The best robot books

50 authors have picked their favorite books about robots and why they recommend each book.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

While I’m typically not prone to read much fiction, I must insist that this novel is a must-read for anyone looking at how our society is evolving. First published in 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the basis for the film, Blade Runner) explores our relationship with one another, animals and machines. Dick invented a test called Voigt-Kampff that was designed to discriminate the human being from the replicant, notably by detecting involuntary empathic responses. Empathy is a core concept in the book, becoming one of the fundaments of the human being in a robot-run world. As Dick writes, the Empathy Box (a device Dick invented as part of the Mercer religion) "is the most personal possession we own." The topic could hardly be more relevant for today and tomorrow. In any event, reading good fiction is a solid way to develop your empathy!


Who am I?

Having studied literature at university and been a closet nerd, coding at night in a dank basement room, I've always been intrigued by the interface between human and machine. Then, as a senior executive in a large multinational, I was acutely aware of the value of empathy as a leadership skill. In a world that is increasingly divided and divisive, I’ve become an empathy activist. I believe that the business world can be a force for positive change, but as a society we will need to engage in a much more meaningful and rigorous debate about the ethics involved in the opportunities offered by using artificial intelligence and robots in the workplace. 


I wrote...

Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

By Minter Dial,

Book cover of Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

What is my book about?

Heartificial Empathy looks at why and how companies should learn to flex their empathic muscle, and how to encode empathy into Artificial Intelligence. Empathy is a key skill for every aspect of your business and to create a powerful culture. This book is for any business executive looking to accelerate their transformation efforts, upgrade customer centricity, improve customer service, drive innovation or boost employee engagement. It explores specific business cases and the prominent ethical questions, all the while providing practical advice and concrete tips. The author reveals a very real experience of interacting with an empathic bot for five full days. 

Klara and the Sun

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun is narrated from the perspective of a female AI in a close future. Explicitly, the novel tackles the responsibilities of loving someone and an unreachable core of “humanness.” But not-so-explicitly, its peculiar and endearing voice detaches the female identity from a biological body. It pushes the boundaries of femininity beyond visual signs and appearances. All the while, the protagonist is continually making sense of human nature, finding the worth of ourselves in the way we love who’s around us. The novel redefines not just what it is to be female, but what it is to be human.

Who am I?

My imagination knows little bounds. Yes, I was that weird kid who could entertain herself in the backyard with just a couple of sticks. I have since learned that language is what we use to build and make sense of our own realities. As a young woman, it is my hope to expand the feminine imagination – how we perceive femininity and the diversity of its voice. As a writer and human in general, my interest lies in how writing can care for human experience with honesty, humor, and empathy. And bonus points if something magical or mysterious happens along the way. 


I wrote...

Nowhere Where the Honeybees Live

By Caroline Wood,

Book cover of Nowhere Where the Honeybees Live

What is my book about?

Charlie doesn't sleep. She makes shadow puppets instead, so she doesn't dream of honeybees. Her summer plans are set: delivering tomatoes, taking walks with Fynn, and avoiding the room in her house that doesn't exist. Her plans come crashing down when clues about past mysteries return, and when her older brother, Elliot, goes snooping around the biggest mystery of all - their mom's disappearance. Scared of losing him, she'll force herself to follow his pursuit, even when they're pushed beyond Banks, Oregon and plunge somewhere dark, deep, and buried. Nowhere where there's sunlight. Nowhere where the honeybees live.

Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!

By Todd Tarpley, John Rocco (illustrator),

Book cover of Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!

I love this rhyming bedtime picture book for all its kid-friendly robotic vocabulary and the beautiful art that is full of clever bits to discover over multiple reads. This book is one of my favorite picture books to gift at baby showers and young kids’ birthday parties. This book has it all – all the way to the sweet twist ending!

Who am I?

My kid side loves robots and the possibilities they bring! My author side enjoys exploring what makes a reader “care” for a character that’s human, animal, and machine alike. And my parent side is ever interested in childhood with technology – the bad AND the good. Childhood today is very different from the childhood I experienced, but that doesn’t mean my experience was better, more correct, or even healthier. It’s just different! Kids today will remember their childhoods just as fondly as I remember mine. I aim to celebrate kids today and not to demonize the reality of their tech-infused world. I believe this list does just that!


