Share 15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

Taylor Noel started working for Scribner’s publicity department in 2015. She interned at Algonquin Books and Folio Literary Management while completing her studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Taylor tends to read mostly literary fiction and memoirs, but will also dabble in upmarket commercial fiction with historical, transcultural, or apocalyptic settings, as well as popular young adult. You can find her on Instagram @books_with_taylor.

With dystopian classics like George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE resurfacing at the top of bestseller lists, it may feel like the world is ending–or at least radically changing. As we imagine what the future holds, we’re reminded of these 15 talented writers who envisioned, and perhaps warned, of a future more sinister than we’d like to imagine.


The Sunlight Pilgrims
by Jenni Fagan

In 2020 as the world is freezing over, Dylan sojourns north to return his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes to their native Scotland. There he meets Estella and her survivalist mother, who are preparing for an ultimate disaster.

The Sunlight Pilgrims
Jenni Fagan

In 2020 as the world is freezing over, Dylan sojourns north to return his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes to their native Scotland. There he meets Estella and her survivalist mother, who are preparing for an ultimate disaster.

MENTIONED IN:

15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

By Taylor Noel | April 13, 2017

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Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
In this iconic dystopian novel, Guy Montag is a fireman tasked with destroying all printed books, the most illegal commodity, and the houses in which they are hidden. But when Guy meets an eccentric young woman who reminds him of a time when people didn’t have to live in fear, he starts questioning the pillars of society.
Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel set in the future when books forbidden by a totalitarian regime are burned. The hero, a book burner, suddenly discovers that books are flesh and blood ideas that cry out silently when put to the torch.

Read the full review here.

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Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

BRAVE NEW WORLD is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically advanced future in which humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically controlled to passively uphold an authoritarian order.

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley

BRAVE NEW WORLD is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically advanced future in which humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically controlled to passively uphold an authoritarian order.

MENTIONED IN:

15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

By Taylor Noel | April 13, 2017

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The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Offred is one of many Handmaids in the Republic of Gilead valued only if their ovaries are viable during an age of declining births. But while Offred prays to get pregnant, she also remembers and craves the independence of her former life with her husband and daughter.
The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood

This horrifying vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution has become one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time. It has endured not only as a literary landmark but also as a scathing satire and dire warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

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Gold Fame Citrus
by Claire Vaye Watkins

An unrelenting drought transformed Southern California into a barren and depleted landscape and forced most residents to evacuate into internment camps. But Luz and Ray stay behind, squatting in an abandoned mansion, until they encounter a mysterious child and start a perilous journey east in hopes of a better future.

Gold Fame Citrus
Claire Vaye Watkins

An unrelenting drought transformed Southern California into a barren and depleted landscape and forced most residents to evacuate into internment camps. But Luz and Ray stay behind, squatting in an abandoned mansion, until they encounter a mysterious child and start a perilous journey east in hopes of a better future.

MENTIONED IN:

15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

By Taylor Noel | April 13, 2017

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The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
In Cormac McCarthy’s searing masterpiece THE ROAD, a father and his son walk alone through a burned America in which no hope remains, but in which love definitely persists.
The Road
Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy was long an influence of mine before this novel. It is one of the few books I can recall that has kept me awake at night. It is bleak, gritty, hurtful, and I think extraordinarily human.

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1984
by George Orwell
A dystopian vision of a government desperate to control the narrative, 1984 is about a man who starts to think for himself—a serious crime for which people are persecuted.

The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker
A beautiful novel of catastrophe and survival, THE AGE OF MIRACLES is the story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in a world that is literally slowing down. Something altered the rotation of the earth and the effects are reverberating through not only the physical world but human behavior as well.
The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker

“THE AGE OF MIRACLES was so frightening because the apocalypse begins as an annoyance, like a lipstick that has melted. Walker’s greatest device is that the end of the world comes incrementally, almost casually, and each turned page winds the reader just a little more tightly.”

Read the full review by Richard Fifield here.

