The best novels that mess with time

Carolyn O'Doherty Author Of Rewind
By Carolyn O'Doherty

Who am I?

When my publisher told me they were marketing the Rewind trilogy as time travel books, I protested that they were wrong. Turns out, in the book marketing world any story that has anything to do with time manipulation (including dreams, alternate timelines/histories, and—as it turned out—stopping it) counts as “time travel”. Once I got over my initial confusion, I was pleased to join the ranks of authors who envision worlds where the rules of reality turn fluid. I grew up gobbling books filled with magic and it has been my pleasure as an adult to continue to immerse myself in alternate worldsthis time as their creator.

I wrote...


By Carolyn O'Doherty,

Book cover of Rewind

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Alex is a Spinner, born with the rare ability to freeze and rewind time to review past events. Hated and feared because of their ability to find the truth, the small population of Spinners is restricted to Centers—compounds created to house and protect them. Alex's society uses the Spinners' skills to solve major crimes, but messing with time comes with consequences: no Spinner lives past the age of twenty. At sixteen, Alex is in her prime—until time sickness strikes early. When she is offered an experimental treatment, Alex sees a future for herself for the first time. But the promising medication offers more than just a cure—it also brings with it dire consequences. 

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?

Yes, it’s true, the movie adaptations have been dreadful, but the book itself is amazing! A mind-bending love story with appealing characters that avoid the sappy side of romance tropes. It’s also one of the few books I’ve read where the logic of time travel actually makes sense. Bonus points because I always appreciate when a character’s “gifts” come with realisticand uncomfortablerepercussions. 

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig,

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Why this book?

Who doesn’t want to know what would have happened if they’d chosen other roads? Nora, a woman on the verge of dying, gets to revisit decisions she’s made in her past and see how things might have played out differently. The book starts out a bit dark (fair warning: she attempts suicide) but the story itself is life-affirming and I just adore the concept of imagining how your life could have turned out if you made even the smallest tweak.

The Lathe of Heaven

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Lathe of Heaven

Why this book?

This is a book about the power of dreams. What would you do if you realized that whatever you dreamt became reality when you woke up? And what would you do if you had the power to control that dreamer? Like so many of LeGuin’s amazing novels, this one is both pure entertainment and a deeply thoughtful exploration of the consequences of power (as well as some fascinating thoughts about what an ideal world might look like). I find the concept of responsibility as it relates to power super intriguing, and I appreciate how using “magical” elements to explore the concept adds a purity to a conversation that could otherwise get bogged down in politics. (Plus it’s way more fun.)

We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart,

Book cover of We Were Liars

Why this book?

OK, I admit, I’m cheating a little with this one because the plot doesn’t technically mess with time, but the storytelling itself does since the narrator is remembering events that happened in the past. This is one of those Big Ending Plot Twist stories so I can’t say too much, but the thing that happened in the past has everything to do with the present in a way that completely blew me away. Wildly clever plotting (something I find super hard to do well). I loved this book. 

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Why this book?

I don’t think you can have a list of time books without including this classic. I read the book years ago but bits of it still pop into my head sometimes. It’s a beautiful story that combines adventure, actual science facts, brilliantly imagined other worlds, and at its heart, a tale of family love. This was one of the first science fiction novels I ever read and one of the reasons that for a long time, all I wanted to read were books about other worlds and alternate realities. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in time travel, amnesia, and decision making?

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