The best books on time travel that don't rely on a physical time machine, and lean more on science fact than science fiction

Why am I passionate about this?

Before I even started writing my outline, I spent four months researching everything I could on quantum entanglement. I read textbooks, watched seminars and lectures, and even went to Tokyo, Japan to visit the quantum physics exhibition at a museum! I have immersed myself in time travel novel, films, and even music (i.e., Electric Light Orchestra’s Time album, where my novel gets its title from—track #2 on the album is “Yours Truly, 2095”) since I was very young. I even gave a presentation to the Library of Congress on the differences between time travel with engineering and time travel with physics.


I wrote...

Yours Truly, 2095

By Brian Paone,

Book cover of Yours Truly, 2095

What is my book about?

Jeff Blue made important decisions every day—what to wear, what to eat, and what to teach his high school English class. What he never expected was to make a choice between repairing his failing marriage in 1981 or starting anew with J0—a flawless copy of his wife in 2095.

114 years in the future is nothing like he imagined. While getting back to his time should be at the top of his list, it's hard to resist the new-and-improved version of his wife. However, staring at J0 reminds him of the woman he left back in 1981. Armed with a one-way ticket to the moon, it's a race against the clock to return home to his time—a time without J0. Is that what he really wants?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Timeline

Brian Paone Why did I love this book?

While I was researching the time travel device for my own novel, I remember how much I enjoyed Michael Crichton’s scientific explanation of how they had cloned the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. I read the book before there was even a movie. Knowing I wanted to keep my time travel method steeped in science and not a whirring machine that my characters step in and out of (i.e., a phonebooth or a DeLorean), I took a chance on Crichton’s time travel novel, Timeline, hoping he had used some of the same approaches to explaining science fiction with real science. While his story sends his characters backward in time and mine sends them forward in time, his book gave me the confidence that I could stay within real science to transport my characters between 1981 and 2095.

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this thriller from the author of Jurassic Park, Sphere, and Congo, a group of young scientists travel back in time to medieval France on a daring rescue mission that becomes a struggle to stay alive.
 
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“Compulsive reading . . . brilliantly imagined.”—Los Angeles Times
 
In an Arizona desert, a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world, archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to…


Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Brian Paone Why did I love this book?

Throughout most of my novel, my main character is being bounced back and forth through the two timelines, and he doesn’t know why. Slaughterhouse-Five does a fantastic job of presenting the reader with a character who is utterly confused why these time jumps are happening to him, who is behind it, and where will he find himself next. This air of mystery for the character and the reader really attracted me to explore having a character who doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him from day to day. And because I wrote my novel in first person, the reader only finds out what’s really going on when the main character does. In Slaughterhouse-Five, he doesn’t need to enter a manmade machine to jaunt through time, and that again spoke to me for my own novel.

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
 
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…


Book cover of The Jacket (The Star-Rover)

Brian Paone Why did I love this book?

While it’s hard to dismiss 12 Monkeys on a list of fiction where there are not machines creating the passage for time travel (even though it was never a novel), I have to say Jack London’s The Jacket does a better job at being subtle. The novel was adapted into a film in 2005 and follows a main character who experiences a time slip at the point of a near-death experience when he is in confined situations (i.e., when they think he’s dead and put him in a casket or when they need to subdue him in a straitjacket.) These tight confines of space initiate his ability to time travel through teetering on the brink of death. The story is slightly more ‘spiritual’ than ‘science based,’ but I felt it stood out as a good example of using the power inside of us to be able to defy the fabric of time.

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Jacket (The Star-Rover) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Jacket (1915) is a novel by American writer Jack London. A groundbreaking work of science fiction that blends elements of mysticism, The Jacket critiques the harsh reality of the American criminal justice system. The novel was inspired by the experiences of Ed Morrell, a man who spent time at San Quentin State Prison for robbing trains. Horrified by his description of "the jacket," a constricting device used to punish inmates, London wrote the novel to explore the psychological effects of torture. Darrell Standing was a Professor of Agronomics at the University of California, Berkeley when, in a fit of…


Book cover of Bid Time Return

Brian Paone Why did I love this book?

Most people will know Bid Time Return from its Christopher Reeve film adaptation, Somewhere in Time. In the novel and movie, the main character is transported back and forth without a physical device, just through self-hypnosis. Some believe there is a touch of science to self-hypnosis. This story has spoken to me since I first saw the film as a young child. The story focuses more on the dynamics of the two characters, who are separated by an era, and less on the adventures of time travel. While this is more of a romance story at heart, I borrowed some atmosphere and tone from the love interest plotline for my own novel. To me, this story is timeless, and I knew my novel would suffer if I did not put a nod to it.

By Richard Matheson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Staying at an old hotel, Richard Collier sees a photograph of Elise McKenna, an actress who performed there in 1896, and as he researches her life he becomes more deeply in love with her, until he finds himself transported back in time


Book cover of The Time Traveler's Wife

Brian Paone Why did I love this book?

This novel (and film) divides the time travel fan community. I get it. Is it too sappy to be science fiction? Is it too abstract to be a love story? I had never read nor seen the film until a fellow author had read my own novel and said how much parts of it reminded her of Time Traveler’s Wife, just minus the overly sappy romance. This made me check it out, and I did see how the main character can transport through no explanation (and no time machine!). It just … happens. I knew my novel was going to have time travel just “happen” to my main character for the first 2/3 of the novel, then the last third would be where the science fact explanation would poke its head out and reveal itself. I appreciated how Time Traveler’s Wife kept it ambiguous, and I noticed how much my own novel mirrored some of that approach, and I was pleasantly surprised with the book. This book is the oddity, as it’s the only one on my list that I read after I had finished my own novel.

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Why should I read it?

23 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…


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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…


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