The most thought-provoking time travel novels

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lifelong fan of science fiction, and especially all things time travel. However, I do get annoyed by time travel stories where the time travel is never really explained or it’s just reduced to a magical vehicle for the story setting. I want my science fiction to ask the big questions of humanity. I have a PhD in history and theology, and in my research for my book From Star Wars to Superman, I combined a lifetime of enjoying science fiction and time travel with a career studying those big philosophical questions, and I’ve come to the conclusion that true sci-fi has to be thought-provoking.


I wrote...

From Star Wars to Superman: Christ Figures in Science Fiction and Superhero Films

By James Papandrea,

Book cover of From Star Wars to Superman: Christ Figures in Science Fiction and Superhero Films

What is my book about?

When cultures such as ours toss Jesus out one door, He comes in, albeit disguised through another. That's why author Jim Papandrea turned to Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix, Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman, Dr. Who, and half-a-dozen other modern shows, discovering in each one powerful images of Christ and salvation.

In stories of alternative universes, people always need rescuing, and sometimes the whole world cries out for a savior... which is just what a hero is. Author Papandrea here answers questions that concern Christians who are also Trekkies, Whovians, Matrix Dwellers, or aficionados of popular science fiction: What kind of "Christ-figure" is the hero of this story, and what does that say about the show's vision of Christ, humanity, and salvation?
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Time Signature

James Papandrea Why did I love this book?

I just love the idea of a time machine that’s driven by music.

We all have strong memories that are sparked by hearing a particular song, and this turns that idea into a surprisingly plausible time travel story. I also love the 80s music themes, and the themes of love and family that are woven throughout.

It’s all very real, except the parts that aren’t, but those are fun. There’s even a bit of martial arts, this book ticks all the boxes. The characters talk and think like real three-dimensional people, and I could relate to them.

And for what it’s worth, the book actually passes the Bechdel test, which you don’t always get in sci-fi. I wish Netflix would turn it into a show or movie!

By Carlo Kennedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time Signature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chris Agnello is a struggling musician and loner college student who dreads the future, lives in the past, and longs for a mentor. When his physicist sister builds a time machine that runs on music, he tries to use it to go back to the 1980's, but instead finds himself farther back in the past than he bargained for - stuck in the 1700's - on a journey of self discovery, and running for his life. To get back to his own time, he must find a way to get from Dublin to London in time to catch his ride…


Book cover of A Shortcut in Time

James Papandrea Why did I love this book?

A Shortcut in Time is a deeply personal story that really dares to get into the question of memory in time travel – in other words, the time traveler remembers people he loved, but these people do not remember him once the time stream is altered.

The author was bold enough to go beyond the “safe” and dig into the personal dangers of time travel. I also love the element of “reluctant” time travel this book explores. 

By Charles Dickinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Shortcut in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charles Dickinson's novels and short stories have won widespread acclaim for their deft characterization, humanity, and humor. Newsday described him as "a writer thoroughly in command of his art," while the Chicago Tribune wrote "he can surprise us at almost every turn."

Now Dickinson slips beyond the bounds of mundane realism to create a poignant fantasy that bears comparison to the work of Jack Finney and Jonathan Carroll.

Euclid, Illinois, is a town of many shortcuts, between houses, through orchards, and across fields. Josh Winkler, a local artist and longtime resident, knows these irregular pathways well, but is thoroughly taken…


Book cover of Millennium

James Papandrea Why did I love this book?

Another time travel story that doesn’t stay within the “safe” realm.

The author dares to get into some interesting questions. If you like your sci-fi mixed with an element of mystery, this book is a great example of that. Anyone who liked The X-Files or Lost would love this book. 

By John Varley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the skies over Oakland, California, a DC-10 and a 747 are about to collide. But in the far distant future, a time travel team is preparing to snatch the passengers, leaving prefabricated smoking bodies behind for the rescue teams to find. And in Washington D.C., an air disaster investigator named Smith is about to get a phone call that will change his life...and end the world as we know it.


Book cover of The Time Machine

James Papandrea Why did I love this book?

I had to include this book because this is the book that opened up the whole world of time travel for me.

I read it as a young teenager and have loved everything about the concept of time travel ever since. I think the reason is that there is this implied desire to fix the mistakes of our past or something, and that whole idea bubbles under the surface of Wells’ classic.

Of course on the other side of that coin is that I would later come to learn that Wells was an atheist, and so that brings up the whole question of whether time travel is a human attempt to play God, and whether time travel is only possible in a universe where there is no God. 

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Time Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

A brilliant scientist constructs a machine, which, with the pull of a lever, propels him to the year AD 802,701.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition of The Time Machine features an introduction by Dr Mark Bould.

The Time Traveller finds himself in a verdant, seemingly idyllic landscape where he is greeted by the diminutive Eloi people. The Eloi are beautiful but weak and indolent, and the explorer is perplexed by…


Book cover of That Hideous Strength

James Papandrea Why did I love this book?

I admit this book is not one you might think of when you think of time travel.

The time travel is more implied than explicit. This is actually the third book in a trilogy, but it is so different from the first two that you don’t need to read the first two before reading this one. The questions raised are as relevant now as when Lewis wrote it – maybe more so – right down to the questions around good and evil.

As an academic I could relate to this book because it really forces us intellectuals to ask some hard questions.

By C. S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked That Hideous Strength as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Just as readers have been transfixed by the stories, characters, and deeper meanings of Lewis's timeless tales in The Chronicles of Narnia, most find this same allure in his classic Space Trilogy. In these fantasy stories for adults, we encounter, once again, magical creatures, a world of wonders, epic battles, and revelations of transcendent truths.

That Hideous Strength is the third novel in Lewis's science fiction trilogy. Set on Earth, it tells of a terrifying conspiracy against humanity. The story surrounds Mark and Jane Studdock, a newly married couple. Mark is a sociologist who is enticed to join an organization…


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Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

Book cover of Wrightsville Beach

Suzanne Goodwyn Author Of Wrightsville Beach

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing all my life, but was never able to find my voice until I had my daughters. It was for them I wrote “Wrightsville Beach”. I wanted to show them what a good relationship should look like and how their decisions make a difference in where they will go. I want my readers to relive that feeling of falling in love and to be sent in unexpected directions, as life so often does to us. I want you to enjoy it so much, you don’t want to put the book down until it’s finished and once you do, to sit and reflect on it, savoring the feeling it has left behind.

Suzanne's book list on smart women trying to figure it all out

What is my book about?

Two years ago, devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Hank Atwater went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested. Since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess feel connected to each other in a way neither has ever felt before.

But when Hank’s past leads to a frightful incident, it ends their relationship. Jess leaves to work on the beach with sea turtles, thinking about what really happened that summer with Hank, while Hank sets out to find his own path in hopes of one day winning her back.

Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

What is this book about?

Two years ago, Hank Atwater made a terrible mistake. Devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Rob, he went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested for aggravated assault. Sober since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck.

Working a dead-end delivery job, Hank uses surfing and running to deal with being ostracized as he waits for his probation to end. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess…


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