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24 Dystopian Books That Will Suck You In And Make You Think

"A whole new world!" —Princess Jasmine, but also you.

Last month, we asked BuzzFeed Book Club members to share their favorite dystopian novels, in honor of our September selection, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook. Here are the books that people couldn't get enough of:

1. Arc of the Scythe trilogy by Neal Shusterman

Walker Books Ltd

I read Scythe a couple of years ago and have not stopped talking about it since. The concept is SO haunting and real... I know we often say "this could totally happen" with a lot of books, but I am definitely convinced that technology will advance faster than humans. While we may not need actual "agents of death," we very well might have a lot of societies' problems solved by computers before our human brains can get there. The writing is sharp and paints a very vivid picture of what's happening, and the main characters are interesting and compelling — the bad guys are truly bad, but you can see how they got that way. Power is a terrible drug sometimes! I highly recommend the series. —Leah Hart Tennen, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

2. The Power by Naomi Alderman

Little, Brown and Company

Wow. It's not a comfort read. It's not a rich exploration of character. It's not even a rich exploration of everything there is to say about oppression or prejudice. It's a single-minded novel in the grand tradition of 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale or Brave New World. It's illuminating but not didactic. Probing but not prescriptive. An exposure, not a screed. There's no easy answer to the question of how power is transferred and how power corrupts; I would've distrusted any book that tried to tell me otherwise. This is all The Power tried to tell me: The problem is not men. The problem is not women. The problem is humans. This is why. All of these words really just still mean WOW. —Maggie Stiefvater, Goodreads Review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

3. Wool by Hugh Howey

Simon & Schuster

It's the first book in the Silo series and sets the stage for what feels like a scarily realistic, post-apocalyptic future. While the book mainly follows the sheriff, you dig deeper into each character's role and the complexity of the Silo. The character development is phenomenal and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian fiction. —Marina Salom, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Vintage

As a teenager, I went through a period of reading a vast number of dystopian novels — this is the one that has continued to haunt me however. It's basically a book about the utopian ideal — everyone's happy, everyone has what they want, and EVERYTHING is based on logical principles. However, there is something very rotten at the heart. It's about how what we want isn't always what we should get. It looks at how state-sponsored "happiness" can entirely miss the point. Perhaps, most importantly, it makes the case for individual freedom rather than authoritarian diktat. I don't know why this should be, but I'll hazard a guess that as you get older, your idea of "happiness" becomes perhaps more complex, making the ideal of Brave New World even more disturbing. —Clare, Goodreads Review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

5. Severance by Ling Ma

Picador

In Severance, Ling Ma shares the story of Candace Chen, a self-described millennial worker drone who spends much of her life sequestered in a Manhattan office tower. Then, the Shen Fever hits, a plague that renders people into non-violent zombie versions of themselves, doomed to repeat the same rote tasks over and over until they become fully unconscious. While reading, I felt claustrophobic, trapped, and hooked into the story all at the same time — similar to how a lot of millennials feel within late-stage capitalism. Within this tight, gripping plot, Ma inserts commentary about the deadening, devastating effects of capitalism that strikes a skillful balance between serious and satirical. Every element of this story — the zombie apocalypse, Candace's coming-of-age, the dive into corporate life — all came together in a dark, entrancing, and unputdownable way. A quirky, cynical, yet important read that has made me think a lot about what matters most in my life. —Thomas, Goodreads Review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

6. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Ballantine Books

It is such a unique concept among dystopian plots: The character is unaware of the reality of the destruction around her because she thinks she's competing in a Survivor-like TV game show; it creates this amazing dissonance as you, the reader, know more than the character. It really puts you in the story and makes you think about what you would do in that crazy situation. I was hooked from page one and still think about the story over a year after reading it! —Meghan Howard-Hakala, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookstore.

