Among the great authors of the 20th century, Philip K. Dick has an odd position. Critics have called him the “Shakespeare of Science Fiction,” he’s the first science-fiction author to have multiple volumes in the vaunted Library of America series, and he’s influenced more movies than you can imagine.
Yet in his own life, he was fairly unknown, publishing short stories in magazines for teenagers and cheap paperbacks that barely paid him anything. He’s also sometimes labelled as a sloppy writer, a madman, and a mystical nut.
Reading Dick is an experience, and it’s probably best that you read five of these books instead of just one. It makes more sense to me to talk about a “Dickian universe of ideas,” of which each of these books is a part. I think that Dick has a stock set of about forty key ideas, and for each novel, he usually selected about fifteen of them. Each novel is a different combination of ideas, but if you read several of them, you will see patterns.
When reading Dick, get ready for ancient philosophy, mysticism, classical music, the Cold War, eastern philosophy, television, consumer products, psychopathology, neuroscience, and a whole lot more.
- Any of his short story collections. Some of his better stories include “Sales Pitch,” “Exhibit Piece,” “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” “Minority Report,” “Faith of Our Fathers,” “The Electric Ant,” “A Little Something for Us Temponauts,” and more.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (truly one of the greatest books of the twentieth-century)
His Best Novels (in no order)
- The Man in the High Castle
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
- The Simulacrum
- Martian Time-Slip
- The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
Really Fun Novels
- A Maze of Death
- The Game-Players of Titan
- Eye in the Sky
- Counter-Clock World
- Time Out of Joint
- Galactic Pot-Healer
Other People Really Like These
- A Scanner Darkly
- Dr. Bloodmoney
- Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Worth Reading After You’ve Tackled Several of the Books Above
- Clans of the Alphane Moon
- Confessions of a Crap Artist (his only non-SF book!)
- The Divine Invasion
- The Zap Gun
- We Can Build You
- The Penultimate Truth
- The Solar Lottery