Must Reads: Dystopian Novels

A list of Dystopian novels (including some post-apocalyptic ones) that are either recommended the most or come across as being the most popular. I figure out what makes the list by scouring the internet, none of these books make the list based on my opinion.

In no particular order 15 Recommended Dystopian Novels

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.

Emigrants to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in.

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov

The state has been recently taken over and is being run by the tyrannical and philistine Average Man party. Under the slogans of equality and happiness for all, it has done away with individualism and freedom of thought. Only John Krug, a brilliant philosopher, stands up to the regime. His antagonist, the leader of the new party, is his old school enemy, Paduk – known as the Toad. Grieving over his wife’s recent death, Krug is at first dismissive of Paduk’s activities and sees no threat in them. But the sinister machine which Paduk has set in motion may prove stronger than the individual, stronger even than the grotesque Toad himself.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames. Never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.

Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think… and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!

The Iron Heel by Jack London

The Iron Heel is Jack London’s 1908 dystopian novel about the rise of oligarchic tyranny in the United States. Playing upon the socialistic themes that were so prevalent at the beginning of the 20th century, The Iron Heel tells the story of a wealthy class that squeezes out the middle class and effectively rules for three centuries until a revolution ushers in the Brotherhood of Man

The Running Man by Richard Bachman

It is 2025 and reality TV has progressed to the point where people are willing to wager their lives in exchange for a chance at enormous wealth. Ben Richards is desperate – he needs money to treat his daughter’s illness. His last chance is entering a game show called The Running Man where the objective is to elude police and specially trained trackers for a month. The reward is a cool billion dollars. The catch is that everyone else on the planet is watching and willing to turn him in for a reward.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier — and whatever alien species are to be found there — will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.

One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful 1-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery, or rediscovery, of inner space and that disease the ancients called the soul.

Fatherland by Robert Harris

The year is 1964. The setting is Berlin. JFK’s father, Joe Kennedy, is president. Edward VIII is king, Wallis his queen. Adolf Hitler is about to celebrate his 75th birthday. In this thriller with a twist, the stalemate which ended World War II has evolved into a cold war, not between the Soviet Union and the United States, but between the Third Reich and America. Police investigator Xavier March handles a case involving the death of a prominent Nazi, an apparent suicide. The trail leads to other suicides, accidental deaths, a numbered vault in Zurich, and a beautiful American reporter. March discovers the pattern behind the deaths and locates incriminating papers exposing the Holocaust, which, because Germany didn’t lose the war, has been kept secret for 20 years.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last living man on earth … but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville’s blood. By day he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn. How long can one man survive like this?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is grey. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Equality 7-2521 is a man apart. Since the Great Rebirth it has been a crime in his world to think or act as an individual. Even love is forbidden. Yet, since his childhood in the Home of the Infants, Equality 7-2521 has felt that he is different. When he is sent by the Council of Vocations to work as a road sweeper, he stumbles upon a link to the old world that gives him the spur to break free.

Kallocain by Karin Boye

This classic Swedish novel envisioned a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain’s depiction of a totalitarian world state is a montage of what novelist Karin Boye had seen or sensed in 1930s Russia and Germany. Its central idea grew from the rumours of truth drugs that ensured the subservience of every citizen to the state.

13 thoughts on “Must Reads: Dystopian Novels

    • It was definitely a great concept, but I didn’t love it. It did get my book club talking though!
      Yes, The Hunger Games is definitely dystopian. Dystopia is an unpleasant situation out of your control, pure dystopia being where a social element or government is engineering the unpleasantness (I’m assuming you’re not 100% sure about it? If I’m wrong just ignore me!), but I think you can go beyond that when putting a story into the genre. The Hunger Games fits into pure dystopia perfectly.

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    • Thanks Mike. I haven’t even heard of that book and don’t believe I came across it when I was putting together the list. I’ll have to check it out.

      The books aren’t in any particular order either.

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    • Hi John, thanks for stopping by and letting me know about your novel, but I’m not a big fan of advertising in comments. However if you’d like me to review it for you, that’s an option.

      I’ll contact you soon in case you miss this reply.

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  1. I personally hated The Road. I dont know why everyone rates it so highly. I found the characters to be boring as hell, and the plot slow. But it’s awesome to see a Rand novel in the list, I think her books are highly under rated.

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  2. I Love Dystopian Novels! I just read an ARC of a YA Dystopian novel called Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and was looking to expand my dystopian reading. Thanks for some great recommendations. I picked up We recently, and I didn’t even know Nabakov wrote something Dystopian! As soon as I am dug out of snow and life is back on track, I’m going to join your challenge! Thanks for hosting one!

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    • You’re welcome Suzanne! I’ve heard really good things about Delirium. I even added it to my TBR. It sounds really good!

      I was surprised about Nabakov too. Apparently there’s quite a few authors out there who are better known for certain genres, but have written others (like dystopia) and the majority didn’t realise it. It’s fun finding these books.

      Good luck with the snow! I hope it dies down soon.

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