50 Dystopian Books To Read Now

From Akira to Zone One.

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A selection of dystopian books.

It’s understandable if you’re feeling pretty hopeless right now, as most of the issues facing society — from the coronavirus pandemic to Russian aggression in Ukraine — are largely out of your control. But reading about terrible things can sometimes make you feel more prepared to face them, so if you’ve got the stomach for it, consider picking up a dystopian book.

The history of dystopian fiction stretches back more than 500 years, and in that time, it’s earned a reputation for highlighting inequality and cruelty. Common features include human rights abuses, widespread government surveillance, totalitarianism, corporatocracy, and apocalyptic scenarios like rampant climate change or nuclear fallout. Many of the most famous dystopian novels, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, end with their heroes failing to effect any meaningful change.

It’s no surprise, then, that readers have really latched onto dystopian fiction over the course of the last decade — when Americans were juggling their feelings about the Trump administration, pandemic, and the rising tide of climate change.

Below, 50 dystopian books to read now.

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In the world of Akira, Tokyo was leveled in 1988 — an attack that set World War III in motion. Nearly 40 years later, Japan is controlled by a fascist government, and the streets of its new capital, Neo-Tokyo, are run by motorcycle gangs. Kaneda, the leader of one such gang, is thrust into the middle of a government conspiracy when his friend, Tetsuo, encounters an Esper: a child with psychic abilities. That run-in stirs Tetsuo’s own latent psychic powers, making him a government target. While trying to keep Tetsuo safe, Kaneda also finds himself drawn into an anti-fascist resistance group through his burgeoning relationship with a young woman named Kei.


American War

Omar El Akkad’s debut novel imagines the United States at the close of the 21st century, when the country has been literally reshaped by climate change and old tensions are simmering to a boil. After a ban is placed on fossil fuels, a trio of Deep South states retaliate, sparking the Second American Civil War.


Battle Royale

In the years following World War II, the fascist Republic of Greater East Asia — formerly the Empire of Japan — kidnaps 9th graders and pits them against each other in a wilderness battle to the death. Armed with few supplies and little training, a handful of teens from Kagawa Prefecture plot out a subversive counterattack.


Bitch Planet

Inspired by the prison exploitation films of the 1960s and ’70s, Bitch Planet weaves its way through the lives of women living behind bars in the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost — all of whom have been sent away from “good society” for the crime of being “non-compliant.”


The Book of M

Ory and Max have done their best to avoid the Forgetting — a rapidly spreading disease that steals people’s shadows and their memories. But it eventually comes for them, too, and Max loses her shadow. She leaves before she forgets her husband, so Ory goes on a mission to find her — and winds up chasing a cure for the Forgetting.



Rachel, a scavenger, and Wick, a drug-maker and dealer, eke out a modest living in a half-destroyed city. The city is also home to Mord: a giant, flying Bear that the Company — a nefarious biotech conglomerate — once subjected to a series of cruel experiments. It’s in Mord’s fur that Rachel finds Borne, a tiny creature that may be a Company experiment himself.


The Broken Earth Trilogy

In the Stillness, earthquakes are all too common — and yet, those with the power to control seismic activity are feared and reviled, not celebrated. This prejudice only increases when an apocalyptic quake opens a wide, ash-spewing rift in the continent, and life in the Stillness is turned on its head. Against this supernatural, post-apocalyptic backdrop, a persecuted woman sets out to avenge the death of one child and rescue another.


The Children of Men

The Children of Men imagines a world in which political indifference — and humanity’s sudden inability to reproduce — has paved the way for a tyrannical government to rise in the UK. With the world falling apart around him, Theo, a professor at Oxford, becomes involved with a resistance movement aimed at improving life in the country.


The City & the City

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, the twin cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma overlap, but — through political pressure and their personal senses of pride — the citizens of these two separate metropolises pointedly ignore one another. To acknowledge a person from the other city is to risk arrest by Breach, the secret police who enforce the boundary between them. Against this strange backdrop, a police detective looking into a young woman’s death must travel from Besźel to Ul Qoma when his investigation yields surprising results.


The Doloriad

After a climate change-related apocalypse nearly destroyed humanity, the Matriarch took it upon herself to repopulate the Earth with her brother. She rules over her family as their unquestioned leader, but their faith in her infallibility is shaken when she sends one of her daughters to wed another survivor — only to have the young woman crawl back home from the far side of the city.


The Farm

In many ways, the Farm looks like a dream getaway, complete with organic food, wellness coaches, and — best of all — big, fat paychecks for every attendee who completes its 9-month program. But for the pregnant people living there, waiting to deliver their babies into the arms of wealthy, waiting families, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.



