21 Best Dystopian Novels of All Time

Best Dystopian Novels
21 Best Dystopian Novels of All Time 22

Kirsten and I wanted to make a list of the best dystopian novels from our point of view. Many dystopian fiction novels have a strong interplay with science fiction since these books often take place in the future and depict a post-apocalyptic world.

While a lot of the classic dystopian novels are depressing and end on a sad note, many of the new dystopian novels have more of a glimmer of hope when you reach the end of the book.

This list of the best dystopian novels has a little bit of everything. So whether you are new to this type of fiction of have been reading dystopian novels since you read The Giver in middle school, we think there is something on this list for everyone to love.

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Best Dystopian Novels of All Time

Best Dystopian Novels

Station eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I do not know where to start with this award-winning dystopian Novel. The story begins with the famous Hollywood actor, Arthur Leander, dying of a heart attack on stage during the production of King Lear.

That is also the same night that a pandemic overtakes the entire planet, quickly ending civilization within a matter of weeks. Now, without power, fuel, running water, phones, etc. those that are left must start over.

Kirsten Raymonde was a little girl when she watched Arthur die and now, twenty years later, she travels with The Traveling Symphony, a small group who try to give back some music and theatre to the small towns of survivors. When they come back to St Deborah by the Water to retrieve their friends, they are no longer there. What remains is a new kind of threat.

with regrets

With Regrets by Lee Kelly

This sci-fi book is funny, scary, and poignant – a true genre-defying work of fiction unlike any other! It’s a dystopian thriller about a dinner party in a wealthy area that coincides with the dawn of a dystopian apocalypse.

When Liz begrudgingly goes to influence Britta’s dinner party, the last thing she expects is the glimmer – a strange sparkling cloud that kills everything it comes in contact with. Now Liz needs to find a way to survive the evening in a completely different way than she expected.

I was completely immersed in this novel. I didn’t want to put it down, though it did have me wondering if I could in fact survive the apocalypse. #gifted By Dreamscape Media

The Prynne Viper 1

The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais

Is there anything author Bianca Marais can’t do? This amazing sci-fi packs everything into a short story without the story feeling rushed. Yet, we get a full cast of characters with histories, a glimpse at the future, and a story that doesn’t stop for one minute.

Somehow in this imperfect perfect world, there is still something to fight for. Each viable human (Viper for short) must face a jury who will decide on their right to live. That jury consists of the lives that will be directly affected if that person is allowed to be born. What an amazing idea for a story. I loved it. This is one of the best dystopian novels I have read in a long time. It is an Audible exclusive and 100% a must-listen.

The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle is about a social network whose founders are trying to get everyone in the world to use it. They link social media, emails, banking, and purchasing in one system.

Mae Holland is hired to work at the Circle and cannot believe her luck at the opportunity. As she spends more time with the company, she begins to wonder how ideal the company really is.

The Circle does some pretty dastardly things, though it takes a while for them to flesh out completely in the book. Soon Mae begins to question how much information is too much

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Once I got into this sci-fi book /dystopian novel, I could not put it down. The story takes place in the United States when a fundamentalist has become president.

Slowly, he has removed all rights from women, including the right to speech. Every woman is given 100 words a day and a bracelet with a counter to ensure compliance.

Why We Love This Book: This book was so well-written and creepy. I loved it although I have to say that it was a little close to how I feel these days. The scariest dystopian novels, in my opinion, are the ones that seem plausible. This one does hit close to home.
Find this book in Dystopian Novels / 20 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time

Popular Dystopian Novels: Celebrity Book Club Picks

Chain gang all stars

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

May 2023 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

This book was a doozy in the most thought-provoking way. The story is about the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the reality tv show that pits prisoners against each other in gladiator-type fights to the death.

Thurwar and Staxxx are stars of the show, brutally killing anyone they come up against, but as Thurwar gets ready to win her freedom after 3 years on TV, the creatures of the show throw many hurdles in her path.