I wrote...

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey,

Book cover of Doll-E 1.0

What is my book about?

Charlotte's world is fully charged! With her dog at her side, she's always tinkering, coding, clicking, and downloading. She's got a knack for anything technological--especially gadgets that her parents don't know how to fix! Then, she receives a new toy that is quite a puzzle: a doll! What's she supposed to do with that? Once she discovers the doll's hidden battery pack, things start to get interesting...while her faithful canine sidekick wonders if he'll be overshadowed by the new and improved Doll-E 1.0! With a little ingenuity and an open mind, everyone can be friends in this endearing, modern tribute to the creative spirit of play.

Science Comics

By Mairghread Scott, Jacob Chabot (illustrator),

Book cover of Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future

These educational comics are perfect for kids who devour non-fiction books and graphic novels! I especially liked this book because it touches on drones as well as typical robots. I read this book when I was doing research for my own book, T-Bone the Drone, and found it extremely helpful in seeing how another author explained robotics in a kid-friendly way.

Who am I?

My kid side loves robots and the possibilities they bring! My author side enjoys exploring what makes a reader “care” for a character that’s human, animal, and machine alike. And my parent side is ever interested in childhood with technology – the bad AND the good. Childhood today is very different from the childhood I experienced, but that doesn’t mean my experience was better, more correct, or even healthier. It’s just different! Kids today will remember their childhoods just as fondly as I remember mine. I aim to celebrate kids today and not to demonize the reality of their tech-infused world. I believe this list does just that!


I wrote...

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey,

Book cover of Doll-E 1.0

What is my book about?

Charlotte's world is fully charged! With her dog at her side, she's always tinkering, coding, clicking, and downloading. She's got a knack for anything technological--especially gadgets that her parents don't know how to fix! Then, she receives a new toy that is quite a puzzle: a doll! What's she supposed to do with that? Once she discovers the doll's hidden battery pack, things start to get interesting...while her faithful canine sidekick wonders if he'll be overshadowed by the new and improved Doll-E 1.0! With a little ingenuity and an open mind, everyone can be friends in this endearing, modern tribute to the creative spirit of play.

Doug Unplugged

By Dan Yaccarino,

Book cover of Doug Unplugged

I included this book to counterbalance all the machinery and tech in my list. And while I am super intrigued by robots being robots, it’s also okay to go against expectations like the character in this book does! This robot actually unplugs (against his parent’s will) to explore what’s lies beyond his digital world.

Who am I?

My kid side loves robots and the possibilities they bring! My author side enjoys exploring what makes a reader “care” for a character that’s human, animal, and machine alike. And my parent side is ever interested in childhood with technology – the bad AND the good. Childhood today is very different from the childhood I experienced, but that doesn’t mean my experience was better, more correct, or even healthier. It’s just different! Kids today will remember their childhoods just as fondly as I remember mine. I aim to celebrate kids today and not to demonize the reality of their tech-infused world. I believe this list does just that!


I wrote...

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey,

Book cover of Doll-E 1.0

What is my book about?

Charlotte's world is fully charged! With her dog at her side, she's always tinkering, coding, clicking, and downloading. She's got a knack for anything technological--especially gadgets that her parents don't know how to fix! Then, she receives a new toy that is quite a puzzle: a doll! What's she supposed to do with that? Once she discovers the doll's hidden battery pack, things start to get interesting...while her faithful canine sidekick wonders if he'll be overshadowed by the new and improved Doll-E 1.0! With a little ingenuity and an open mind, everyone can be friends in this endearing, modern tribute to the creative spirit of play.

All Systems Red

By Martha Wells,

Book cover of All Systems Red

Who doesn’t like bad boys? None are worse than the SecUnit with a violent past who calls himself Murderbot. He is addicted to consuming digital entertainment, including Space Operas he knows from experience are bogus and he is our sly commentator on human foibles and absurdities. When he gets himself into a “Protection Racket” job for a science group on one of the Company’s colonies, he grasps what is going down faster and more realistically than all of them and goes into action. An almost indestructible conjoining of human and machine, he exhibits the worst attributes of each—to this reader’s utter delight. Wells followed up this short novel with four more, all starring Murderbot.  


