100 books like Concrete Island

By J.G. Ballard,

Here are 100 books that Concrete Island fans have personally recommended if you like Concrete Island. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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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

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time • NPR • BookRiot

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 American Estrangement: Stories

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?

I am a big fan of the author’s nuanced and powerful writing style. The best-written book on my list. Collection of short stories that interweave personal details and idiosyncrasies with broader themes and omens. In “Scenic Route” (‘they have me up hard against the hood of the Cadillac Escalade, which is covered in the dust and dead insects of a thousand back roads’) and “Fairground” (‘school buses lined up like ducks at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn green, the faces of the secured population looking through the windows with indifference and resignation’), individuals dealing with internal tumult confront in matter-of-fact ways the stark presence of territories and people divided by check-point partitions. Sectoral partitions, segregated populations. Stark divisions in urban life normalized and routinized.

By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Said Sayrafiezadeh has been hailed by Philip Gourevitch as "a masterful storyteller working from deep in the American grain." His new collection of stories-some of which have appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Best American Short Stories-is set in a contemporary America full of the kind of emotionally bruised characters familiar to readers of Denis Johnson and George Saunders. These are people contending with internal struggles-a son's fractured relationship with his father, the death of a mother, the loss of a job, drug addiction-even as they are battered by larger, often invisible, economic, political, and racial…


Book cover of The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City

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 is the book that launched a thousand essays about gentrification in urban neighborhoods and reinvented the term “revanchism” for use in critical geography.

From the French noun revanche, revanchism refers to a policy or movement focused on reacquiring a nation's lost territory. The Revanchist City as it became known after Smith’s book, describes city residents under siege by their own city governments.

Starting with a description of the battles over who could use Tompkins Square Park in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s and 90s, and moving on to other case studies (some global), Smith shows how cities are transformed into zones of international capital investment and class privilege through neoliberal policies enacted at the municipal level. 

By Neil Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Urban Frontier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why have so many central and inner cities in Europe, North America and Australia been so radically revamped in the last three decades, converting urban decay into new chic? Will the process continue in the twenty-first century or has it ended? What does this mean for the people who live there? Can they do anything about it?
This book challenges conventional wisdom, which holds gentrification to be the simple outcome of new middle-class tastes and a demand for urban living. It reveals gentrification as part of a much larger shift in the political economy and culture of the late twentieth…


Book cover of Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World

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?

Through the skillful interweaving of personal experiences mixed with scholarly observations and references, Kern catalogs all the ways that cities have historically been designed for men by men.

Stories all women recognize, like the extra costs of keeping oneself safe in the city, or the boundaries imposed on women with young children who can’t get strollers up staircases or into trolley cars, or the discomfort with dining alone at restaurants, remind readers of how urban planners could and must do better.

Kern is attentive to race, ability, and gender in her observations and references as she seeks to balance the here-and-now with pragmatic solutions for future feminist cities capable of serving everyone equally. 

By Leslie Kern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What should a metropolis for working women look like? A city of friendships beyond Sex and the City. A transit system that accommodates mothers with strollers on the school run. A public space with enough toilets. A place where women can walk without harassment.

Through history, personal experience and popular culture Leslie Kern exposes what is hidden in plain sight: the social inequalities are built into our cities, homes, and neighbourhoods. She maps the city from new vantage points, laying out a feminist intersectional approach to urban histories and proposes that the city is perhaps also our best hope for…


Book cover of Icebergs, Zombies, and the Ultra-Thin: Architecture and Capitalism in the 21st Century

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?

Through devastating stories of unoccupied housing developments in China and Spain, gargantuan mansions built mostly underground the streets of London, and pencil-thin skyscrapers in New York where residents never have to see each other, Soules explains how “architecture has become finance and finance has become architecture.”

In its relentless pursuit of profit, capital has created the conditions for the built environment to be redesigned and standardized for easier trading as cash liquidity. This movement since the 1980s explains both the rampant urbanization of the world and the increasing canyon between the haves and have-nots. 

