Here’s a mixed bag of the top scifi authors that I’ve read, some of the classics and some from the modern era. I’ve only listed one book per author so it’s my favourite* book from each.
H. G. Wells: The War of the Worlds
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
George Orwell: 1984
Isaac Asimov: The Caves of Steel
Arthur C. Clarke: The Songs Of Distant Earth
Robert A. Heinlein: Starman Jones
A. E. Van Gogt: The Weapon Shops of Isher
Frank Herbert: Dune
Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos
Douglas Adams: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Larry Niven: The Mote in God’s Eye
Greg Bear: Eon
David Brin: The Uplift War
Patrick Tilley: Cloud Warrior
Piers Anthony: Refugee
Iain M. Banks: Use of Weapons
Peter F. Hamilton: Fallen Dragon
Charles Stross: Singularity Sky
* Although my favourite is something that fluctuates. I was tempted to list “A Fall of Moondust” or “Rendevous with Rama” for Clarke, “Day of the Triffids” for Wyndham, and the Commonwealth Saga (“Pandora’s Star”, “Judas Unchained”) for PFH. I’m sure many will disagree with “The Caves of Steel” and “Starman Jones” as choices to represent those authors.
If you are brand new to science fiction and looking for something easy to read but pretty awesome to start with, I’d start with Peter F. Hamilton, probably the Commonwealth Saga (“Pandora’s Star” is the first of the 2 books).
I originally published this list to the SF&F forum on boards.ie in 2013, so there will be newer authors missing. Agree or disagree with my choices? List your own favourites.