The best books with unusual ways to travel in time

Thomas T. Thomas Author Of The House at the Crossroads
By Thomas T. Thomas

Who am I?

I have been interested in time travel since childhood, although I personally do not think human beings will ever move forward or backward in time. But the notion and its paradoxes make a great subject for the imagination, which is the meat of speculative fiction. In writing about time travel, I had to deal with the “grandfather paradox,” where something the character does in the past changes his own future—the core of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Sound of Thunder.” My excuse, used in The Children of Possibility, is that great upheavals like war and civilizational collapse erase small changes like stepping on a butterfly. But, you know, it’s all speculative.


I wrote...

The House at the Crossroads

By Thomas T. Thomas,

Book cover of The House at the Crossroads

What is my book about?

Although this is the middle book of The Children of Possibility trilogy, it is the prequel to the other two and demonstrates two ways of traveling back in time—both long and tortuous and full of peril. In the eighth millennium, Anja Varden and Rolf Pohl sign up to carry the seed of a time-travel portal across medieval Europe from Rome to London—and they lose it along the way. In the eleventh millennium, Coel Rydin joins the mysterious Troupe des Jongleurs and travels back to ancient Rome, accompanied by the artificial intelligence known as Cinquemain, attempting to destroy the node that the young couple will try to use.

The books I picked & why

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The Anubis Gates

By Tim Powers,

Book cover of The Anubis Gates

Why this book?

Tim Powers is one of my favorite science fiction authors, and The Anubis Gates is probably his best book. As always with Powers, it follows a couple of themes besides time travel, including an Egyptian curse and a malicious puppeteer. The travel mechanism takes into account changes in the landscape since the target time. I particularly enjoyed the use of The Beatles’ "Yesterday" as an out-of-time signaling device.

The Anubis Gates

By Tim Powers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Anubis Gates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brendan Doyle is a twentieth-century English professor who travels back to 1810 London to attend a lecture given by English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a London filled with deformed clowns, organised beggar societies, insane homunculi and magic.

When he is kidnapped by gypsies and consequently misses his return trip to 1983, the mild-mannered Doyle is forced to become a street-smart con man, escape artist, and swordsman in order to survive in the dark and treacherous London underworld. He defies bullets, black magic, murderous beggars, freezing waters, imprisonment in mutant-infested dungeons, poisoning, and even a plunge back to…


The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Book cover of The Time Traveler's Wife

Why this book?

This book is a real charmer, and it follows an unusual means of time travel—a genetic mutation in the traveler. The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of the traveler’s wife, Claire, who has known Henry from childhood and well before they meet in “real life.” I liked that the story was unsparing in its consistency: when Henry travels, he always arrives naked and barefoot—the clothes don’t go with him—so his first challenge is running and finding something to wear.

The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Why should I read it?

15 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…


Time Enough For Love

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Book cover of Time Enough For Love

Why this book?

Heinlein is a master of science fiction. This book is only incidentally—but also irrevocably—about time travel. The life of Lazarus Long, who appears in other works by Heinlein, inspired me to write about longevity in my two-volume novel. Heinlein’s story of adorable Dora will bring tears to your eyes, and it shows how immortality can be a curse if you dare to love someone. Heinlein shares a lot of common sense, too, in the incorporated Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

Time Enough For Love

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The capstone and crowning achievement of  the Future History series, from the New York Times bestselling Grand Master of Science Fiction...

Time Enough for Love follows Lazarus Long through a vast and magnificent timescape of centuries and worlds. Heinlein's longest and most ambitious work, it is the story of a man so in love with Life that he refused to stop living it; and so in love with Time that he became his own ancestor.


The Land that Time Forgot

By Edgar Rice Burroughs,

Book cover of The Land that Time Forgot

Why this book?

This three-volume series is not actually about traveling in time. The main characters survive being torpedoed in World War I, are taken aboard the German submarine, and travel to an unknown continent in the South Atlantic where dinosaurs, missing-link humans, and other oddities survive. I mention this book here because I read it as a teenager, long before H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and it gave me a taste for putting modern humans into an earlier time frame—and that is the basis of at least half the time-travel stories.

The Land that Time Forgot

By Edgar Rice Burroughs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Land that Time Forgot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Land That Time Forgot opens with the discovery near Greenland of a floating thermos flask containing a manuscript by castaway Tyler Bowen, Jr. The document recounts a series of adventures that starts with a sea battle against a German U-boat and ends on a mysterious island populated by hostile prehistoric animals and people.

The second part of the book, “The People That Time Forgot,” continues the story with the tale of Tom Billings, who has been sent on a mission to rescue Bowen after his manuscript was discovered. He flies solo over the mountainous cliffs that encircle the island…


Somewhere in Time

By Richard Matheson,

Book cover of Somewhere in Time

Why this book?

Matheson is another master, whose works are almost forgotten now. This novel employs another unique means of travel—putting yourself in a period setting and just wishing hard enough, or through auto-hypnosis. That is not terribly credible, but then neither is time travel itself. And like several of the other books I value here, this is a love story with the characters making some hard choices. And once again, something from the present plays an important role.

Somewhere in Time

By Richard Matheson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Matheson's classic novel tells the moving, romantic story of a modern man whose love for a woman he has never met draws him back in time to a luxury hotel in San Diego in 1896, where he finds his soul mate in the form of a celebrated actress of the previous century. "Somewhere in Time" won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and the 1979 movie version, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, remains a cult classic whose fans continue to hold yearly conventions to this day.


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