I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (Spectra, $8).
Asimov's first collection of stories established a setting and made it feel deeply real. That setting would carry readers through dozens of short stories and five novels, making I, Robot a gateway into some truly excellent storytelling.
Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein (out of print).
A survival tale set on a remote world. But not another Robinson Crusoe: This is a group of people stranded together. How they work together and keep one another safe is as much a part of the story as the alien planet they're on.
Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (Spectra, $8).
A twist on the popular explore-new-worlds trope. Instead of going far afield to seek alien life, the space travelers in Clarke's novel discover that alien life has come to them, via a huge spacecraft that has entered Earth's solar system. The ship, though obviously designed by intelligent beings, seems to be entirely populated by wild animals.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Broadway, $16).
My favorite science fiction book of at least the past decade. This one hit me with a wave of nostalgia. If you're a child of the 1980s, you'll love this book. If you aren't, you'll still love it. A very interesting view of where virtual-reality gaming could go.
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (Harper, $10).
Once you get into the Discworld series, you'll find yourself on a long, eventful journey. And although The Color of Magic is the first book, I recommend beginning with Small Gods. It's a fantastic standalone story that will familiarize you with the Discworld setting and get you hooked.
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (Orbit, $16).
A fantastic look at what a post-scarcity society might look like. There's no hunger, no disease, no war — just benevolent computers that take care of humanity and other beings. How could there be conflict or struggle in such a world? Well, Banks is a genius and spins one hell of a story about what happens when the Culture meets a spacefaring alien race with far less enlightened views. And it doesn't go how you think it would.
— Software engineer Andy Weir is the author of The Martian, the best-selling novel behind 2015's Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller. His follow-up, Artemis, is a heist story set in a city on the moon and featuring a young courier who gets in over her head.