Orla, a clickbait writer, and Floss, a wannabe influencer, would give anything to be famous. Thirty-five years later, a woman named Marlowe is trapped in a grim version of their dream. As a government-appointed celebrity, she lives in a closed-off village where her every move is tracked on camera. Moving between Orla and Floss’ lives and Marlowe’s, Followers examines where our obsession with fame could conceivably lead.


Future Home of the Living God

Set in a near-future world where evolution appears to be running in reverse, Future Home of the Living God centers on Cedar, a young Ojibwe woman adopted into a white family. When Cedar becomes pregnant and learns that she may deliver a much-sought-after “normal” child, she sets off on a search for her birth mother, seeking to learn more about her own origins.



The occupying forces of Godolia rule the Badlands with an iron fist, terrorizing the public with giant mecha. As a Gearbreaker, Eris specializes in breaching these robots and destroying them from the inside. She’s not invincible, though, and when one of her attacks goes wrong, Eris winds up in a Godolia prison — where she meets a mecha pilot named Sona. Eris is prepared to hate this new acquaintance, but when she learns what Sona’s true goals are, she finds herself falling in love — and formulating a new plan of attack.


The Good Luck Girls

Charlotte Nicole Davis’ dystopian western follows a tight-knit group of trafficked young women — the daughters of poor sharecroppers — who must flee north. If they are to secure their freedom, the Good Luck Girls must traverse a haunted, treacherous landscape to find a mysterious woman with the power to remove their magical brands.


Hell Followed With Us

Benji’s on the run. After the colony of white evangelical terrorists he grew up in started the apocalypse, they injected Benji — a young trans man — with Seraph: a biological weapon that will put him in the driver’s seat of the Armageddon purge. He tried to flee the terrible destiny they thrust upon him, but with the Seraph already beginning to change him, Benji isn’t sure how much time he has before he becomes a liability to the LGBTQ+ group who took him in.


Hunting by Stars

When they learn that Native American people can still dream — an ability nearly everyone in the country has lost — U.S. government officials hatch a plot to steal Indigenous children’s capacity for dreaming, which is rumored to lie in their bone marrow. Against this grim backdrop, French, a 17-year-old boy whose birth family was destroyed by the revival of residential schools, is kidnapped from his found family, leaving them with no choice but to launch a rescue effort.


The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

In the wake of a natural catastrophe, the Australian government attempts to rout a generation of children with supernatural powers. The kids, labeled as “Illegals” in the official record, form Tribes in the wilderness to avoid landing in government detention facilities. But when a Tribe’s leader falls into the government’s hands — and is subjected to memory-harvesting program, with the aim of discovering her group’s location — her Tribe will be put to the ultimate test.


Iron Widow

The lands outside the Great Wall are dangerous, controlled by mecha aliens that can only be defeated by the Huaxia military’s own mechs. These giant mechs are operated by male pilots who form psychic links with female concubines, often killing the girls in the process. After her sister dies in this way, 18-year-old Zetian enlists in the military to seek revenge. But when Zetian kills a pilot, Huaxia sends in a controversial fighter, Li Shimin, to stop her from taking out more of its men.



Fifteen-year-old Day goes on the lam after he’s accused of murdering a powerful family’s son — but he’ll have a hard time staying hidden when everyone in the Republic knows who he is. That includes June, the sister of the murdered boy, who’s determined to avenge her brother’s death. When June and Day finally meet, though, they realize they’re involved in something much bigger — and more dangerous — than either of them ever imagined.



Society has collapsed in New England, thanks to a virus that targets people with high testosterone levels and turns them feral. Two trans women, Beth and Fran, survive by harvesting estrogen from the testicles of the diseased. But the virus isn’t all they have to worry about: A group of bloodthirsty TERFs is hunting down trans women, making an already precarious situation even more treacherous.


The Memory Police

Things are disappearing, and whatever is gone is meant to stay forgotten. Forgetting comes easier to some than others, however, and those cursed to recall what has been lost risk being arrested by the Memory Police. So when her editor becomes a target in a Memory Police investigation, a young writer invites him into her home to shield him from what almost seems inevitable.


Moon of the Crusted Snow

When they’re cut off from the outside world by the collapse of the power grid and cellular networks, members of a remote Anishinaabe community find themselves struggling to outlast the harsh winter. As the bonds between the band begin to fray, Evan Whitesky — an Anishinaabe father of two — finds himself taking on more and more responsibility, steering his people toward tradition in order to survive.



The quintessential cyberpunk novel, William Gibson’s Neuromancer follows Case, a “console cowboy” who hacked the wrong target and has been permanently locked out of cyberspace as a result. Taking a dangerous job may be the only way to return to the life he knows, but will it turn out to be worth the risk in the end?


