- Animal Farm by George Orwell (right genre?)
- The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
- A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
- The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury'
- Old Man's War by John Scalzi
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
- A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
- The Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust
He's also included two additional lists -- the "hard to omit" and the "easy to omit" books. I liked Animal Farm but I don't know about the top 10. Ringworld was fascinating, but for repeat value, I prefer Niven's Beowulf Shaffer stories. I can see Ender's Game and The Martian Chronicles on a top 10 list, but they seem less weighty to me now, especially the latter. I've tried reading A Canticle for Leibowitz but never seem to get very far. Like all Dungeons & Dragons nerds, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy but as far as that kind of fantasy novel goes, I preferred Michael Moorcock's Elric series, though I wouldn't put that on my top 10 list either. Old Man's War was quite good and I feel some loyalty to Scalzi, seeing as how we went to the same high school (not the same year, though). But I think I'd put Starship Troopers on the list ahead of it.
My take (in no particular order):
Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton (5 books in total, starting with Pandora's Star) - space opera on a truly massive scale, with amazingly detailed universe building, a cast of thousands, and page turning despite totalling near 4000 pages for the entire series.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - WWII code breaking crossed with near future hackers, probably my top choice if forced to make one.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman - Prof. B thought the movie was better than the book, but I think the book stands on its own, with a quirky sense of humor that goes beyond what made it on the screen.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - Explains why humans exist (sort of). What more could you want?
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - It's better than Gibson's Neuromancer, which typically gets credit for kicking off the cyberpunk revolution.
Ubik by Philip K. Dick - I'd actually pick The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch over Ubik, but that wasn't on the list. Ubik is plenty good, though, and a prime example of PKD's unique mind-bending plots.
Watership Down by Richard Adams - Not sure why this is on the list, as it's really just an adventure novel, but I guess anthromorphic rabbits makes it fantasy. One of my all-time favorite books.
Dune by Frank Herbert - Sci-fi ecology mixed with cultural clash! I only include the first novel, though, as the sequels got progressively worse (I stopped at God Emperor of Dune).
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan - Sci-fi mystery in a future where consciousness can be digitized so that "people" can be downloaded into other bodies (called sleeves). The anti-hero narrator finds himself in the body of a police detective, charged by a billionaire with finding out who killed the billionaire's previous body. Super violent, but explores the implications of digital immortality well.
The Culture Series by Iain M. Banks - Another British space opera. I've read a number of the books in the series, though far from all. I liked the first two a lot (Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games). The others were less interesting to me.
If I could add four books that weren't on the list, they would be:
Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes - It's a sci-fi/fantasy/mystery novel all wrapped in one, about a future amusement park where Dungeons & Dragons is played for real, with holograms.
Gridlinked by Neal Asher - First in a series about Ian Cormac, sort of like a sci-fi version of James Bond, in a space opera setting with an AI-ruled humanity confronting the unearthing of an incredibly dangerous, super-old alien bio-technology. Super violent, if you like that sort of stuff.
Spin State by Chris Moore - Like Dune, another cross-genre bender, this time the perils of coal mining in a sci-fi setting. It's terrific, not a disaster like the original Star Trek episode "The Cloud Miners." Any sci-fi novel that manages to work in a bit of quantum physics (hence, the title) is worthy of respect in my view.
Watchers by Dean Koontz - Koontz is shelved in the horror section next to Stephen King, but whereas King is often more about supernatural horror, Koontz is usually about BIG SCIENCE gone wrong. Watchers is about two genetically engineered creatures, one a golden retriever with human level intelligence, and the other known as the Outsider, which is a violent killing machine, also with human level intelligence. If you love dogs, you'll love this book.
Other notable books on the NPR list that didn't make my cut:
Anathem by Neal Stephenson - I already have enough Stephenson on my list, so this one fell short. But it's a math/philosophy treatise crossed with an alien invasion storyline that really takes off.
Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson - I didn't like this trilogy very much, but it's very deep and weighty.
The Anubis Gate by Tim Powers - I must be missing something about this book, which many people love. I gave up after about 100 pages.
Conan series by Robert E. Howard - Pure hack and slash fantasy, but you have to wonder what Howard could have achieved if he had turned his talent to something more serious. He was a really good writer.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by PKD - Much smarter than the movie, which is visually stunning but kind of lobotomizes the book. One PKD's better books, but not the best.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - Such a sad story. But the short story packs more of a punch than the novel, which is flabby by comparison.
The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Another book that I gave up on after trying.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Funny for about 50 pages. I did make it all the way through So Long for All the Fish, though, so I guess it wasn't that overrated.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - The breadth of Matheson's works is pretty incredible. This was pretty creepy and well done, as a scientific explanation for vampirism.
Lensmen series by EE "Doc" Smith - I re-read this 1940s era space opera relatively recently and it held up okay, although it's a lot less sophisticated than modern space opera. Still, very imaginative universe building.
The Man in the High Castle by PKD - What if Germany and Japan won WWII and conquered the United States?
Neuromancer by William Gibson - Some brilliant imagery, like the opening line ("The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead station") but plot kind of fizzles.
Replay by Ken Grimwood - Probably the best book that explores the idea of what if you could back to relive your life starting at age 18?
Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut - Overrated.
Song of Ice and Fire series by George Martin - I'm somewhat intrigued. If I ever read another fantasy book, this would probably be it.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein - Much like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a situation where the book is much smarter than the movie. It's really political philosophy dressed up in an alien war story. Supposedly, James Cameron made the actors in "Aliens" read the book in preparation for the movie.
The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn - These books continue the Star Wars saga past "The Return of the Jedi." They certainly would have been better movies than the actual prequel trilogy that George Lucas made.
Xanth series by Piers Anthony - Do you like puns? If not, you'll detest this series. The first nine are different in tone from the rest, which become increasingly little more than vehicles for additional puns. It's set in a parallel world to Florida, in which everyone has some kind of magical talent, many useless, but some quite powerful. Except Bink seemed to have no power, which got him exiled, whereupon he met the evil (?) Magician Trent, who was bent on taking over Xanth. (That's from the first in the series.)
1984 by George Orwell - It needs to be read. Once. I don't plan on reading it again.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke - It was less boring than the movie, and it seemed to make more sense, too.