The 10 Best Utopian Books to Read Now

Utopian literature has been a staple of human imagination for centuries. From ancient Greek philosophers envisioning a perfect society to modern writers exploring alternative worlds, utopian fiction provides readers with thought-provoking glimpses into worlds that could be, should be or might have been. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 of the best utopian books to read now, delving into the defining characteristics, origins, and classic works of the genre, as well as exploring its feminist perspectives and dystopian counterparts.

The 10 Best Utopian Books to Read Now

Defining Utopian Literature

Utopian literature is a subgenre of speculative fiction that imagines an ideal society, typically set in a future, alternate, or fictional world. The word “utopia” itself was coined by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book, “Utopia,” and is derived from the Greek words “ou” (not) and “topos” (place), meaning “no place” or “nowhere.” This designation highlights the often elusive and unattainable nature of these perfect societies.

Utopian literature has captured the imagination of many readers, as it offers a glimpse into a world that is often vastly different from our own. These works of fiction allow readers to explore what could be possible if society were to prioritize different values and goals. They offer a chance to examine our own society and question its flaws and limitations.

Characteristics of Utopian Fiction

Utopian fiction often explores a wide range of themes, as each author envisions their unique version of a perfect society. However, several common characteristics can be found throughout the genre.

One of the most prominent characteristics of utopian literature is the idea of equality. In these societies, everyone is considered equal, regardless of their race, gender, or social status. This is often achieved through a system of communal ownership and shared resources.

Sustainability is another important characteristic of utopian literature. These societies prioritize the preservation of the environment and the responsible use of resources. They often use advanced technology to achieve this goal, such as renewable energy sources and efficient waste management systems.

Social harmony is also a key feature of utopian societies. In these worlds, people live in peace and cooperation, with little to no conflict or violence. This is often achieved through a system of democratic decision-making, where everyone has a say in how the society is run.

Utopian literature has often addressed the pressing issues and concerns of the time it was written, offering solutions or alternative paths for society to follow. For example, in the early 20th century, many utopian works focused on the idea of a socialist utopia, where wealth and resources were shared equally among all members of society.

The Evolution of Utopian Literature

Over time, utopian literature has evolved, branching out into various subgenres and purposes. Early utopian works often served as a platform for social reform or political critique, while later works explored different concepts surrounding societal norms and values.

One such subgenre is feminist utopian literature, which imagines a world where gender equality is achieved and women have equal rights and opportunities. This subgenre emerged in the 1970s and has since become an important part of the larger utopian genre.

Another subgenre is ecological utopian literature, which focuses on the preservation of the environment and the responsible use of resources. These works often explore the consequences of environmental degradation and offer solutions for a more sustainable future.

A significant development in utopian literature came with the counterpart of dystopian fiction, which presents a dark and negative vision of the future. This contrast offers a rich exploration of the often blurred line between utopia and dystopia. It also allows readers to consider the potential consequences of a seemingly perfect society.

Overall, utopian literature offers a fascinating and thought-provoking look at what could be possible if society were to prioritize different values and goals. These works of fiction challenge us to imagine a better world and consider the steps we can take to achieve it.

The Origins of Utopian Fiction

Though the term “utopia” was not coined until the early 16th century, the concept of an ideal society can be traced back even further. Two key works in the development of utopian literature, which continue to influence the genre today, are Plato’s “Republic” and Thomas More’s “Utopia.”

Plato’s Republic

The Republic

Written around 380 BCE, “The Republic” by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato is often considered one of the earliest utopian works. In this dialogue, Plato’s teacher Socrates and his companions discuss the nature of a perfect society and the role of the philosopher as a ruler. The work focuses on themes such as justice, politics, and education, laying the groundwork for future utopian fiction.

Plato’s “Republic” is a fascinating work that delves into the concept of justice and the ideal society. In the book, Plato explores the idea that the ideal society would be one in which everyone had a specific role to play, and everyone worked together for the common good. The philosopher-king, according to Plato, would be the ideal ruler, as they would be guided by wisdom and reason rather than self-interest. Plato’s ideas about education are also explored in “The Republic,” with the philosopher arguing that education should be geared towards producing individuals who are capable of critical thinking and who are able to see beyond the surface level of things.

Thomas More’s Utopia


Thomas More’s “Utopia,” published in 1516, is the work that gave the genre its name. More presents his ideal society in the form of a fictional island named Utopia, where social harmony and cooperation are highly valued. Addressing issues such as property ownership, religious freedom, and education, the text provides a critical commentary on the social, political, and economic issues of More’s time, serving as both an inspiration and cautionary tale for future utopian works.

More’s “Utopia” is a fascinating work that provides a glimpse into an ideal society. In his book, More presents a society in which everyone works together for the common good, and in which there is no private property or greed. The people of Utopia are highly educated, and are able to pursue their interests and passions without fear of persecution. More’s work is often seen as a critique of the society of his time, which was marked by corruption, greed, and inequality.

Overall, the works of Plato and More have had a profound impact on the development of utopian literature. Their ideas about the ideal society continue to inspire writers to this day, and their works remain relevant as we continue to grapple with issues of justice, politics, and education.

