38 books directly related to utopian 📚

All 38 utopia books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Utopia

By Thomas More,

Book cover of Utopia

Why this book?

This is the OG of utopias—written in 1516 about people living on a distant island. Later writers made up utopias set in the future, but More’s island is still fun to read about. A place where there is no private property, no one desires wealth, all citizens are equal, and all religions are tolerated—though there is no privacy (or premarital sex) either. Nobody knows whether More meant it as satire or longing, or even if we should translate u-topia as “no-place” or “good-place.”


Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Promising Spaces

By Davina Cooper,

Book cover of Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Promising Spaces

Why this book?

The word, utopia, derives from the Greek terms ou “not” + topos “place”---“no place.” Yet, the idea of a perfect “place” or society is one that has captured the imagination of artists, writers, politicians, and governments for centuries. I really love the concept of “everyday utopias” because it focuses on small, local spaces of joy and pleasure that people create for themselves outside and beyond the boundaries of social norms and expectations. Inherent in the term “utopia” is the impossibility of the idea and yet, readers witness thriving communities that show the possibilities of alternative systems of governance, self-sufficiency, civility, and citizenship, as well as well-being and pleasure.

Ecotopia

By Ernest Callenbach,

Book cover of Ecotopia

Why this book?

Philosopher Ernest Callenbach’s novel originated the ecotopia genre as well as the term itself, pioneering many green ideas, even as basic as sustainability: Callenbach called it “steady-state society”, and imagined some of the radical forms it might take (they’re still radical, alas), weaving them together into a story that is occasionally cringe-worthy (in hindsight, you know) but nonetheless paints a compelling and informative picture of an alternative, thoroughly environmentalist society.

PS. Will Weston, the protagonist, is no relation... though that was my grandfather’s name...


Island

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Island

Why this book?

The complete antithesis to Huxley’s much more famous book, Brave New World, this novel depicts the ideal life of an imaginary island, Pala, somewhere in South-East Asia. Huxley seems to have picked up elements from the actual life-ways of islanders in the Asia-Pacific region, rather than do a lot of futuristic fable-building. Economic production, spiritual and ethical values, nature conservation, and other aspects of life are integrated into a harmonious whole which is quite alluring! But though this was written 30 years after Brave New World, Huxley seems not to have completely shaken off that dystopian outlook. The ending of Island is disquieting, to say the least. Or perhaps he is simply reminding us that an island of utopian living is not enough, and will always be threatened if the world as a whole remains enthralled by the trappings of money-making and power-seeking.  


The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion

By Margaret Killjoy,

Book cover of The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion

Why this book?

This, and its sequel, is truly one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It’s a punk rock road trip following Danielle Cain as she struggles to deal with the grief of losing her best friend while also going up against some truly bizarre characters and creatures in a utopian squatter town called Freedom. I loved the raw and unapologetic attitude of the main protagonist and the diversity of the supporting cast. This book is dark and brooding, fun and poignant in equal measure. It’s a paranormal riot and I loved every minute of it, and the follow up called The Barrow Will Send What It May.


The Republic of Plato

By Allan Bloom (translator),

Book cover of The Republic of Plato

Why this book?

This bedrock text is the fons et origo of all Western thinking on politics and is still as challenging and profound as on the day it was composed. It is also a deep critique of civilization, an epistemological guide, and a primer on how to live a good life. A lot in one book! It used to be the one work that every college graduate had to read. Alas, no more.


A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers

By Charlie Jane Anders, Charles Yu, Lesley Nneka Arimah

Book cover of A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers

Why this book?

By turns uplifting, bloody strange, heartbreaking, and joyful, this story collection touches on so many things: gender relations, race, hope, the need to feel safe, and the need to feel dignity among them. There are versions of America in this series that I dread, and versions of America that I long for. This is a book we need right now: a collection of dire warnings and beautiful dreams, hopes, and fears. We’re at a crossroads in history. This book reminds us that we can take a turn into the dark or the light. And wherever we go, we’ll be taking our whole selves and all our facets along for the ride: good and bad, kind and cruel, genetic and historical.

Strap in.


Ready Player Two

By Ernest Cline,

Book cover of Ready Player Two

Why this book?

For the vastly impossible feat of presenting a sequel to a thoroughly immersive narrative, this did impress. The lead out of the original gives the feeling of the impossible and so it was delivered. Brokering A.C. Clarke's range of brilliance plus getting into the popular references of my youth, in the cyberpunk, virtual reality, corporate elite defining drama, aren't we all familiar with dystopia by now? Where or when does the apocalypse become inevitable and what are you steering towards there or then? I was awe-inspired by this handling of ethical uses of hyper-tech which is one I left up to my reader's imagination by the end of my own series. Whether imagined VR can ever become a coded reality, or if it's only ever going to be imagination, this is the challenge of the Age of Aquarius.


