Science fiction has a history stretching back at least as far as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and arguably much further. Thousands upon thousands of books and stories. As a new reader, where does one start?
Well, the best and shortest answer I can give you is, anywhere you damn well please.
Yes, there’s a weighty ‘canon’ of classic science fiction stories, but you shouldn’t feel intimidated by it. Many of science fiction’s classic texts still hold up. They’re considered classics for a reason. But they often reflect the concerns and literary styles of their time. Discovering and reading them will enrich your appreciation of the genre as a whole, but don’t feel you have to start with them.
Instead, pick a book that appeals to you. If you enjoy it, check out similar books by other authors. They might eventually lead you back to the classics, or not. It doesn’t matter; you’re reading for your own pleasure and there won’t be a test. Let your taste and enjoyment guide you, and you’ll find you’ve embarked on a lifelong journey of discovery and delight.
EDIT: Those of you looking for a place to start can find some suggestions on my earlier blog post: 40 Recommended SF&F Books