I love the New York Times's various book lists. They're a great place to find new reading material and to discover things you never even heard about. The lists composed by the common man are great, too, even if I don't agree with their placement all the time.
The most recent of these is the Top 100 Sci Fi/Fantasy Books list, voted into order by fans. As you can imagine, I totally eat up things like this. They put too many books in my massive to-be-read pile, and this one is no exception.
My first interest on the list is number 5, A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Everyone's been talking about it, but I'm not exhausted of hearing about it yet. With all the semi-entertaining scifi I've been reading lately - good plot but no characters, or bad plot but great world building - I need something well-rounded. This could be it, with warring families, supernatural beings, an exiled princess, and a winter longer than anyone could ever want (even me). The first book, A Game of Thrones, is apparently the basis for the highly acclaimed TV show of the same name. Good to know.
The next one that catches my eye is Asimov's Foundation trilogy. I know - I'm a very bad scifi nerd to have never read these. I have so many things on my reading list that I feel pressured to take a speed reading course, just so I can get through most of these in my lifetime. (Honestly, speed reading would probably take the fun out of it.) In this series, Hari sees dark times ahead for humanity, so he creates the Foundation, where strong minds come to discuss everything and be protected from certain DOOM.
Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time is on the list, and everyone I know who likes this series is really into it. But I'm not putting it on my personal list for now, because I don't want to get sucked into a 14-book series with 1,000 pages per book. I'd like to read other things in my lifetime, too. Maybe this series is good for someday when I retire. In the meantime, I'll live with knowing it's based on the mythological wheel of time and has a very detailed world. (With that many pages, I should hope so.)
At least two books on this list fall in the category of "books I should read because I'll never get through the movie." Those are 2001: A Space Oddysey and A Clockwork Orange. Considering the bizarre writing style and subject matter of the latter, I may not finish the book, either - but I want to read a couple of chapters, at least. The former just seems like a book I should have under my belt.
I also need to check out World War Z by Max Brooks, which is number 54 on the list. Anyone writing a book with zombies in it should check out other literary zombies, of course. My zombies are different from most others that I've seen, but it's still good to have a thorough background on the subject - I consider this a research title.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is another I haven't read yet, making me an even worse scifi buff than previously thought. But I have a solid reason for this one: I read part of Good Omens, by him and Neil Gaiman, and I just couldn't enjoy it. I'm hoping this is just the fault of two authors collaborating on a book and being unable to mesh as a seamless whole. Maybe the fault did not lie strictly with Goodkind (I know Gaiman well enough to know it wasn't just him). But regardless, I need to give Discworld a decent shot, starting with Small Gods, or maybe Going Postal. This world is, as the title suggests, flat, balanced on the backs of four elephants, who are balanced on the back of a turtle.
(P.S. The composition segment of that Wikipedia page says a couple of the Discworld books follow the styles of A. A. Milne and Jules Verne. Is it just me, or is that a weird combo? Maybe it makes sense when you read the story.)
That's definitely a good start for now, though I'll be adding R. A. Salvatore, John Scalzi, and Jasper Fforde, among others, at a later date. For now, I have at least enough reading to get me through the year. Or the next decade.