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Parable of the Sower
by Octavia E. Butler
In PARABLE OF THE SOWER, unattended environmental and economic crises result in social chaos, and nothing is safe. A minister’s young daughter, fighting for survival after losing her family, stumbles upon a startling vision of the future and the birth of a new faith.
Parable of the Sower
Octavia E. Butler

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The Heart Goes Last
by Margaret Atwood

Amid a brutal nationwide economic collapse, Stan and Charmaine decide to sign a life contract at Consilience, a gated community in which residents alternate living in a lovely house and a Positron prison every six months. But troubling events lead them to believe Consilience may be less a refuge and more a sinister operation.

The Heart Goes Last
Margaret Atwood

Amid a brutal nationwide economic collapse, Stan and Charmaine decide to sign a life contract at Consilience, a gated community in which residents alternate living in a lovely house and a Positron prison every six months. But troubling events lead them to believe Consilience may be less a refuge and more a sinister operation.

MENTIONED IN:

15 Dystopian Novels for People Who Don’t Read Dystopian Novels

By Taylor Noel | April 13, 2017

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On Such a Full Sea
by Chang-rae Lee
Set against a declining America in which society is strictly stratified by class, ON SUCH A FULL SEA is the tale of a female fish-tank diver who leaves the safety of her home to find out why the man she loves suddenly disappeared.
On Such a Full Sea
Chang-rae Lee

Against a vividly imagined future, ON SUCH A FULL SEA tells the stunning and surprising story of a long-declining American society strictly stratified by class. Using a deeply ethereal voice, Chang-Rae Lee tells the story of Fan, a fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore) when the man she loves mysteriously disappears.

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The Plot Against America
by Philip Roth
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA is an alternate version of American history in which Charles A. Lindbergh was elected President in 1940 and established a genial relationship with Adolf Hitler, the first of many ruptures that threaten to destroy life for one boy in a small, safe corner of America.
The Plot Against America
Philip Roth

Few writers working today have the narrative depth and complexity as Philip Roth. And it is at an intellectual high-point with The Plot Against America. The novel follows a working class Jewish-American family during the eve of World War II. Unlike the actual events surrounding America’s involvement, Roth constructs an alternate reality where Charles Lindbergh, the famous pilot and Nazi sympathizer, climbs to political prominence and, in a juicy moment of American politicking, succeeds in beating the incumbent and well-respected Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. Thus emerges an America more aligned with the policies of the Third Reich than with the allies, and becomes all the more troublesome for a Jewish family targeted by an increasingly hostile state. The vividness of America’s pogroms is terrifying and Roth delights in his ability to make the most absurd of situations real and doubtlessly convincing. It is perhaps an unusual choice when asked what book defines America for me, but Roth is fully invested in the American consciousness and his version could only have been written by someone who cares deeply about what America means and how best to relay its people’s perspective. I’ve never been one to shy from controversy and Roth, I think, embellishes the American spirit better than others who merely claim ownership of America without any foresight into why or for what purpose. - Pronoy Sarkar

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1Q84
by Haruki Murakami
In 1984 Tokyo, a young woman begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in her world and realizes she is actually living in a parallel existence. Meanwhile, a writer becomes so invested in his ghostwriting project that he doesn’t see his life unraveling around him.

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The Children of Men
by P.D. James
It’s 2021 and mankind has lost the ability to reproduce. Civilization is crumbling without the advent of new generations until an Oxford historian is approached by a revolution-leading woman who may hold the key to survival.
The Children of Men
P.D. James

The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. The basis for the critically acclaimed film starring Clive Owen.

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The Man in the High Castle
by Philip K. Dick
An alternate reality prevails in THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE—a haunting novel told as if the United States lost World War II and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.
The Man in the High Castle
Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick may not have been a wildly profitable author in his time, but since he passed away in 1982, many of his science fiction stories and novels have been picked up and turned into well-loved movies and television shows. THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, currently an Amazon series, offers an alternative ending to World War II, with the Nazis and Japanese winning the war.

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