Essential Reading

These are the stories and books that I would love to share with any friend. There may be better lists, more complete ones or more focused ones, but this list is mine. These are the stories I cannot forget.
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The Belgariad (a series of books) Eddings, David Fantasy Rating: 4 - Being a kid is tough. Finding out your aunt is a sorceress sould make it easier, but not for Garion. Garion thinks he is a normal farmboy. He thinks his aunt is a normal farm lady and he thinks the storyteller is normal. He is wrong. “I thought you said you were the one in charge!" Ce'Nedra exclaimed. I lied." Silk said. "It's a vice I have.”  
On a Pale Horse (and other books) Anthony, Piers Fantasy/Humor Rating: 6 - Read this for the same reason you'd tune into your favorite TV show. It's not going to change your life, but it will make your life a little more fun. Not many people expect to see the pesonification of death literally show up for them. Fewer still are likely to try to shoot him. So what happens if you actually do manage to shoot death? Decent folk had to let indecent folk do their thing; that was the paradox of decency. 
Mort (and other books) Pratchett, Terry Humor/Fantasy Rating: 8 - This is part of a wonderful series known as Discworld. I recommend reading all the books, but this is where I'd start. Imagine an average kid being apprenticed to the incarnation of death. In short, Mort was one of those people who are more dangerous than a bag full of rattlesnakes. He was determined to discover the underlying logic behind the universe... which was going to be hard, because there wasn't one. 
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (and other books) Adams, Douglas Humor/Sci-Fi Rating: 9 - This is the kind of writing you can read over and over again and laugh every time. Ever laugh at the guy whose planet just got blown up? This is your chance. (Ford) "you'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's unpleasantly like being drunk." (Arthur) "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?" (Ford) "Ask a glass of water." 
Foundation (and other books) Asimov, Issac Sci-Fi Rating: 7 - This is science fiction that defines science fiction. This is the author who created the three laws of robotics. Humanity has spread through the stars, but there is a doom coming. This trilogy is the story about preparing for the ineviteble crash of an interstellar society. The temptation was great to muster what force we could and put up a fight. It's the easiest way out, and the most satisfactory to self-respect--but, nearly invariably, the stupidest. 
Ringworld (and other books) Niven, Larry Sci-Fi Rating: 6 - What could get MIT engineering students chanting in the halls? This book's premise. Monsters. The aliens are monsters, but this book is about a time after the wars, when it is possible to work with them. A book about discovering a world that isn't a sphere orbiting a sun, but instead a world built as a ring enclosing the sun. On a world built to ordered specification, there was no logical reason for such a mountain to exist. Yet every world should have at least one unclimbable mountain. 
The Mote in God's Eye Pournelle, Jerry and Niven, Larry Sci-Fi Rating: 5 - Furry little rocket builders with an incredible society Imagine meeting aliens, practically neighbors, who are technically superior to you and furry. Now imagine they have a dangerous secret. Nitwit ideas are for emergencies. You use them when you've got nothing else to try. If they work, they go in the Book. Otherwise you follow the Book, which is largely a collection of nitwit ideas that worked. 
The Stainless Steel Rat Harrison, Harry Sci-Fi/Humor Rating: 2 - Fast food cheeseburgers are okay; chef prepared ones are better. These stories may be the cheeseburgers of science fiction but they're the best of the cheeseburgers. Slippery Jim and his attempts to ignore his conscience  I didn't let it interfere with my stuffing all the money from the desk drawers into my suitcase. The list ended with a new charge and I would swear on a stack of thousand credit notes that high that there was a hurt tone in his voice. "In addition the charge of assaulting a police robot will be added to your record." 
Lucifer's Hammer Pournelle, Jerry and Niven, Larry Sci-Fi/Worldview Rating: 5 - How will the world end? This may not be it, but then again... See comet? See comet hit Earth? See mankind almost perish? Run man run! To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection. 
Snow Crash (and other books) Stephenson, Neal Sci-Fi/Worldview Rating: 7 - The future is unpredictable, but if I were guessing which was most likely, this one would make the list. A story about Hiro, "Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world."  (This is a pizza delivery boy.) The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books. ... When they gave him the job, they gave him a gun. 
The Egg Weir, Andy Worldview/Fantasy Rating: 9 - Super short story, less than three pages that might make you imagine the universe differently. A dialog about reincarnation between the reincarnatee and reincarnater. “Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?” “Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted. 
Flowers for Algernon Keyes, Daniel Worldview/Sci-Fi Rating: 3 - This book will make you cry. It is worth it. The story of a man who isn't smart becoming very smart. I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone. 
Unaccompanied Sonata Card, Orson Scott Worldview/Sci-Fi Rating: 8 - This is a short story you can probably find online and read in an hour. A story about a world where most people are happy, most of the time and how that works. Also about one man who wasn't. “Hey, Joe,” one of the last five customers shouted, “closing early?” Joe didn’t answer. Just watched as Chris began to play. No preliminaries this time; no scales and wanderings over the keys. Just power, and the piano was played as pianos aren’t meant to be played; the bad notes, the out-of-tune notes were fit into the music so that they sounded right, and Chris’s fingers, ignoring the strictures of the twelve-tone scale, played, it seemed to Joe, in the cracks. 
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