Never Let Me Go

At Hailsham — a boarding school where young pupils study art, music, and civics — Kathy falls for Tommy, a classmate who is smitten with her friend Ruth. While Tommy and Ruth’s relationship blossoms, Kathy pines from the sidelines, forever the good friend. But after their world is rocked by a teacher’s confession, the trio struggle to maintain their old friendship dynamic as they transition into adulthood.



After a car crash left her severely injured, AO took advantage of everything science had to offer — not only to survive, but also to become stronger and faster than her family and neighbors. She doesn’t want any trouble, but things go sideways when she’s attacked by a mob in a zealous frenzy, and footage of her self-defense goes viral. Now on the run from the authorities, AO joins forces with DNA, a cattle herder who has also gone viral for all the wrong reasons. Together, they make their way toward a mythical city rumored to lie in the heart of a desert sandstorm, with the authorities hot on their heels.


The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Cee doesn’t remember anything about her old life. The deserted island she woke up on is all she knows. The island… and that she has a sister, Kay, waiting for her somewhere. On the other side of the sea, 16-year-old Kasey’s curiosity about her missing sister’s whereabouts gets the better of her, and she attempts to follow in Cee’s footsteps, hoping that the path she traces will lead to a happy reunion.


Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower — the first novel in a planned trilogy, left unfinished upon the author’s untimely death in 2006 — follows Lauren, a Black teenager living in a gated community run by her father, a Baptist minister. When her father disappears and the walls of their haven are breached, Lauren is forced to migrate across a harsh landscape where cannibalism, indentured servitude, and authoritarian politics reign supreme.


Phoenix Extravagant

In this science-fantasy novel from Ninefox Gambit author Yoon Ha Lee, an out-of-work artist named Gyen Jebi finds themself conscripted into the occupying government’s Ministry of Armor. Jebi’s new job is to paint magical sigils on the military’s robotic soldiers — sigils that power the automatons. It seems simple enough… until Jebi discovers a shocking secret about the government and the sigils, which leads them to transition from government agent to activist.


Queen of Teeth

Hailey Piper’s Bram Stoker Award-winning debut novel follows Yaya, a young woman who discovers she has grown teeth in her vagina — a phenomenon she assumes is the result of her exposure to an AlphaBeta Pharmaceutical product in utero. But when ABP comes after Yaya, and her vagina dentata begins to morph, she finds herself on the run, and on a collision course with a destiny she may not be able to control.


The Queue

An homage to Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law,” Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue centers on a group of citizens who — following new legislation passed in the aftermath of a failed coup — wait in a line outside a great Gate, seeking permission to go about their daily lives. One man has a bullet he cannot legally remove without making an official request. Another could save him, but he’ll have to break the law to do so.


The Resisters

Set in a near-future version of the United States — now called AutoAmerica — where the internet runs the show, Gish Jen’s The Resisters follows Gwen, a Blasian girl whose pitching arm could land her a place on the AutoAmerican Olympic team. But as the daughter of second-class citizens, Gwen is putting herself in a difficult position by playing ball with the elite — particularly as her mother’s high-profile court case against the country heats up.


The Seep

On the surface, The Seep changed everyone’s life for the better. This alien collective has connected most of humanity, allowing people to feel one another’s feelings and become whomever and whatever they want to be. But when Trina’s wife, Deeba, decides to be reborn as a baby and experience a trauma-free childhood, Trina finds herself questioning humanity’s reliance on Seep-tech.



Published in 2018, this eerily prescient novel follows Candace, a millennial office worker and blogger based in Manhattan, as she documents the city in the wake of a plague. While photographing the almost-abandoned streets, Candace encounters a group of survivors headed for a rumored safehouse. But is it safer to team up or go it alone?



After escaping her religious family’s compound, Vern struggles to build a safe life for herself and her twins in the outside world. When Vern begins to manifest strange new powers, however, her suspicions about the compound and its Reverend — Vern’s own husband, whose agents may still be chasing her — appear to be confirmed.


Shade’s Children

The world changed forever when the Overlords came. Now, children grow up microchipped and imprisoned, allowed to live only until their 14th birthdays, when they’re mutilated and transformed into the Overlords’ monstrous servants. A lucky few have escaped, but fewer still have found Shade: the last grownup on Earth, who trains his adopted children as resistance fighters in the sewers beneath a ruined city.


Station Eleven

Years after a deadly flu outbreak led to the end of American civilization as we know it, a troupe of Shakespearean actors keep humanity’s cultural legacy alive, performing for people living in small villages around the Great Lakes. Some time ago, they left heavily pregnant Charlie and her husband, Jeremy, behind to give birth in what seemed like a safe place. Now that they’re back, however, the troupe quickly realizes that Charlie and Jeremy are in danger — and they aren’t the only ones.


