100 books like Anathem

By Neal Stephenson,

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

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Book cover of Solaris

Jools Cantor Author Of The Trellis

From my list on real-life time machines through sci fi.

Why am I passionate about this?

Science fiction lets us readers escape into space or travel through time, but I believe it is most effective when grounded in our primal anxieties. Classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale resonate because the dark futures they describe drive us to prevent their prophecy. These stories give us a window into the world that birthed them by crystalizing the authors' fears into a work of fiction. When I read each book on this list, they transported me to the time they were written. En route, they showed how much our world has changed and how much we humans haven’t.

Jools' book list on real-life time machines through sci fi

Jools Cantor Why did Jools love this book?

Published in Poland in 1961, this has been interpreted and misinterpreted a hundred different ways, and I won’t try to repeat that here. However, there is a loneliness haunting the book that I feel that it must be inspired by the social constraints behind the Iron Curtain.

The premise is that humanity has finally found a sentient being in the form of an ocean planet, but all attempts to communicate have failed (to say the least). The planet’s actions are incomprehensible and horrifying. Ultimately, humanity has found another lost soul in the universe, but we will never be friends. We won’t even be enemies. We will be two strangers shivering on a train platform, unable to share who we are or what we think, lonelier now that there are two of us waiting in the cold.

By Stanislaw Lem, Steve Cox (translator), Joanna Kilmartin (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface he is forced to confront a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others suffer from the same affliction and speculation rises among scientists that the Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates incarnate memories, but its purpose in doing so remains a mystery . . .

Solaris raises a question that has been at the heart of human experience and literature for centuries: can we truly understand the universe around us without first understanding what…


Book cover of Invisible Cities

Michael Batty Author Of The Computable City: Histories, Technologies, Stories, Predictions

From my list on cities that are not what they seem.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are as many ways of thinking about cities as there are people who live in them, and by the end of this century, it is clear we will all be living in cities of one size or another. Cities are in effect the crucibles where all technological and cultural change takes place. They are the drivers of prosperity while also the harbingers of chaos, decline, and war. What makes them fascinating is that as soon as we begin to peel back the layers that compose the city, our understanding of them begins to change: they metamorphose into different conceptions where there is no agreement as to what they are or what they might become.

Michael's book list on cities that are not what they seem

Michael Batty Why did Michael love this book?

Imagining different cities from different viewpoints in history is the focus of Calvino’s wonderful set of vignettes between Marco Polo from his 13th-century travelogue and Kublai Kahn as they explore different ways they see cities that lie along the Silk Road. Weaving fact into fiction, they point up the essential logic of how cities are formed and how they evolve. What we remember, how we perceive these memories, and the size and shape of cities are all ideas which is the canvas on which Calvino describes the many cities of our imagination.

This is a wonderful set of stories–you can dip into them and read them if you are on the subway or waiting in the dentist's surgery or anywhere where you get a free moment. The stories are memorable.

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Invisible Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A subtle and beautiful meditation' Sunday Times

In Invisible Cities Marco Polo conjures up cities of magical times for his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, but gradually it becomes clear that he is actually describing one city: Venice. As Gore Vidal wrote 'Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvellous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant.'


Book cover of The Dispossessed

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?

I found this book (whose subtitle is “An Ambiguous Utopia”) one of the most thought-provoking works of fiction I have read.

The Dispossessed was my first introduction to anarchism as a political platform, and while it didn’t make an anarchist out of me, it was the book that allowed me to imagine anarchism as a coherent political philosophy. Practically every page of the book offers a critique of modern capitalism, and it’s impossible to read this book without considering the structures in our world today that ensure a system of haves and have-nots.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the very best must-read novels of all time - with a new introduction by Roddy Doyle

'A well told tale signifying a good deal; one to be read again and again' THE TIMES

'The book I wish I had written ... It's so far away from my own imagination, I'd love to sit at my desk one day and discover that I could think and write like Ursula Le Guin' Roddy Doyle

'Le Guin is a writer of phenomenal power' OBSERVER

The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionize interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous…


Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

Book cover of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

K.R. Wilson Author Of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Reader History enthusiast Occasional composer Sometime chorister

K.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one crossover. He’s been a Hittite warrior, a Silk Road mercenary, a reluctant rebel in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's being investigated for a horrific crime.

As Stan tells his story, from his origins as an Anatolian sheep farmer to his custody in a Toronto police interview room, he brings a wry, anachronistic…

Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

What is this book about?

Long-listed for the 2022 Leacock Medal for Humour

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one cross over. Stan has been a Hittite warrior, a Roman legionnaire, a mercenary for the caravans of the Silk Road and a Great War German grunt. He’s been a toymaker in a time of plague, a reluctant rebel in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's…


Book cover of Nausea

K.K. Edin Author Of The Measurements of Decay

From my list on exploring philosophy through fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.

