Need a new book to read? Look no further than this Best Dystopian Novels List! From the classics to the current popular best sellers, this list has them all!
It’s been a while in coming, but as promised we have been compiling a list of the Best Dystopian novels you have got to read! This project has been quite a while in the works. Because obviously, I have had to read all of these books. But that’s been a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Ok, so it was no sacrifice on my part. More a sacrifice on my family’s part as I get so absorbed into these books, I may not surface for hours on end. Just like when we released the Top Regency Romance Authors list, we need to include a disclaimer.
DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for unwashed laundry, hungry families, and dirty dishes in the sink. Please Read Responsibly.
So what does the Best Dystopian Novels list have to do with creating memories?
My mom always believed in reading. Reading to improve your mind and have a hobby of quality. She was always reading. Although her books of choice were more educational. She still believed that a love of reading was important.
I remember my mom working hard to help me find books that I could enjoy. She would take us religiously to the library every week in the summer. We participated in summer reading programs. We always had access to new books. She encouraged us to try different genres until we found what we loved.
My Mother instilled a love of reading that has never wavered. And it’s something I hope I can help to establish in my own children. But my mother always said the best way to teach is by example.
If kids see mom loving to read, it encourages them to love to read. And the best way to do that is by finding a genre you love. For me, that is Regency Romance and Dystopian Novels. So I like to keep a running list of my favorites to help others find the best books in the genre to enjoy.
Why the Best Dystopian Novels?
Dystopian is a very popular genre of books. But you may not have heard of the term Dystopian or what it refers to.
Actually, I have absolutely loved this genre of books but it wasn’t until 2009 that I had even heard of the term Dystopian. I just assumed the books I was reading were a mixture of political fiction, science fiction, and Young Adult fiction. I had no idea there was an actual genre name! And therefore it was hard for me to find books of this nature.
Once I discovered the term Dystopian, it became far easier for me to discover more books that fit this category!
Dystopian is an unpleasant (typically repressive) society, often propagandized as being utopian. Dystopian novels explore social and political structures and often times take events or movements the authors sees in our current society and takes it to an extreme and adds it to a repressive society.
The characters usually struggle against the repressive society and fight for freedom and liberty.
Almost always these Dystopian novels take place in a futuristic time period after another world war has brought our world to a brink of collapse and a new government has risen to form a “Utopian Society” that actually is oppressive.
Or they take place in a completely new science fiction world. But the basic plot is the same. A repressive society that crushes too hard against the people and a hero rises up to liberate.
There is usually a lot of character growth shown in these stories. And not always one that you like to see happen to the characters you come to love. These stories usually have a more emotional pull and are a more intense read. But they are also very rewarding and give you pause to think about what is really important.
Sometimes they deal with topics that aren’t quite child-friendly. Therefore I can’t recommend these books to young audiences. I am more restrictive about when I will allow my own kids read these books. They need to be mature enough to understand the struggles the characters face for life, liberty and freedom and the complex issues that are addressed in the stories.
A few of these stories are mild enough you can allow a 13-year-old to read, but most I would hold off until they are over 16 years old.
Now with all that out of the way, let’s get down to the good part. The Best Dystopian Novels of all time!
The Best Dystopian Novels of all time
Affiliate links are used to point you in the right direction to find the best dystopian novels that you might not already have on your shelves
** Special NOTE: this list will continually be updated as I discover new books to add to the list. Have a Dystopian Novel suggestion for me? Leave it in the comments below!**
The Alliance by Gerald Lund – this is one of the few novels on this list that I have allowed my 13-year-old son to read. It’s clean and basic enough that it deals with topics he can understand. But not too violent with more complex issues. This is a great intro book to the Dystopian genre.
“It’s eighteen years after the nuclear holocaust and the end of civilization as we know it. Survivors are being relocated to a new society known as the Alliance. It seems like a dream come true for many of the new citizens. Crime, as well as harmful emotions, such as anger and prejudice have been eliminated, because the Alliance has computerized control over it’s citizens from a computer chip that has been implanted in everyone. Eric Lloyd discovers the Alliance’s corrupt power structure and vows to destroy it.”
1984 by George Orwell. – this is actually my very first dystopian novel I ever read. I picked it up in college. And I was hooked. It is a more classic dystopian and not as easy a read. But still very much worth the effort. It does deal with more adult topics, so definitely restrict from younger readers.
“In 1984, London is a grim city where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.”
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. – This is a rather obvious choice, right? I mean it’s one of the most popular Dystopian novel trilogies ever, especially after the creating of The Hunger Games Movie.
But don’t be one of those people who only see the movie. You miss out on so much. The books are so much better and more in-depth. I’ve read them more than 4 times each!
The Trilogy books include;
- The Hunger Games
- Catching Fire
- The Mockingjay
“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when sheis forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.”
“Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.”
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth. The newest Veronica Roth book! And yes, it’s just as good as the Divergent Series!
“On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?”
