5 Science Fiction Authors: Stanley Weinbaum, Lester Del Rey, L. Sprague de Camp, E. E. "Doc" Smith, and Clifford Simak.
A few book covers to admire.
Download and read some of these today!
I have been rather hesitant to adopt e-books. Mainly I was concerned by the fact that what I read was so old, it wasn't available. When I last checked Amazon a few years ago, most of the authors I liked were few and far between.
Now that my wife got both an iPad and I started writing this thing, I decided to see how easy it would be to find some of the books that I've had in tattered paperbacks that were 40 years old (or older). The answer, you can find these things at Amazon today. Many of them are free. Have fun! Also, these are in no particular order.
1) Clifford D. Simak. Simak has long been one of my go-to authors when I was feeling cooped up. He is that anomaly among SF writers, the pastoralist. Even when he has robots, they're quite earthy and human, going about human concerns. Simak was a professional newspaperman who spent nearly 40 years at the Minneapolis Star and Tribune as the News Editor. While his career spans five decades, a good pair of books to start with are Way Station and City. I fell in love with his work when I found a used copy of The Best of Clifford D. Simak in the early 80s.
2) Stanley G. Weinbaum. I was actually rather surprised at how much Weinbaum was available on Amazon. A tattered copy of The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum has been one of my most cherished books for decades. I've looked for another copy in bookstores and never seen on. You, lucky you, can own this and others before you go to bed tonight. Unfortunately his whole catalogue isn't digitized yet, but I imagine it will be one day. His short stories are his strongest work. His career, unfortunately, was cut short by an early death from lung cancer in 1935; he was only 33. Had he not died so early, the "Golden Age" that began in the 40s with writers such as Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov might have started half a decade earlier. His aliens and humans are still real and believable today. "A Martian Oddyssey" is a great starting point.
3) Edward E. "Doc" Smith. While Doc Smith's Victorian Age morality colors his relationships between the sexes, he single-handedly invented the Space Opera genre. The Skylark of Space, written during the First World War and early 20s, did not find a home until serialized by Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories in 1928. My personal favorite has long been the stand-alone Spacehounds of IPC. Oddly enough, to me, it was also Smith's favorite. Without Doc Smith, Ph.D., there would be no Star Wars.
4) L. Sprague de Camp. While de Camp is probably best known for working on the Conan series, I've always preferred his original SF and Fantasy. de Camp is the most hit and miss author on this list. Some of his books I absolutely cannot read. However, the ones that I like are among my favorites. I think that his best SF book is Lest Darkness Fall. Some of the funniest fantasy stories he ever wrote, in collaboration with Fletcher Pratt, were collected in The Complete Enchanter.
5) Lester del Rey. While del Rey is still remembered because of his last name being an imprint of Ballantine books, most of his work is not. Another author whose strongest work is in short form, any of his short story collections would be fun reading. Police your Planet with Erik van Lhin, Pstalemate, and The Eleventh Commandment are among his stronger novels.
This is just a short list I grabbed off of the shelf, there are thousands of stories out there deserving of being read that are now readily available. While many purists (myself among them), feel that it's best to hold the actual book in your hand, the vast availability of long out of print stories and books is almost overwhelming!