K.K.'s book list on exploring philosophy through fiction

K.K. Edin Why did K.K. love this book?

Nausea does not rely on the extreme or outlandish scenarios of science fiction to explore philosophical themes. Rather, this novel is about a person’s growing malaise over his conscious relationship to objects, people, and ultimately himself. It reaches into some very fundamental aspects of our relationship to the world, and asks you to look at the mere structure of existence after all particularities (names, shapes, colors, history, etc.) are wiped away, and then asks you how you feel about it. Through an existentialist lens, it also explores certain political questions. And for those more technically interested in philosophy, the novel does a better job of showing existentialism’s relationship to phenomenology than many academic papers. 

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogs his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which "spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time - the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain."

Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature (though he declined to accept it), Jean-Paul Sartre - philosopher, critic, novelist, and…


Book cover of Snow Crash

Jools Cantor Author Of The Trellis

From my list on real-life time machines through sci fi.

Why am I passionate about this?

Science fiction lets us readers escape into space or travel through time, but I believe it is most effective when grounded in our primal anxieties. Classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale resonate because the dark futures they describe drive us to prevent their prophecy. These stories give us a window into the world that birthed them by crystalizing the authors' fears into a work of fiction. When I read each book on this list, they transported me to the time they were written. En route, they showed how much our world has changed and how much we humans haven’t.

Jools' book list on real-life time machines through sci fi

Jools Cantor Why did Jools love this book?

Out of the Cold War and into the Metaverse, this was published in 1992 and captures the infancy of the Information Age we live in. More so than the other novels on the list, this story is fun, on top of being wildly creative and smart.

Whether it’s riffing on anarcho-capitalist enclaves run by franchisee governments, the pathology of language and ancient Babylonian grammar, or the ups and downs of being the world’s best swordsman online but a pizza delivery driver for the mafia in real life, the story exudes a manic energy and levity brought on by the dawn of a new era.

It is both cyberpunk and mocking cyberpunk. It is juvenile and jaded. It is absurd and prophetic. If you’re not having enough fun in 1992’s actual future, pick up Snow Crash and enjoy the ride.

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Snow Crash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The “brilliantly realized” (The New York Times Book Review) breakthrough novel from visionary author Neal Stephenson, a modern classic that predicted the metaverse and inspired generations of Silicon Valley innovators

Hiro lives in a Los Angeles where franchises line the freeway as far as the eye can see. The only relief from the sea of logos is within the autonomous city-states, where law-abiding citizens don’t dare leave their mansions.

Hiro delivers pizza to the mansions for a living, defending his pies from marauders when necessary with a matched set of samurai swords. His home is a shared 20 X 30…


Book cover of The Brothers Karamazov

K.K. Edin Author Of The Measurements of Decay

From my list on exploring philosophy through fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.

K.K.'s book list on exploring philosophy through fiction

K.K. Edin Why did K.K. love this book?

It feels like a bit of a shame to include such a ubiquitously known philosophical novel when I have the chance to recommend others, but I feel compelled to include this novel because of the profound effect it had on me. There are endless things that can be said about the various philosophical, existentialist, and theological themes of this novel, so I will limit myself to praising one which was affecting to me. No other novel I have read so profoundly and deeply explores the notion of forgiveness. The reader is asked to consider forgiveness, its limits, its demands, its place in morality and religion, the hypocrisies and duties associated with it, and who might deserve it. It’s a life-changing book in many ways, in large part because it succeeds at making issues of philosophy very personal for the characters, and ultimately the reader.

By Fyodor Dostoevsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pen/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize

The award-winning translation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic novel of psychological realism.

The Brothers Karamasov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the “wicked and sentimental” Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons―the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha. Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, is social and spiritual striving, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in…


Book cover of Cryptonomicon

Robert J. Lloyd Author Of The Bloodless Boy

From my list on science-based historical fiction novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write as Robert J. Lloyd, but my friends call me Rob. Having studied Fine Art at a BA degree level (starting as a landscape painter but becoming a sculpture/photography/installation/performance generalist), I then moved to writing. During my MA degree in The History of Ideas, I happened to read Robert Hooke’s diary, detailing the life and experiments of this extraordinary and fascinating man. My MA thesis and my Hooke & Hunt series of historical thrillers are all about him. I’m fascinated by early science, which was the initial ‘pull’ into writing these stories, but the political background of the times (The Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis, for example) is just as enticing. 

Robert's book list on science-based historical fiction novels

Robert J. Lloyd Why did Robert love this book?

About WWII codebreaking, the reason this makes my ‘Best 5’ is that, besides being constantly inventive and informative, it’s also very funny. (I’m that shallow.)

There are similarities, I think, with Catch 22, in the plot’s intelligence, absurdity, and dreamlike turns.