Classic Utopian Novels

The legacy of early utopian works can be seen in the classic novels of the genre, which explore the possibilities of human civilization and offer alternative visions for society. Here are three classic utopian novels to consider adding to your reading list:

Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

Looking Backward: Illustrated

Looking Backward: 2000-1887” by Edward Bellamy, published in 1888, tells the story of a man who falls asleep in 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000. The protagonist discovers a transformed society where wealth is equitably distributed, technology is advanced, and citizens are provided with housing, education, and healthcare. Bellamy’s optimistic vision gained a large following and inspired numerous social reform movements at the time.

H.G. Wells’ A Modern Utopia

A Modern Utopia (Illustrated)

A Modern Utopia,” published in 1905 by the accomplished science fiction author H.G. Wells, presents a blueprint for a perfect society that spans the entire planet. The story follows two travelers who find themselves in an alternate world where global governance, advanced technology, and social harmony are a reality. Shortly after its publication, Wells’ influential work contributed to the debates surrounding socialism and utopian thinking in his era.

Aldous Huxley’s Island


Island,” written by Aldous Huxley in 1962, is often seen as the utopian counterpoint to his dystopian novel, “Brave New World.” The book tells the story of an Englishman who becomes stranded on the fictional island of Pala, where inhabitants practice a combination of Eastern and Western philosophies to create a harmonious, peaceful society. In this work, Huxley uses the setting of a utopian community to explore themes like the environment, education, and the use of drugs for spiritual growth.

Feminist Utopian Works

Feminist utopian literature focuses on envisioning worlds where women have equal rights, freedom, and opportunities. These works examine and challenge prevailing gender norms while exploring alternative visions of society. Here are three influential feminist utopian novels:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland

Herland (1915) (includes 'The Yellow Wallpaper')

First published as a serial in 1915, “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is an early feminist utopian classic. The novel tells the story of three men who discover a hidden, all-female society, where women live in harmony, free from patriarchy and war. As the men learn about Herland’s culture and customs, the book critiques the gender norms and inequality of the world outside its borders.

Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time

Woman on the Edge of Time: A Novel

In Marge Piercy’s 1976 novel “Woman on the Edge of Time,” a Latina woman named Connie Ramos experiences visions of a future society where gender, race, and class distinctions have been eradicated. As Connie grapples with her own struggles, the novel weaves together themes of social justice, feminism, and mental health, offering a radical portrayal of an egalitarian, ecologically sustainable future.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle)

Published in 1974, “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin presents an anarchist, gender-neutral society on the moon of Anarres, contrasting it with the capitalist society on the neighboring planet of Urras. The novel follows a physicist named Shevek as he struggles with the cultural, political, and moral differences between the two worlds, while also tackling themes like power dynamics, autonomy, and revolution. Although not strictly utopian, Le Guin’s work offers a unique perspective on the possibilities and challenges of alternative societies.

Dystopian Counterparts

As utopian literature envisions the best of humanity, its counterpart dystopian literature warns of the worst. Delving into the darker side of speculative fiction, these novels explore the potential consequences of political, social, and technological advancements gone wrong, cautioning against the fine line between utopia and dystopia.

The Thin Line Between Utopia and Dystopia

Utopias and dystopias often share many common themes and may even begin with similar premises. However, while utopian literature presents the realization of the ideal society, dystopian works depict the disastrous consequences of striving for such a society, exploring themes like totalitarianism, loss of individuality, and environmental collapse. This dynamic duality allows for diverse and thought-provoking explorations of the human condition.

George Orwell’s 1984

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One of the most famous dystopian novels of all time, “1984” by George Orwell, paints a chilling picture of a society under the absolute control of a totalitarian regime. Published in 1949, this work explores themes of surveillance, propaganda, and the manipulation of history. A cautionary tale, “1984” forces readers to confront the potential consequences of unchecked governmental power and arouses deep reflections on the relationship between utopia and dystopia.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

The Brave New World Collection: Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited

Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932, presents a dystopia where citizens are manipulated through eugenics, drugs, and conditioning to blindly accept the moral and political system. On the surface, this society appears as a utopia, with its technological advancements and widespread happiness. However, as the novel delves into the character’s personal struggles, the reader discovers the dark price paid for this apparent perfection.

Utopian literature remains a powerful and fascinating genre that explores the human imagination’s potential to envision a better world. From its origins in ancient Greece to its continued evolution through feminist and dystopian works, these 10 compelling books offer readers a thought-provoking journey into the best and worst possibilities of humanity.


What does utopia mean?

Utopia describes an imagined environment or society in which everything is flawless. There is no conflict or crime. However, there is usually a darker side to these perfected communities.

What genre does utopian fiction belong to?

Both utopian and dystopian fiction belongs to the speculative fiction genre. This genre is built on the exploration of political, economic, and social structures.

Who writes utopian fiction?

There are several popular utopian fiction writers, including Ursula K. Le Guin and Lois Lowry. Thomas More introduced the world to the concept of utopia in his fifteenth-century novel of the same name. 

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