Why We Love This Book: This searing look at racism and classism feels highly relevant to today’s world when a show like this could easily exist in some states. The reality TV book was so unique. Even days later I can’t stop thinking about the all-stars, the protesters fighting for their rights, and the stunning conclusion. I’ve been thinking about it all year, so it was an easy pick for the best books of 2023 pick!
Find This Book In Dystopian Novels / Read with Jenna Book Club

klara and the sun

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

March 2021 Good Morning America Book Club Pick

I’m not usually a sci-fi girl, but this book was just so special. It’s told from the perspective of Klara, an artificial friend who starts the story waiting to be purchased.

We see Klara’s life in the store as she waits for a friend, and then what her life is like when she’s chosen to be a companion for a young girl with a mysterious illness.

Klara draws her power from the sun, and so she believes she can use the sun’s healing rays to save her friend too.

Why We Love This Book: This moving story had me caring for a robot in a way I knew would have thought possible. It is definitely on my list of best sci-fi books of all time.
Find This Book In Best Sci-Fi Novels/ Popular Dystopian Novels / Good Morning America Book Club

The Measure and more goodreads choice awards 2022 books

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

July 2022 Read With Jenna Book Club Pick

This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. One day everyone over the age of 22 wakes up to find a string on their doorstep. It’s soon clear that the length of one’s string determines the length of their life.

Soon short stringers are being discriminated against around the globe which begs the question – what is the true measure of a valuable life?

Why We Love This Book: This would be a fabulous book club book. There is so much to talk about and you will love this pick from summer reads 2023! Don’t let the fact that this is a sci-fi book deter you if it is not your usual genre.
Find This Book in Best Books for Book Clubs / New Dystopian Novels

The School for Good Mothers

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

January 2022 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

This book, about a mother sent to a reform institute after making a parenting mistake, is billed as satire. The problem was I felt equal parts uneasy and angry.

The “school” she was sent to simulates parenting under extreme conditions in a way that is detrimental to the parents and the kids. I didn’t find it entertaining, but rather disturbing and anger-provoking. This book about motherhood is sure to invoke some lively conversation.

The scenarios and treatment of mothers and kids were strange and unreasonable. It was just not a great story for me at this point in the pandemic.

Find This Book In Read with Jenna Book Club / Modern Dystopian Novels

The Light Pirate (GMA Book List) and other December 2022 Celebrity book Club spoilers

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

December 2022 GMA Book Club Pick

Set in the not-so-distant future, this dystopian novel describes a world where climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet.

Wanda is born during her namesake hurricane, to a mother who dies on the same night. As Wanda grows, she has to deal with the worsening landscape of a world dying around her.

As she tries to survive, she also has to navigate relationships with loved ones and the surrounding community.

Find this book in Thought-Provoking Books Best Books for Book Clubs / Dystopian Novels

Classic Dystopian Novels: The Big Three

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel is one of the most well-known pieces of modern literature but I hadn’t read it! I don’t usually gravitate to books like this, but I had heard so many people speak about the relevancy of this novel today.

It’s so true. This sci-fi book offers a grim look at our future if our society continues down the road of this technology obsession we seem to have.

Guy Montag is a fireman whose job is to destroy anything illegal including books. People are expected to spend the day with their television. When he meets a new young neighbor, he begins to question everything he has learned.

Why We Love This Book: This is a dystopian novel that was ahead of its time. Not only does this book stand the test of time, but more than 60 years after its publication, it is even more relevant to our society and our obsession with technology.

brave new worl

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I won’t say how many years it has been since I read this book. But I will tell you that I haven’t forgotten any of it. It is one of those thought-provoking books that will have you thinking about it for years to come.

Set in a future in which all humans are genetically bred to uphold a particular place in society without question, the cost has been freedom in all aspects of the word.

Why We Love This Book: This dystopian novel was published in 1932 and more than 90 years later, it is more true than it ever was. When the book was published, genetic engineering was a thing of sci-fi novels and now, this book reads more like an anti-how-to guide.

