100 books like American Estrangement

By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh,

Here are 100 books that American Estrangement fans have personally recommended if you like American Estrangement. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Book cover of City of Stairs

Scott A. Bollens Author Of ReStart: Stories of the Cairn Age

From my list on dystopia where cities pulsate with life and death.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic in rebellion. I have interviewed hundreds of urban leaders and professionals in nine divided urban areas throughout the world. I have written much on this subject, replete with footnotes and sophisticated writing. I am weary of writing more about this important topic—how people do or do not get along in urban settings—from an academic distance. I find the scholarly posture sterilized and insufficiently provocative. I entered into the fictional genre in order to reach a broader audience. I think that fictional futurist writing has the unique ability to portray extraordinary new worlds while at the same time addressing fundamental issues that we face now.

Scott's book list on dystopia where cities pulsate with life and death

Scott A. Bollens Why did Scott love this book?

What could be more fun than Gods getting involved in city planning? Spy story wrapped inside a grand and mysterious history of once-supreme Gods now dormant (or not). Memorable characters. Don’t mess with the giant grunt Sigrud. Divine power with 6 Gods (light bearer, judge, warrior, seed-sower, trickster, and builder). Imagine holding a committee meeting with this group. Magical portals that enable back-and-forth between current gritty and past majestic city. A thought-provoking conclusion that speaks to worldwide conflict in real life today. 

By Robert Jackson Bennett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked City of Stairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Robert Jackson Bennett deserves a huge audience' - Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Prism

In the city of stairs, nothing is as it seems.

You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past,…

Book cover of The City & the City

Joseph Pitkin Author Of Exit Black

From my list on fantasy-science fiction books that explore class and inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

My science fiction and fantasy writing is concerned with the values I was exposed to growing up. As a lifelong Quaker, I have struggled—often unsuccessfully—to live out Quakerism’s non-conformist, almost utopian commitment to equality, simplicity, peace, and community. Not only have I tried to bear witness to those values in my writing, but those ideals led me to my career as an instructor at a community college, one of America’s great socioeconomic leveling institutions. My background as a speculative fiction writer has also made me into a teacher of science fiction and fantasy literature at my college, where I read and came to love the books I recommend here. 

Joseph's book list on fantasy-science fiction books that explore class and inequality

Joseph Pitkin Why did Joseph love this book?

This tightly-plotted murder mystery takes place in one of the most compelling imagined settings I’ve ever encountered: a double city somewhere in the Balkans where the inhabitants of each half are required by law not to see the inhabitants of the other half.

Equal parts Kafka and Philip K Dick, Miéville’s The City and the City offers a thought-provoking meditation on the haves and have-nots, as well as life in the Balkanized cities of the world, those “double places” where one-half of the population conspires not to notice the other half.

By China Miéville,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The City & the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, the multi-award winning The City & The City by China Mieville is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

'You can't talk about Mieville without using the word "brilliant".' - Ursula Le Guin, author of the Earthsea series.

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to…

Book cover of Recursion

Ryan Lizardi Author Of Existential Science Fiction

From my list on time loops to help you contemplate your existence.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having delved deeply into all kinds of science fiction narratives that push us to interrogate our own humanity, existence, and consciousness, I wanted to provide some recommendations for a very specific type of science fiction book that is often concerned with big existential questions, called “time loop” narratives, where characters relive the same time period over and over. This type of narrative has always been a favorite of mine, as I find the payoffs of the comedy, mystery, and action even more satisfying when you already know as a reader what events are going to take place over and over again.

Ryan's book list on time loops to help you contemplate your existence

Ryan Lizardi Why did Ryan love this book?

I loved the boldness of this book, as it does what most of these types of novels shy away from, and that is to let everyone in the world in on the knowledge of the loop, eventually.

In this book, once a character has looped back in time and changed things, everyone involved in the change catches up to the knowledge of the original version through “false memory syndrome.” The result is that by the end of the novel, the whole world seems to be conspiring to stop the protagonists in the most nerve-wracking last few chapters I can remember reading in a long time. 

By Blake Crouch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the bestselling author of Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines trilogy comes a relentless thriller about time, identity, and memory—his most mind-boggling, irresistible work to date, and the inspiration for Shondaland’s upcoming Netflix film.

“Gloriously twisting . . . a heady campfire tale of a novel.”—The New York Times Book Review


Reality is broken.
At first, it looks like a disease. An epidemic that spreads through no known means, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they…

Book cover of Concrete Island

Leah Modigliani Author Of Counter Revanchist Art in the Global City: Walls, Blockades, and Barricades as Repertoires of Creative Action

From my list on moving through the city with newly critical eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since the age of seven, I've been conscious of the need to bypass how one is supposed to do things. I realized then that my grandmother could not pursue a writing career because she was also a woman and a wife; a cautionary tale I took to heart since I was already beginning to identify as an artist. I'm driven to uncover how we recognize what we see, and how forces beyond our control engender or foreclose upon new ways of being in the world. A professional life lived in the arts has allowed the fullest flexibility for exploring these ideas as one is generally encouraged to think differently.

