Reading lists

The best dystopian books, as chosen by our readers

Whether it's the super-surveillance of Oceania or the repressive regime of Gilead, dystopian novels are resonating more strongly than ever with readers around the world.

Miranda Freeman and Sam Parker
A still from the TV adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Photo: Hulu
Image credit: Hulu

What makes a good dystopia? Perhaps it's about how much we can imagine the events happening in our world, and the creepy sense of dread that gives us. Or maybe it's that we want to get away from our own times into something we can never, ever imagine happening. Whatever it is, dystopians have been providing it for us for years.

From Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid's Tale to more modern nightmares like The Water Cure and The Power, these novels are chilling visions of where humanity could end up if it all goes really, really wrong.

And if you're still looking for more recommendations after you've worked your way through this list, take a look at our piece on the best science fiction books to take you to new worlds, or head to our 100 must-read classics list for reading inspiration.

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)

We said: A vain, unconventional, vehemently anti-immigrant demagogue wins the US presidency. Sound familiar? Lewis' satirical novel, written in the historical wake of Mussolini and Hitler, was meant as a commentary on European fascism but found terrifying new resonance closer to home for American audiences.

They said: Chillingly shatters the comforting idea we all cherish that dystopia is impossible in modern society.

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Books ranked in no particular order. Some answers have been edited for clarity and style.  

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