Utopian Thought in the Western World

By Frank E. Manuel, Fritzie P. Manuel,

Book cover of Utopian Thought in the Western World

Why this book?

The Manuels give an exhaustive but very readable history of utopian thought from the Renaissance (Thomas More) to Marxism, with backward glances to ancient Judaic and Hellenic cultures. This book explains how and why utopias have been central to Western thought, showing how the utopias of one age seem dystopian in another age (or even their own), presented in wry prose that draws readers into the story.


Ta T’ung Shu: The One-World Philosophy of Kang Yu-Wei

By Kang Yu-Wei,

Book cover of Ta T’ung Shu: The One-World Philosophy of Kang Yu-Wei

Why this book?

This is modern China’s only full-fledged utopia (mostly written about 1900)—explaining how humanity gradually evolves to get rid of the “boundaries” dividing us by nation, class, race, and gender. It may take thousands of years, but history will create a truly democratic and equal society. Children will be raised in public nurseries, couples, including homosexuals, will enter into one-year (renewable) contracts. In thousands of years, the boundaries separating the species and even the gods will dissolve as well.


The Fifth Sacred Thing

By Starhawk,

Book cover of The Fifth Sacred Thing

Why this book?

I can’t think of a better starter’s guidebook for getting the revolution off the ground. This epic post-apocalyptic novel offers the best in eco-feminism, sustainability, spirituality, and rebellion from religious, political, and social repressive forces. This story offers an ideal eco-utopia primer for readers with a mind for collective freedom, liberation, and saving our planet.


Everfair

By Nisi Shawl,

Book cover of Everfair

Why this book?

This book is a great example of alternate history allowing a new and better perspective on a historical period. Set in the Belgian Congo during the reign of King Leopold and the atrocities committed in his name, this book offers heart, joy, and beauty. I believe a sequel releases next year, and I am here for it.


Flawed

By Cecelia Ahern,

Book cover of Flawed

Why this book?

I love Cecelia Ahern’s earlier books and this was her first YA duology. The second book is called Perfect. This society also praises beauty and perfection, but mistakes are punishable offenses with a serious consequence of being branded, literally, are Flawed. The book is chilling in so many ways, but what I loved about it is that making mistakes is an inherently ‘human’ thing to do. Older generations have been taught to avoid making mistakes at all costs, or at least never own up to them. The younger ones are learning that it’s all part of life and we should all have a little more compassion. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have.


Black Mass

By John Gray,

Book cover of Black Mass

Why this book?

John Gray is an exceptional writer. In that respect alone, he is already reminiscent of the Stoics, who are some of the best writers among philosophers. Black Mass deals with the pitfalls of anger and ideology, when it comes to politics. The Stoics were famously skeptical of both, and urge practitioners to resist becoming too impassioned in political affairs—which reliably roil the soul.


Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes

By Gerd Brantenberg,

Book cover of Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes

Why this book?

There is never enough alternate history. Particularly alternate history that doesn’t focus either on the Nazis winning World War II or the South winning the American Civil War. Thankfully we have Egalia’s Daughters, yet another forward-thinking novel from the seventies. Set in a world where gender norms are swapped around entirely, its male characters wear special testicle bras and adorn their beards with flowers (I do like that last part). Of course, this woman-dominated world is no less homophobic than our own, and as part of their gender rebellion, the men form relationships with one another, in various configurations. It’s a delightful read, with its gender reversals a mirror reflection of our own society.

Auxiliary: London 2039

By Jon Richter,

Book cover of Auxiliary: London 2039

Why this book?

A noir Cyberpunk book set in the UK (which itself makes it distinctive). Great characters, crazy technology, and lots of drama make Auxiliary seriously gripping. If you like Cyberpunk, robotics/Artificial Intelligence, and dark, dystopian thrillers, you will love this! Just a word of warning, though, this is not for the faint of heart...

The Word for World Is Forest

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Word for World Is Forest

Why this book?

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers. The story reminds me a bit of the movie, Avatar, in that a peaceful earth-loving society is being taken over by a group that enslaves them and exploits their resources. I love trees and so the title of this classic attracts me right off. Le Guin explores ideas of how to stand up to oppression and environmental and cultural destruction without losing the most precious parts of ourselves, our communities, and our natural environment. 