Leah's book list on moving through the city with newly critical eyes

Leah Modigliani Why did Leah love this book?

This castaway story, about a man trapped on a concrete island under and between converging freeways on the outskirts of London, still stands the test of time.

I found it especially resonant during the imposed isolation of the global pandemic; all of us each marooned in our living rooms. The protagonist, architect Robert Maitland, has to learn to survive and thrive in reduced and restricted circumstances, and he can’t buy or build his way out of it.

When he finally discovers a way off the island he no longer really wants to leave, reminding us that we are sometimes most effectively imprisoned by our own minds and desires.  

By J.G. Ballard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Concrete Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a day in April, just after three o'clock in the afternoon, Robert Maitland's car crashes over the concrete parapet of a high-speed highway onto the island below, where he is injured and, finally, trapped. What begins as an almost ludicrous predicament soon turns into horror as Maitland-a wickedly modern Robinson Crusoe-realizes that, despite evidence of other inhabitants, this doomed terrain has become a mirror of his own mind. Seeking the dark outer rim of the everyday, Ballard weaves private catastrophe into an intensely specular allegory in Concrete Island.

Book cover of Becoming Los Angeles: Myth, Memory, and a Sense of Place

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

D.J. Waldie elegantly captures the essence of the ordinary in this beautiful collection of essays. He has lived and worked in Lakewood, California his entire life and he doesn’t drive, which is remarkable in Southern California. Instead, he walks, he observes, and he writes about the kinds of Southern California neighborhoods that I know. I wish that I could describe the sky and the light as accurately and poetically as Waldie does. He has taught me to walk slower and pay attention. His stories of the history of Los Angeles are equally compelling. Waldie says he writes “about sacred and humanizing Los Angeles because I find myself there.” How fortunate for us all!

By D.J. Waldie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Best-selling author and beloved chronicler of Los Angeles D.J. Waldie reconsiders the city in a collection of contemporary essays.

Nobody sees Los Angeles with more eloquence than D. J. Waldie.
– Susan Brenneman, Los Angeles Times Deputy Op-Ed Editor

Becoming Los Angeles, a new collection by the author of the acclaimed memoir Holy Land, blends history, memory, and critical analysis to illuminate how Angelenos have seen themselves and their city. Waldie’s particular concern is commonplace Los Angeles, whose rhythms of daily life are set against the gaudy backdrop of historical myth and Hollywood illusion. It’s through sacred ordinariness that Waldie…

Book cover of For Black Girls Like Me

Jiordan Castle Author Of Disappearing Act: A True Story

From my list on resilience for young adults and adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in stories about becoming. Whether it’s a coming-of-age story, a story about overcoming adversity, or a story about discovery or recovery, I find that the best books about becoming also tend to be books about resilience. For me, the lure of a book is often more about its themes and perspective than it is about where it’s categorized and shelved. Having written a memoir in verse for an upper young adult reading group, this is especially true of my experience as an author. Each of the books on this list has something profound and singular to offer young adult readers and adult readers alike.

Jiordan's book list on resilience for young adults and adults

Jiordan Castle Why did Jiordan love this book?

Everyone should be reading middle grade books for characters and stories like this.

Eleven-year-old Makeda is loved, but as a Black girl in an adoptive family of white people, she questions what it might be like to grow up in a family that looks like her. Lockington draws from her own experience as a transracial adoptee, and writes with lyrical accessibility and honest, meaningful depictions of mental health struggles within a family.

This coming-of-age story for the younger set reminds people of all ages that while love matters, it takes work every day to keep evolving, showing up for, and fighting for those we love.

By Mariama J. Lockington,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked For Black Girls Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda's family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena - the only other adopted black girl she knows - for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda's sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can't seem to find one real friend.

Through it all, Makeda can't help but wonder: What would it…

Book cover of The Search for WondLa

Kevin Sylvester Author Of MiNRS

From my list on getting around.

Why am I passionate about this?

Am I an expert on transportation? No. But I’m fascinated by movement. Physical movement (how do bike gears actually work?) and metaphorical (how does life actually work?) I did enjoy a brief moment as the kind of unofficial bike traffic reporter when I was on CBC Radio here in Canada. I’d report on my 4 am commute to work. But as a writer and illustrator for kids, I know the freedom transportation represents. We all want to fly. In MINRS I write about spaceships. We all want to see the world. In The Fabulous Zed Watson! I write (with my kid Basil) about epic road trips.

Kevin's book list on getting around

Kevin Sylvester Why did Kevin love this book?

One of my kid-lit heroes, and clearly a writer/illustrator who grew up (like me) with a love for the vehicles we saw in science fiction. He has Eva Nine and her pals (and enemies) flying around in ships that are clearly inspired by pod-racers, x-wing fighters, the Millennium Falcon, and Flash Gordon. (Then, as the series goes on, we even get airships!)

But the thing that anchors the series is the wonderfully drawn characters. Eva Nine is all of us as kids… eager to break away but also tied to the adults around us. That tension between knowing when to hold on and knowing when it’s time to say goodbye is what really kept me with her on her journey.

By Tony DiTerlizzi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Search for WondLa 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?

