The best time travel novels about escaping to the past

The Books I Picked & Why

The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger

Book cover of The Time Traveler's Wife

Why this book?

OK, this may be cheating a little bit since Henry travels not merely to the past, but also the future, but still — Niffenegger’s debut novel is a sumptuous, gorgeous feast of words, a truly personal and intimate look at the perils and pleasures of time travel. Since Henry’s jaunts align along his own timeline, he is constantly reliving his own past and anticipating his own reactions to his known-but-unavoidable future.

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By Stephen King

Book cover of 11/22/63

Why this book?

King applies his considerable talents to healing the primal wound of the Baby Boomers — the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Jake Epping has discovered a portal to the past. And here’s the gimmick — it’s a two-way door, but every time you return to the past, you return to the exact same time, September 9, 1958. So Epping decides to relocate to the fifties and work his way toward 1963 and that fateful day in Dallas. But the universe itself seems bound and determined to stop him from saving JFK…and even if he can, will the future be worth returning to?

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I Killed Adolf Hitler

By Jason

Book cover of I Killed Adolf Hitler

Why this book?

This delightful graphic novel puts a new spin on the age-old question: If you could travel back in time and kill Hitler, would you? Well, duh! The question is old and the answer is obvious, so our intrepid hero heads to the past to bump off Adolf in 1939. But things go awry — Hitler overpowers his would-be assassin and steals the time machine. Now the assassin has no choice but to live out the decades in order to catch up with the present and complete the mission of killing a now-contemporary Hitler. And if you think you know where this is headed, well, you don’t — because there’s also the killer’s girlfriend to consider!

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The Proteus Operation

By James P. Hogan

Book cover of The Proteus Operation

Why this book?

Will killing Hitler ever not be the time travel question du jour? Maybe not, but this book takes a different tack, as a group of 21st century elitists, dissatisfied with their utopia, decide that helping Hitler would lead to a world more suited to their tastes. So they send back weapons and advisors to prop up Nazi Germany. This means, of course, that their foes — our heroes! — have to chase their way into the past and prop up none other than Winston Churchill as a counter to the rise of Hitler. The result is both not what you expect and also exactly what you expect.

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By Ken Grimwood

Book cover of Replay

Why this book?

This book isn’t just my favorite time travel novel — it might be my favorite novel, period. Jeff Winston, in his forties and trapped in a miserable marriage, dies of a massive heart attack on page one. But don’t worry! By page four, Jeff has opened his eyes again, only to discover that he is in his own nineteen-year-old body, decades in the past, with the full memory of everything that will transpire in the interim. You think you know where this is headed, but you don’t — Grimwood’s tour de force contains a terrific twist on time travel that makes this a story about coming to terms with who you are and who you want to be.

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