Sextopia

By Cecilia Tan,

Book cover of Sextopia

Why this book?

This anthology showed me what is possible. Tan’s vision of what speculative fiction could be, inspired me. She wrote: “So I dream of a world, a country, a society, where honoring sexual desire is a part of the foundation upon which it is built, where celebrating eroticism and diversity of desire adds to the order of things.”


Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

By Rutger Bregman,

Book cover of Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

Why this book?

I read this book while on a fellowship in Germany. Needing to lighten my luggage, I left it in the apartment I had rented. When I returned a year later, it was still there. With less to carry that time, I happily took it back. Bregman pulls no punches in how we get to a better world, and he knows that implementing his recommendations will require considerable political courage and persuasion. Eradicate poverty and give people time to achieve their potential – through a universal basic income, a shorter work week, higher taxes on those whose jobs hurt the public good (Elon Musk, he’s talking to you), and reductions in military spending – and many other problems will solve themselves. 


I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew

By Dr. Seuss,

Book cover of I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew

Why this book?

This is my favourite Dr. Seuss book (sorry, Horton!). Our hero is… um, maybe a bear? Anyway, he’s carefree, young, and lives in the Valley of Vung. Pretty idyllic, yes? Until it’s not. Poor guy gets attacked by creatures determined to bite off his body parts. Fortunately, a chap in a one-wheeler-wubble shows up (I love it when that happens) and offers to take him to Solla Sollew, “Where they never have problems, at least very few.” What follows is a hero’s journey crammed with no end of near-death experiences culminating in him finally reaching utopia to discover…he can’t get in. He’s been resilient all along, but it’s here he excels and decides to go home and face his problems head-on. Sure, he brings a club. But, well, different times…       


Consider Phlebas

By Iain M. Banks,

Book cover of Consider Phlebas

Why this book?

This is the first of the late Scottish author’s “Culture” novels, set in a future where people and intelligent machines—including moon-sized spacecraft—interact while going about their usual lives of survival, desire, and revenge. Our “hero” may or may not be the secret “Special Circumstances” renegade some say he is. Or he may be its latest quarry. His adventures span several worlds and, on each, surprising and often horrific variations of power and dysfunction are revealed. The minute I finished reading Consider Phlebas, I began the next volume, The Player of Games, and the next and the next.   


China and the Search for Happiness: Recurring Themes in Four Thousand Years of Chinese Cultural History

By Wolfgang Bauer, Michael Shaw,

Book cover of China and the Search for Happiness: Recurring Themes in Four Thousand Years of Chinese Cultural History

Why this book?

What the Manuels did for the West, Bauer did for China. Sometimes we think of the Chinese as eminently practical people, but they had their dreams of perfect worlds as well. And these dreams were not necessarily kept to the world of sleep but found expression in the lives of individuals and communities. The Manuels confronted the fact that dreams fade with a touch of cynicism, Bauer with a touch of melancholy.  


How Long 'til Black Future Month?: Stories

By N.K. Jemisin,

Book cover of How Long 'til Black Future Month?: Stories

Why this book?

A collection of twenty-two short stories by award-winning author N.K. Jemisin. The themes range from time travel to environmentalism and magical fantasy.

The narrative is bold, the tone unapologetically political and Jemisin’s sharp retelling of known classics (like Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas") shows how it is possible to create great science-fiction/speculative fiction in a more grounded reality… our own.

I remember my first interaction with N.K. Jemisin’s work. The Fifth Season. There was this… parallel with the conditions I was brought up in. Castes, barriers to social mobility, a persistent violence tightly intertwined with the beats of our lives. It was raw, detailed. It appealed to my insecurities, my fears, my battles.

Jemisin brought back her signature style in this collection, but this time around there is hope; there is a positive outlook, an ocean of wonderful possibilities. At the time of my reading, I could relate to this shift in narrative (my life began turning around), to a more hopeful vision that (still) had preserved the staples of Jemisin’s celebrated writing: a keen eye for details, an unparalleled world building, characters of a thousand facets; some shattered, volatile and shifty.



Walden Two

By B.F. Skinner,

Book cover of Walden Two

Why this book?

An intellectual hero to many thousands of people (including myself), B. F. Skinner took weeks out of his schedule as a young academic to write a novel. But it wasn’t just any novel – it was a story that showed why he believed that highly precise work with nonhuman animals about how environmental contingencies altered action, might be used as a means of producing human progress and well-being.

