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17 Must-Read Hugo Award-Winning Books

Exceptional books from the best of the best.

hugo award winning books

The 2019 Hugo Awards were presented the weekend of August 17th through 19th as part of the 77th WorldCon celebrations in Dublin, Ireland. All of the Best Novel 2019 Hugo Nominees were Hugo Awards veterans. This year's contenders for Best Novel were Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars), Becky Chambers (Record of a Spaceborn Few), Yoon Ha Lee (Revenant Gun), Catherynne M. Valente (Space Opera), Naomi Novik (Spinning Silver), and Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning). More coverage of Hugo Awards 2019 announcements can be found here.  

Since the first awards were presented in 1953, the Hugos have helped the science fiction and fantasy community honor some of the greatest authors of the genre. If you’re looking for an exceptional read, look no further. These 17 Hugo Award–winning books are sure to feed your appetite for out-of-this-world adventures. 

The Lovers * Dark Is the Sun * Riders of the Purple Wage

The Lovers * Dark Is the Sun * Riders of the Purple Wage

By Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer looks at government supervision and the economy in Riders of the Purple Wage, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1968. The world of Riders of the Purple Wage consists of citizens who all receive a basic income, known as the purple wage, from the government. The plot follows the story of Chib, and his relationship with his great-great-grandfather “Grandpa Winnegan” who hides from the government in his home. Long ago, Grandpa ran a successful company whose workers were highly paid and far more content than the average receiver of the “purple wage.” The novel explores the themes of art, sexuality, and the effect money has on our happiness.

Related: Philip José Farmer's Books Are More Relevant Than Ever 

"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman

"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman

By Harlan Ellison

Ellison’s short story won the Hugo Award in 1966 and is set in a highly regulated dystopian future. Specifically, everyone must do things according to a precise time schedule. Being late has severe consequences: Time is taken from you and if you run out of time the Master Timekeeper, the “Ticktockman,” takes your life. A man who disguises himself as the Harlequin is at the forefront of the story—and urges people to rebel against the Ticktockman and time itself … before his own runs out. 

Related: The Best of the Best: 10 Must-Read Works by Harlan Ellison 

The Forever War

The Forever War

By Joe Haldeman

The 1974 military science fiction novel, which won the Hugo Award is 1976, is the first book in a three-book trilogy. The Forever War focuses on William Mandella—a physics student who is drafted by the United States Exploratory Force to fight the Taurans, an alien species. After training, the troops are sent to fight in ships traveling thousands of light-years in a split second. But after they slaughter their enemy and return home, time dilation has caused 27 years to pass (though it seemed like 2 years to the troops), and they must learn to adjust to a whole new world—while realizing that the war never truly ends. 

RELATED: Re-Read: The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman 



By Robert Silverberg

Winner of the 1969 Hugo Award for Best Novella, Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings takes place in a distant caste-based future, in which some members have been genetically modified to possess specific traits in order to perform particular jobs. The book centers on a member of the Watchers, a guild that has been engineered to use their mental capabilities to watch distant stars and warn the Defenders of alien invasion. But when he visits the old city of Roum (which might have previously been called Rome) he becomes distracted ... potentially causing an alien invasion to commence. 

The Big Front Yard

The Big Front Yard

By Clifford D. Simak

Simak’s short story won the 1958 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. The Big Front Yard follows mysterious alien beings who turn an ordinary house into an interplanetary portal to connect habitable plants. After unearthing a space ship in the front yard, Hiram Taine discovers the portal that allows him to access another planet by simply walking through the front door—leading to the discovery of many other planets all connected by these portals. This collection also includes other short stories by Simak. 

Related: 8 Great Quotes from Sci-Fi Master Clifford D. Simak 



By Brian W. Aldiss

In a future Earth, the planet has stopped spinning—leaving the planet half dark and half light. Fighting the odds, humans are one of the few animal species that still exist (though, in small numbers), and plants have taken over the sunlit half of this new world. The novel, composed of five novelettes, was originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and later published in a full volume. Collectively, the stories were awarded the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Short Fiction. 

Related: Grand Master Brian W. Aldiss Passes Away at 92 



By Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler’s short fiction “Bloodchild” won the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette (as well as a Nebula Award and a Locus Award). Just one of the exceptional short stories featured in this collection, “Bloodchild” explores the relationship between a race of aliens called the Tlic and the humans who have escaped Earth and settled on the Tlic planet. The Tlic soon realize that humans are excellent hosts for Tlic eggs and make it mandatory for every human family to choose a child for implantation in exchange for protection. Though Gan thinks it’s an honor to be a host, he soon learns that there’s a darker side to this kind of duty. 

Related: Octavia Butler's Dawn to Be Adapted for TV 

Ill Met in Lankhmar and Ship of Shadows

Ill Met in Lankhmar and Ship of Shadows

By Fritz Leiber

The 1971 Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” recounts the meeting and teaming up of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser—serving as a prequel of sorts to Leiber’s The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser book series. Featured alongside four other stories in Swords and Deviltry, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” starts when Gray Mouser and Fafhrd simultaneously ambush the Thieves’ Guild and steal valuable jewels that they themselves had just stolen. Realizing they make a good team, Gray Mouser and Fafhrd join forces and attempt to infiltrate the headquarters of the Thieves’ Guild. 

