The Top 20 Books These Sci-Fi and Fantasy Experts Are Most Excited About

Posted by Marie on August 20, 2018
Goodreads SFF Week 2018

When it comes to learning what's new in science fiction and fantasy, we turned to the experts. These are some of the genres' biggest superfans who have turned their passion into popular podcasts, must-watch YouTube channels, and even buzzing communities right here on Goodreads.

We asked these enthusiasts what they love most about these genres, what trends they've been noticing, and last but not least, what books they're most excited about reading this year. Don't forget to add your favorite picks to your Want to Read shelf!

Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt are the co-creators of The Sword and Laser (S&L), a science fiction- and fantasy-themed book club with more than 23,000 members on Goodreads, a YouTube show with more than 5,900 subscribers, and a podcast that has released more than 300 episodes since 2007. They replied to us over email to discuss what's been noteworthy in these epic genres so far.


Goodreads: What draws you to science fiction and fantasy?

Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt: They’re so different, it’s kind of incredible to us that they’re always lumped together! Personally, we just love feeling like anything is possible.

With science fiction, you can think about all the ways our current technologies or policies can change our world, or look to the stars for things we could never even imagine. With fantasy, there's always the feeling that anyone can suddenly be "the chosen one"; you can find this great power inside of you that has the potential to completely change your life. Also, dragons are rad.

There’s also that escapism—we do love reading fiction and nonfiction, but honestly it just feels TOO REAL sometimes. We like being able to separate reality from what we're reading.

Goodreads: What trends are you noticing in these genres?

VB and TM: We honestly think the biggest trend is diversity! We're seeing it not just in the stories we’re reading (a more diverse cast of characters, new perspectives), but also in the writers who are receiving a ton of accolades. To us, this is the best possible news, even though there's still a long way to go. Many people have said this much more eloquently than we're about to, but it always struck us as odd that people can accept aliens who eat with their butts or incredibly weird magic systems, but can't "relate to" a lesbian relationship in a work of genre fiction.

Goodreads: Which sci-fi and fantasy books are you most excited to read this year?

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VB: Myke is an all-around great guy, but he also happens to be a great author, too! I've been wanting to read this for a while, because there's nothing that I love more than epic fantasy with a badass female protagonist. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series goes.


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VB: Speaking of badass female protagonists, another one sitting on my shelf at home is The Poppy War. In some ways, it sounds like it might be a nice contrast to The Armored Saint, since there are some similar themes but very different cultural influences.


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VB: AAAHHHHH! I can't believe this series is almost over! I've been reading the Kate Daniels series for years, and we're coming close to the end with Magic Triumphs. "All good things...," as they say.

Publication date: August 28


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TM: The release of a new Expanse book each year has become like a holiday for me that I look forward to. I cannot wait to catch up with the crew of the Rocinante and find out what's happened to them now.

Publication date: December 4


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TM: I know not everyone is thrilled about the reboot of the Star Wars universe novels, but one of the best decisions was to ask the man who invented Grand Admiral Thrawn to recanonize him with an origin story. His team-up with Darth Vader in this second of the new Thrawn series promises only to improve the legend.


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TM: Rather than feeling like one novel broken up into multiple books, the Wayfarers series feels like a chance to view one amazing universe in different ways, each one as delightful as the last.


Members of Apocalypse Whenever know "Gertie" (her preferred moniker) as the moderator of "the most active Goodreads group for apocalyptic, postapocalyptic, and dystopic fiction." She moderates nearly 12,000 members and would also like to mention that no, she doesn't actually want an apocalypse.


Goodreads: What draws you to science fiction and fantasy?

Gertie: Potential, definitely. Fantasy, and particularly science fiction, have always appealed to me for the endless possibilities of something strange and exciting to occur. Every author explores it in their own way, but as a reader, it's a bit thrilling to know that anything can happen. The little bit of weirdness makes escapist fiction that much more enticing, and the fact that sometimes it is believable can be pretty fascinating. Aliens, superpowers, mutants—yes, please!

Goodreads: What trends are you noticing in these genres?

G: I read a lot of apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, and I've noticed a definite surge in the growth of the appeal of these topics for a lot of readers. The other trend I have noticed (for all genres, really) is self-publishing. Anyone who has ever wanted to write about flesh-eating zombie zebra slugs can do so now, with fewer obstacles. This means we are seeing a different variety of stories on the market now. Some need more attention before publication, and some are absolute gems, and more than a few have made it onto my favorites list.

Goodreads: Which sci-fi and fantasy books are you most excited to read this year?

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G: A young adult book set in 2575, this book has been very highly rated by my friends, so I'm giving it a shot. Warring corporations threaten the people living on the planet, in addition to the dangers of a mutating plague and a potentially untrustworthy artificial intelligence. Uh oh...


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G: This book by one of my favorite authors will be a buddy read with a Goodreads friend. Set in a world in which disease, war, misery, and even death have been eliminated, Scythes are the only ones who can end lives, whether they want to or not. I'm thinking maybe misery hasn't been eliminated after all.