Survive the Dome

Amid a wave of protests, the Baltimore police deploy a giant Dome to trap everyone in the city and invoke martial law. With all roads leading in and out of Baltimore blocked, Jamal — a journalist who’s traveled from out of town to cover the demonstrations — must work together with a hacker and an AWOL police recruit to free the city. But what can they do when they learn the corruption runs deeper than they ever imagined?


Tears of the Trufflepig

In Fernando A. Flores’ Tears of the Trufflepig, vicious cartels begin selling “filtered” animals — that is, extinct species resurrected for human consumption. Esteban gets pulled into this illicit world after he accepts an invitation to an illegal dinner party. As he falls deeper down this rabbit hole, he learns something that should be impossible: the creatures out of Aranaña Indian lore really exist.


Tender Is the Flesh

Another dystopian novel dealing with food and plague, Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender Is the Flesh imagines a world in which humanity has resorted to cannibalism to survive. With animals virtually wiped out after they were found to carry a devastating virus, slaughterhouses now specialize in killing and processing “special meat”: humans bred specifically to be consumed. Against this backdrop, a slaughterhouse worker named Marcos must reckon with the ethics of his society when his employers give him a woman to feed his family.



After the Second Civil War, the United States adopts an almost unimaginable piece of new legislation, borne of a compromise between pro-choice and anti-abortion factions. Now, fetuses may not be terminated, but teenagers may be “unwound” — that is, have the vast majority of their organs and bodily systems harvested for sale or donation. In Unwind, three teenagers in imminent danger of having their organs harvested must band together to survive.



In this shockingly prescient YA novel, a world besieged by disease and pollution proves deadly to all but the most wealthy, who can afford the PPE necessary to keep themselves safe. Jason Zhou, an orphaned teenager, believes that PPE manufacturer Jin Corp may be responsible for the pollution, but when he sets out to take the company down, he finds himself stymied by his growing affections for the CEO’s daughter.


The Water Cure

Sisters Grace, Lia, and Sky were raised by their parents on an isolated island and taught to believe that the outside world was tainted and toxic. But when strange men turn up on the beach three days after their father goes missing, the sisters find themselves forced to confront lingering questions about their father’s teachings.



Published 25 years before George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We centers on D-503, a mathematician living in a city housed entirely in glass and governed by the totalitarian One State. When D-503 realizes that he has a soul, he becomes a government target.


We Set the Dark on Fire

Daniela’s parents risked everything to secure her spot at the Medio School, a program that prepares students to become sister-wives to the country’s most eligible young bachelors — a role that promises rare safety and comfort. But to do so, they had to fudge the truth about her background, and Daniela could be found out at any moment. To make matters worse, Daniela finds herself falling for someone who is not her husband... someone she’s forbidden to love.



Widowland imagines an alternate version of postwar London, in which the Axis Powers won World War II and now control the UK. Rose has adjusted to this new world order and now works at the Ministry of Culture, where she revises classic literature to bring it in line with Nazi principles. With the Leader set to visit the country soon, however, Rose’s job quickly shifts to espionage, as she’s sent undercover to investigate a potential security threat related to a vandalism outbreak.


Winter Tide

Decades after the U.S. government forcibly relocated the citizens of Innsmouth far from the sea — where their ancestors once lived and their god still sleeps — a survivor of the Innsmouth internment, Aphra, finds herself responsible for carrying out an FBI mission involving Cold War espionage in the hallowed halls of Miskatonic University.


The Women Could Fly

Josephine has grown up in a world where real-life witches are put on trial, and marriage is almost compulsory for women. At 28, she still doesn’t know what happened to her mom, who has been the subject of much gossip ever since she disappeared. But with her 30th birthday and marriage deadline fast approaching, Josephine will be forced to choose what she wants in life, even if it means making the best of a bad situation.


The Year of the Witching

As a mixed-race woman living in a society that forbids miscegenation, Immanuelle knows her family has never forgiven her — or her late mother — for her birth. Nevertheless, she has tried her best to adhere to the Prophet’s teachings and prove she can bring honor to her family. But when Immanuelle obtains her mother’s diary, she begins to question everything she knows about her home.


Zone One

Colson Whitehead’s Zone One takes place in the aftermath of a plague that has turned legions of humans into zombies. As the country begins to recover from this disaster, a provisional U.S. government launches an attack on Manhattan, where the living dead rule everything north of Canal Street. Most of the vicious zombies have already been routed, so civilian cleaners like Mark Spitz are supposed to have a pretty easy job ridding the city of mostly harmless “stragglers.” But Mark’s assignment proves to be anything but simple, and over the next 72 hours, he begins to wonder if beating back the living dead is at all possible.

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