The best dystopian novels that foresee a frightening future

Why am I passionate about this?

As a tech journalist by day, current events and policy debates inspire my speculative fiction about frightening futures. What could happen scares me even more now that I have a three-year-old son. Fiction allows me to expose very relevant issues in a digestible format that provokes thought while entertaining readers with action and humor. Mixing elements of sci-fi, western, and satire, I have written four dystopian novels exploring themes of surveillance, gun control, and political spin. Perhaps by reading about how bad things can get, we can learn how to keep the world safe for our children.

I wrote...

We, The Watched

By Adam Bender,

Book cover of We, The Watched

What is my book about?

An amnesiac awakes in a forest outside the capital of a nation he doesn't recognize. Calling himself Seven, he struggles to conform in a surveillance society where the government keeps a Watched list of its own citizens, and there is no separation between Church and State. Those who fight back are called Heretics and face execution. Seven’s blank-slate perspective helps him see through the government's propaganda, but his inquisitive nature soon attracts the eyes of the Guard.

"A deeply allegorical and powerfully thought-provoking dystopian must-read." - Kirkus Reviews

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Adam Bender Why did I love this book?

Firemen… who burn books? The premise of a censorship society grabbed me right away. Ray Bradbury’s wonderfully imaginative writing has stuck with me since I first read this novel in high school. While the book was written in the 1950s, these are issues that we continue to grapple with to this day. What makes this imagined future so frightening is how possible it seems.

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Fahrenheit 451 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Over 1 million copies sold in the UK.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic…

Book cover of 1984

Adam Bender Why did I love this book?

What kind of dystopian author would I be if I hadn’t read 1984, the seminal novel about a surveillance society? I’ll be honest: the book drags a bit in the middle. However, Orwell’s shocking future—in which everyone is under constant observation—was so prescient that it still comes up in tech policy conversations about privacy and surveillance today. I also greatly enjoyed this British author’s knack for irony, such as his contradictory names for government departments. There is a Ministry of Truth that spreads propaganda and a Ministry of Love that uses fear to compel loyalty. Classic!

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…

Book cover of Wool

Adam Bender Why did I love this book?

This newer dystopian novel meant more to me because it was originally self-published. As an indie author myself, it was inspiring to see readers find and flock to an author who skipped the traditional publishing process. And did I mention it’s a real page-turner? Wool is another book with a great concept, telling stories about people who live inside an underground silo because the apocalyptic world above is uninhabitable. Or is it? That mystery, and the horrifying ways in which the authorities kept the truth from the silo’s residents, kept me reading until the end.

By Hugh Howey,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Wool as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Thrilling, thought-provoking and memorable ... one of dystopian fiction's masterpieces alongside the likes of 1984 and Brave New World.' DAILY EXPRESS

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.

Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

To live, you must follow the rules. But some don't. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others…

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

Adam Bender Why did I love this book?

This novel broadened my perception of what a dystopian novel could be. It made me realize the genre is flexible enough to take on any current issue. The key is to extend one side of that debate to its most frightening extreme. Margaret Atwood accomplishes that with aplomb in her 1985 novel and its 2019 sequel, The Testaments. In case you haven’t already watched the popular Hulu TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a near-future return to a patriarchal and puritanical society in which women have lost most of their rights. With every passing year, these issues have only become more relevant.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked The Handmaid's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Go back to where it all began with the dystopian novel behind the award-winning TV series.

'As relevant today as it was when Atwood wrote it' Guardian

I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford -…

Book cover of The Last Policeman

Adam Bender Why did I love this book?

The Last Policeman taught me that dystopian novels can be mashed up with genres that might seem far from sci-fi. Here, Ben H. Winters expertly writes crime fiction about a detective trying to solve a murder, only he has to do it before an asteroid strikes Earth and makes the whole endeavor pretty dang pointless! The novel and its two sequels show how people might respond when confronted with imminent demise. Spoiler alert: Not that well, generally.

By Ben H. Winters,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Last Policeman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In THE LAST POLICEMAN, Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Ben H. Winters, offers readers something they've never seen before: A police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse. What's the point in solving murders when we're going to die soon, anyway? Hank Palace, a homicide detective in Concord, New Hampshire, asks this question every day. Most people have stopped doing whatever it is they did before the asteroid 2011L47J hovered into view. Stopped selling real estate; stopped working at hospitals; stopped slinging hash or driving cabs or trading high-yield securities. A lot of folks spend…

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The Last Ranger: Ranger of the Titan Wilds

By J.D.L. Rosell,

Book cover of The Last Ranger: Ranger of the Titan Wilds

J.D.L. Rosell Author Of The Last Ranger: Ranger of the Titan Wilds

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Hiker Reader Gamer Cat dad

J.D.L.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Betrayed. Hunted. Left for dead. 

But not even death itself can keep the last ranger from vengeance...

Embark on a new epic fantasy tale full of magic, revenge, and rampaging titans in the latest series written by bestselling author J.D.L. Rosell.

The Last Ranger: Ranger of the Titan Wilds

By J.D.L. Rosell,

What is this book about?

Betrayed. Hunted. Left for dead. But not even death itself can keep the last ranger from vengeance.

Leiyn "Firebrand" is no stranger to a fight. A brash ranger of the Titan Wilds, she takes up her bow to ward against the colossal spirit creatures known as titans, ever a threat to the colonies she has sworn to protect.

But no amount of skill can guard against treachery.

When tragedy strikes the rangers' lodge, Leiyn vows to avenge the fallen. But if she is to succeed, she must embrace a power within her she has long denied.

Power to move mountains…

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