The Just 20 Weekly Booklist contains 20 recommendations on a topic or genre for patrons of all ages. The list, curated by Lisa & Beth, is designed to proceed in level from older audiences to younger.

But why read science fiction?

Sci-Fi (and its close cousin Fantasy) was once considered the domain of science nerds and geeks, but this genre is finding a wider audience today, as science fiction writing is no longer the dominion of white male writers.

Isaac Asimov said "Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today - but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."

Science fiction can help us to extrapolate and understand current technology, highlights and predicts societal and cultural changes, and (the best sci-fi) can help us to conceptualize and solve the big problems we face.

If you are not a science fiction reader, perhaps you will give one of these suggestions a try. If you already are a sci-fi devotee, we would love to hear about what you are reading and how it informs your world view.

Note: Items denoted with an * are a part of NPL's collection. All others can be ordered via Inrteribrary Loan. In some cases these titles are also available on GMLC Overdrive or Libby, our downloadable ebook and audiobook service.
Kindred / Octavia Butler
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Kindred / Octavia Butler

The issues which Kindred addressed in 1979 are sharply resonant in the United States of 2020. Butler uses the vehicle of time travel, in the settings of antebellum Maryland and 1970s southern California, to explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy on individuals and society.

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A People's Future of the United States / Multiple Authors
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A People's Future of the United States / Multiple Authors

A fantastic landscape of twenty-five speculative stories that challenge oppression and envision new futures for America from some of our best-loved and diverse sci-fi writers. You can read one and feel totally satisfied, making the book last a long and glorious time!

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A Canticle for Leibowitz / Walter Miller
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A Canticle for Leibowitz / Walter Miller

The remnants of civilization smolder in the atomic ashes of the 20th century. In old America's desert southwest, the Abbey of St. Leibowitz struggles over the next 1200 years to keep knowledge alive. Preserving the precious relics of their founder - the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the holy shrine of Fallout Shelter - they cling to a slender reed of faith, hoping against hope that humankind might come to its senses after a second fall from grace. Sound familiar? This book launched Lisa's life-long love of the dystopian genre.

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The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula Le Guin
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The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin is a master of this genre and you really should want to read everything she has written. . . but if you are only going to read one, then you must read this one.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Philip K. Dick
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Philip K. Dick

The inspiration for the film Blade Runner, this Philip K. Dick book is a prescient rendering of a dark future where AI dangerously runs amok. The story begins in 2021 (a little close for comfort), after a World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending humankind off-planet. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and "retire" them. Noir meets sci-fi!

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*Ancillary Justice
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*Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice, the only novel to ever win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards, is the story of a ship's AI who becomes trapped in a human body and pursues a quest for revenge. Leckie explores the meaning of human nature and the uneasy balance between individuality and membership in a group identity. Strongly female-driven - this series (incuding Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy) tackles ideas about politics and gender in a way that's both engaging and provocative.

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Station Eleven / Emily Mandel
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Station Eleven / Emily Mandel

This book is a perfect mixture of literary and dystopian fictions. In this case, the dystopia is the result of a viral pandemic which decimated the population. Multi-layered and beautifully written, Station Eleven vividly depicts life before and after the pandemic and reveals a strange twist of fate that connects them both.

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The Fifth Season / N. K. Jemisin
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The Fifth Season / N. K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

A fine line exists between the genres of science fiction and fantasy and The Broken Earth series (of which "The Fifth Season" is the first of three) straddles that line. Additionally while many dystopic novels deal in some way with the effects of a degraded environment, Jemisin tackles it head-on as the events of the book themselves are part of the "breaking" of the world.

About power, oppression, cultural conflict and so much more, Jemisin is the first African-American writer to win a Hugo for best novel.

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet / Becky Chambers
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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet / Becky Chambers

Originally funded via a Kickstarter campaign (take note aspiring writers!) and the first in the Wayfarers series, Long Way is an example of the space opera sub-genre of sci-fi. It is feel-good science fiction with an emphasis on the importance of learning how to co-exist harmoniously. This book is not highly plot driven, but perfect for those who enjoy getting to know a diverse cast of characters (of all species).

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Ready Player One / Ernest Cline
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Ready Player One / Ernest Cline

Described as "Willy Wonka meets The Matrix," Ready Player One is a delightfully surprising book. Cline expertly mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future. Recommended for both teens and adults.

