One of the most iconic authors of science fiction, the late Anne McCaffrey reinvented the genre with her numerous series and award-winning novels.
In 1968, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction with her novella Weyr Search, and in 1969, she again became the first woman to receive a Nebula Award for her sci-fi novel Dragonrider.
McCaffrey’s books frequently center around women with special abilities, talents, and gifts. Along with these protagonists, she often included unique species like dragons, unicorns, and aliens. She also collaborated with other authors on multiple books and series. These peers included authors Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Mercedes Lackey, and her own son Todd McCaffrey.
In 1999, McCaffrey’s son and fellow author Todd released a biography of the legendary writer. Dragonholder offers an intimate look into Anne McCaffrey’s life, spanning from the time she was a young child to a grandmother. Juggling her career and her family, McCaffrey reminded readers that dragons can also be the good guys.
We’ve compiled a list of ten books by McCaffrey that every sci-fi fan should get their hands on at least once. Celebrate her work with one of the transportive books below!
Of course we had to kick off this list with the series McCaffrey is most known for: Dragonriders of Pern. Beginning with Dragonflight, we meet Lessa, an outcast on the planet Pern.
When Lessa's family was slaughtered, she learned to use her telepathic abilities to ensure she didn't stand out as a survivor.
But then the Thread, a long-dormant threat to Pern, reemerges. Lessa and the dragon queen with whom she shares a telepathic connection are the only ones who can save the colonized planet.
To defeat the Thread and revive the power of dragons and their riders, Lessa must embrace the glory she was born into.
The Ship Who Sang
Helva was born human, but her mind was implanted into an interstellar brainship. After training in her new cyborg identity, Helva must choose a male or female partner—the 'brawn' to her 'brain'—with whom to explore and serve the galaxy.
Helva's existence as a brainship promises to be a fulfilling adventure. But then Helva XH-834 defies expectations for brainships...by falling in love.
The book is dedicated to McCaffrey's father, who died in 1954. McCaffrey later said that writing The Ship Who Sang helped her process his loss.
The Crystal Singer
One of the few series by McCaffrey that doesn’t feature dragons, The Crystal Singer saga follows a young aspiring opera singer named Killashandra Ree. After ten years of demanding training, Killashandra is no closer to achieving her dreams.
But then an enigmatic man tells her about the Heptite Guild on the planet Ballybran, an elusive group that is said to provide fortune and fame for those lucky enough to qualify. Killashandra is enthralled by the unique relationship between the black crystals and their singers.
She's willing to risk her safety—and sanity—to learn more.
The first of McCaffrey's novels to be published, Restoree is a sci-fi romance.
Sara was kidnapped from her home in New York. On Earth, she was used to being a wallflower who enjoyed her own company. But now, she doesn't recognize the gorgeous new body she's been placed in. Sara is trapped in an unfamiliar physical form, and is held within a jail cell where she must care for a strange, incapacitated man.
Once Sara learns the truth about her captives, she devises a plan to rescue the man under her care, and to help her fellow 'restorees' escape. But what if freedom is more dangerous than captivity?
To Ride Pegasus
Publisher’s Weekly states that “McCaffrey’s world of the Talented is as vivid as that of Pern and its dragons.”
In The Talents Saga, McCaffrey introduces Henry Darrow, a 20th century human gifted with psionic talents.
When the paranormal abilities of people like Henry are exposed to the wider population, society fears that the psionic-powered humans known as the Talents can't be trusted. A few isolated incidents of dangerous Talents further this hysteria.
The average person believes the only option is to repress the gifted humans. However, Henry and his fellow Talents see other plans for the future.
Building off of the world from To Ride Pegasus, McCaffrey’s The Rowan is the first installment in The Tower and the Hive series.
The Rowan is an orphan, and a powerful Prime whose psionic abilities are the backbone that keeps the galaxy functioning.
She's lucky to have survived the disaster that killed her family, but the Rowan's powers keep her isolated—until she meets the one Prime who might be more powerful than her: Jeff Raven.
Related: 20 Notable Fantasy Books Starring Teens with Magical Abilities
The first of four books in The Catteni Sequence, Freedom’s Landing follows Kristin Bjornsen, a human whose life is forever changed when the alien Catteni invade and begin taking humans as slaves.
Kristin survives as a slave, but that's only the first of many tests the extraterrestrials put her through.
The aliens have discovered a new planet, and their best way of learning whether or not it is habitable is to use slaves as test subjects.
To survive on this inhospitable world, Kristin must develop an unlikely alliance with a Catteni hiding from his own people.
Lady Nimisha Boynton-Rondymense has never been one to sit back and watch others be in control. Craving adventure and excitement, she begins to work as the secret assistant to her father Lord Tionel, the owner and founder of Rondymense Shipyards.
When a deadly accident occurs and Nimisha inherits her father's business, his male heir is enraged.
Nimisha overlooks the backlash, until she travels through a wormhole on a solo voyage and becomes marooned on a deadly planet.
Now, the only person protecting the shipyard back on Vega III is Nimisha’s daughter—but just like her mother, she won't back down from a fight.
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The first of ten books in the Acorna series (the first two of which are a collaboration between Margaret Ball and McCaffrey), this title introduces the titular young unicorn girl.
Orphaned Acorna is found by miners, drifting in an escape pod through space. At a glance, she seems human—but on closer inspection it's possible to observe her horned forehead, her hoofs, and her healing powers.
The miners take Acorna to the planet Kezdet, where she can grow in peace. But Kezdet isn't the safe haven it first seems.
The planet's economy is based off exploitative child labor, championed by a sinister figure called "the Piper." Unfortunately for him, Acorna will never be complacent in the face of injustice.
Powers That Be
McCaffrey teams up with author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough for the Petaybee Trilogy, which begins with Powers That Be.
Disabled combat veteran Yanaba Maddock is stationed on the frigid planet Petaybee for her final mission. Her role is to work with the geological teams to extract local resources, but Yanaba soon realizes that the planet and its indigenous inhabitants are more powerful than anyone knows.
As Yanaba's strength miraculously returns on the planet, she grows closer to the native population, and decides she will do whatever it takes to protect her new home—even if it could cost her life.