The most recommended dystopian books

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758 authors created a book list with a dystopian book, and here are their favorites.

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What type of dystopian book?


A Canticle for Leibowitz

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Book cover of A Canticle for Leibowitz

Christopher Ruocchio Author Of Empire of Silence

From the list on science fiction for fantasy readers.

Who am I?

I am the author of 5 (nearly 6) science-fantasy novels in my Sun Eater series, as well as the author of 2 novellas and nearly two dozen short stories, as well as an 8-year veteran of the publishing industry. For 7 of those years, I worked as an editor for Baen Books, a nearly 40-year-old publisher of science fiction and fantasy. On top of all that, I am a lifelong sci-fi and fantasy fan, and something of an amateur historian of the field. 

Christopher's book list on science fiction for fantasy readers

Why did Christopher love this book?

Folks daunted at the prospect of jumping in to a longer series will be delighted to know that this is just a standalone novel. In fact, it was the only novel Walter M. Miller, Jr. wrote in his lifetime. There is a posthumously published sequel to this novel, but it was completed by another writer and is generally considered the lesser work, and at any rate, Canticle stands on its own. This is a post-apocalyptic novel, set after a nuclear war in the 1960s wiped out civilization. It takes place over the course of centuries, and follows a small Roman Catholic monastery in the American southwest as they struggle to preserve documents from before the bombs destroyed everything—scientific knowledge, mostly, knowledge the poor monks can’t even begin to understand.

This is one of the most beautifully written novels in the genre’s history, and one that—though I’ve only read it two…

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Canticle for Leibowitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth…

The Combat Codes

By Alexander Darwin,

Book cover of The Combat Codes

Richard Swan Author Of The Tyranny of Faith

From the list on mentor/apprentice relationships.

Who am I?

As writers, one of the things that most commonly unites us is how quickly we are able to point to our favourite teacher from school—almost always our literature teacher. These people instilled in us a love of reading, and encouraged us to explore and hone the craft of writing. I’m always drawn to, and fascinated by, the idea of how certain individuals can impact our lives, this butterfly effect of personal connection. Sometimes these relationships can have very complex dynamics; other times these mentors won’t even know the impact they have had on us. In this list, I have selected five works that I have read recently and which I think examine these relationships masterfully.

Richard's book list on mentor/apprentice relationships

Why did Richard love this book?

“We fight so the rest shall not have to!”

A brilliant science-fantasy story. In a world where international conflict is resolved through the proxy of individual prize fighters, a young street brawler is schooled by an old warrior (with something to prove) through the underground and up into the big leagues.

Come for the zero-to-hero character arc and the good ole' fashioned fights, stay for the surprising (and subtle) depth of worldbuilding.

By Alexander Darwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a world where battle-hardened warriors determine the fate of empires, war-ravaged nations seek out a new champion in the first book of a thrilling science fantasy trilogy: "that rare book that fully satisfies me as an action fan" (Fonda Lee, author of Jade City).​

In a world long ago ravaged by war, the nations have sworn an armistice never to use weapons of mass destruction again. Instead, highly-skilled warriors known as Grievar Knights represent their nations’ interests in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Murray Pearson was once a famed Knight until he suffered a loss that crippled his homeland — but…


By Matthew Mather,

Book cover of CyberStorm

Mark Lukens Author Of Ancient Enemy

From the list on horror set in the dead of winter.

Who am I?

There’s something about a horror story set in the winter, especially with characters stuck in a snowstorm, that makes it more chilling to me. My first novel, Ancient Enemy, was inspired by my love of horror set in the dead of winter. If you haven’t read these books on my list, I hope you’ll check them out. It was difficult narrowing the list down to just five – I can think of so many other great winter-themed horror novels.

Mark's book list on horror set in the dead of winter

Why did Mark love this book?

While not technically a horror novel, this book paints a scary possibility – an unflinching look at what a nationwide blackout in the middle of winter would be like, focusing on a group of people in an apartment building in Manhattan. They are trapped, trying to find food, trying to stay warm, trying to survive. Loved this book. I always recommend this one. 

By Matthew Mather,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The incredibly realistic story of one family's struggle to survive the apocalyptic destruction of New York. GoodReads Award winning million-copy international bestseller now in development with NETFLIX.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Shows how dangerous our transition to an interconnected infrastructure has become." —Karic Allega, Joint Military Cyber Command, US NAVY

New York goes dark in the dead of winter...
A terrifying mystery begins...
But who is the enemy?

Mike Mitchell is an average New Yorker struggling just to keep his family together and take care of his two-year-old son when a string of disasters shreds the bustling city around…


By José Saramago,

Book cover of Blindness

Marcia Calhoun Forecki Author Of Blood of the White Bear

From the list on pandemics, historical, or fictional.

Who am I?

