Dracula by Bram Stoker (Viking Penguin, $12). The mother of all airport thrillers, amazingly, and like the movies only in part. Stoker single- handedly invented a couple of major modern genres here.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (Random House, $5). For my money, this was the birth of modern science fiction. Mary Shelley invented science fiction with Frankenstein, but The Time Machine is something else. I like to try to imagine people reading this when it was originally published as a newspaper serial in 1895 England. Still unforgettable, thrilling, haunting.
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (Vintage, $20). Huge, weird, disorienting, and great fun if you don't mind not knowing exactly what's going on, Dhalgren is the closest thing science fiction has produced to a genuinely experimental novel. All the action is set in and around a Midwestern city that's vanished into a weird, lawless catastrophe that functions as a sort of black hole. Not for everyone, but if you like it, you never forget it. Dhalgren reads like the Sixties felt.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (Vintage, $28). When Bester wrote this in the 1950s, he was a sharp young ad exec on Madison Avenue, and as such quite unlike any of his contemporary science fiction writers. He combines classic storytelling ability and a gorgeously wild imagination with a witty urban sophistication.
Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack (Grove, $13.50). This brilliantly dark coming-of-age novel takes the form of a diary written by 12-year-old Lola Heart. In a collapsing New York City where disease and violence run rampant and the middle class is starting to cease to exist, she arcs from sweet innocence to unutterable savagery.
The Alteration by Kingsley Amis (NYRB Classics, $15). The great lost "alternate history" novel, on a par with Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Amis gives us 1976, but in a world in which the Reformation never happened because Martin Luther cut a deal with the pope centuries earlier.