The Lathe of Heaven was pure raw science fiction that set my mind on fire. Every rereading of George Orr’s plight with his powerful dreams, the doctor who chose to right the world, and the power of our individuality; leaves me more enlightened than the last. It remains the one book I will consistently recommend.
The Left Hand of Darkness found its way into my hands when I was sixteen. In a suffocatingly narrow minded small town library. A story that defied gender and our obsession with it. Showed me a grand planet where we were the strangers. The human protagonist was the dark skinned stranger on a world where biological fathers could be biological mothers, and spent their days as an undefined third gender neither feminine nor male. The Lathe of Heaven is my favorite work, but The Left Hand of Darkness changed me. While I am happy to identify as female, it opened my eyes to people who didn’t conform to any of the roles cast upon them. It is fittingly upon every list that would have you read the great works of humanity.
The last four are from LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle, of which The Left Hand of Darkness is a part. Beginning with Rocannon’s World it paints the cosmos as humanity’s playground. Pure and simple science fiction written with an anthropologist’s eye; turning fictional futures into text book realities.