This one is a little more science fiction in the story, but still full of the same great writing that had us in love with Divergent.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. – this is another classic Dystopian that has also been turned into a movie. But what is not well known is that The Giver is actually book 1 in a 4 book series! I absolutely loved the Giver. And it is one that a younger audience could read and enjoy. In fact, it is often a book read in many 6th grade classes. But it’s not complete unless you read all 4 books
- The Giver
- Gathering Blue
The Giver has won over 6 literary awards including the 1994 Newbery Medal. It is one I highly encourage everyone to read. It is another great book to introduce a new reader to the dystopian genre.
“When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run.”
While I absolutely loved the first book The Maze Runner, I wasn’t as much of a fan of the rest of the books in the series. I didn’t feel like the character grew through adversity, more that he became whinier as the story progressed. But to each their own opinion. Even not enjoying the rest of the books as much as I loved the first book, I still recommend reading them all to get the full effect of the story. Because you are left with a lot of unanswered questions after book 1 if you don’t.
Enders Game by Orson Scott Card – another book series where the first book is amazing but I wasn’t thrilled with the subsequent books. Although, this one you can read just Enders Game and not have a need to finish the series.
This one has also been turned into a movie. But the Movie is far inferior to the movie and you lose a lot of the context and purpose of the book.
“Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world”
Enders Game has also won the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
The Host by Stephanie Meyer. – Now before you freak out that this is the TWILIGHT author…let me explain. The Host is the book she wrote for adult audiences and is 100% FREE of vampires and teenage hormones running amuck. Though it does have a part of an alien experiencing human emotions and her struggle to find unity with the human existence.
“Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.”
I really enjoyed the Host because it is so very different from the Twilight series. It makes one ponder on the essence of what it means to be human.
Matched by Ally Condie – this trilogy has a great love story weaved into a typical dystopian struggle.
“Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.”
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – this series was a little more difficult to get into. But once I was immersed it really came alive. A classic Cinderella story in a dystopian climate with a flair of sci-fi. As the story proceeds to the follow-up books, you notice characters are pulled from other fairy tale classics like Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…”
The Lunar Chronicles includes the following books
A really fun read that is a little easier on young adult audiences, but still being true to the nature of the Dystopian genre.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – This was my first dystopian series that I ever read. And it did not disappoint! I found it to be a powerful and moving series that leaves a lot to ponder. Especially with our society so focused on appearances and our photoshop standard of beauty.
“Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.”
While I wasn’t as happy with the ending of Extras, I still place Uglies series on my utmost top favorite dystopian novels list. And I always highly recommend it to everyone.
The Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau – Don’t let the names bore you! This trilogy is a lot of fun to read and makes you think.
“It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.”
- The Testing
- Independent Study
- Graduation day
This trilogy pulled me in quickly and didn’t let me go until the last punctuation. The fact that it is not more popular is criminal!
The Selection by Kiera Cass – it’s like the Bachelor meets Dystopian! I loved this series!
“For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.”
- The Selection
- The Elite
- The One
- The Heir
- The Crown
This may not be the best Dystopian series for the male reader. It seems to be geared a bit more for the female reader. But Oh! Does it ever deliver for the female reader! Especially if you like The Bachelor or Bachelorette! I couldn’t put them down.
Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver – The Delirium series is like 1984 meets Romeo & Juliet. There are similarities and the struggle in a society that tries to eliminate emotions to have the perfect society.
“In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistakes. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?”
It poses the age old question – if we could eliminate dangerous passions could we create a better society? And how much control should we allow a society to have our freedoms?
Delirium series is 3 books:
Possible Best Dystopian Novels to come!
I try to give the best resources to all of you. So while putting this list together, I also did some crowdsourcing. I asked for other people’s recommendations of the best Dystopian Novels to read. These were the extra books that I haven’t read yet that were highly recommended. Which means these are now on my TO READ list! Once I read them if they are as amazing as they were recommended they will be advanced to the regular list and removed from this recommended list.
- Animal Farm (can you believe I’ve not read this yet? I was shocked I hadn’t read it yet! It’s very high on my TO READ list)
- Legend by Marie Lu
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
- These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
- Razorland by Ann Aguirre
- Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
- Partials by Dan Wells (series)
- Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix
- Shadow Children by Haddix (7 book series)
- Exodus (Raging earth) series by Julie Bretagne
- Life as We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
- The Adoration of Jenna Fox series by Mary E Pearson
- Missing Link series by Kate Thompson
- House of the Scorpion (Matteo Alacran series) by Nancy Farmer – multiple award winning book
- The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
- The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole
- Fahrenheit 451 – Gasp! Another classic I haven’t read yet! I’m so ashamed. 😉
- The 100 by Kass Morgan
- The City of Ember Jeanne DuPrau
- The Handmade’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Last Year series by Trisha Leigh
- Pawn by Aimee Carter
Many of these books are also available for FREE in the Kindle Unlimited Program. Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial!
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST DYSTOPIAN NOVELS?
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