The best dystopian books and how they help us better understand our own nature

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved stories. Writing them, reading them, stories are magical. I think stories have so much power in our lives, to inspire, encourage, even to change us. I’m always dreaming up worlds in my head and wondering how life would be different if this happened or that happened. I consider myself a student of the human condition. Dystopian stories play around so much with philosophical questions about the human condition. Growing up, I didn’t really fit in with other people, so I spent a lot of time trying to understand them and how they worked. I think that leads to some really interesting stories. 

I wrote...

The Outlands

By Tyler Edwards,

Book cover of The Outlands

What is my book about?

In the ruins of the world that was lies the city of Dios, a haven protected from the hostile environment known as The Outlands. Ruled by an oppressive Patriarch, the people of Dios are conditioned in fear. The smallest infraction could result in banishment to the Outlands, a fate worse than death. With his make-shift family of “Undesirables”, Jett Lasting struggles to find his place in a world where drawing attention to yourself can get you killed. His very existence is considered a crime. To survive, he must avoid guards, beggar gangs, and an ever-growing tension that could drag the whole city into chaos.

Jett unwittingly becomes entwined in a plot to overthrow the government where his choices could lead to freedom or the death of everyone he’s ever known or cared about.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Hunger Games

Tyler Edwards Why did I love this book?

I remember hearing everyone go on and on about how great the book was. I was skeptical. My wife and I were driving home after visiting family for the holidays and we had the audiobook. We listened to it all the way home, then went inside, laid in bed, and finished it. The next day I ordered books 2 and 3 and finished them both in less than a week. 

Hunger Games was such a unique idea and so skillfully done that it created this tension that hung over me the whole time I read it. I couldn’t put it down. One of the things that is just so great for me is the world-building. Hunger Games does it masterfully.

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

49 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...

Book cover of Divergent

Tyler Edwards Why did I love this book?

One of the things I love about dystopian stories is that they allow us to consider the human condition and our own nature without feeling attacked in the process. The concept of a society divided into five factions was intriguing. I am a non-conformist, which my wife calls my excuse to be obnoxious, which is completely fair. So having a character who was basically an unlikely hero because they didn’t fit into the factional boxes of a society was like the anthem of my heart. I think the world needs fewer boxes and more of an understanding that we are all wonderfully unique. Conforming into groups tends to corrupt the very nature of what makes us so special. 

By Veronica Roth, Nicolas Delort (photographer),

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Divergent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The explosive debut by No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth.

DIVERGENT - a major motion picture series.

For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs.

Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead....

A debut novel that will leave you breathless.

Book cover of Storm Front

Tyler Edwards Why did I love this book?

Harry Dresden is one of my favorite literary characters. He’s a modern-day wizard living in Chicago helping the police solve paranormal cases. He has principles that often get him into trouble and is a bit old fashion in some regards. What makes these books great, is that they are not just well-written, but they have fun little details, like magic messing with technology. What really makes me love his character is the sassy playfulness he has. He can’t stop himself from making playful remarks to people who are threatening to harm him. I just relate to that. The more intense the situation the more my brain turns into a stand-up comedian. Also, a serious plus for this book is that the vampires don’t sparkle in sunlight. 

By Jim Butcher,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked Storm Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put…

Book cover of Red Rising

Tyler Edwards Why did I love this book?

Red Rising hits some notes that I just love in stories. You have what seems like a typical dystopia but with a twist; this one is on Mars. The hero is a relatable, low-born guy in a caste society who believes he’s making a difference. When he discovers that he and people like him have been lied to by those born into wealth and power he sets out on a personal quest to bring them down. The themes here really spoke to me as they remind me that, while we want to believe everybody has the same opportunities in life, the truth is where we are born, our family, and so many other factors play a role in how our lives shape out. Despite all of that, there is this incredible power we have when we start believing in a cause that is greater than ourselves. 

By Pierce Brown,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Red Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Pierce Brown's heart-pounding debut is the first book in a spectacular series that combines the drama of Game of Thrones with the epic scope of Star Wars.


'Pierce Brown's empire-crushing debut is a sprawling vision . . . Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow' - Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Pandemic

'[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field' - USA Today


Darrow is a Helldiver. A pioneer…

Book cover of Legend

Tyler Edwards Why did I love this book?

In the future, this Republic rises to power. One main character is trained in the Republic’s military, excels, and is a believer in the Republic. Another, a rebel who is accused of killing her brother. You start with two characters who aren’t just oil and water, they are in opposition to each other. There’s deception, lies, and conflict that stems from it, all of which are overcome by virtue of communication. What I appreciated about this book is that it shows how meaningful it can be to spend time with and talk to people who don’t share your point of view. Sometimes, your point of view is wrong. You’d never know it unless you took the time to see the world from someone else’s. It’s a great story with some really great points and things to say.  

By Marie Lu,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Legend is the much-anticipated dystopian thriller debut from US author, Marie Lu.

THE must-read dystopian thriller fiction for all teen fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth. A brilliant re-imagining of Les Miserables, the series is set to be a global film sensation as CBS films have acquired rights to the trilogy. The Twilight Saga producers, Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, will produce.

Los Angeles, California
Republic of America

He is Day.
The boy who walks in the light.

She is June.
The girl who seeks her brother's killer.

On the run and undercover,…

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Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

Book cover of Lightning Strike Blues

Gayleen Froese Author Of Lightning Strike Blues

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Communications officer Singer-songwriter Fan of all animals Role-playing geek Nature photographer

Gayleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

One summer night in a small prairie city, 18-year-old Gabriel Reece accidentally outs himself to his redneck brother Colin, flees on his motorcycle, and gets struck by lightning on his way out of town.

He’s strangely fine, walking away from his melted pile of bike without a scratch. There’s no time to consider his new inhuman durability before his brother disappears and his childhood home burns down. He’s become popular, too—local cops and a weird private eye are after him, wanting to know if his brother is behind a recent murder.

Answers might be in the ashes of the house…

Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

What is this book about?

On Friday, Gabriel Reece gets struck by lightning while riding his motorcycle.

It's not the worst thing that happens to him that week.

Gabe walks away from a smoldering pile of metal without a scratch-or any clothes, which seem to have been vaporized. And that's weird, but he's more worried about the sudden disappearance of his brother, Colin, who ditched town the second Gabe accidentally outed himself as gay.

Gabe tries to sift through fragmented memories of his crummy childhood for clues to his sudden invincibility, but he barely has time to think before people around town start turning up…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopian, survival, and plagues?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopian, survival, and plagues.

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