Why You Should Read Science Fiction

by | Mar 17, 2021

Screenshot from upcoming movie “Dune” based on the book by Frank Herbert

Are you a reader? If you are, good for you! Reading has a lot of benefits including possibly resulting in a longer life span, and benefiting your children’s future success. Reading both fiction and non-fiction is valuable. If you don’t read fiction, check out this IFOD about why reading fiction provides great benefits: Fiction or Non-Fiction, Which is Better?

I know a lot of readers who say they don’t like science fiction, or that “science fiction is crap” (well 90% of most everything is crap). If the last science fiction book you tried was Fahrenheit 451 in high school, you may want to try sci-fi again. At the end of this IFOD I have a few recommendations.

You can live a long and fulfilled life without reading science fiction, but in my opinion you may be missing out and your life may have an additional bit of spice and merriment if you read a sci-fi book now and then. Here are some reasons to read Sci-Fi:

1. Sci-Fi Promotes Reading in Young People. As a child and adolescent I read a ton of Sci-Fi which sparked my love of reading. A 2018 study supports this notion as it found that “reading science fiction and fantasy may have a role in sustained, and cognitively beneficial, adoption of reading by young people and is complementary to other forms of consumption, rather than competitive.” Surveys have found that those that read science fiction are likely to be high volume readers.

2. Sci-Fi Increases Acceptance of Science by Its Readers. Science fiction has been “found to be an important influence on the perception and acceptance of science by the public.” Source. Science fiction stories often are based on actual science. For example, Cixin Liu’s amazing Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy uses physics’ Three-Body Problem as the underlying reason why an alien race is heading to earth in search of a new home. Just reading about the three-body problem made me more appreciative of our universe and how it works. It also engendered a sense of awe of the physicists and astronomers who detected the problem in distant orbiting celestial bodies centuries ago.

3. It Makes You Open to How Change Actually Occurs. Sci-Fi promotes thinking about the future differently. As humans we tend to just take the present and project it out into the future, but that’s not how change has happened ever since the industrial revolution — instead change happens exponentially in many areas. Reading sci-fi spurs a different way of thinking about the future and makes us better able to imagine exponential change.

For example, as a teen in the 1980s I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which was the first book to envision cyberspace. Written in 1984, it was incredibly prescient in imagining a world with an internet and spurred the sci-fi genre of “cyberpunk.” Reading about the internet before it happened was mind-expanding. Similarly, reading sci-fi books with advanced AI, nuclear fusion, nanoparticle medical treatments, gene-editing, and the like helps us envision a future world that may actually be our future.

4. Sci-Fi Encourages Creative Thinking. Reading any type of fiction requires “willful suspension of disbelief” because you know what you are reading isn’t true. But sci-fi requires a bigger leap because reality is distorted with premises that aren’t currently possible. Adopting willful suspension of disbelief fires the imagination and promotes creative thinking.

If you can imagine an alien race that looks like clear jello and smells bad, it might provide insight about how to diagram an estate planning technique for a client. When I read The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, the two axioms of cosmic sociology in the book sparked an epiphany that investing has two opposing rules: (1) markets move in cycles, but (2) they can’t be timed/predicted with accuracy and that is what drives investors crazy. According to the CEO of the American Marketing Association, “without suspension of disbelief, there might be very little, if any, true innovation on the planet.” Maybe that’s why so many scientists and engineers were big readers of sci-fi in their youth. Or, as science fiction gaint Arthur C. Clarke said in his second law: “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

Reading sci-fi is good exercise for your brain and allows you to see connections among things in disparate areas because “it is the only literary genre that systematically explores the interrelationship of science, technology, society, and history, exploring future possible scenarios and potential cultural impacts.” Source.

Interested in reading some good sci-fi? Here’s a list to start with:

  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
  • The Three Body Problem trilogy by Cixin Liu
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • The Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy)
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell
  • Axiom’s End: A Novel, by Lindsay Ellis
  • Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

I would love any and all sci-fi recommendations you might have for me!


  1. Octavia Butler – Parable of the Shower.

    • Thanks!

  2. The City We Became by NK Jemisin

    • I’ve heard that is good. Thx

  3. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
    I generally don’t like time travel books, because they just don’t make sense to me, but this one is well done.

  4. To amp up gender diversity while we’re at it …
    “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel
    “An Unkindness of Ghosts” by Rivers Solomon
    “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula LeGuin

    • Loved station eleven. And ancillary justice by Ann Leckie is great. I should add it to my list.

      • Now added to mine too, thanks!

        • In additional cool thing about ancillary justice is that no character in the book has a gender. It is completely mind expanding!

          • Neat-o. However, Ursula Le Guin was (I believe) the first to essentially do that back when she wrote The Left Hand of Darkness, in which everyone’s genders are shiftable except the protaganist’s. So he’s the “weird” one on the planet for having a fixed gender. It’s a daunting task to pull off successfully as a writer, because the pronouns get really annoying if they’re done awkwardly.

  5. Agreed on all points, thanks!

    A few recs:

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a phenomenally fun read full of great pop culture references (especially from the ’80s)

    The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin, both books are parts one and two of a dystopian Earth series

    Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, a wild ride, time travel book

    • I loved the passage but didn’t like the second book as much. Agreed on Dark Matter. Great book.

  6. The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter S. Tevis, they beat us at our own game.

    • Thanks

  7. Saturn: the Cassini Division.

    • Thanks! Have not read that.


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