7 Books Like The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood (Dystopian Fiction)

If you’re somebody who enjoys dystopian fiction, then the chances are that you’ve read the cult classic by Margaret Atwood – A Handmaid’s Tale.

Popular from its literary origins, it shot to even further fame with a small screen adaptation.

Books Like The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood (7Dystopian Fiction Book Recommendations)

A story of life in Gilead where a totalitarian society now rules and women are considered property of the state, it’s one of the most shocking and humbling works of fiction in this genre.

If this sounds enticing to you, then you should definitely check out some other books that are of a similar tone, such as The Water Cure, The Power or The Testaments. Want to learn more about these? Check out our list of 7 books like The Handmaid’s Tale below!

Themes In The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

When it comes to analyzing great works of literature, we must examine the key themes that the novel contains.

As we mentioned, The Handmaid’s Tale is based in a dystopian society set in the future, where women are classified as state property.

So, the first theme we must note here is oppression – but as the novel progresses, a connective theme is also rebellion.

Indeed, these two themes feed into one another as the natural order of the story continues.

Another theme is survival. Due to how society now operates, the fight for survival is much different from our own world – but the novel allows us to put ourselves into the fictional scenario that we read here.

Due to the nature of this novel, a third theme that is explored is fertility.

Due to the fact that this new world forces women to be concubines, the role of women and certainly gender roles as a whole is examined acutely.

Regardless of the wishes of the woman, they are forced to have children or face their demise. Resultedly, we find another theme come to light, which is social engineering.

Many dystopian novels explore social engineering, but The Handmaid’s Tale intertwines religion along with it (If you like stories with themes of religion, check out Books Like The Rook).

Gilead’s society is entirely heterosexual and women must bear children. In fact, anything that is against their religion is outlawed.

Along with these major themes, the novel also looks at areas like love, faith and bonds based through trauma and horrendous experiences.

Indeed, if you have not yet read Atwood’s, arguably, most famous book – then you certainly need to!

But of course, there are many novels like it. Let’s explore other titles that are similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in terms of their themes and voice.

Books Like The Handmaid’s Tale

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

The Testaments: A Novel (The Handmaid's Tale)

Where else would be better to kick off our list of similar novels than the massively anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

If you’ve read the predecessor, then you’ll be aware of the cliffhanger ending we were left with.

15 years have passed since Offred got into the black van and her fate still remains unknown.

But in this edition to the series, we are taken through the narration by three people; Aunt Lydia, Daisy and Agnus.

Each one of these characters has their own perspective, experiences and tone of voice which are unique, and it gives the book a well rounded and at times, a conflicting reader response.

Much like the previous novel, The Testaments remains suspenseful, dark and eerie – with much of the previous themes still present and powerful.


  • Continuation to the previous novel
  • Fast paced
  • Powerful storyline


  • Requires previous reading to understand the characters and their development

Themes: Trauma, social engineering, gender role, religion, faith, power and rebellion.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

The Power

One of the biggest concepts of The Handmaid’s Tale is the way in which women are treated and how their roles are perceived in society – albeit forcibly.

The Power offers a similar vision for gender roles and how it operates, but this time, women are the dominant gender.

This best-selling novel from 2016 imagines a world in which women have discovered they have a superpower over men.

Women learn how to utilize this newfound power, which garners a form of electricity to force men into obedience.

Interestingly, Margaret Atwood is cited as Naomi Alderman’s mentor whilst writing this thrilling take on a new society, which is likely why there are so many similarities in terms of its themes.


  • Intriguing vision to a gender reversed world
  • Sees Attwood’s tone throughout shine through
  • Tense at times


  • Can be too “sci-fi” driven for some readers

Themes: Gender roles, power, anger and revenge, new vs old.

The Water Cure – Sophie Mackintosh

The Water Cure: A Novel

This debut novel from Sophie Mackintosh was nominated for a Booker prize, and in fact, Magaret Atwood expressed her admiration for this glorious work of fiction.

The book follows a story of three sisters living on a remote island with their parents.

The mainland is inhabitable – and this is due to a disaster likely caused by men which led to huge levels of toxicity.

