The Best Dystopian Novels Of All Time (15 Book Recommendations)

I have discussed dystopian novels multiple times on this website, but each list is centered around one book or another.

The Best Dystopian Novels Of All Time (15 Book Recommendations)

Instead of influencing this recommendation collection, I’ll simply show all of the best dystopian novels in literature.

From classics like 1984 to new successes such as Wool, these stories reflect a tainted aspect of our current societies.


1984: 75th Anniversary

This novel, written by George Orwell, was first imaged in 1948.

In this version of our perceived future, Orwell saw London as a land of no new housing, and city-wide slums.

Science no longer serves the people, instead, it’s used to control them.

A Minister of Truth official has his life turned upside down when a mystery comes his way.

A woman he doesn’t know tells him she loves him, while a man tempts him into a place “where there is no darkness”.

As a Truth Minister, he cannot act against the state, and yet both intriguing invitations suggest a life outside of the emotional control he is under.


  • Intriguing concepts about how emotions are hiding in ourselves.
  • Big Brother is still relevant today.
  • Surprising romance.


  • Long paragraphs of exposition, typical of the 40s.


Wool: Book One of the Silo Series

Wool is the first in the Silo Series trilogy. The first book is actually a collection of short stories, but they each explore the same world. 

This world is a giant silo where thousands of people live 144 stories beneath the surface.

They cannot leave the silo because the outside world is toxic – or so the people have been told.

The story starts when the sheriff investigates his wife’s death. She was convinced the outside world was liveable, but her findings died along with her. 

This story explores the concept of freedom vs safety.


  • Interesting concepts about technology and freedom,
  • Emotional storyline,
  • Shocking balance of truth and betrayal,


  • Unusual structure due to the original short story design.

Red Rising

Red Rising (Red Rising Series Book 1)

Red Rising is another series, this time a 6 part collection. As a science fiction dystopian novel, we follow a caste system of people in space. The Golds rule the entire universe, while the Reds do all the hard labor.

The main character, Darrow, is Red. He wants to make life livable on Mars, and so toils beneath the surface like the rest of the Reds.

When he eventually reaches the surface, he realizes that Mars has been livable for generations, and a whole society of Golds has made a home there.

Darrow leads a rebellion against the Golds when he understands the true reason for their enslavement.


  • A Clear Message
  • Captivating
  • Immersive World


  • Relies on deus ex machina
  • Heavily descriptive

Brave New World

Brave New World

Brave New World was written in 1932, which means, like 1984, it has a lot of long paragraphs filled with descriptions.

It was the style of the time, which now seems sloppy and without control. 

However, leaving styles to one side, the story is still impactful.

In this society, everything has been perfected, from social expectations to job satisfaction.

Through listening to speeches in your sleep you can learn everything you need to know.

Each worker is told that they love their job and would hate to work anywhere else, creating job satisfaction among everyone.

The idea of relationships is disbanded, stopping jealousy and heartbreak from taking over one’s life. 

And if sadness did enter your mind, you can head to a chamber to get it zipped out of you.

Through psychological manipulation, everyone is happy but no one is free. In this story, the reader and the protagonist have to figure out which option they prefer.



  • Characters aren’t likable.

The Women Could Fly

The Women Could Fly: A Novel

In a similar fashion to Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler, Megan Giddings discusses social commentary.

The Women Could Fly specifically opens up the bond between women and the power which is forced into hiding.

The story starts with Josephine Thomas and her mother who has disappeared. Rumors start to fly – some believe she was murdered, and others say she was a witch.

In this world witches are real, and any woman (especially a black woman) who was acting suspiciously will be taken to trial for the craft.

As the rumors die down Josephine is forced into making a choice. She is almost 30 and either has to get married or allow herself to be monitored.


  • A thoughtful mix of Handmaid’s Tale and the Salem witch trials
  • Both whimsical and sad
  • Shows joy among women, even in survival mode


  • Long expositional paragraphs

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a thoughtful look at how women are perceived by men. How they are either display items or baby machines.

In this story, we follow Offred, a handmaid. She is allowed to leave the home she works in just once a day.

On that trip, she must collect food, but because women aren’t allowed to read, she must look for pictures instead of descriptions.

Once her walk has finished, she must lay down and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant.

In this world, births are declining, and this change forced society to adapt too.

Women were more valuable as baby makers than any other profession, and so were stripped of the right to choose.

If she cannot become pregnant, she is no longer useful.

This dystopian future is becoming more and more likely as women’s reproductive rights are being stripped. 


  • Scarily realistic
  • Balances real horrors with unexpected humor
  • A gripping story


  • Overly long sentences which can be confusing

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

The main character in this story is also someone we would recognize as “bad” today.

He is a firefighter, but instead of saving people from burning homes, his job is to destroy. His primary target? Books.

Guy Montag lives a boring life, he doesn’t question the choice around him or see any harm in them.

It isn’t until his new neighbor talks about the past and how people used to live.

They weren’t glued to their TV, watching people talk about nothing of importance. They instead read books which gave them clarity on life.

With this new perspective, Guy starts to question everything.


  • Insightful
  • This still holds true despite the 1953 publication date
  • Thought-provoking


  • Mistakes medium for message in its stark dislike for TV

Animal Farm

Animal Farm: 75th Anniversary Edition

This dystopian novel uses animals to make its point. The farm, run by humans, mistreats the animals.

They rebel against their captures and plan to make a new life for themselves. A paradise.