7. New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit

An entirely believable creation of the world after the ocean rises and half of New York City is underwater. Characters are believable and interesting, which is hard to find in this kind of story. Highly recommend! —Nancy Newcomer, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

8. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Katherine Tegen Books

The characters are strong and rooted in feminism. I really could see the plot happening in our world. —Ashley Nagel, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

9. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

Anchor

I love it because after the first two books where there is so much struggle and violence, the third book shows resolution and revival. This book is hopeful, and it's more about the new world than the old world. I think that's why I like it so much. —Dixie Sampson, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

10. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Press

The first novel in the series is so brilliantly written, the plot never stalls, and the character arcs are both exciting and sad. Katniss is an exceptional role model for young women — actually, women of all ages — because she teaches you to defend what is right. Dystopian novels are so eerie because it feels like that could be our future at the drop of the hat — and I'm happy to have read this to prepare myself in case there ever are any hunger games in the future! (Though hopefully not!) —Elizabeth Kirk, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

11. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Anchor

Although it was published in 1985, so many of its themes are applicable to today's society and truly make you think, particularly in the current political and social climate. —Ashley Cooper, BuzzFeed Book Club


Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

12. The Selection by Kiera Cass

HarperTeen

The Selection is a dystopian novel, but it didn't seem so much like one to me, more like a Cinderella story. People have a caste system in this world that goes from one to eight, one being very rich and eight being very poor. The Selection gets held for the prince, where he narrows down one girl he picks as his princess. The Selection was one of the best books I have ever read! I don't think I quite expected that, but once I flipped the first page, I couldn't stop! I am constantly thinking about this book and I am 100% in "WOW" mode! Everything about this book I absolutely loved. — Mariya, Goodreads Review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ballantine Books

The premise is that the world has just collapsed because most of the people inhabiting this future Earth live the bulk of their lives inside a video game, including maintaining a living, going to school, etc. The creator of this world-famous video game dies and creates a giant quest to achieve the rights to the business, as well as his vast fortune. It's my favorite book in the entire world and whenever anyone asks for a book suggestion, it's always my first pick. —Dani, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

14. Vox by Christina Dalcher

Berkley

It literally caused me to have a physical reaction, I was so disturbed. —Lori Loftis, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

15. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Scholastic

The way the book shows a new world that is so regimented, and doesn't leave anybody with their own thoughts or ideas, is so interesting. —Sarah Jonak, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

16. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Delacorte Press

This book is awesome! I was a little bit scared when I started this book that I wasn't going to like it, as it is my first real dystopia/sci-fi book I've read. After about 110 pages, it got to the point where I couldn't put it down for anything. The plot was fast-paced, suspenseful, and full of surprises. The twists and turns this book took shocked me unlike any other book I've read. All I have to say is read this book! —Nic, Goodreads Review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

17. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Candlewick

I read it in a young adult literature class, as part of an activity to pair new books with classics. I connected with the story because I could hear the main character, Todd, so clearly in my mind. Hearing the dog’s thoughts cracked me up, too! —Ashley Henry, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

18. The Giver by Lois Lowry

HMH Books for Young Reader

I think it's interesting that knowledge is something to be feared, especially in today's world. How do we make our place better, and what happens if we give knowledge only to certain people? —Wendy Hu, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

19. 1984 by George Orwell

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This was the book that started my love affair with the dystopian genre. And maybe indirectly influenced my decision to do a politics degree. I was only 12 years old when I first read it, but I suddenly saw how politics could be taken and manipulated to tell one hell of a scary and convincing story. I started to think about things differently. I started to think about 2 + 2 = 5 and I wanted to read more books that explored the idea of control. —Emily May, Goodreads review

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

20. The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Wednesday Books

Young girls fighting for survival is so empowering — the idea that we have a determination to survive anything you have to face in your real life. —Danielle Faciane, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

21. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Tor Books

There’s a lot of science fiction involved, but I think a lot of the themes are very accurate and relatable, in terms of what is valued in our society and where we are headed if we continue on our current path. It makes you think at the very least! —Kim Valenza, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

22. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Vintage

Not only is it incredibly timely given the coronavirus pandemic, but it truly is a beautiful, heartbreaking look at what could happen to this world. Mandel's writing is incredibly powerful, and her characters are imperfectly perfect. Cannot wait for the HBO adaptation! —Kristena Magriples, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

23. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Grove Press

This book is told from the perspective of a woman who gave birth to a child while living in a country that’s been ravaged by war, terrorized by groups of citizens, and pulverized by an environmental disaster; survival is a minute-by-minute, full-time job. The story is a lyrical and poetic ballad about a mother’s love for her child, while trying to survive. It’s both terrifying and beautiful all at once, and I couldn’t put it down! I recommend it to anyone looking for a fantastic book! —Jo Shryock, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

24. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Vintage

It's beautifully written, but so bleak it makes me certain I would not fare too well in a dystopian world. —Joanne Ahearn, BuzzFeed Book Club

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or your local independent bookstore.

What's the best dystopian novel you've ever read? Tell us in the comments!