The best dystopia books 📚

Browse the best books on dystopia as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Road

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy

Why this book?

This is the best novel I will never read again. Except I’ve said that before. And then I read it again. I like hope, and this post-apocalyptic novel (not a pandemic, but almost everyone is dead, so it’s in the same vein) is short on hope.

And yet. The Road is gorgeous. It’s the story of The Man and The Boy on The Road in a devastated world. They have nothing but a shopping cart with a rearview mirror hooked up so they can get advanced warning of predators.

And they have love. This father and son love each other…

From the list:

The best books that make our pandemic look mild

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Book cover of Player Piano

Player Piano

By Kurt Vonnegut

Why this book?

Like many people, I went through a Vonnegut reading fest in my late teens or early twenties. The ending of Player Piano stuck with me. I’m sure it wasn’t my first exposure to the cycle of people creating their own messes, but it was blunt and solid and memorable. Tempered optimism is key to a good dystopian novel.

Also, science fiction stories of past eras are an opportunity for a glimpse into the psyche of their times. I like that sort of thing.

From the list:

The best dystopian novels about the underdog

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Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Why this book?

I have never reread a book as many times as I have Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. To me, it stands out among other classics in this genre because Bradbury leaves so much room for imagination. His style gives you space on the page for your own struggles to fill the gaps and to expand the world into something that changes and grows every time you read it. 

Everyone should read Fahrenheit 451 at least once, but my recommendation would be to pick it up every few years and see how time has changed its personal resonances while at the…

From the list:

The best dystopian science fiction books to guide the way when the world is on fire

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Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Why this book?

Hulu’s production of The Handmaid’s Tale has made the television show quite popular, but to know the power of this story, I strongly recommend reading the novel. The beauty of this work is in how personal Atwood makes this dystopian tale about the control of women’s bodies that, in 2022, is alarmingly close to our own realities. Like the white blinders that restrict the protagonist Offred’s vision, Atwood’s aperture is also small, thereby tying our vision closely to that of the main character’s. This, in turn, lends an incredible amount of dynamic tension to the novel, and we truly feel…

From the list:

The best fiction books that make the political feel intensely personal

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Book cover of Wool

Wool

By Hugh Howey

Why this book?

Wool is so much more than an author writing and releasing a book. I won’t delve into the full background, but it was initially released as a self-published short story, gained popularity, and grew from there into a great series. The worldbuilding is fantastic which lets readers get lost in the world, where details and characters are fleshed out. There’s enough mystery and intrigue to keep you coming back for more. Overall, an excellent read.

From the list:

The best fiction books set in underground worlds

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Book cover of The City of Ember

The City of Ember

By Jeanne DuPrau

Why this book?

This book is closer to MG than YA, but great all the same. It takes place underground and the lights keep going out. How creepy is that! I couldn’t wait to find out why they were down there and see if they could get out! While I was reading it, I kept wondering what happened? What made them go underground, and why did they stay? I won’t tell you what happens, but I will say this book was thought-provoking and a really fascinating read.

From the list:

The best YA dystopian novels with strong female (and one young boy) protagonists

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