RELATED: 6 Sword and Sorcery Films With a Cult Following 

hugo award winning books

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

By Michael Chabon

Chabon’s alternate history book takes place in a world in which Alaska became a temporary sanctuary for Jews during World War II, thus saving four million Jews from being murdered during the Holocaust. In Sitka, Alaska, Meyer Landsman—an alcoholic homicide detective—is investigating the murder of Mendel Shpilman, who many Jews believe to be the next messiah. But as Landsman and his partner Berko Shemets continue their investigation, they’re brought deeper and deeper into a shocking plot. The book won the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Related: 13 Portal Fiction Books That Will Transport You 

hugo award winning books

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin

The 2016 Hugo Award winner for Best Novel was the first book in the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. The Fifth Season introduces us to a single supercontinent called the Stillness. Every few centuries, catastrophic climate change is endured during what residents of the Stillness call a “Fifth Season.”  The book details the end of the world, as the characters must fight to survive it. The subsequent novels in the Broken Earth series, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, went on to win Jemisin a record-breaking three consecutive Best Novel Hugos in a row. The Fifth Season is currently being adapted for television.

Related: 13 of the Best Audiobooks for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fans 

hugo award winning books

Blackout/All Clear

By Connie Willis

Originally released as two separate novels, together the book won the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novels are set in 2060, in a time in which historians at Oxford have the ability to travel back in time to observe historical events. Several time travelers go back to 1940s England to observe the events of World War II, including the evacuation of children and the Blitz. However, time travel comes with its dangers, and the book follows the historians as they attempt to make it safely back home. 

hugo award winning books


By Mike Resnick

Mike Resnick’s book Kirinyaga is composed of ten shorts that were designed to fit together in a novel. One of these, “The Manamouki,” won the 1991 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. The stories in Kirinyaga follow one man’s attempt to preserve African culture in a future “utopia.” The prologue discusses whether or not a Kenyan tribe can still stay true to its roots while adopting European customs. 

hugo award winning books

Danse Macabre

By Stephen King

The winner of the 1982 Hugo Award for Best Related Non-Fiction Book, Stephen King’s Danse Macabre is about horror fiction in all different mediums—as well as the influence society has had on the genre.  Within his book, King includes the influences on his own writing and the important historical texts that started the genre, going as far back as the Victorian era. 

best audiobooks sci fi fantasy American Gods Neil Gaiman

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's now-iconic supernatural novel won both a Nebula and Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2002. The epic standalone story follows a war between the Old Gods and the New Gods, waged on the battlefield of modern America. Shadow Moon, a convict released from jail to attend the funeral of his wife and best friend, agrees to work for a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday, who is eventually revealed to be the Old God Odin. The existence of the Old Gods depends on mortals' continued belief in them, which is threatened by the popularity of New Gods such as Media. Shadow is caught up in the dangerous conflict as he struggles with his new understanding of the world around him, and cruel revelations about his own past. American Gods has since been adapted into a Starz TV series starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon. 

RELATED: 16 Must-Read, Magical Neil Gaiman Books  

A Case of Conscience

A Case of Conscience

By James Blish

This 1959 Hugo Award-winning novel follows Father Ruiz-Sanchez, a devout Jesuit priest who travels around outer space to preach the word of God. Despite his religious devotion, Father Ruiz is also an advocate for science, but his beliefs get put to the test when his next mission takes him to Lithia, a planet inhabited by a race of reptilian creatures. The Lithians live in peace and only rely on pure reason as the basis for their society. Father Ruiz begins to suspect that the Lithians, lacking any sort of religion or culture, are harboring a hidden agenda. Forced to confront his own moral compass, Father Ruiz struggles to uncover the secrets of the Lithians while maintaining his spirituality.

RELATED: 50 of the Best Science Fiction Books Ever  

Infinite Dreams

Infinite Dreams

By Joe Haldeman

This collection of short stories from the accomplished sci-fi author Joe Haldeman is sure to please any lover of the genre. Infinite Dreams contains many of Haldeman’s early works since the start of his career, including the Hugo Award-winning title, “Tricentennial.” The bite-sized story revolves around an important space journey that must be completed without fail. The goal of the trip? To obtain as much antimatter as possible from a binary star system. In addition to “Tricentennial,” other riveting works such as “All The Universe in a Mason Jar,” and “A Time to Live,” are also included in this stellar collection.

RELATED: A Space Society Faces Destruction in Joe Haldeman’s The Worlds Trilogy 

Hyperion Dan Simmons


By Dan Simmons

The 1990 Hugo Award for Best Novel went to Dan Simmons for Hyperion, the first novel in the four-book Hyperion Cantos series. Inspired loosely by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the story follows a disparate group of pilgrims on a long voyage to the Time Tombs on Hyperion. The travelers—many of whom have ulterior motives they hide from their companions—are intent on reaching the Time Tombs before the rapidly-approaching end of the universe. They each hope to find different things among the Time Tombs, but are haunted by the monstrous half-man, half-machine creature called the Shrike. An evocative and wildly inventive adventure, it's easy to see why Simmons' unique novel was honored at the Hugos. 

RELATED: 8 Scary Creatures from Sci-Fi  


The Three-Body Problem

By Cixin Liu

The first entry in Cixin Liu’s phenomenal “Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy” netted the writer a Hugo Award in 2015. The novel takes place during China’s Cultural Revolution when Mao Zedong began to fully enforce communism as the country’s main economic and political system. However, when a secret military unit sends out a signal into space that is intercepted by aliens, the entire planet becomes a target for this species. However, since the country is at odds with each other, various groups that have their own ideologies begin to spring up. Some people want to help the aliens take over since they believe society is inherently corrupt, while others want to preserve life on the planet. As the day of invasion approaches, the entire world is forced to confront many of its ills in this powerful novel.

RELATED: 12 Out-of-This-World Alien Invasion Books  

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