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G: This anthology has tales all relating to defying death—the ways in which people try to beat the odds and the (not all good) impacts an extended life can have.


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G: I don't have much patience for long series, but this series about a magician living in Chicago (with the usual concerns like love and paying the bills) is worth following. He also has a cat named Mister and a dog named Mouse.

Publication date: Still to come


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G: Set in the future, the marrow of unwilling indigenous North Americans is the only known cure for the inability to dream. One young man and his friends try to escape this fate and remain together.


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G: The first book in this series about a body-hopping soul was so much fun that I wanted to check out book #2. Dan Jenkins hangs out in limbo before being tossed into a body and the life of a stranger. He stays until his work is done, then starts the process all over again. And again...


Kristin Hackett, also known as "SuperSpaceChick," is an avid BookTuber who has interned for Seventeen Magazine and worked on the Star Wars: Dressing a Galaxy fashion show during New York Fashion Week. Her YouTube channel has more than 19,000 subscribers, and she has a combined total of more than 18,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram.


Goodreads: What draws you to science fiction and fantasy?

Kristin Hackett: Ever since I was a child, I loved falling into stories involving worlds much different than my own. It takes a huge amount of creativity to invent an entirely new place and establish a set of rules for your universe, and I'm fascinated by seeing what others create.

I've always been particularly drawn to fantasy because I grew up reading fairy tales and watching Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I love the structures of the stories, reading about brilliant heroines who defy the odds, and I would also credit Harry Potter with getting me invested in the good-versus-evil theme that's ever present.

Goodreads: What trends are you noticing in these genres?

KH: There's definitely been an increase in the number of stories with female main characters, and from what I've recently read, fantasy novel sales have doubled in the past two years. Fantasy has also become more mainstream and due to the wonders of the internet and shows like Game of Thrones. They've given people the confidence to embrace these stories and connect with other fans no matter how many miles apart they are physically.

Goodreads: Which sci-fi and fantasy books are you most excited to read this year?

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KH: I'm currently just over halfway through Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which is set in the same universe as Spinning Silver, and there's no way I could pass up Naomi's luscious writing. I'm quite excited to search for Uprooted Easter eggs once I pick this one up!


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KH: This is one of the most original series I've had the pleasure of reading. Each book is told in a series of case files chronicling the global events occurring after a giant metal hand surfaces within the United States. I highly recommend the audiobooks, which include a full cast that immediately draws you in, ups the levels of suspense, and has you completely invested in the characters and the mystery.


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KH: I recently picked up a copy of Red Sister after hearing rave reviews about this fantasy series that checks off a ton of my boxes (school setting, assassin training, ruthless female main character). It follows a girl named Nona who attends the Convent of Sweet Mercy, where young girls are raised to be killers. The second book, Grey Sister, is already available, and I'm betting that I'll end up bingeing these!


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KH: I'm horribly behind on this epic science fiction saga turned television series, but I loved being in James Holden and Detective Miller's minds in the first installment, Leviathan Wakes. I would love to catch up before the end of the year. I'm intrigued to find out who is attempting to break the peace of the Outer Planets Alliance and to learn more about the biological warfare present in the first book.


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KH: Discworld is a vast universe of stories that poured out of Terry Pratchett's brain, and I've never quite known where to begin. After looking at the series page, I determined I'm most interested in the Witches series, and I promptly ordered a copy of Equal Rites. I'm told these novels are quite humorous while tackling relevant issues such as gender equality.


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KH: I truly enjoyed Katherine Arden's first novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, and I cannot wait to read the next part of the story. The series is a very lush, slow-burn fantasy that's perfect to read on a cold night. The third book, The Winter of the Witch, was pushed back to January 2019, so I'm grateful for the extra months I now have to catch up on The Girl in the Tower.


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KH: If there's one author who's been on my fantasy reads bucket list for ages, it's Juliet Marillier. I'm constantly told that I'll adore her writing, and the first trilogy within the Sevenwaters series is the place I should start. It follows a young girl named Sorcha whose father and brothers are bewitched, and only she can lift the spell and free her family.


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KH: I've been slowly making my way through everything that is officially canon within the Star Wars universe, and the character I've been most looking forward to learning more about is Grand Admiral Thrawn. I'm particularly interested in Thrawn's story because, as we all know, the Empire is not very accepting or open-minded, and yet this blue-skinned and red-eyed alien managed to overcome their prejudice and climb their ranks with his ruthless military tactics.



Which of these sci-fi and fantasy picks will you be reading? Let us know in the comments!


Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by Anissa (new)

Anissa I really need to catch up on The Expanse. I have several waiting for me & another is due out before year's end. So many books. I've enjoyed all I've read so far of The Future Chronicles and from this list I've already The Immortality Chronicles" on my WTR.


message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller Nice to see Thrawn appreciated in a field often devoid of tie-in recommendations.


message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark Sword & Laser? Really? An occasional podcast and nothing on YouTube for a year. Couldn't you have found someone more relevant? A quick Google finds dozens of SF channels with more viewers...
Once their coffins were opened however, they did present some very good choices.


message 4: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Mark wrote: "Sword & Laser? Really? An occasional podcast and nothing on YouTube for a year. Couldn't you have found someone more relevant? A quick Google finds dozens of SF channels with more viewers...
Once ..."


Their podcast is monthly, but their goodreads group is very active and popular.


message 5: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale Too much world building (a.k.a. info dump) on how the Convent of Sweet Mercy gets the girls they train. It's almost to the level of Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series on the info dump.


message 6: by Phil (new)

Phil Well done Goodreads. Nice variety of stuff here.


message 7: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Belmont Mark wrote: "Sword & Laser? Really? An occasional podcast and nothing on YouTube for a year. Couldn't you have found someone more relevant? A quick Google finds dozens of SF channels with more viewers...
Once ..."


Hey Mark. We don't do the video show anymore, but we post podcasts every other week (and have for the last ten years), and we were very honored and excited to be nominated for a Hugo Award this year as well. But I'm glad you enjoyed our recommendations!


Cathy (cathepsut) I am looking forward to Magic Triumphs and Tiamat's Wrath.


message 9: by Julie (new)

Julie Just finished Scythe and Thunderhead by Shusterman. OMG! They were such great reads. I am hoping that there will be a third book. I totally agree with your recommendation on this one.


message 10: by Nitya (new)

Nitya Spinning Silver & The Poppy War! Really enjoyed the Daughter of the Forest/Sevenwaters series


message 11: by dom ⟡∗⋆♡ (last edited Aug 20, 2018 06:25PM) (new)

dom  ⟡∗⋆♡ Love this list - so many good recommendations! Might have to drop out of my MA before it begins so I can actually get to all these books..


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Great recs and lists, thank you!


message 13: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Neal Shusterman's Scythe duology is definitely one on my TBR list. Loved hus Unwind series.

Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest and the rest of the series are absolutely beautiful. My favorite is Son of Shadows. My other favorite (not from this series) is Foxmask. Really, you can't go wrong with any of her books.


message 14: by Jorge (new)

Jorge Villarruel Only a few (very a few) of these books are any good. Who are these people? These look like poseurs and wannabes.


message 15: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Stoolfire I'm dying for Peace Talks!


message 16: by Gertie (last edited Aug 22, 2018 08:36AM) (new)

Gertie Jorge wrote: "Only a few (very a few) of these books are any good. Who are these people? These look like poseurs and wannabes."

Haha! Well, we haven't read them yet. I hope they aren't bad! They sure look good to me, but taste is relative anyway. I don't know about the other people, but I'm just someone who is very active on Goodreads and loves to read in these featured genres.

— Poseur/Wannabe


message 17: by Gertie (new)

Gertie Lauren wrote: "I'm dying for Peace Talks!"

Me too! Such a fun series - and I love the audiobooks by James Marsden.

Tanya wrote: "Neal Shusterman's Scythe duology is definitely one on my TBR list."

I started it last week and it's good so far, but also infuriating because I keep questioning the system in their world. But I guess caring is a sign up being interested in the story, and probably makes it good for discussion. I'm curious to see how it ends, will find out soon! You'll probably like it. :-)


message 18: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer No interest in any of them except for Dresden.


message 19: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale I'll start any fantasy novel that catches my eye but if it's not holding my interest on page 51, into the DNF file it goes, V.W.


message 20: by Dr Rashmit (new)

Dr Rashmit Mishra Lots of book I have on my list for on this list . That's a first


message 21: by Tony (new)

Tony da Napoli I think the time is long overdue to try to separate Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.
Fantasy was hanging on the SciFi coattails up until Tolkein freed it as a legitimate genre and it blossomed.
Now the two are so intermixed that the advocates of each have to sort through the materials of the others. Best of are too often wrongfully lumped together. Two very different genres compete for the same awards.
Enough already. Yes, there can be overlap, but it is less now than ever in history. At least it is worth a try to sort things out a bit.
Example...I am not into knights, magic spells, witches, vampires, werewolves, quests and armies on horseback and swordplay, yet looking at Goodreads list half the scifi is that type of material...


message 22: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Ten years later, I’m still upset by the rape in Daughter of the Forest and would have appreciated a warning. The book isn’t worth the read.


Mayke (acozyliving)☕️ Still have to read so many of them, but awesome selection!


message 24: by Cathie (new)

Cathie Strover I'm glad to see Kristen Hackett listing a Terry Pratchett on her TBR list and at the same time disappointed she hasn't read any yet! Terry was a master of invention and comic timing but still puts heart into his characters. Read them all!


message 25: by Kate (new)

Kate Good to know. These types of things bother/kill the fun for me also.


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