who lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts who protect him from the man who killed his family.
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon is a murder mystery set in a post-Holocaust community.
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, in which Earth is surrounded by a force field separating it from the rest of the universe.

The Nebula Awards, run by active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, started in 1965. Some recent Nebula Award-winning novels include:

  • Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin is about a young slave who possesses the ability to see into the future.
  • Camouflage by Joe Haldeman, where the discovery of a mysterious object leads a marine biologist to two shape-shifting aliens: one benevolent, the other not so much.
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, in which a woman attempts to preserve the endangered souls in a realm ruled by five Gods.
  • The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, where an autistic man undergoes experimental treatment in a society that has left him behind.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman, in which an ex-con meets a mysterious stranger who may be one of the old Gods preparing for an epic battle.

But Wait, There's More! Lots More!

The awards don't end here! This is just the tip of the iceberg. Different awards are aimed at different aspects of the field. Some cover specific sub-genres, some are regional, some are awarded to distinguished authors, some awards are judged, others juried...there is certainly no dearth of places to turn if you are looking for books that have received awards. Other awards include:

For those looking to explore even further, an indispensible, one-stop resource for science fiction and fantasy award information is the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards at Locus Online. Additionally, the SF Awards Watch blog is frequently updated with the latest awards news.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also like bagels.