Like the book review, book list making has a place in the life cycle of book promotion. Reviewers have the job of promoting books when they are new. List makers promote books when they are older. Most books will be forgotten, many right after they are published. Only a tiny fraction of books published each year will be remembered at the end of the year when critics make up their Best Books of the Year lists. Being remembered in December helps a book sell into the next year. A subset of those lucky books will get nominated for awards in that second year. Winning can give them life to last into a third year.
After that, there’s not many ways books are consistently promoted. Publishers focus on new books. Writers write their next masterpiece. Readers chase after bestsellers and award winners. This is the second period of dying off for books. Unless a book is lucky enough to be made into a movie or television miniseries, they start fading away like old war heroes. A book might inspire teachers to make it required reading, but that’s exceedingly rare. Some books become hits with book clubs. The primary way older books are remembered is by writers becoming successful, keeping their back catalog in print. Once readers switch from fans of a book, to fans of a writer, they search out an author’s older books. Often, books make a comeback after their initial sales decline when they are discounted in ebook sales. I’ve built quite a collection of classic science fiction by buying $1.99 Kindle books.
Another emerging way older books are being remembered is by being listed on the internet. Book lists are a popular way to attract readers to a web site. The side-effect, older books are being remembered, extending their life.
When readers see “10 Time Travel Books That Need To Be Movies Right Now (If Not Sooner)” it has the impact of a good book review. Since I have already read five of those novels and loved them, I wonder if the other five are just as good. Then if I compare it to “23 Best Time Travel Science Fiction Books” and see that The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is also on this list, and it was the one that most caught my attention on the first list, I’m even more convinced that I should track down a copy.
So a few weeks ago we added 5 great new book lists to WWEnd and we’re finally getting around to telling you about them. The Defining SF Books of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are lists by James Wallace Harris a friend of WWEnd and the creator of The Classics of Science Fiction list which is one of our most popular lists. No stranger to lists is he.
We found these lists some time ago on Jim’s Auxiliary Memory blog and we’ve been working with him the last few months to get all the books added to our site and build out the lists. (A special thanks to our Uber Users for the data entry!) Jim wrote up some great short intros to each of the lists and we’ve included links over to his blog so you can read the original articles where he explains his reasons and methodology for picking these books.
Each of these lists is representative of the best remembered books from the decade and each is divided into 2 sections. The first section is a selection of 12 books that might/could/should be remembered and read into the 22nd century. These are taken from the list proper and are the books that have influenced the genre for years. These are books with real staying power. You’ll recognize most of them as widely acknowledged genre classics and many of them come from the SF Masterworks series.
The second part of each list are books grouped by year published. These vary in length from year to year. Some years, like 1968, are particularly strong and have as many as 26 books while others, like 1978, fall a little short and have as few as 3 books total. As usual, if you’re a WWEnd member you can see at a glance just how many from each decade you’ve read and of course a lot of these are new to the site so you may find some books that you’ll need to tag as read or add to your reading list.
If you’re looking to read a sampling from each decade you can simply focus on the top 12 books from each list. Those 60 books alone are a good cross section of what the genre had to offer for those fifty years. If you want to read deeper into a specific decade these lists are a great place to find recommendations. In fact, one WWEnder has just started a Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge based on the 50s list. Check out The Definitive 1950s SF Reading Challenge if you’re ready to dive into the first list. And, by the way, there are currently 31 other challenges to chose from too so you’re sure to find something to strike your fancy for 2015.
A huge thank you to Jim Harris for creating the lists and for his help in implementing them on WWEnd. We think you’re really going to like these new lists. Read on!