Who am I?

I was an artist as a child but graduated as a Comparative Literature Major. The aunt and uncle I stayed with in Providence summers when I was 10-12 years old lived three houses away from that of H.P. Lovecraft. My aunt would have tea with women who remembered “Poor Howard.” So my first real reading was H.P. and a host of other SF authors. I also always read foreign authors: classics and newer books. The books by the women are small but virtually perfect with unusual narrators—a disgraced, planet-colony Security Robot and a dark-skinned, young Tribal woman who finds herself facing her people’s worst enemy. Both novellas have spawned entire series by their authors.


I wrote...

The Betrothal at Usk

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of The Betrothal at Usk

What is my book about?

The second volume of my SF trilogy takes place, a generation after the galaxy-wide transforming events of Dryland’s End. With the end of the Galactic Matriarchy, Vir’ism has risen, centered on Hesperia, the City on a Star. One leader, Mart Kell, is out of power, plotting his return. While another leader, the Great Father, is quietly retired. On a small resort planet with a rainbow of rings, a 16 year-old-boy air skates across the sands dreaming of escape to the famed City on a Star. When the rulers of the galaxy-wide republic and their glamorous entourages arrive on Usk to celebrate a great betrothal, young Ay’r finds himself thrust into their midst but even deeper into their dynastic schemes and power manipulations...

How to Code a Sandcastle

By Josh Funk, Sara Palacios (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Code a Sandcastle

Josh Funk and illustrator Sara Palacios bring fun into coding with this cute picture book. Pearl and her robot figure out how to build a sandcastle using basic coding concepts such as commands, loops, and functions. It’s a wonderful introduction to code with a fun story that kids will enjoy. You can also check out another adventure with Pearl and her robot in How to Code a Rollercoaster.

Who am I?

I love encouraging kids to explore engineering, design, and technology! I am a former Google product designer for kids and families. I started writing to address a growing need for coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. Stories are a wonderful way to demonstrate concepts and to invite kids to approach STEM with creativity and imagination. I picked a range of books for this post, from non-fiction to fantastic, because different kids will respond to different kinds of stories. Through these books, I hope that kids will find inspiration and tools for creative problem-solving, for STEM and beyond.


I wrote...

Invent-a-Pet

By Vicky Fang,

Book cover of Invent-a-Pet

What is my book about?

Katie is an ordinary girl who longs for an extraordinary pet--something more spectacular than a simple goldfish. Then one day Katie comes home to find a gift from her mother: a mysterious machine designed to help her create that one-of-a-kind creature. Each time she feeds different items into the machine, out comes a marvelously colorful new animal--like a purple monkey, rainbow-spotted horse, and green bunny! But none of them is just right. Through trial and error, Katie figures out the formula for her absolutely perfect SURPRISE pet.

Sir Scrap Metal

By Joan Dee Wilson,

Book cover of Sir Scrap Metal

This charming chapter book turns a typical story about three children and a new pet on its head by exploring a creative idea—the adoption of a stern, dignified small robot instead. And Sir Scrap Metal is no ordinary robot, but a secret agent working for an animal protection agency. While the kids solve a mystery with his help, the transfer of furry friend to cold titanium friend was very skillful. I never thought I could care about a robot as much as a dog or cat, but this book reminded me what pet stories are about. To those who love them, pets are both superheroes who complete special missions and also buddies who want to belong—whether they bark or meow or chirp or emit monotone robotic statements.


Who am I?

I am a farm girl who lives in rural Texas, surrounded by big blue skies, cornfields, and winding gravel roads. After avidly reading every children’s book and young adult novel I could find, including classics like Louisa May Alcott and J.R.R. Tolkien, I took to writing without thinking twice about it. I’ve published over 10 MG, YA, and New Adult books and I alternate between writing realistic family dramas and high fantasy, with a dose of science fiction that sprang up on its own and fits neatly somewhere between the other two. And then I read more books and plan to write more of them too.


I wrote...

Ryan and Essie

By Sarah Scheele,

Book cover of Ryan and Essie

What is my book about?

