The best books to be stuck in a time loop with

Ibrahim Moustafa Author Of RetroActive
By Ibrahim Moustafa

Who am I?

I love time travel stories. And I especially love a good time-loop story, ever since first seeing Groundhog Day on cable as a kid one winter break. As a graphic novelist, I wanted to do something that's not really been done much before in the medium: use the visual language of comics to tell an exciting and compelling story of someone trapped in a repeating day, that really explores what the visual language of a comic book page can do with respect to time, and it's circular nature. With my book RetroActive (colored by Brad Simpson and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou), I feel the team and I did just that.

I wrote...


By Ibrahim Moustafa,

Book cover of RetroActive

What is my book about?

Tarik, a veteran agent working for the U.S. Bureau of Temporal Affairs, is tasked with protecting history while taking care of his aging mother. When he and his new partner, Lucia Olmos set out to investigate the source of several anomalies in the timeline, they discover a radical adversary wielding a new technology that could unravel everything the BTA fights to maintain. Tarik is then imprisoned in an inescapable time loop, living and dying over and over again. Will he be able to escape the loop in time?

James Bond meets Groundhog Day in this intelligent spy thriller that mixes action and science fiction, while examining the politicalization and ethics of time travel.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Why did I love this book?

I'm a sucker for the time travel genre, and specifically the sub-genre of time loops. Harry August adds a layer to the beloved “trope” that I don't think I've ever seen before: the protagonist lives the same life over and over again, from birth to death. It's hard to describe this one beyond the premise in any way that does it justice, but luckily the premise is intriguing enough in its own right. A highly recommended book.

By Claire North,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'ONE OF THE FICTION HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DECADE' Judy Finnigan, Richard and Judy Book Club

Featured in the Richard and Judy Book Club, the BBC Radio 2 Book Club and the Waterstones Book Club
Winner of the John W. Campbell Award
Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award


No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before.

Nothing ever changes - until now.…

A Gift of Time

By Jerry Merritt,

Book cover of A Gift of Time

Why did I love this book?

What would you do if you could go back and inhabit your 10-year-old-self with your adult mind? What would you do differently? What would you try to keep the same? Who would you save? In a more finite version of living-life-over-again, Micajah Fenton goes from being a suicidal octogenarian, to a time-traveler with the aid of an otherworldly spacecraft that lands on his property.

This book is full of rich and beautiful character moments in the bayou of mid-century Louisiana, and the Silicon Valley of the 1980s, that juxtaposes nicely against the hard sci-fi premise of UFOs and AI holograms. A Gift of Time was just that; a gift, one that brought a tear to my eye on more than one page.

By Jerry Merritt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Micajah Fenton discovers a crater in his front yard with a broken time glider in the bottom and a naked, virtual woman on his lawn, he delays his plans to kill himself. While helping repair the marooned time traveler’s glider, Cager realizes it can return him to his past to correct a mistake that had haunted him his entire life. As payment for his help, the virtual creature living in the circuitry of the marooned glider, sends Cager back in time as his ten-year-old self, knowing everything he’d known at eighty and gives him access to advanced equations of…

Book cover of Here and Now and Then

Why did I love this book?

Perhaps the most kindred title to my own book, Here and Now and Then is the story of Kin Stewart, and time-traveling spy from the year 2142, who becomes stranded in the 1990s after a botched mission. Having assimilated to life in the past, even marrying and starting a family, Kin's got a bad bout of brain fog and amnesia resulting from the ordeal, (time travel is hard!). And then, his rescue team shows up 18 years too late. They bring with them the revelation that Kin has only been gone for 2 weeks relative to their time.

While admittedly full of some heavy-handed “this author clearly loves Star Trek and soccer” dialogue in the beginning, once this book finds its feet, it really takes off and is a fun romp, with a cool look into the author's speculative future.

By Mike Chen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here and Now and Then 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 Star Wars: Brotherhood

A Goodreads Choice Awards 2019 Semifinalist

One of BookBub’s Best Science Fiction Books of 2019

One of Book Riot’s Best Books of 2019 So Far

One of The Nerd Daily’s Best Debut Novels of 2019

Featured in The Millions “A Year in Reading”

One of Entropy’s Best Fiction Books of 2019

He’ll go anywhere and any when to save his daughter

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter.

But his current…

Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir,

Book cover of Project Hail Mary

Why did I love this book?

Buttressing off of the themes of amnesia and time relativity in the last recommendation, Weir's Project Hail Mary is the story of a science teacher on a doomed mission to space who is trying to save the earth from a sun-eating extra-terrestrial microorganism dubbed “Astrophage”. Unable to recall his own name or what he's doing on this spacecraft, Ryland Grace has to jog his own memory quickly if he's going to be successful. Alone and both relatively, and literally out of time, Grace endeavors to save the planet with the help of an unlikely ally in this moving, and scientifically fascinating tale of friendship, sacrifice, and ingenuity. Highest recommendation.

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Project Hail Mary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space…


By Ed Brisson, Michael Walsh (illustrator), Jordie Bellaire (illustrator)

Book cover of Comeback

Why did I love this book?

Reconnect is an off-the-books company that will use time travel to rescue people from the moments before their untimely deaths, or place willing customers in the past—for a fee, of course. But when a rescue mission goes badly, Reconnect agents Mark and Seth find themselves stuck in the past with the FBI in hot pursuit. What's more, their own company is looking to cover up their mistake by taking their lives.

This is a really fun graphic novel in the genre of time travel + crime thriller, by creators that have gone on to much success in the comics industry. They also happen to be friends of mine!

By Ed Brisson, Michael Walsh (illustrator), Jordie Bellaire (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reconnect agents Mark and Seth go back in time to save people from their untimely demise - for a fee. But, when a rescue mission goes awry, both agents find themselves trapped in the past and on the run from both the FBI, who want to jail them, and their own employers who want to kill them to protect their own dark and deadly secrets.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in time travel, time loop, and survival?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about time travel, time loop, and survival.

Time Travel Explore 313 books about time travel
Time Loop Explore 10 books about time loop
Survival Explore 163 books about survival

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Contact, Good Omens, and Stories of Your Life and Others if you like this list.