By Matthew Soules,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Icebergs, Zombies, and the Ultra-Thin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Soules's excellent book makes sense of the capitalist forces we all feel but cannot always name... Icebergs, Zombies, and the Ultra Thin arms architects and the general public with an essential understanding of how capitalism makes property. Required reading for those who think tomorrow can be different from today."- Jack Self, coeditor of Real Estates: Life Without Debt

In Icebergs, Zombies, and the Ultra Thin, Matthew Soules issues an indictment of how finance capitalism dramatically alters not only architectural forms but also the very nature of our cities and societies. We rarely consider architecture to be an important factor in…


Book cover of The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born: From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump and Beyond

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 pocket-sized book of a mere 63 pages can be read in a couple of hours and has a lasting impact.

Fraser, a feminist philosopher I was lucky to take a class with once in graduate school, explains the political and economic conditions that frame the near-constant anxiety one feels daily as witnesses to near-constant national and global crises.

We are all living through a “hegemonic gap;” that is, a profoundly unsettling transformation between the failure of agreed upon political authorities (she labels this progressive neoliberalism) and the lack of any clear future direction. In the mix is the global rise of proto-fascist populism, environmental disaster, increasing wealth gaps, and violence and war.

What can guide us out of this mess? That is the subject of the last few pages… 

By Nancy Fraser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Across the globe politics as usual are being rejected and faith in neoliberalism is fracturing beyond repair. Leading political theorist Nancy Fraser, in conversation with Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara, dissects neoliberalism's current crisis and argues that we might wrest new futures from its ruins.

The global political, ecological, economic, and social breakdown-symbolized, but not caused, by Trump's election-has destroyed faith that neoliberal capitalism is beneficial to the majority. Fraser explores how this faith was built through the late twentieth century by balancing two central tenets: recognition (who deserves rights) and distribution (who deserves income). When these began to fray, new…


Book cover of The Black Stallion

Caroline Akervik Author Of A Horse Named Viking

From my list on animals and their people connection.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an animal lover, a former professional equestrian, an elementary school librarian, and an avid reader. Reading is definitely my superpower. I don’t so much read as devour books of all kinds. As a district library coordinator, I read all levels of books, from board to picture, to middle grade, to chapter, to YA and adult. Books and animals are my jam. 

Caroline's book list on animals and their people connection

Caroline Akervik Why did Caroline love this book?

This is one of those books that helped me fall in love with reading. It is the story of a young boy named Alec who becomes stranded on a deserted island with a wild black stallion. Over time, the two form a deep bond, and upon their rescue, Alec trains the stallion to become a racehorse. 

I think this was the first series I ever got hooked on. These are oldies but goodies. As a young horse lover, I believe I read all of them. This book helped to start my passion for reading and writing.

By Walter Farley,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Black Stallion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.

This book has been selected as a Common Core State Standards Text Exemplar (Grades 4-5, Stories) in Appendix B.


Book cover of Robinson Crusoe

Lawrence Winkler Author Of Orion's Cartwheel

From my list on becoming the hero of your own myth.

Why am I passionate about this?

There is no quality of life without meaning, and there is no better meaning than the search for it. The Vision Quest has been a beacon of hope for me my entire life. It permeates all my aspirations and writing. It inspired me to hitchhike worldwide for five years and continued into my professional life. I hope you enjoy the selections.

Lawrence's book list on becoming the hero of your own myth

Lawrence Winkler Why did Lawrence love this book?

This book is the first story of the Southern Sea and the first true English novel. Full of sailing ships, stormy seas, symbolism, exotic desert islands, muskets, wild boars, and cannibals, it set the standard for every adventure story that followed. 

I love the narrative of a lone castaway—facing the ultimate tests of nature to triumph over hardship. Robinsonade, a new renegade literary genre, emerged in which the hero is suddenly isolated from the comforts of civilization, marooned on a secluded island, tropical, uninhabited, and uncharted. He must improvise to become self-sufficient from limited resources.

Like my own hero quest, solitary conflict was required for character development, and the solitude led back to society and survival, or the ordeal would have no meaning. 

By Daniel Defoe,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Robinson Crusoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

'Robinson Crusoe has a universal appeal, a story that goes right to the core of existence' Simon Armitage

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, regarded by many to be first novel in English, is also the original tale of a castaway struggling to survive on a remote desert island.

The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is washed up on a desert island. In his journal he chronicles his daily battle to stay alive, as he conquers isolation, fashions shelter and clothes, enlists the help of a native islander who he names 'Friday', and fights off cannibals and mutineers. Written in…


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