The only way these three sisters can be protected from such contamination is through wild tests which the parents must carry out on their children.

When the girls’ father disappears mysteriously, three other men appear on the island and this is when the three girls’ previous upbringing and strict rules start to come apart.

The novel is written through each of the girls’ views, allowing the reader to fully explore the feelings, thoughts and fears of each character.

It’s truly a beautiful take on how life would be in this sort of scenario, and the tone is incredibly dark but dreamy at the same time.


  • Excellent pacing throughout
  • You can put yourself in the scenario easily
  • Easy to follow story


  • Some areas of the story are not fully explained or fleshed out

Themes: Disaster, fear, power, gender roles and love.

Severance – Ling Ma

Severance: A Novel

Severance is highly unique in its take on a dystopian society. A virus known as the Shen Fever has taken hold of society, which causes the population to act like zombies.

While they are not the “undead”, they become drones stuck in a loop of cleaning and cooking.

The protagonist Candace Shen, a pregnant woman in her twenties, finds herself with a group of survivors who are heading towards a place known as the Facility, where they hope to find safety from the raging virus.

Throughout the novel though, Candace’s perspective shifts from the reality she faces now and her past which has led her to this point.


  • Excellent character development
  • Interesting take on dystopia
  • Keeps you gripped


  • Heavily influenced by the horror genre

Themes: Capitalism, desperation, societal roles, apocalypse and nostalgia.

Parable Of The Sower – Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower (Parable, 1)

This is an especially haunting novel which explores a world where racism is now the norm.

It follows a young black girl called Lauren Oya, who lived in a gated community within Los Angeles – until it was attacked.

Society has become totalitarian, and while all hope appears to be lost for those who are not considered as the “norm”, Lauren Oya has a very kind and empathetic heart which she hopes can change the way that people see others.

A powerful look at societal attitudes towards women and race, Parable Of The Sower humbles the reader and makes you think of your own perception of society as a whole.


  • Beautifully crafted story of racial inequality
  • Powerful storytelling
  • Fits in well to Attwood’s style


  • The pace often slows down too much for some readers

Themes: Race, societal roles, domination, fear, familial love.

Women Talking – Miriam Toews

Women Talking

Canadian author Miriam Toews provides a frightening take on how life could be – but she does so by drawing on real life events and history.

Set in a Bolivian colony and following the stories of Mennonite women, this is a shocking novel of male domination and fear.

The Mennonite women discuss if they should flee as the cruel society they live in is becoming more and more highlighted.

They hear terrifying stories of women being raped and medicated and become scared for their own futures.

The women’s pain, agony and internal strife shines through in Toews’ writing, showing the reader the true nature of cruelty that a society like this can oppose upon people.


  • Very realistic story
  • Strong storyline
  • Difficult to put down!


  • Can trigger some readers due to the influences from reality

Themes: Fear, dominance, subservience, power, gender roles.

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed: A Novel (Hainish Cycle)

While this novel has many similarities to Atwood’s exploration of a new world and how gender expectations are viewed, The Dispossessed is in many ways the polar opposite in terms of a narrative.

This story is set on a different planet, where men and women are entirely equal, ranging from their expectations to how gender and relationships are viewed.

All types of relationships are not only accepted, but encouraged.

This society and indeed Le Guin’s take on it, help the reader to envisage how equality could look when it is not governed and commanded by a Capitalist society.


  • The mood shifts in a very well constructed way
  • A brand new story arc
  • Characters are believable


  • A lot of adult themes make it unsuitable for some readers

Themes: Equality, relationships and love, politics.

Final Thoughts

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the greatest takes on a dystopian society and is a fascinating read that many lovers of the genre will want to read over and over again.

However, as we have seen – there are many books out there that share the themes and tones.

We hope our list has been helpful to you and you enjoy reading some of these fantastic works of literature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly Does Dystopian Mean?

Dystopian refers to an imagined society or state where injustices and tyranny is the norm.

How Many Books Are In The Handmaid’s Tale Series?

There are only 2 – The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.

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Noah Burton