Eva Nine was raised by the robot Muthr. But when a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary she called home, twelve-year-old Eva is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her. She knows that other humans exist because of a very special item she treasures ~ a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot along with the strange word "WondLa".

Tony DiTerlizzi honours traditional children's literature in this totally original space age adventure: one that is as complex as an alien planet, but as simple as a child's…

Book cover of The Moorchild (Aladdin Fantasy)

Lauren A. Mills Author Of Minna's Patchwork Coat

From my list on getting picked on for being different.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like most children, I’ve experienced being teased for appearing different in some way. I learned to defend the strange outfits my mother made for me and the bizarre hairdo of eight pigtails my older sister dared me to wear to school. As a teen, I wore a patchwork jacket made of quilt scraps to my new school and came home in tears. I’ve always felt that if we really knew one another on a deeper level and shared each other’s stories we would realize that we’re all made up of the same stuff inside and would not feel prejudice or the need to scorn outward aspects that don’t matter.

Lauren's book list on getting picked on for being different

Lauren A. Mills Why did Lauren love this book?

I absolutely love this book and have both listened to it and read it more than once. There are so many layers and insights especially for those who feel out of place and are bullied for being different. It is about a girl who is half-human and has Moorfolk (faerie) banished from the fae for her inabilities and exchanged for a human baby. As she grows, her odd abilities are noticed and feared. Despite the taunting and blood-thirsty actions of the village folk, she gives of herself and ultimately takes the risk to retrieve her adopted parents’ human baby. She has the inner strength to venture out and be her unique self.

By Eloise McGraw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moorchild (Aladdin Fantasy) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The daughter of a fairy folk mother and human father, Moql is raised by the fairies, until she is considered too great a risk and is left with a strange human family. Reprint. Newbery Honor Book. Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book.

Book cover of Horse Girls: Recovering, Aspiring, and Devoted Riders Redefine the Iconic Bond

Janet Jones Author Of Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship

From my list on horse-and-human teams.

Why am I passionate about this?

Horses have helped me negotiate the world since early childhood. I’ve worked as a horse trainer, show competitor, catch rider, barn grunt, and riding instructor. As a UCLA-trained brain scientist and full professor, I also taught human perception, language, memory, and thought for almost 25 years. Combining these interests produced an “aha” moment, leading to my development of brain-based horsemanship. Successful horse-and-human teams require an understanding of how prey and predator brains interact. With that understanding, both species learn to communicate mutually via body language. We humans cooperate in this fashion and degree with no other species of prey animal—it’s a rare and special bond! 

Janet's book list on horse-and-human teams

Janet Jones Why did Janet love this book?

A collection of stories written by respected authors explaining how horses help their everyday lives. Jane Smiley, Maggie Shipstead, and Carmen Maria Machado are all here, along with many other excellent women writers. I feel deep appreciation and respect for all the horses I have known—especially those who taught me the most painful lessons, and even the few who taught in a painful or frightening way. Every horse is unique, and every horse offers something you can’t get anywhere else. It was magical to read what some of the world’s best writers have to say about the bonds they created with their own mounts. 

By Halimah Marcus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A wild, rollicking ride into the heart of horse country—these essays get at what it means to love horses, in all that love's complexity.” —Anton DiSclafani, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

A compelling and provocative essay collection that smashes stereotypes and redefines the meaning of the term “horse girl,” broadening it for women of all cultural backgrounds.

As a child, horses consumed Halimah Marcus’ imagination. When she wasn’t around horses she was pretending to be one, cantering on two legs, hands poised to hold invisible reins. To her classmates, girls like Halimah were known as “horse girls,”…

Book cover of Born Confused

Reenita Malhotra Hora Author Of Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life... and a Man

From my list on South Asian young adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for this topic because I too am a South Asian author. I read these books to stay informed about the latest ideas shaping our understanding of the South Asian young adult, both within and outside of the geographical boundaries of South Asia. I want to see more stories out there with South Asian themes, characters, settings— contemporary stories in particular. I’d like to see South Asians in ordinary life and not stereotypical situations like The Indian Wedding. We have so many stories to tell! I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Reenita's book list on South Asian young adults

Reenita Malhotra Hora Why did Reenita love this book?

Indians born in the USA are all clubbed under the euphemism, “ABCD.” In other words, American Born Confused Desi. Desi loosely translates as Indian native. There is some truth to this as the question of identity hits each of us when we enter young adulthood. Ethnicity is a huge part of this, and for Indian Americans it is a double whammy—they are so different from their peers born and raised in India, yet so different to their American peers too. I love how Tanuja addresses these challenges in her story.

By Tanuja Desai Hidier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Born Confused 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?

Tanuja Desai Hidier's fantastically acclaimed cross-cultural debut comes to PUSH!

Dimple Lala doesn't know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she's spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a "suitable boy." Of course it doesn't go well -- until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web . Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in identity, dystopian, and Los Angeles?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about identity, dystopian, and Los Angeles.

Identity Explore 117 books about identity
Dystopian Explore 559 books about dystopian
Los Angeles Explore 335 books about Los Angeles