I think Stephenson’s character Bobbie Shaftoe, a soldier who carries out counterintelligence deceptions, is hilarious. Also, Stephenson’s use of real historical characters–he presents believable portraits of Alan Turing, Douglas MacArthur, Karl Dönitz, and Hermann Göring, with a walk-on appearance by Albert  Einsteingave me license to do so in my own fiction.

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With this extraordinary first volume in an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence…


Book cover of Haroun and the Sea of Stories

A. David Redish Author Of Changing How We Choose: The New Science of Morality

From my list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been fascinated by what makes us human. Great art is about the human condition. We are very quick to reject art that gets that human condition wrong. I’m a poet, a playwright, and a scientist.  While my science has found itself at the center of fields such as computational psychiatry and neuroeconomics, I find myself turning again and again to the insights from great novels to understand the subtleties of the human condition. So to complement the scientific questions of morality (because morality is all about the human condition), one should start with great novels that ask who we are and why we do what we do.  

A.'s book list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society

A. David Redish Why did A. love this book?

In 1989, Salman Rushdie he had to go into hiding because of the fatwa against his life. In trying to explain this decision to his young son, Rushdie spins a magical tale of a storyteller who decides to stop telling stories.

The hero, Haroun, always wondered where his father's stories came from. His father always said “I drink from the ocean of stories. They install a spigot in the wall for me to drink from.” (Yeah, right.) Until, on that one fateful day, Haroun catches the water genie uninstalling the spigot.

On his way to save the ocean of stories, Haroun finds wonderful friends and the power of teamwork. The moral contrast between the Guppees (who argue all the time, but in the end work together) and the Chupwalas (who never disagree because they live in fear, but are so unable to work together, they fight with their own shadows)…

By Salman Rushdie,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Haroun and the Sea of Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating fantasy novel for readers of all ages, by the author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses

"This is, simply put, a book for anyone who loves a good story. It's also a work of literary genius." -Stephen King

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as The Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Arabian Nights, and The Wizard of Oz. Twelve-year-old Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore his father's gift of storytelling by reviving the poisoned Sea…


Book cover of Termination Shock

Benjamin Ho Author Of Why Trust Matters: An Economist's Guide to the Ties That Bind Us

From my list on Neal Stephenson that get the economics right.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past two decades as a behavioral economist using game theory and experiments to understand how trust, identity, and inequality structure human society. I also love big ideas that transcend disciplinary boundaries (I have 7 degrees from Stanford and MIT). And care very much about the institutions that make the world a better place (I worked for the White House across two different administrations). Stephenson’s novels tap deeply into all of these big themes but stuffs them inside fun breezy action thrillers. My favorite college classes used novels to teach economics—I’ve long been meaning to teach a similar class using just these books.

Benjamin's book list on Neal Stephenson that get the economics right

Benjamin Ho Why did Benjamin love this book?

One of Stephenson’s most recent novels, Termination Shock is a present-day story about an eccentric billionaire who takes on climate change. As the former lead energy and transportation economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers who helped craft a lot of the legislation that governs climate change policy today, I’m often annoyed at how often writers are wrong about both the science and the economics of climate change. This novel is one of the more accurate representations of both the urgency and scope of the climate problem that avoids the fearmongering, while still telling a fun adventure story about princesses and queens and surprising true stories about feral hogs and rock-throwing Indian and Chinese martial artists fighting a real war recorded by social media.

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling author returns with a visionary technothriller about climate change

'Stephenson's reputation as a sci-fi titan is deserved' Sunday Times

'His most visionary, and timely, book yet' Chicago Review of Books

'Absorbing speculative fiction' Guardian

'Brilliantly entertaining... at science fiction's cutting edge' SFX

'Ingenious and sometimes prophetic' Telegraph

Neal Stephenson's sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics.

One man has a Big Idea for reversing global warming,…


Book cover of The Curse of Chalion

A. David Redish Author Of Changing How We Choose: The New Science of Morality

From my list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been fascinated by what makes us human. Great art is about the human condition. We are very quick to reject art that gets that human condition wrong. I’m a poet, a playwright, and a scientist.  While my science has found itself at the center of fields such as computational psychiatry and neuroeconomics, I find myself turning again and again to the insights from great novels to understand the subtleties of the human condition. So to complement the scientific questions of morality (because morality is all about the human condition), one should start with great novels that ask who we are and why we do what we do.  

A.'s book list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society

A. David Redish Why did A. love this book?

The best description of sainthood I have ever found. In The Curse of Chalion, Bujold starts from a world of visceral reality with a new religion based on family archetypes. 

In her world, these gods are real and play very specific roles within the society, and well-constructed prayer opens up a space for the gods to use one for their purposes. As the main character learns what it means to be a saint, to allow miracles to flow through him (as he says, “like a mule being whipped up the mountain pass”), we see the difference between supportive and unsupportive roles, how failure can lead one astray and how the journey home can be long and difficult. 

Warning: This book contains scenes and situations not suitable for children.

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a…


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