Dystopian literature is one of the most popular types of fiction on the market today. It explores worlds where everything seems to have collapsed, whether it’s because the zombie apocalypse happened, aliens invaded or humans self-sabotaged and destroyed the world.
Oppositely, utopian fiction explores worlds where everything is seemingly perfect. While this type of fiction isn’t quite as popular, it’s just as satisfying to read.
That’s why we’ve created a list of some of the best utopian and dystopian novels on the market today. These novels often have something to teach about how humanity works, and are weaved with life lessons that apply even though our world isn’t quite so broken as in some of these novels.
For those who love reading about worlds that feature either one extreme or the other, these books will be right up your street.
1. Wranglestone by Darren Charlton
In a world ravaged by the dead, Peter doesn’t really fit in. He’s never known life outside of the apocalypse, but he’s woefully unprepared for winter on Lake Wranglestone.
That’s why Cooper, a fellow youngster on the lake, takes him out to experience the horrors of the world they live in. But as they explore outside the safety of their camp, they learn secrets about their own people that they never expected to uncover.
2. The Wall by John Lanchester
In a future version of Britain, Joseph Kavanagh is sent to The Wall – a feature that encases the entire island – to fight for two years against ‘Others,’ who keep attacking from the sea. But his time on The Wall does more than toughen him up and force him to battle for his life – it teaches him about love and friendship in a world affected by climate change.
3. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games series is one of the most popular dystopian novels of all time, detailing the life of Katniss Everdeen when she’s sent to an arena to fight to the death against twenty-three other children.
Now, this prequel novel sets the stage for the books to come, showing how a man as cunning as the infamous President Snow became the puppetmaster of the Games and, indeed, of the entire country.
4. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
In the distant future, a young boy named Thomas wakes up in a box that is shooting straight toward the Maze, a place where children are sent each month with no way to escape. However, with the help of his new friends, Thomas must find a way to face the horrors that lurk in the walls of the maze as a last-ditch attempt at survival.
5. The Last by Hanna Jameson
In the midst of the nuclear apocalypse, a murder mystery unfolds in a hotel miles away from anywhere else. Those who are left behind know that there is a killer among the ranks, but who?
When the world is ending, no one can be trusted, especially when you’re thousands of miles away from the people you know best. Jon must figure out who is to blame before everyone turns on one another…
6. Birdbox by Josh Malerman
Malorie’s life changes forever when mysteriously, people begin to see something that drives them to violent suicides. Now, everyone must wear blindfolds or stay indoors.
But Malorie has children to protect and a dangerous journey to undertake that could save her life, but could also end up with everyone she cares for dead.
7. Divergent by Veronica Roth
In a world where everyone is sorted into factions based on their purpose in life, Tris doesn’t feel that she fits anywhere. Her home has always been with Abnegation, a group of people who dedicate their life to selflessness, but she now feels the draw toward the Dauntless, where she would live a life of bravery and excitement.
Journeying to join the Dauntless will make her realize that the choice between them isn’t always so simple, and her personality type will make her more dangerous than she ever intended.
8. Gone by Micheal Grant
The lives of a group of American teenagers change forever when the adults suddenly disappear and they’re left to live alone in a bubble. They have no survival skills, no sense of law and order, and no way to protect themselves from the strange superpowers that they seem to be developing.
As sides begin to form and the kids battle it out to come on top, the teenagers are about to realize that the most dangerous thing about their new situation is each other.
9. 1984 by George Orwell
This book paved the way for dystopian fiction today. Orwell predicted a frightening future under the rule of Big Brother’s watchful eye. Winston Smith is forced to follow the government’s regime and create its propaganda, even though his desire to have original thoughts is pushing at him endlessly.
As he continues to support government lies even though he wants to break free, he begins to question if there’s a way for him to escape a life he wants to condemn.
10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy has always been told she’s special. At school, she was told she had a purpose that must be fulfilled, but now, as a young adult, she’s beginning to understand that her purpose might not be in her best interests.
Time is ticking for her and her old school friends, and Kathy’s special purpose is about to become a scary reality.
11. The Power by Naomi Alderman
When women all over the globe begin to gain a mysterious power that allows them to inflict pain – or even death – the dynamic of the world changes entirely.
Men might have run the world before, but now, they’re at the mercy of women, forced to live through a reality where the oppressed become the ones to fear.
12. They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera
The company, Death-Cast, has created a new reality where people can find out when they’re going to die in order to spend their final day as they want to.
They don’t know how or where they’ll die, only that it’ll be within twenty-four hours. In this story, two young men meet for the first time on their Death Days, finding friendship and love in their final hours.
13. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Three young people try to survive in The Walled City, a place where lawlessness is rife and no one is safe. But Jin is desperate to find her sister within the walls of the city, and with the help of her new friend, Dai, they might just be able to escape the forsaken city before it’s too late.
14. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Five waves of a disaster have destroyed Earth as we know it. In the midst of the fifth wave, young Cassie tries to survive, knowing that if she’s caught by Them, she’ll be dead.
But complications arise when she falls in love and tries to navigate the fearful landscape of the new world.
15. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
As it becomes harder for women to conceive in a post-apocalyptic world, those able to bear children become a luxury few can afford. They’re enlisted into a kind of slavery where they are forced to remain mute and carry children for the rich and the elite.
Offred, a Handmaid, and slave to the Commander remember life before when she was happy, but now, she’s forced to live in a sinister and cruel way that she never expected.
16. Utopia by Thomas More
Utopian fiction is much less common than dystopian, especially in modern fiction, but Thomas More’s book is solely focussed on what life could be like in a perfect world.
His idea of a perfect world might not match everyone’s thoughts, but his deep dive into idealism makes this book a perfect place to begin for those interested in escaping to a utopia.
17. Island by Aldous Huxley
This book explores the idea of a perfect society in which western science is married with Eastern philosophy, supposedly creating a world without flaws.
But the island of Pala is greatly criticized, and most of all by journalist, Will Farnaby. However, when he’s sent to the island to report on life there, he finds that there is much to love in the utopian paradise.
18. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Jonas lives in a world where conformity and following the rules is the only way to survive. He’s never before understood that there’s another way of living, but when he’s given a new role in his community, he begins to understand that his perfect world might have some downsides.
19. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift
This tale of adventure and excitement takes Lemuel Gulliver all over the world. Weaving between islands on his boat and meeting characters like no others, he leaves behind a world of closed-mindedness and dullness.