The best books with aliens that are not science fiction

Who am I?

When I was growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, my father and I watched Star Trek reruns together. He was so busy traveling all over the world with his job that our time watching Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock was precious to me. I loved it so much that I built my own Enterprise models and sewed a boxful of tribbles. More importantly, that show led me to reading tons of science fiction - everything from Isaac Asimov to Douglas Adams - and, of course, watching every Star Trek sequel ever made. Live long and prosper.


I wrote...

Eight Days on Planet Earth

By Cat Jordan,

Book cover of Eight Days on Planet Earth

What is my book about?

When I saw my new book, Eight Days on Planet Earth, was tagged on Amazon as “science fiction,” I shook my head in disbelief. The book may have some science and it’s most assuredly fiction but I would never in a million years call it sci-fi. To me, science fiction is Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and William Gibson and Octavia Butler, not me.

So that got me thinking: what other books have I read that have aliens in them but are not actually science fiction? Some of the books on this list might be shelved under that heading but I would argue that my first reaction when hearing the titles is something other than sci-fi. YMMV.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Cat Jordan Why did I love this book?

As a child reading this classic middle grade novel, I wanted to be Meg Murry, the clever teenage protagonist. She and her kind-of boyfriend Calvin tesseract through space with three witches to rescue Meg’s scientist father and eventually her younger brother, Charles Wallace, from an Evil Force. At the heart of the novel is the relationship between Meg and her younger brother: it’s her love for him, her absolute acceptance of him as he is, that breaks him free. P.S. As an adult, I love that Meg’s mother is also a scientist.

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Wrinkle in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics: the definitive collection of timeless stories, for every child.

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.

When Charles and Meg Murry go searching through a 'wrinkle in time' for their lost father, they find themselves on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as 'It'.

Meg, Charles and their friend Calvin embark on a cosmic journey helped by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. Together they must find the weapon that will defeat It.…


Book cover of K-Pax

Cat Jordan Why did I love this book?

I loved the humor of this novel: Prot – who claims to be an alien from the planet K-PAX – is charming and funny and absolutely wins over everyone he meets. You can’t not want him to be who he says he is. Is K-Pax a real planet? Is Prot a real alien or does he suffer from a mental illness? If you’ve seen the movie, that’s a start, but the book is better and there are sequels. It’s told from his psychiatrist’s point of view so we get a lot of background on him and how he relates to Prot. In many ways, the book tells us more about what it’s like for us to be humans than for Prot to be an alien.

By Gene Brewer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a man who claims to be from outer space is brought into the Manhattan Institute, the mental ward seems to be just the place for him. However this patient is unlike anyone psychiatrist Dr. Gene Brewer has had under his care before. Calling himself 'prot', he has no traceable background but says that he is an inhabitant of the planet K-PAX, a perfect world without wars, government or religion, and where every being coexists in harmony. Setting a departure date - August 17th at 3.31am - on which he plans to return home on a beam of light, 'prot'…


Book cover of Ratner's Star

Cat Jordan Why did I love this book?

This is a big sprawling story. Do you love books like that or hate them? I love them because they feel like giant puzzles: you kind of lose yourself in them and enjoy the constant twists and turns. DeLillo is a postmodern master so you can trust that he has it all under control. In this book, Billy, a teen mathematician prodigy, wins the Nobel Prize in Mathematics and is spirited away to help decipher a mysterious message from aliens. It’s been compared to Alice in Wonderland for its down-the-rabbit-hole and through-the-looking-glass aspects of plot twists and characters. What makes this satire accessible, however, is the comedy. Billy is us, the readers, and he takes us on a philosophical journey while being surrounded by the strangest of characters.

By Don DeLillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ratner's Star as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Billy Twillig, a genius adolescent, wins the first Nobel Prize ever to be given in mathematics, he is recruited to live and work in the company of thirty Nobel laureates in obscurity underground. There, away from the rest of the world, this panel of estranged, demented and lovable scientists work together on a secret scientific project: deciphering a mysterious transmission received from outer space, from just near Ratner's Star.

Written in Don DeLillo's characteristically mesmerizing prose, Ratner's Star is a brilliantly observed, funny and deeply thought-provoking novel which explores the mysterious, mind-blowing, mathematical world of the future.


Book cover of The Sparrow

Cat Jordan Why did I love this book?

I loved this story for what it was (a terrific thriller) as much as for what it was not (a lecture in religion). As a writer I also learned from the author to never sacrifice story for theme or message: focus on what will keep the reader up at night and allow the theme to evolve naturally. So much of this book’s ultimate philosophy about being human and treating each other with kindness, could have felt forced given the tale’s origins in religion but it wasn’t at all. In the 21st Century, Earth receives messages in the form of music from outer space. A Jesuit mission is formed and sent to the planet Rakhat where the music originated. The team’s leader, Father Sandoz, is captured, held as a slave, and then eventually returned to Earth, physically disfigured and alone. The science in this book is minimal; what kept me turning pages was the mystery of Sandoz. P.S. There’s a sequel!

By Mary Doria Russell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Sparrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Sparrow is one of my favourite science fiction novels and it destroyed me in the best way when I read it. It is so beautifully written and the construction of the narrative is masterful.'
Emma Newman, acclaimed author of Planetfall

Set in the 21st century - a number of decades from now - The Sparrow is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and talented linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who - in response to a remarkable radio signal from the depths of space - leads a scientific mission to make first contact with an extraterrestrial culture.

In the true tradition…


Book cover of The Giver

Cat Jordan Why did I love this book?

I read this young adult book as an adult and saw in it the dawning realization of what being a grownup is all about: the pain, the suffering, the war, and hunger, but also the good that comes with it. In a world (our future? Or another planet’s?) where complex emotions have been eliminated and all roles are assigned, 12-year-old Jonas is destined to become the receiver of memories. A dystopian utopia, Lowry very specifically does not name anything after our current world so these human-like characters could indeed be aliens – and their actions a commentary on our culture. The burden that Jonas bears as the Receiver of Memories is heartbreaking but through him, the reader discovers that while knowledge (centuries of memories) can be painful, it can also be powerful; so too can education.

By Lois Lowry,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Giver as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

THE GIVER is soon to be a major motion picture starring Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

Now available for the first time in the UK, THE GIVER QUARTET is the complete four-novel collection.

THE GIVER: It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything needed is provided. And at twelve years old, each member of the community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders.

Jonas has never thought there was anything wrong with his world. But from the moment he is…


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Book cover of The Romanov Heiress

Jennifer Laam Author Of The Romanov Heiress

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Who am I?

A proud native of Stockton, CA, Jennifer Laam resides in California with a temperamental tabby cat named Jonesy. Her other works of historical fiction are The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, The Tsarina’s Legacy, and The Lost Season of Love and Snow. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), cooing at Baby Yoda, or obsessing over House Targaryen. 

Jennifer's book list on the last Romanovs

What is my book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed. An alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter Of The Tsar.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, former Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships. But they can’t distance themselves from the world forever.

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By Jennifer Laam,

What is this book about?

Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed...an alternate future for the Romanovs from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Lost Season of Love and Snow.

With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships.

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