Well, as I said, I haven't read Steel Beach, but I would put the short stories The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin and Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut near the top of the list. The SciFi channel managed to mangle both of those stories, particularly The Cold Equations.
Beware the Summary of The Cold Equations on Wikipedia, as it contains a spoiler. Instead, read a copy at SpaceWesterns.com.
Harrison Bergeron is a tale of how, in the future, everyone is equal because of the Handicapper General. It was published in 1961 and we can see the beginnings of it in out society now. It reminds me of the best descripton of equalization on a phone line:
Imagine a line of soldiers marching across the field but not in step. Some march faster than others, so they do not all arrive at the other side at the same time. Rather than make the slower soldiers march faster, the general has obstacles placed in the paths of the faster soldiers, with tougher obstacles in the path of the fastest, easier ones in front of slower soldiers, and no obstacles in the path of the slowest. Finally, all soldiers start and arrive at the same time, all in step.
Just like an ancient C2-conditioned phone line ...
I used to save my weekly $0.50 allowance so I could buy a new book every two weeks for $1.00. I worked my way up to 10 books that way and would reread the entire set I owned with each addition. Then my parents bought me the rest of the set available (up to #24) for Christmas that year. I couldn't tell you how many times I read the entire set.
My journey to SF was a short one, I think the first books I owned before I could read were the Golden Book reprints of the Collier Man in Space articles and from there it was any book at the library with a space ship sticker on the spine. I had read Asimov, Clarke, and others without noting the authors until I was reading Citizen of the Galaxy and I was so impressed that for the first time I turned the book over to see who it was written by and it was Robert A Heinlein. I resolved to read as many of his as I could find and thereafter made a note of the authors of the other books I had read.
I learned of the Tom Swifts from the back page advertisements of other books, but sadly, the local library did not have any of them. I later discovered them at some Kmart style department store of the time and begged my mother to buy the first one for me. I did not put it down until I finished reading it the next day.
I always thoght the Repelatrons where his best invention since there were so many applications of it, many, not covered by the books.
As they say, reality is for those who cannot handle science fiction. But I always thought it made me forward looking on how technology could be used. I was always laughed at and told to be serious when I was predicting we'd have computers with 80 column screens, upper/lowercase keyboards and megabytes of storage is not RAM. I get to tell people nowadays we are living in Star Trek times.
@BrainiacV: "Right now I'm discovered that there is fan fiction of updated Tom Swift stories ..."
Ooh! I cut my eye teeth reading Tom Swift Jr. in early grade school in the 50s. A couple of us were always racing to get the next volume. That is what started me on reading SciFi. I always like the Matter Maker (and the solar panels to power it!) and Chow, the cowboy chuck wagon cook.
Not a big Varley fan. I've read some of his work, but I must have missed that one.
Heinlein, Niven, Clarke, Asimov, Delaney, Joe Haldeman, James P Hogan, generally hard science fiction.
One story comes to mind, can't remember the author, possibly Sturgeon, about a couple that are having relationship problems and attempt to use some device that was supposed to enhance their interaction. After a night of fantastic lovemaking they discover in the morning they had not plugged it in.