In their new life, there will be equality, justice, and progress towards healthier living.

However, once the rebellion succeeds, the road to peace and justice isn’t as easy.

This novel was originally targeting Russia and Stalinism, but it stands true for all societies. Can peace ever be found?


  • Clear characters
  • Easy to follow, despite the 1945 publication date
  • Cutting comedy


  • Grim ending

The End We Start From

The End We Start From

The title of this story has multiple meanings, but the first concept begins with our main character, Z.

As his mother goes into labor, the world around them is crumbling. An environmental crisis forces London underwater, and in the chaos, a child is born.

The story follows this family as Z begins his life when our world ends. It’s a story of new motherhood, instability, love, and despair.


  • Stunning prose which is almost poetic
  • Quick read
  • Thought-provoking


  • Vague in places

V For Vendetta

V for Vendetta

V For Vendetta is a graphic novel written in 1990. The story follows two main characters, V and Evie.

In this version of England, the country has become fascist. As an authoritarian state, the government does everything it can to keep controlling the people – including dictating the media, banning music, and refusing to allow people out at night.

In the story, V is aware of how deep the government control is, while Evie starts to peel back the real horrors of their lives.


  • Brings Guy Fawks to life
  • A shocking detective story
  • Fantastic twists


  • Some subplots are not explored in detail

The Road

The Road (Oprah's Book Club)

The road is a story about a father and son walking through America.

The land is burnt and turned to ash, while the cold is harsh enough to crack stone. Snow is gray, and the sky is never bright.

In this post-apocalyptic world, we don’t discover what happened, nor do we create a better society.

Instead, as hope leaves and the road remains, the novel discusses the drive to survive even when there is nothing to live for.


  • Emotive
  • Philosophical
  • Small scale


  • Repetitive

Station Eleven

Station Eleven: A Novel (National Book Award Finalist)

Station Eleven isn’t just a dystopian novel, it’s a suspenseful story that takes us through a typical day when a great change occurs.

The structure jumps from the past to the future and back again. It all begins when a famous Hollywood actor dies on stage during his performance of King Lear.

The story shows us what led to his death, what happens before the death, and how a traveling theater group wanders the wastelands from the wreckage.


  • Fantastic Imagery
  • Delicate storytelling
  • Page-turner


  • Slow to start

The Belles

The Belles (Belles, The Book 1)

In this world, some people have a gift. The gifted are known as Belles.

Belles are revered among the community, as they can control their own beauty as well as other people’s.

In Orleans, everyone is born gray. Being gray is the same as being damned. The only way they can be accepted or appreciated in life is by asking for the help of a Belle.

The main character, Camellia Beauregard, is a Belle, but this isn’t enough for her. She also wants to be the favorite Belle of the Queen.

She gets her wish and lives in the Royal Palace, but when she arrives, she uncovers a secret about her and her fellow Belle sisters.

These women are far more than beauticians, they have a power greater than anyone could imagine.

Dhonielle Clayton creates an amazing YA dystopian novel that touches on how society oppresses people by uplifting them.

These Belles believe they are the peak of society, and that boosted ego makes them blind to their potential.

Control through praise is very rarely discussed and yet Clayton shows us exactly what we are missing.


  • Unique story
  • Easy to read
  • Thought-provoking


  • “Bury your gays” trope

The Stand

The Stand (Movie Tie-in Edition)

The Stand was written by Stephen King, the famous horror writer.

This story is no different and continues in the horror genre, but it also steps into dystopian writing.

In this apocalyptic world, there was a plague that ravaged the land. Then the dreams came.

They talked to the people and warned that a dark man was coming – the Prince of Evil.

The plague was planned – a weapon of war. And now people need to choose between the personification of either good or evil.

In a Lord of the Rings-style epic fantasy, this novel follows Stu who happens to be immune to the virus.

As the “one ring to rule them all”, Stu needs to battle politics and figure out if he should help others or save himself.


  • Parallels with recent plagues
  • Lots of different characters create different points of view
  • Complex story


Buyers Guide To Dystopian Novels

There are two things you need to consider when choosing a dystopian novel – the story type and the year of publication.

Dystopian novels come in all shapes and sizes. Although they are written about the future, they always pull on aspects of our present.

When picking a novel, consider what issues you want to explore. Gender, classism, control, the environment.

The blurb will tell you what topic the story will dive into.

Secondly, when we talk about dystopian novels, classics like 1984 and Animal Farm often come to mind first.

In the 1940s, this genre was popularized largely due to the horrific wars and appalling decisions made in the name of politics.

In times like these, enriching stories appear to help everyone digest and understand the world they live in. 

Since the 2010s, dystopian novels have become popular again, and as our political landscape changes, we have new materials to shape our stories.

When picking a dystopian novel, consider the year they were made and what this means for the style of writing.

If a 1940s novel was put to a publisher today, it would be rejected as “unreadable”. Sentences of 100 words no longer make sense to current grammar guidelines.

These novels can be hard to understand, so only pick them up if you’re ready for heavy reading.


The best dystopian novels take on different aspects of our current society and show us how bad things can be if they continue.

There are millions of amazing dystopian stories to read, but the 14 above share unique tales.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Oldest Dystopian Novel?

The oldest known dystopian novel is ‘We’ by Yevgeny Zamyatin. It inspired George Orwell and Aldous Huxley to create their classics.

It warned of surrendering to a collective idea and denouncing individual freedoms.

YouTube video
Noah Burton