The best dystopian books that are great lessons for today

Bob Zeidman Author Of Animal Lab
By Bob Zeidman

The Books I Picked & Why

Animal Farm

By George Orwell

Book cover of Animal Farm

Why this book?

This book had an incredible impact on me. I read it in a single afternoon when I was a teenager, and it still resonates with me often, today. It simply yet emotionally and intellectually makes the argument against socialism in terms that anyone can understand. The characters are endearing. The story starts out with such optimism but ends on a desperately sad note—just like every experiment in socialism. That’s why I chose to write a sequel to it, updated for our modern society.

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Brainwave: The Greatest Masterpiece by the Science Fiction Grandmaster

By Poul Anderson

Book cover of Brainwave: The Greatest Masterpiece by the Science Fiction Grandmaster

Why this book?

This is another book that stuck with me for many years. What happened if animals suddenly had increased intelligence and the power of speech? They would need to start a society from scratch. How would they accomplish this? This unique premise just fascinated me, and I think it is a very underrated classic science fiction novel.

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Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

By Orson Scott Card

Book cover of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Why this book?

This is one of the least-known books by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, but it’s my favorite. In a dying future, scientists are sent back to the past to initially transcribe history and later to change it when they discover that possibility. Time travel books can either be an interesting intellectual exercise or a jumble of logical impossibilities. This is the former, but it is also a great historical description of the discovery of the New World including all of the wonders and atrocities. It confronts the disturbing roots of European and American slavery as well as the barbarism of native American cultures. It is a well-written, exciting, emotional experience full of fascinating personalities, high adventure, historical narratives, and serious questions about morality.

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Atlas Shrugged

By Ayn Rand

Book cover of Atlas Shrugged

Why this book?

This book is a large, difficult, preachy novel. Its characters are not very complex—most are either very good (and handsome) or very evil (and ugly). It moves slowly, with long, repetitive speeches intertwined with the story that slow it down further. Yet I recommend it because the concepts are so important, and the story and characters have come to symbolize the beautiful progress of capitalism and the ugly regression of crony capitalism. This is not an easy or necessarily enjoyable read, but it is an important one.

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Planet of the Apes

By Pierre Boulle

Book cover of Planet of the Apes

Why this book?

The book and the original 1968 movie are worthwhile experiences that examine our society, our treatment of animals, and our treatment of each other by creating a planet in which the roles of humans and apes are swapped. The screenplay was written by Oscar-winner Michael Wilson and Emmy-winner Rod Serling and adds a legendary ending that was the talk of the neighborhood kids when I was growing up. It created a powerful symbol of mankind’s possible eventual destruction that stayed with me over the years.

The 2001 remake of the movie stayed fairly true to the original movie but was a bit slow because of its many side stories. The second remake in 2011 had amazing special effects but made the disturbing point that humans have become a destructive society that must be abolished by the apes. While the original message was to treat animals and each other better, the later remake has audiences cheering the deaths of humans, which further reflects how our society’s values are deteriorating.

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