Ryan and Essie is a space adventure about a dangerous planet, a hidden past, and two kids who journey far from home. At first Ryan, the introspective son of an astronomer, and Essie, the spunky daughter of a rancher, don’t feel much connection to each other. They care more about getting where they want to in life than about listening to others—which is all well and good until they can’t follow instructions.

When Essie accidentally sends them through a wormhole, they find themselves on a distant planet called Caricanus. In a world fallen into darkness and filled with creepy ruins and followers of a questionable deity named Trisagion, they are rapidly in over their heads and their careless decisions can have fatal repercussions.

Stitching Snow

By R.C. Lewis,

Book cover of Stitching Snow

A Snow White who lives on a cold mining planet and often enters the fighting ring to earn cash? What’s not to love? Princess Essie fled her homeworld after the death of her mother, but the new queen isn’t the darkest threat she faced in the palace. She learned to survive by fighting, coding drones on a mining planet, and not trusting anyone. When Dane crash lands on her planet in the search of a lost treasure, she’s pulled into the war she tried so desperately to avoid. There is great world-building, exciting chases, and near escapes.

R.C. Lewis also tackles an ugly truth about child abuse in a way that keeps it real without splaying the guts all over the page. We can’t fix our world if we continue to pretend such things never happen.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved fairytales. What little girl with a growing romantic heart doesn’t? By the time I was eight, I told people I was Cinderella because of all the work I did at home. An exaggeration, even for the oldest child, but still. My first prom dress, during a year I won’t mention, was reminiscent of Cinderella’s blue ballgown. As I became a writer myself, I noticed my stories held themes I learned from fairytales. Love, loyalty, courage, and a dose of magic. I simply add space or aliens to the mix.


I wrote...

Fade Into Me

By Charity Bradford,

Book cover of Fade Into Me

What is my book about?

A modern-day fairytale with a science fiction twist. Aliens live among us. Their purpose: to protect and nurture their greatest mistake—mankind.


Abhithian. Caedan doesn’t believe humans will evolve to see the magic, much less control it. Even so, he has two months to marry one or face the wrath of the High Council. Bitter about a responsibility he thinks prevents him from marrying for love, he figures any human girl will do. Then his soul mate stumbles into—and right out of—his arms.

Human. Ryanne might be Caedan’s one shot at happiness while still fulfilling his duty. Unfortunately, she’s determined to push Caedan away to protect him from her past and a dark secret.

Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz,

Book cover of Autonomous

Autonomous is a thought-provoking cyberpunk story that takes place in a near-future society where Big Pharma pretty much runs the show. Our main character, Jack, makes dupes of expensive prescription drugs, selling them on the black market. Even though her goal is arguably pretty noble (selling expensive drugs to poorer citizens on the cheap), the story follows the consequences that ensue when she starts selling a black market drug that gives users horrific and life-threatening side effects. 

Our other main characters are a military-grade AI-powered robot and a member of the armed forces who are tasked with chasing down the drug pirate responsible for this catastrophe. These two track down clues to lead them to Jack’s hideout, all while she tries to find a medical solution to the problems she’s caused. 

None of the characters in Autonomous are particularly likable. All of them are jam-packed with absolutely deal-breaking flaws, but…


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by morally grey characters. One of the things I find so fascinating about them is their unpredictability. You can always count on a knight in shining armor to do the right thing. Captain America will always make the sacrifice play. That doesn’t mean they’re not great characters… it just makes it a little harder for them to surprise us. When everyone is kind of a “bad guy” in a story, it makes things doubly fascinating because you simultaneously want to root for everyone and no one. That was my goal in writing Among Thieves: for readers to have no idea who they wanted to “win” in the end. 


I wrote...

Among Thieves

By M.J. Kuhn,

Book cover of Among Thieves

What is my book about?

Ryia ‘the Butcher’ Cautella has earned her reputation as the deadliest blade in the city – not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

A deadly secret has kept Ryia on the run, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster – sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms. But even the most powerful men can be defeated. One last job stands between Ryia and her freedom – but she can’t do it alone. She teams up with a crew of miscreants, smugglers, and thieves to attempt an impossible heist on the most tightly guarded island in the kingdoms – the Guildmaster’s stronghold. Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are all planning betrayals of their own...

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