The best books to read for a glimpse at humanity

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a diet of dystopian fiction, and when I first began taking craft more seriously and diving into short stories, that was the genre I found myself writing most. I suppose what draws me to the genre is how dystopian fiction has the ability to illuminate society’s faults and injustices and humanity as a whole, the bleak futures that it could create if certain ideologies were allowed to persist, the way individual behaviours and actions can well shape the future and dictate whether it becomes one filled with hope or one that falls into disaster. 


I wrote...

I Am AI

By Ai Jiang,

Book cover of I Am AI

What is my book about?

If you had the opportunity to give up humanity for efficiency, mechanical invincibility, and to surpass human limitations...would you?

Ai is a cyborg, under the guise of an AI writing program, who struggles to keep up with the never-blinking city of Emit as it threatens to leave all those like her behind.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Never Let Me Go

Ai Jiang Why did I love this book?

I have read many stories and books about clones and the treatment of these beings whose genetic makeup and minds are much like our own.

Kazuo Ishiguro explores more than just the ethics of using clones as though they are not humans through a philosophical lens that brings us to question what exactly makes us human and what our true values are if our sole purpose from the moment of birth is to sacrifice ourselves, cut our lives short, for the sake of others. 

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Never Let Me Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most acclaimed novels of the 21st Century, from the Nobel Prize-winning author

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Go dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense…


Book cover of Lilith's Brood

Ai Jiang Why did I love this book?

I recall reading this book during my undergraduate studies, and it was one of the ones I will never forget.

It speaks about the ways in which humans interact with alien species and how we might come to accept them despite our differences, what we can learn from them, and how it can reshape us for the better. This book explores identity and Otherness and whether we can coexist with a species other than ourselves. 

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lilith's Brood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed trilogy that comprises Lilith's Brood is Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best.

Presented for the first time in one volume with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., Lilith's Brood is a profoundly evocative, sensual -- and disturbing -- epic of human transformation.

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected -- by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and…


Book cover of Stories of Your Life and Others

Ai Jiang Why did I love this book?

What fascinates me most about this novella is its ability to capture such depth and fullness in such a short length.

This book explores the concept of time and language, and how the way humans perceive time vastly differs from the alien species, and the way language ultimately affects time perception and decision-making as well.

By Ted Chiang,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Stories of Your Life and Others as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A science fiction genius . . . Ted Chiang is a superstar.' - Guardian

With Stories of Your Life and Others, his masterful first collection, multiple-award-winning author Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories, all told in his trademark precise and evocative prose.

From a soaring Babylonian tower that connects a flat Earth with the firmament above, to a world where angelic visitations are a wondrous and terrifying part of everyday life; from a neural modification that eliminates the appeal of physical beauty, to an alien language that challenges our very perception of…


Book cover of Flowers For Algernon

Ai Jiang Why did I love this book?

This is one of the most heartbreaking yet thought-provoking books I’ve read in my life.

It is an experimental story that raises the question about intelligence and human connection and asks us whether having more knowledge is indeed a vice or virtue. For the narrator, they discover the reality of their relationship and friendship with others after gaining greater intellect before losing it once more. 

By Daniel Keyes,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Flowers For Algernon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Charlie Gordon, a retarded adult, undergoes a brain operation which dramatically increases his intelligence.

Charlie becomes a genius. But can he cope emotionally? Can he develop relationships?

And how do the psychiatrists and psychologists view Charlie-as a man or as the subject of an experiment like the mouse Algernon?


Book cover of 1984

Ai Jiang Why did I love this book?

With the growing fear of technology and the breach of privacy, as well as the way media consumption has been shaping audiences’ values, beliefs, and ideologies, never has this classic novel been more prevalent.

Given social media dominance, it feels as though we’re always being watched, that our actions are always being dictated by an outside force, whether it is Big Brother from the novel, or the watchful eyes of those who view our content. 

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

45 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


You might also like...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the brain, cloning, and totalitarianism?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the brain, cloning, and totalitarianism.

The Brain Explore 160 books about the brain
Cloning Explore 10 books about cloning
Totalitarianism Explore 46 books about totalitarianism