By Octavia Butler. Published in 1979. 

When writer Octavia Butler died a few months ago, her obituaries intrigued me. They described how she used science fiction to discuss individuality and conformity, outsiders and insiders, history, identity, and humanity — all from her nearly unique perspective in the genre as a black woman. This, I thought, was writing I wanted to experience.

Other people must have had the same thought because the library had a waiting list for Kindred, Butler's best-known book. It was worth the wait. Kindred is a perfect example of the best kind of science fiction: The fantastical traits of the genre are not themselves the point but simply a way to get at genuine truths from a perspective realism couldn't achieve.