At the time this book was written, basic behavioral principles were still not yet used frequently to improve people’s lives. There was no such area as evidence-based psychotherapy, nor a robust field of organizational behavior change. This book was an aspirational answer from a man who would one day, about 20 years from the publication of this book, be the best-known scientist on the planet. Skinner said that if behavioral science keeps its eyes on the prize, one day soon it might be used by the public to foster human prosperity.


Always Coming Home

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of Always Coming Home

Why this book?

This book, by one of the greatest American authors of all time, is an “archaeology of the future”: a record of the daily life, the customs, the beliefs, the poetry and stories, and the spirit of a people who live in a far-future California that is at the same time deeply connected to the past of its original inhabitants. Of all the utopias that are on offer in world literature, this is the one that makes the most sense to the social scientist in me, and also the one that I would like the most to wake up in someday. This would never come to pass, though — unless we start building it now, together.

Catskinner's Book: The Book of Lost Doors

By Misha Burnett,

Book cover of Catskinner's Book: The Book of Lost Doors

Why this book?

The books that grab me most firmly are the ones where the premise itself gets me in a headlock and screams: "READ ME!" at the top of its lungs while twisting my ear until I give in. Case in point: Catskinner's Book.

After years of failure, long-time loser James Ozwrycke has finally assembled a life. Sort of. He's got a tiny apartment and a crappy job, which might not be much to you, but it's enough to pay the bills and fuel his video game habit, and that's the best life James has ever known. So how did he manage to score this skid row utopia? By entering an unusual agreement. All he has to do is let a demon use his body every now and then. You know, to kill people. But that's not so bad. Is it?


Spending: A Utopian Divertimento

By Mary Gordon,

Book cover of Spending: A Utopian Divertimento

Why this book?

Spending is about a divorced artist and mom. It starts with a middle-aged protagonist reluctantly giving a gallery talk. She complains that male artists often have muses to do their laundry and supply sex, thereby providing practical and “therapeutic” support. A man in the audience stands up and offers to be the artist’s muse. The story is about what happens when this stubbornly independent woman takes him up on it. I totally related to the crusty heroine who has fought for everything she has and distrusts fortune when it offers abundant gifts. 


The Third Wave: The Classic Study of Tomorrow

By Alvin Toffler,

Book cover of The Third Wave: The Classic Study of Tomorrow

Why this book?

I like to look at the big picture. This book’s picture is huge: it explains three waves of human civilization, from agriculture and land ownership, to centralization and mass manufacturing, to distributed and custom everything—the wave we are in now. It was originally published in 1980 and predicted our current culture and technology with astonishing accuracy. I, and many entrepreneurs of the time, tried to use those predictions to guide our businesses, and many, like Amazon, succeeded as a result. Are there still more third wave things to invent? Yes—think of how streaming video channels are just now taking over from cable and broadcast, not to mention movie theatres. Will this help you invent the next big thing? Maybe. And what will the fourth wave be?


Uglies

By Scott Westerfeld,

Book cover of Uglies

Why this book?

I devoured this series that turns ‘Uglies’ into ‘Pretties’ when they turn sixteen through an irrevocable operation. It is such a good metaphor for how our society is focused on looks and perfection. Where the pretty people of the world seem to have all the money and fun, and none of the responsibilities. In the books, a teenager changes the world as they know it and I believe it’s what’s happening now on Tik Tok. Where Facebook is about putting your best life forward, Instagram is about showing your prettiest aesthetics, and Twitter is about showing how smart you are, Tik Tok is all about keeping it real. Authenticity is the currency of the future!


The Dispossessed

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Dispossessed

Why this book?

Yes, another social thought experiment by Ursula K. Le Guin! This one examines what a "utopian" society that attempts to live according to the philosophy of anarchism might look like. But trying to organize an anarchistic society is, of course, a contradiction in itself. The plot follows the physicist Shevek as he tries to reunite the moon, Anarres, home of the anarchist rebels, with its mother planet, Urras. The novel challenges many different common assumptions, ranging from the political to the personal, in its portrayal of two deeply flawed societies, neither of which can be seen as "the good guys."


The Conquest of Bread

By Peter Kropotkin,

Book cover of The Conquest of Bread

Why this book?

Kropotkin was a remarkable man with remarkable ideas and this book, written in Brighton and first published in 1892 remains a gem in the canon of historic anarchist literature.

In the 130 years since it was published, communism has demonstrably failed (China is less communist, more sinister state gangsterism, like North Korea); socialism looks to be on its last legs. On the left, then, there is only anarchism remaining. This is nothing like the idiotic street antics of modern youth – more nihilism than any coherent political position – but thoughtful sets of ideas around governance without the presence of a central authority.

