Parable of the Sower

By Octavia E. Butler,

Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Book description

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published'…


Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

16 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Released in 1993, the dystopian story it tells begins in 2024. This grabbed me because back when I read George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984 seemed like the distant future. I didn’t think anything in the book could happen in my lifetime. But history proved me wrong. Butler’s version of 2024 is overwhelmingly negative, and there are some elements that ring true now. But the plot is interesting and kept me reading even when the story was grim. I like Lauren, the main character, because she keeps looking for ways to survive and help others. She believes if we…

It is difficult to go wrong with any of Butler’s work. Her work is poignant in its translation of real-life experience. In The Parable of the Sower, she uses the diary of the visionary main character to take the reader on a journey of an all too real battle to save the goodness of mankind even if it puts her life in danger. Journal you say?? I was immediately intrigued by this concept.  

Octavia Butler was an award-winning science fiction writer and formative influence on Afrofuturism. First published in 1993 and set in the mid-2020s, this dystopian novel tells the story of Lauren Olamina, a Black teenager learning to survive and thrive amid ecological and societal collapse. Between journal reflections on her life in a world of pandemics, urban wildfires, and rampant violence, she writes verses of Earthseed, a new religion in which "God is Change" and the living must learn to work with that change, to go with its flows, in order to participate in positive transformations. Raised by a Baptist…

In Octavia Butler’s essential novel, the main character Lauren reveals a belief system she calls Earthseed, which departs from the religions she was taught growing up in an apocalyptic Los Angeles. When I first read Parable of the Sower years ago, I felt terror and grief for the characters as they traveled the landscape of my childhood—most of my stories now are set on the West Coast. I also felt in the Earthseed writings a sort of peace or balance, and only later learned how mythologies reflect their cultures of origin, that the stories can convey, literally or figuratively, shared…

I’d been reading science fiction for many years when I came across this book. While I was already a big fan of Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, and others, Butler’s work showed me a new perspective through the story of empath Lauren Olamina, an African American teenager in a dystopian future California. Her struggles to survive a world in chaos, to manage her power, and to begin a movement to save the human race remain with me.

From Valerie's list on young women saving their own lives.

Octavia E. Butler is a pillar of science fiction literature, regardless of gender and ethnicity. Parable of the Sower holds this… special place in my heart, however. The initial proposition? A fifteen-year-old black girl develops a new religious belief system that could save her shattered world. It is centered around one watchword: change.

Being an environmentalist myself (love your planet!) and a man of faith, I found the central plot relatable, provocative, and eye-opening. A masterpiece. As an author, the first thought that crosses my mind when I sit down, ready to write, is… how can I challenge my…

I taught Parable of the Sower in my science-fiction class shortly after it was published in 1993. The novel begins in 2024 and ends in 2027. Rereading today scares the hell out of me because its vision of a divided and privatized and drugged up America, with hordes of desperate homeless people and remorseless gangs of thieves and rapists, now seems so plausible, perhaps imminent. Lauren, the teenaged super-empathic narrator, hasn’t seen a California rainstorm in six years. In California, we are close to that already. On her four-year hellish trip, Lauren composes Earthseed: The Books of the Living, a…

From Howard's list on urgent menaces to the human species.

Published in 1993, the novel is set in an incredibly unstable United States of 2024. Parable of the Sower is at once prescient and terrifying. The wealth gap is at an all-time high, California is on fire, disaffected youth are lost in a drug-induced haze, and there is a white supremacist in the White House. 

We follow hyper-empath Lauren Olamina, a young African-American woman who is forced to leave her gated community when the walls come down. Her adventures are compelling, terrifying, and based on Butler’s deep understanding of the darker parts of American history.

Octavia Butler died tragically before…

From Pamela's list on that make our pandemic look mild.

I tend to shy away from “dystopian” fiction, which too often reduces political choices to tragic inevitabilities. But Parable is an exception. Butler’s vision of the near future is terrifying, but it is also one of the all-time most memorable novels of hope and survival. Her story is full of thoughtful analysis of how class, race, sexuality, and religion intertwine to create both frictions and strengths—all in the pressure-cooker of dangerous societal turns brought on by climate change. If you want to get in the headspace to handle the worst-case scenario, this book is a good way to do it.

From Andrew's list on the politics of climate change.

Parable of the Sower was published in 1993, but I came to it late, not reading it until I had finished my 1st apocalyptic novel. It is a stunning story and the most terrifying for those of us living today. It is set in the 2020s and seems prescient in its representation of rampant capitalism and societal breakdown in a climate-changed United States. Told from the point of view of Lauren, a young black woman growing up afflicted with “The Sharing,” which forces her to feel what others are feeling, especially pain. She has grown up in a former gated…

From Robert's list on those good old apocalypse days.

Want books like Parable of the Sower?

Our community of 6,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like Parable of the Sower.

Browse books like Parable of the Sower

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopia, African Americans, and pandemics?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopia, African Americans, and pandemics.

Dystopia Explore 242 books about dystopia
African Americans Explore 481 books about African Americans
Pandemics Explore 24 books about pandemics