The best science fiction novels about outsiders

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about outsiders, those people who are different from their peers. Outsiders may feel a deep sense of isolation. They are often ostracized or even persecuted because of their difference. Sometimes the outsiders triumph, sometimes they fail, but they are all striving to come to terms with what makes them different. I think this topic resonates with lots of people, myself included, because many of us for a variety of reasons sometimes feel isolated from others. This theme of differentness, of isolation, is a thread that runs through much of my writing.


I wrote...

In Human Form

By David Kubicek,

Book cover of In Human Form

What is my book about?

Wendy remembers nothing about the farmhouse fire that killed her father. She doesn't even remember her own name. Jared Parker, her guardian, has learned that she is not human, that she isn’t of this world at all, that she is an android. But he doesn’t tell Wendy, not even when he sees her falling in love with police officer Aaron McCormick. Butch Cruickshank, one of the young punks who set fire to Wendy’s home, discovers her secret and brings ruthless millionaire UFO hunter Earl Vaughn to town. Vaughn has offered $10,000 to anyone who finds an alien artifact, and an android is certainly worthy of the prize. When Vaughn realizes Wendy’s true origin, she becomes a pawn in his deadly scheme for world domination.   

The books I picked & why

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The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Book cover of The Time Traveler's Wife

Why this book?

I love this book because it chronicles the ups and downs of being married to a time traveler who may disappear at any moment and be gone for weeks. Henry DeTamble has a genetic disorder that causes him to take sudden, uncontrolled journeys through time. He first meets Clare Abshire, his future wife, when she is six in the meadow behind her house and visits her often as she grows up. They finally get together when Clare introduces herself to Henry at the library where he works, but he doesn’t know who she is because he hasn’t traveled back to her meadow yet. Told in chapters alternating between Henry’s and Clare’s points of view this story will keep you eagerly turning pages from beginning to end.

The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Time Traveler's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a series on HBO starring Rose Leslie and Theo James!

The iconic time travel love story and mega-bestselling first novel from Audrey Niffenegger is "a soaring celebration of the victory of love over time" (Chicago Tribune).

Henry DeTamble is a dashing, adventurous librarian who is at the mercy of his random time time-traveling abilities. Clare Abshire is an artist whose life moves through a natural sequential course. This is the celebrated and timeless tale of their love. Henry and Clare's passionate affair is built and endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap…


Carrie

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Carrie

Why this book?

Perennial bestselling author Stephen King has written many stories about outsiders, but his first novel, Carrie, is my favorite—maybe because I would have loved to have had a power like Carrie’s when I was in high school, although I wouldn’t have used it in such a gruesome and destructive way. I hope.

Carrie White is a shy, unpopular high school girl with the ability to make objects move by just thinking about them. She has kept her talent bottled up inside her, but when a “mean girl” plays a prank on her at the prom, she unleashes the full fury of her power on the school gym packed full of people—guilty and innocent alike—the town, and her fundamentalist mother.

Carrie

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates, is a Classic. CARRIE is the novel which set him on the road to the Number One bestselling author King is today.

Carrie White is no ordinary girl.

Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis.

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first
step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues.

But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she
is forced to exercise her…


Flowers For Algernon

By Daniel Keyes,

Book cover of Flowers For Algernon

Why this book?

This bittersweet story about a mentally challenged man who becomes a genius moved me deeply when I first read it. With his new found intelligence comes a new, unsettling perspective on a his life.

Charlie Gordon has an I.Q. of 70. He has a job at a bakery where he considers his co-workers to be his best friends. He has his own apartment, and he attends a special school. Charlie volunteers to have an experimental operation that makes him a genius. But as his intelligence grows, Charlie discovers that his world is not the safe and happy place he’d thought it was. For instance, he learns that his coworkers who he believed were his best friends actually were making fun of him because of his disability.

Flowers For Algernon

By Daniel Keyes,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Flowers For Algernon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charlie Gordon, a retarded adult, undergoes a brain operation which dramatically increases his intelligence.

Charlie becomes a genius. But can he cope emotionally? Can he develop relationships?

And how do the psychiatrists and psychologists view Charlie-as a man or as the subject of an experiment like the mouse Algernon?


The Dreaming Jewels

By Theodore Sturgeon,

Book cover of The Dreaming Jewels

Why this book?

This novel captured my imagination when I first read it in high school, a time when I felt especially isolated. Not only is it a good outsider story, it’s a good come-uppance story (the evil forces get their come-uppance in the end).

When he’s eight years old, Horty Bluett runs away from his abusive adoptive family and his classmates who torment him. Some carnival people, also outcasts, take him in. Horty doesn’t realize until he’s older that he is an alien, grown by alien organisms from another world, and his special power is the ability to duplicate, or “mimic”, other life forms. This talent helps him thwart the sinister carnival owner’s plans and, as an added bonus, exact revenge on his cruel adoptive father, Judge Bluett.

The Dreaming Jewels

By Theodore Sturgeon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dreaming Jewels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Life Achievement Awards

"One of the masters of modern science fiction."—The Washington Post Book World

Eight-year-old Horty Bluett has never known love. His adoptive parents are violent; his classmates are cruel. So he runs away from home and joins a carnival. Performing alongside the fireaters, snakemen and "little people," Horty is accepted. But he is not safe. For when he loses three fingers in an accident and they grow back, it becomes clear that Horty is not like other boys. And it is a difference some people might want to use.

But…


Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler,

Book cover of Kindred

Why this book?

I like this novel because it contrasts two vastly different worlds—both in the same country on the same planet, but in different time periods. 

Dana Franklin, a young black woman, is suddenly swept out of her 1970s California home to an early Nineteenth Century Maryland plantation where she saves Rufus Weylin, the plantation owner’s five-year-old son, from drowning. She is “called” back many times over Rufus’ life when he’s in a jam, and each time she stays longer in the past. Over the course of her sojourns on the plantation, she must pass for a slave, which proves to be challenging for a late Twentieth Century African American woman. Dana learns first hand about the life of a slave, something she had only read about before.

Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner

The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.

“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon…


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