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15 Compelling Dystopian Reads

Posted 9 months ago by April S

Dystopian fiction has been popular for quite some time now, so it's no surprise more people are rediscovering George Orwell's classic novel "1984." Below, you'll find classics from well-known authors like Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury and Octavia Butler along with recent modern dystopian novels to explore.

5 Dystopian Classics

1984 by George Orwell

1. 1984 by George Orwell

Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Gritty (writing style)
  2. Thought-Provoking (tone)
  3. Introspective (character)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025 California, an eighteen-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others' pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Plot-Driven (storyline)
  2. Haunting (tone)
  3. Quests (subject)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

In a society in which books are outlawed, Montag, a regimented fireman in charge of burning the forbidden volumes, meets a revolutionary school teacher who dares to read. Suddenly he finds himself a hunted fugitive, forced to choose not only between two women, but between personal safety and intellectual freedom.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Atmospheric (tone)
  2. Character-Driven (storyline)
  3. Censorship (subject)

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Series: MaddAddam trilogy, Book 1

A novel of the future explores a world that has been devastated by ecological and scientific disasters.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Fast-Paced
  2. Darkly Humorous (tone)
  3. Witty (writing style)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, "Brave New World" is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order--all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Plot-Driven (storyline)
  2. Haunting (tone)
  3. Collectivism (subject)

10 Modern Dystopian Novels

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

An ode to George Orwell's "1984" told in alternating male and female voices relates the stories of Aomame, an assassin for a secret organization who discovers that she has been transported to an alternate reality, and Tengo, a mathematics lecturer and novice writer.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Surrealist Fiction (genre)
  2. Atmospheric (tone)
  3. Parallel Universes (subject)

The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

2. The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

Traveling on a thousand-year journey aboard the space ship Noah, Hana Dempsey feels bereft after being required to have a baby she will never know and assists an investigation into a violent death that reveals the work of a race-threatening serial killer.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. World Building (storyline)
  2. Well-Developed Characters
  3. Disturbing (tone)

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

3. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? What happens when this forces humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution? This is a tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Intricately Plotted (storyline)
  2. Fast-Paced
  3. Suspenseful (tone)

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

4. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

In the mid-21st century major world cities are controlled by a formidable security force, and clairvoyant underworld cell member, Paige, commits acts of psychic treason before being captured by an otherworldly race that would make her a part of their supernatural army.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Fast-Paced
  2. Dramatic (tone)
  3. Gritty (writing style)

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

5. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

In a class-divided future America where urban neighborhoods function as labor colonies for elite charter villages, Fan, a female fish-tank diver, embarks on what becomes a legendary quest to find the man she loves in a region overcome by anarchic forces.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Literary Fiction (genre)
  2. Character-Driven (storyline)
  3. Thought-Provoking (tone)

Wool by Hugh Howey

6. Wool by Hugh Howey

Series: Silo, Book 1

In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Fast-Paced
  2. World Building (storyline)
  3. Strong Sense of Place (tone)

Taduno's Song by Odafe Atogun

7. Taduno's Song by Odafe Atogun

A stunning debut from a fresh Nigerian literary voice: a mesmerizing, deceptively simple, Kafkaesque narrative, resonant of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and lightly informed by the life of Nigerian musical superstar Fela Kuti--a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and courage.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Literary Fiction (genre)
  2. Homecomings (subject)
  3. Thought-Provoking (tone)

Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk

8. Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk

People pass the word only to those they trust most: Adjustment Day is coming. They’ve been reading a mysterious book and memorizing its directives. They are ready for the reckoning. "Adjustment Day," the author’s first novel in four years, is an ingeniously comic work in which Chuck Palahniuk does what he does best: skewer the absurdities in our society.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Satirical Fiction (genre)
  2. Witty (writing style)
  3. Real Life Monsters (theme)

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

9. Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

A tale set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state follows the suspicious death of a dissident in custody and finds state inspector Mielikki Neith immersing herself in the victim's world, where she encounters a panorama of characters and innovations that transform her perspectives.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Complex Characters
  2. Thought-Provoking (tone)
  3. Dissenters (subject)

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

10. Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

The National Book Award-winning author of We Were the Mulvaneys presents the story of a recklessly idealistic girl who tests the limits of her oppressively controlled, dystopian world only to fall fatefully in love.

Reasons You May Like This Book:
  1. Creepy (tone)
  2. Stylistically Complex (writing style)
  3. Time Travel (subject)

Looking for More Great Dystopian Reads?

The 30 Best Dystopian Novels of All Time

It Could Be Worse… Great Dystopian Reads

15 of the Best Dystopian Novels


This blog post is part of our appeal series, which aims to help you (the reader) find books you'll enjoy reading.

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