1984

1984 by George Orwell

This dystopian novel was published in 1949, just 4 years after the end of WWII. Therefore, it is not surprising that this novel centers around totalitarianism and a state he modeled after Nazi Germany.

This book takes place in an imagined 1984 in which the world is in a constant state of war. This is where the term Big Brother originated. Of all the big three dystopian novels, to me, this one is the scariest and the darkest. That is probably because everything he wrote was based on something that had happened already- we just got an alternate ending.

Must-Read Dystopian Novels

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood  and more great Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 

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 valued only if their ovaries are viable.

Offred remembers when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge, her husband Luke, and her daughter But all of that is gone now….

Why We Love This Book: This dystopian novel is scary because of how convincing it is. There is a reason this novel by Canadian Author, Margaret Atwood, has won awards. It will make you think differently about everything.
Find This Book in Thought-Provoking Books / Book Adaptations on Netflix / Dystopian Novels

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert

I read this sci-fi book after I watched the first movie. The movie was surprisingly true to the first half of the book and I cannot wait to see the second movie which is in theatres now.

Twenty thousand years in the future, humans live on multiple planets. The most important substance is called Spice. It is a psychedelic substance that is the only thing that allows for space travel and it is found in only one place, Dune. As forces fight for control of Spice, they are also fighting for existence and continuing their way of life. This is the first in a dystopian novel series of six books

YA Dystopian Novels

hunger games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the first book in the Hunger Games series and it is epic! In the aftermath of what was once North America, there are 12 Districts surrounding the capital.

Each year, each district sends one boy and one girl to fight to the death in a competition called “The Hunger Games”. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute to save her younger sister, Prim, from certain death in the games where it is kill-or-be-killed.

Why We Love This Book: This sci-fi book has everything but at its heart, it is a book about family, love, and survival. This young adult book has a heart while making you turn the pages!
Find this book in Books Like the Hunger Games / Young Adult Fantasy Series / Books About Sisters / Sci-Fi Books / Books Like Fourth Wing / YA Dystopian Novels

the selection 1

The Selection by Kiera Cass

We have talked about this series so many times for a reason.  It is so much fun- think Hunger Games meets the Bachelor. It’s a reality TV royal match-making contest in a dystopian world.

But, in this case, the bachelor also happens to be the future king.  Can you imagine if William held a contest to see who would be the future princess?

Why We Love This Book: This is one of our favorite books about royals. It also happens to be the reason that Beyond the Bookends exits, but that is an entirely different story.
Find this book in Books Like The Selection / Ultimate List of YA Fantasy / Books Like ACOTAR / Books Like the Hunger Games/ YA Dystopian Books

The Uglies

The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally is about to turn 16, the time when every teen will undergo radical and high-tech surgery to make them unnaturally beautiful. Before the surgery, teens are sequestered because of how ugly they are to look at.

When Tally’s best friend runs away to live with a group of people who have rejected the surgery, her life takes a spin. She must choose to track down her friend and betray her or live as “an ugly” for the rest of her life.

It took me a while to wrap my head around just how messed up this society is but I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Find this book in Young Adult Dystopian Novels / Books Like The Hunger Games

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Set in a dystopian world, the main character Jonas is special because he is the receiver. In his Idyllic community, he is the one who holds the secrets.

This Newberry Award-Winning classic book for kids is one of the most influential novels of our time and one of the best sci-fi books of all time. Interestingly, the Hunger Games has been added to many curriculums to look at dystopian worlds in addition to this sci-fi book. If you love classic sci-fi books, this pick is a must-read.

Find this book in Books Like the Hunger Games / YA Dystopian Novels

What is a Dystopian Novel

A dystopian novel is a book that is centered around a society that is full of injustice. Many dystopian fiction novels have a strong interplay with science fiction since these books often take place in the future and depict a post-apocalyptic world.
Dystopian Novels like the big three, often have a social commentary as well.

Young adult dystopian novels

Young Adult Dystopian Novels

Do you love dystopian novels, we have a list of our favorite YA dystopian novels you will love.

What is your favorite dystopian novel?

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