The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Immensely durable science-fiction comedy that taught us all not to panic.
It may have spawned a BBC TV series, five novels and a biggish-budget movie, but purists still point to the original humble radio series as the real deal when it comes to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Kicking off with the destruction of the Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass, Hitchhiker's is a winning amalgam of the good old catastrophe story, social satire and science-fiction pastiche.
One of the last surviving members of the human race, Arthur Dent, still in his dressing gown, is dragged through an intergalactic whirligig. He's exposed to deadly Vogon poetry, Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters and a restaurant at the end of the universe. The answer to the ultimate question is revealed as "42", and humanity is discovered to have descended from a group of shipwrecked estate agents and marketing executives.
The book sold million of copies in 30 different languages, though Adams sadly died in 2001 - too young to realise his ambition of having the story appear on film, which finally occurred in 2005.