Tolkien, Douglas Adams top NPR’s top 100 of SF/F; Star Wars makes the ranks with Zahn

NPR has been formulating a list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy all summer, and finally the results are in. It includes few surprises – J. R. R. Tolkien takes the top with Lord of the Rings, followed by Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

There are only a handful of books by women represented, though: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale take #20 and #22. Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Susanna Clarke, Robin Hobb, Audrey Niffenegger, Jacqueline Carey, Mary Stewart, Diana Gabaldon, Robin McKinley and Connie Willis also appear. (J.K. Rowling would no doubt have had a good shot at a high placement, but NPR is saving young adult books for “summers yet to come.”)

Also making an appearance, at #88, is the only Star Wars work: Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. Not too bad, considering the shabby reputation of tie-ins. Though I can’t help but point out that the cover they’re using to represent the trilogy is actually for the comic adaptions. Sigh.

14 Replies to “Tolkien, Douglas Adams top NPR’s top 100 of SF/F; Star Wars makes the ranks with Zahn”

  1. I try not get bothered by these things, but lumping science-fiction and fantasy together still bugs me. It’s like making a list of the “100 best Shakespeare plays/Star Trek episodes.” I guess I expected better from NPR.

  2. What?!? Half the books up there could be considered YA! They make you read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 in 6th-7th grade!

  3. Reading things in high school doesn’t necessarily make them YA, but I assume that stuff can be fairly subjective. I didn’t go to library school or anything, but at the library I worked at in high school, we had copies of Tolkien in both regular fiction and YA. (The YA ones had hideous Darrell K. Sweet covers. Is it any wonder I avoided the hell out of them?) And while Catcher in the Rye seems to fit the broad specifications of YA, I’ve never seen it shelved there.

    Most of L’Engle wasn’t even in YA there: They were juveniles. But I’d expect NPR to group them together, and I have seen her stuff packaged both ways.

    In a related note, I had a particularly dim teacher in high school who thought Dune was too confusing. Eyeroll.

  4. It has to do with vocabulary/language (reading level) and subject matter.

    My library has L’Engle in Juvenile Fiction, Harry Potter in JF/YA, and Tolkien and the Twilight books in YA and Adult Fiction (granted, the latter is due to popularity with adult women, not reading level). The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984 are all in AF.

  5. Thanks for putting up the “original” LTOR cover. Haven’t got a good look since Junior High School — despite a quick glimpse in 2004 at Columbus, OH, LTOR gathering. Time passes waaay too fast. . .

  6. While I’m not a YA librarian, I believe one of the qualifications for YA fiction is that the protagonist be between the ages of 12 – 18 or so. This, along with reading level, would determine what is actually classified as ‘YA’.

    Of course, Fahrenheit 451, etc are frequently read by teen readers (as are many of Shakespeare’s plays, and Dickens, etc) but they would still technically be classified as adult fiction.

    Someone else may be able to add to that, but this is my understanding on the differences.

  7. YA is as much a marketing division as anything else and a relatively recent one. So not very well defined other than people think the books would appeal to teenagers more than younger children or adults. Either way…I think Harry Potter as a 7 book set should have made the list, but it could be the average NPR audience regards them as “Children’s Books” (seems to be a fan voted list)….if we’re including all fantasy The Little Prince should have knocked some of these off the list…short and simple doesn’t mean it’s not good.

    Regardless, I’m very glad to see the Thrawn Trilogy get some well deserved recogition. Those are the books that made me decide I wanted to write for a living.

  8. At the library I work at, we have E and EZ, for kids too young to or just learning to read; J for about ages 8-12, YA for 12-18, and adult for anything higher. I believe we may base it on reading level and target audience, but it seems fairly subjective (probably based on a quick search and the respective supervisor’s opinion) and there’s a lot of crossovers.

    LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia, for instance, are shelved in J, YA, and adult. A few series are in both J and YA. Harry Potter is probably considered YA from book 4 on, but is all shelved in J to keep them together. Fahrenheit 451 is in both YA and adult. The Princess Bride is only in YA.

    Fairly certain each library is going to be different. I think I’ve seen some that have no J section, just group everything in YA.

  9. Maybe this is just my library, but they’re not only kind of random about whether books are shelved in AF, YA, or Children’s, but they’ll shelve different parts of series or trilogies- mostly sci-fi and fantasy- in different sections. I’ve found books one and three in YA, and book two in the adult sci-fi section, or parts in YA and in Children’s. I’ve learned to look everywhere for things, but I can’t help thinking some people may be missing out on good reads because at a casual glance it looks like the library doesn’t have the whole series.

  10. Christine — I worked in a library system that did exactly that. Worst part was that the YA/J books were housed in one building, and the “Adult” books were in another. I recall the Dune series suffered from the split. And for some reason the Powers That Be seemed to consider the majority of sci-fi/fantasy novels as “YA.”

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