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The esteemed Mr Anderson passes on this request for book recommendations:
... an SF book for a reading group - needs to be something that non-SF readers would appreciate, not too hard to read, something to get them started with SF. Any ideas? Also needs to be in cheap-ish paperback I suppose.
The need for it to be readily available in paperback probably implies something fairly recent; it needs to be science fiction, not fantasy; and obviously, it needs to be good. Tom is already suggesting The Separation, The Prestige, and ("through gritted teeth") Cloud Atlas. What else should be on this list? (Tom notes that he will find and kill, horribly, anyone who suggests Air.)

(On a separate note, for anyone who might be interested my books-read-in-2006 roundup is here.)

EDIT: Tom has listed the suggestions so far here.
What does the reading group like in a book?

What sort of non-SF fiction do they read?
Earth Abides or A Canticle for Leibowitz, maybe.
Oh, duh, missed your "recent" proviso. We all agree that The Sparrow is awesome, right?
Farenheit 451, maybe something like Zodiac if it's readily available over there or something like The Time Traveler's Wife.
Fahrenheit 451 seconded.
The Sparrow, of course.

More useful suggestions: one of the smaller Stephensons (Snow Crash or The Diamond Age). One of the good Culture novels - I don't think the ones I've read are suitable (Excession is too SF, Consider Phlebas isn't good enough, Use of Weapons I haven't finished yet but might be good) but I'm sure someone can suggest one. Maybe The Time Traveler's Wife.
I dunno. Would Snow Crash work for non-sf readers?

I was wondering about some Kim Stanley Robinson, although frustratingly I'm pretty sure the Three Californias books aren't in print over here.
I would suggest Air before I suggested The Prestige. I can send Tom my address.
I've had success recommending Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossed to readers new to the SF genre before now. They were mostly philosophers though, and therefore interested in the ideas/politics in it, so it really does depend on the nature of the group involved.
I was going to suggest this as well, I think it would make a very good book club choice.
The big challenge is to get round the scorn of the audience for the genre. I think a soft story with character and politics in it (like electricant's suggestion) is a good idea. But even more armour-plating is provided by Honoured Literary Status, so I might plonk them with '1984'. it's not new but it's very readily available.
Brave New World and a decent amount of Wyndham would fit here, as well. Although odds are good that at least some members of the group will have read some or all of those already. And of course they're not the least bit contemporary.
I suppose short story collection are out of the question? Otherwise I'd suggest Mothers and Other Monsters or Stories of Your Life.

I assume the objection to Air has to do with it being the most obvious choice?

My first suggestion would be Lethem's Girl in Landscape, followed closely by China Mountain Zhang (neither one is very recent, but the Lethem at least shouldn't be hard to come by). Brin's Kiln People is also an option, and in the department of slightly out-there suggestions, there's Michel Faber's Under the Skin.
Under the skin! another great suggestion. Sorry coalescent I'll stop spamming your post with empty endorsements.
I'm down with The Sparrow, The Dispossessed and The Player Of Games.

Also, Lord Of Light could be considered. Indian mythology + SF.
Not read that one; sounds fascinating, but quite bonkers. How well do you think it would go down with people familiar with neither SF nor Indian mythology?

-- tom
My first thought would probably be The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood's possible disputation of the genre assignment notwithstanding. I'd also second The Player of Games, which is the only Iain M Banks I've read, and I definitely found it readable enough. Either of those would have the advantage of being by authors who are respected for their literary fiction, which I'd think would recommend them to non-sf readers.
For reference i am keeping a slightly edited list of the suggestions here:


-- tom
You only read 65 books in 2005, and managed 84 books this year? for some reason I had the '84' in my head before I read that - are you sure? Was it a target figure? did you communicate the number 84 to me in some bizarre subliminal way. Is this an Orwellian influence? Please don't make me check, I'm ill. In fact, that's probably it.

... ideas for non-SF SF reader group books? I'd go for Orwell as it happens, but that's more classic and groups like to go for more contemporary - Ishiguro maybe then.

The increase in books finished this year is largely due to having large numbers of UK-published sf novels turn up on my doorstep for award purposes.
If you want to hit them with a big-name, balls on the table, proper SF classic, then why not Clarke's '2001'?

I was going to suggest an Asimov, but then I noticed Tom saying that the target audience here are apparently middle-aged ladies, so might be best to avoid Asimov in case they find him offensively sexist.

The book I'd go for, though? 'Hyperion'. Good old-fashioned SF, with the added bonus of literary, classical and mythological allusions. It's a win-win book.
No time now to read all posts, but have done similar exercise w/ mother and had success with Left Hand of Darkness and To Say Nothing of the Dog. Would also suggest hard core Philip K Dick - Martian Timeslip, Flow My Tears, Palmer Eldritch etc etc depending on age of readership - they're perennially zeitgeisty and really short which helps.
Everyone likes Fountains of Paradise, but I realise it's not "good" per se.
The Fountains of Paradise is at least good at being an Arthur C. Clarke novel!

-- tom
Walter Tevis' The Man Who Fell to Earth?