If it is anything, anarchism is rooted in a concept of collectivist, cooperative, local communities. This is what The Price of Bread explores. Yes, it is wildly idealistic, utopian in intent. It was written before the horrors awaiting us in the 20th century, epitomised by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot; now Xi and Kim.

It is worth quoting (Prince) Kropotkin: ‘So utopian are we that we go the length of believing that the revolution can and ought to assure shelter, food, and clothes to all – an idea extremely displeasing to middle-class citizens’.

This book is profoundly optimistic; we could do with more of its upbeat tone right now. Well-written and cogently argued, the ideas herein are due for a revival. Incidentally, this book was a big influence on the garden city movement in the UK.


The Giver

By Lois Lowry,

Book cover of The Giver

Why this book?

This might be an obvious one but stick with me here. YA dystopias are old news but the idea of a teenager evolving—and growing more dangerous to adults—by gaining knowledge of the world still holds up. In fact, in our post-truth age of misinformation, it might be more relevant than ever. If you’re sick of this type of story, remember that Lowry did it first and did it better. It also does a thorough job of building a compelling relationship between the two main characters, one that continuously drives the story forward. 

I wish this was mandatory reading when I was in high school. Discovering it as an adult was a pleasure, though, and reminded me that YA can be thoughtful and meditative.


The End of Eternity

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of The End of Eternity

Why this book?

Why should we settle space? What if we don’t? Could we create thousands of safer utopias right here on Earth instead? Countless science fiction books explore the obvious ‘breadth’ of the endless stars and worlds in our night sky. This rare gem explores the ‘depth’ of settlements and diverse human civilizations separated by centuries of time. It is probably my favorite story by my favorite author. I love twisty plot turns and the gray heroes who endure them. In my own writing, I always try to take my readers somewhere deliciously unexpected. After a stunning ‘Samson-smash’ of Eternity, Asimov deftly twists the whole story back over onto itself, twice. His ending, a violently peaceful explosion of profound wisdom, leaves me breathlessly inspired. Sheer, unforgettable perfection.


Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii

By T.W. Neal,

Book cover of Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii

Why this book?

I was attracted to the word “wild” in the title of this childhood and youth memoir. It’s stories by a girl, Toby Neal, whose parents were hippie surfers on the beautiful and empty beaches of Kauai, Hawaii, during the 1960s and 70s. By most people’s standards, they’d be regarded as negligent parents, even more so today. Living day to day, they didn’t care about giving her a proper home or food. But they loved her and gave her great freedom to explore. She learned how to survive, building her life skills. The other thing about Toby Neal’s memoir is that I learned a great deal about the cultures of Hawaii. My parents loved me and my siblings and ensured we had a comfortable home and good food, but they also gave us similar freedom to explore and learn about our strange hometown, which frequently got me into trouble—the stuff of storytelling.


Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art

By Susan J. Napier,

Book cover of Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art

Why this book?

This is an excellent “life in art,” or a series of chapters on the major works in a biographical context.

Napier discusses such questions as: his feelings about the fact that his family profited from the war, making fan belts for fighter planes; his feelings about his father compared to his mother; the relation of the works to his professional life—the studio, his collaborators, his periodic burn-out and work ethic.


Arsène Schrauwen

By Olivier Schrauwen,

Book cover of Arsène Schrauwen

Why this book?

Arsène Schrauwen has the simplicity and length to give you this feeling of never being able to escape your sickness or your loneliness. Olivier Schrauwen works with graphic novels as a contemporary artist. His drawings are so precise and weird, they make me think of great folk art as done by Bill Traylor. We realize the inner truth in his simple line and the awkwardness of life. This book is an experience like a dream; both utterly original and strangely familiar.


The Gate to Women's Country

By Sheri S. Tepper,

Book cover of The Gate to Women's Country

Why this book?

The Gate to Women's Country is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which women and (most) men live largely separated from each other in town and garrison. (Can you tell yet that I like thought experiments that deal with sexual roles and mores?) The men are responsible for war and defending the city, while the women raise the children and try to protect what is left of civilization. The final revelation is both disturbing and thought-provoking.


Matched

By Ally Condie,

Book cover of Matched

Why this book?

In this society where people are matched with their jobs, but also with their future mates, arts and culture are carefully selected and limited by leadership. People take mandatory medications.

The most horrifying part, for me, is that they can no longer write without a keypad. Whatever they write on a computer is censured. Can you imagine better ways to control the population? Does it sound familiar?