I divide my reading between works of imagination and historical nonfiction. All good fiction requires research to enhance it’s authenticity. Several years ago, I published a story set in the 1918 influenza epidemic. The research for the story was fascinating, and led me to John M. Barry’s book included in my recommendations. After editing a memoir for retired screenwriter and film director, Gerald Schnitzer (sadly now deceased), he invited me to co-author a novel set in the Four Corners featuring a virologist who combines science and spirituality to find a cure for a pandemic, which became Blood of the White Bear

Marcia's book list on pandemics, historical, or fictional

Why did Marcia love this book?

Magical realism is accepting the impossible as a premise. José Saramago creates an inexplicable epidemic of "white blindness" which spares few in a single city. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, where they are victimized by criminals who hold everyone captive, steal food rations, and rape women. One eyewitness to this nightmare guides seven strangers through barren city streets in an uncanny procession through fearsome surroundings. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, this powerful novel of man's will to survive against all odds. José Saramago was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.

By José Saramago,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No food, no water, no government, no obligation, no order.

Discover a chillingly powerful and prescient dystopian vision from one of Europe's greatest writers.

A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind. An ophthalmologist tries to diagnose his distinctive white blindness, but is affected before he can read the textbooks.
It becomes a contagion, spreading throughout the city. Trying to stem the epidemic, the authorities herd the afflicted into a mental asylum where the wards are terrorised by blind thugs. And when fire destroys the asylum, the inmates burst forth and the last links with a supposedly civilised society…

Cloud Cuckoo Land

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of Cloud Cuckoo Land

James Hider Author Of Ripe

From James' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Journalist Writer Traveler History buff Probably not an AI

James' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, James' 10-year-old's favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

Anthony Doerr is one of the most evocative writers I know – I loved All the Light We Cannot See and this one shows the same ability to conjure up incredible vignettes from across time and space, from the hare-lipped boy pressganged with his beloved oxen into moving a giant cannon for the Ottoman sultan’s assault on Constantinople to a suburban library on modern-day Idaho where kids are staging a play during a snowstorm, or into the future on a space ship bound for a new colony.

Doerr does all this effortlessly, in a series of short passages that immediately drag you in and make each scene completely believable.

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Cloud Cuckoo Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more

“If you’re looking for a superb novel, look no further.” —The Washington Post

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times…


By Samuel R. Delany,

Book cover of Dhalgren

A. R. Davis Author Of Refuge for the Khymera

From A.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Writer Wonderer Teacher Computer scientist Mathematician

A.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did A.R. love this book?

Each time I have read this book over the years, new images are revealed of the post-apocalyptic dream city, Bellona. Now, as a published author, I am even more drawn to Kid, the poetic drifter.

I particularly relate to the mysterious notebook found by the fire late at night at the Hippie commune. Whoever lost it, has written on only one side of each page. The first thing Kid finds written inside is, “to wound the autumnal city...”, which is exactly how the mythic and symbolic novel Dhalgren begins.

How much of what happens is the direct result of what Kid writes, reads, or has already written in the mysterious notebook is open for interpretation. I enjoy the ambiguity, since it mirrors the mystery of Bellona itself.

By Samuel R. Delany,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nebula Award Finalist: Reality unravels in a Midwestern town in this sci-fi epic by the acclaimed author of Babel-17. Includes a foreword by William Gibson.

A young half–Native American known as the Kid has hitchhiked from Mexico to the midwestern city Bellona—only something is wrong there . . . In Bellona, the shattered city, a nameless cataclysm has left reality unhinged. Into this desperate metropolis steps the Kid, his fist wrapped in razor-sharp knives, to write, to love, to wound.
So begins Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s masterwork, which in 1975 opened a new door for what science fiction could mean.…

Missing Pieces

By Meredith Tate,

Book cover of Missing Pieces

Tracy Lawson Author Of Counteract

From the list on young people oppressed by dystopian societies.

Who am I?

In dystopian societies, which are nothing more than twisted versions of perfection, people are often treated as slaves or children. They are kept from reaching their full potential by the rules and regulations designed to curtail their freedoms in the name of safety. It’s not just fiction anymore. We saw dystopia unfold in 2020. People beat each other up over packages of toilet paper. College kids staged rebellions…I mean spring break…on the beaches. That got me thinking—what does it really mean to grow up? How do young people determine what is responsible behavior and what is selfish? How do they know when to protect themselves, and when to stand up and reclaim their inalienable rights?

Tracy's book list on young people oppressed by dystopian societies

Why did Tracy love this book?

In Missing Pieces, marriage partners are matched by science to produce healthy children. There's no room for personal choice or alternative lifestyles. Best friends Piran and Tracy are matched to other people, yet they know in their hearts they’re meant to be together. Are they brave enough to leave everything behind to live the life they want? Missing Pieces depicts a clinical approach to marriage and family and uncompromising attitudes about love and sex. 