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Cinder / Marissa Meyer
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Cinder / Marissa Meyer

This series of re-imagined fairytales sets familiar characters in a futuristic setting. Cinder is a cyborg in a world of aliens and androids, serving as a second-class citizen who unexpectedly meets up with the prince. Marissa Meyer has fun playing with the original storyline and tinkering around with it to create something fresh and new. Fast-paced and slightly addictive, these might be a great choice for what to binge next.

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The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm / Nancy Farmer
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The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm / Nancy Farmer

A science fiction story with a dash of mystery thrown in, Farmer’s tale of futuristic Zimbabwe was written 25 years ago and takes place in 2174. Three children escape their parents and head off for adventure, only to be pursued by three detectives-- the Ear, Eye and Arm. This genre is known for showing us glimpses of the world to come, it’s always interesting to see how the far-off future is imagined. Yet it’s also so beloved that readers claim to finish and start over for an immediate second read, or buy a second copy to replace their well-loved book that’s fallen apart.

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The True Meaning of Smekday / Adam Rex
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The True Meaning of Smekday / Adam Rex

Here's the conundrum: read the book so you can see the great illustrations, or listen to the audiobook because Bahni Turpin brings this story gloriously alive? Maybe the answer is--both! The Boov have landed on Earth and taken over and our girl, Gratuity, (otherwise known as Tip) has got to get to Florida to save her mom. She and her cat, Pig, head off in their car, Slushious, and soon meet up with J.LO, a renegade Boov mechanic. It is impossible not to laugh out loud when you read this book. Known for his engaging picturebooks, Rex’s talent is on full display here.

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Sanity & Tallulah / Molly Brooks
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Sanity & Tallulah / Molly Brooks

A graphic novel about two friends living on a space station searching for a thee-headed cat named Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. What more could you possibly ask for? This book has everything you need-- and then some. Good thing it’s the first in a series, since these graphic novels never last as long as we wish they would. These girls deserve a multi-volume set, fans of Zita the spacegirl will be excited to meet this inter-galactic pair.

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Larklight / Philip Reeve
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Larklight / Philip Reeve

Part of the fun of steampunk is the juxtaposition between old and new. This Victorian space opera features two characters---Myrtle and Art—siblings who live in a rambling old house that is traveling through space. The wordplay is entertaining, even the subtitle is enough to bring on the chuckles, using words like "rousing" and "pluck". Charming and suspenseful, this trilogy would also be great to listen to on a family car trip.

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Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH / Robert C. O'Brien
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Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH / Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs. Frisby is a mouse who must enlist the rats from the scientific laboratory to help move her home before it is destroyed by the farmer and his tractor. Her son Timothy is too sick to move and a creative solution is needed. The rats tell her about their time in the lab and the intelligence they now have, making them the perfect answer to her dilemma. A classic book worthy of a new generation of readers.

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CatStronauts / Drew Brockington
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CatStronauts / Drew Brockington

This graphic novel series is filled with feline fun and and out of this world artwork. Just imagine if the next space shuttle launch had cats aboard. Major Meowser, Blanket, Pom-pom and Waffles are the cats chosen to go to the moon to launch the new space station. Are they brave enough and skilled enough to make this mission successful? The good "mews" is that this is the first of several astral adventures.

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The Wild Robot / Peter Brown
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The Wild Robot / Peter Brown

The perfect read-aloud for a child wanting something longer than a picturebook. Peter Brown’s robot, Roz, is stranded on an island and must make friends with the local wildlife in order to learn and “survive” If robots do indeed survive. Sweet and poignant, this robot will endear others to her she learns to adapt to this strange new world. (Fortunately there is a sequel!) For more robotic reads don’t miss The Iron Giant and The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare.

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Zathura: A Space Adventure / Chris Van Allsburg
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Zathura: A Space Adventure / Chris Van Allsburg

Featuring the same brothers found in Jumanji, this sequel was written twenty years after the original. Just imagine if there was a second board game in that box--- but this one took you to space. And yes, what you do on the board still comes to life. So be careful, the stakes are a little higher this time.The brothers will have to set aside their differences if they want to make it back home in one piece. This picturebook was also made into a movie, just like the original story.

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See Otto / David Milgrim
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See Otto / David Milgrim

Otto is a robot from outer space who falls off onto earth. Unfortunately he lands right in front of a rhinoceros. Run, Otto--run! A Pre-level One series of books perfect for the emerging reader. Simple words, large pictures and great characters. Our robot is joined by a crew of creatures that might make someone want to keep reading. (And laughing.)

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