I was so engrossed in this book I stayed up all night to finish it! I was completely swept up in the story of Tracy and Piran’s forbidden friendship that ripened into forbidden love. Their whole society was constructed to keep them apart. Matched partners were desperately unhappy, but no one dared speak up for fear of ostracism, disfigurement, and banishment from the community. It seemed like it could never happen—and yet repression and coersion…

By Meredith Tate,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Your family is the most important part of your life. Your families are the people you love, and love is what separates us from scoundrels and criminals. It maintains order. Your parents, your sibling, and your Partner are the ones you love. There should never, ever, be anyone else who comes close to that bond. You have only one best friend, and that is the person you'll be marrying some day. We must learn to differentiate the relationships in our lives: the people we love, and the ones we don't. It's inappropriate, it's foolish, and it's forbidden to think otherwise."…

The 5th Wave

By Rick Yancey,

Book cover of The 5th Wave

Sarena Straus Author Of ReInception

From the list on science fiction with kick ass female characters.

Who am I?

I've always loved science fiction, but first developed my love for storytelling as a prosecutor in the Bronx where I would weave the tale of a crime into a coherent story for a jury’s consideration. After several years of prosecuting sex crimes and crimes against children, and publishing a book about that experience, I had enough of the real world and returned to my first love for novel writing. Science fiction is a male-dominated field and most sci-fi heroes are male. My greatest influences are male characters and authors, but I always wished for more diversity in the genre. I’m excited to share this passion and hope it will inspire authors and readers!  

Sarena's book list on science fiction with kick ass female characters

Why did Sarena love this book?

I love a book where the character finds strength she never knew she possessed. Cassie is just a regular high school kid until the Others arrive. She thinks she has to depend on others to survive the alien invasion, but after her little brother Sam is recruited into the military’s resistance force, Cassie realizes that she’s capable of far more than just cheerleading.

As a fellow “fake it ‘til you make it” girl, I love Cassie’s willingness to put on a brave face and her “I can handle this,” facade, until she finds out that she actually can handle it. Cassie is resourceful and intelligent, and while she’s not ruthless, she’ll do what she has to to protect those she loves.

By Rick Yancey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The 5th Wave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times Bestseller, now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz

The Passage meets Ender's Game in the first book in an epic series by award-winning author Rick Yancey.

"Remarkable, not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances."-Entertainment Weekly

"A modern sci-fi masterpiece . . ."

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look…

Zone One

By Colson Whitehead,

Book cover of Zone One

DC Pierson Author Of Crap Kingdom

From the list on weirdly hopeful dystopias.

Who am I?

When I’m writing, my brain’s ability to jump instantly to the worst-case scenario is a huge plus. But in life, that’s just called “anxiety,” something I’ve always struggled with. Works of fiction that do what my brain does naturally — assume the worst — and still find some hope, humor, or redemption there have always been weirdly reassuring to me. And what’s more “worst-case scenario” than post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction? Here are five books where, in the wake of disaster or the grip of tyranny, people still manage to have dreams, dignity, or even just a laugh.

DC's book list on weirdly hopeful dystopias

Why did DC love this book?

In Zone One, the frantic oh-*expletive* bloodbath phase of a zombie apocalypse has clicked over into something like a new normal. In lower Manhattan, our hero “Mark Spitz” mops up straggler zombies seemingly stuck in mindless loops from their past lives and reflects on the transformed yet familiar landscape. Zone One made me realize how specific streets are encoded in my own memories, and made me want to be more present in my own life, to move through the world less like a zombie.

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this brilliantly original take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, American novelist Colson Whitehead shakes up the zombie genre with genius results.

A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuilding civilisation under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street - aka 'Zone One' - eliminating the most dangerous plague victims, but pockets of infected squatters remain. Teams…

Book cover of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Caraline Brown Author Of The Candlelit Menagerie

From the list on set in a post apocalyptic future.

Who am I?

I love writing historical fiction. I enjoy the research and creating long-lost worlds filled with little-known historical accuracies that intrigue my readers. It is no surprise then that I enjoy reading about the future - the other side of the coin. I always find it interesting to see how writers create a post-apocalyptic society. What was the catastrophic event? (TCE) What caused it and how do the different characters react to adversity when their old world is taken away from them? Inevitably they have to survive in the new system but will they have learned their lesson or will they return to their old ways?  

Caraline's book list on set in a post apocalyptic future

Why did Caraline love this book?

A generation or so after The Calamitous Event (TCE), our hero’s dog is stolen by an unexpected visitor to their remote home in the Outer Hebrides. This book is my definition of a cracking good read. It has adventure, surprises, and insights into the human condition that led to TCE in the first place. Above all, it features a boy and his overwhelming mission - to get his dog back. If, like me, you love dogs you are going to love this book.

By C.A. Fletcher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'You'll remember A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World long after you finish reading'
Peng Shepherd, author of The Book Of M

'Fletcher's suspenseful, atmospheric tale imagines a near future in which our world is in ruins . . . an adventure saga punctured by a gut-punch twist'
Entertainment Weekly

'Truly engrossing . . . brings hope and humanity to a cold and scary world'
Keith Stuart, author of A Boy Made of Blocks

'I promise you're going to love it'
Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History…