8 Vital Utopian Novels That Envision a Perfect World
Imagine all the people, living life in peace...
Imagine a world without poverty, hunger, and hatred. It’s an attractive thought, but is it possible? The word utopia was coined by Thomas More in 1516 in his book about a fictional island society. Originally, More intended the term to mean “no place” from the Greek οὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”), but over time the οὐ was conflated with εὖ (“good”).
This twist in meaning is strangely fitting given the nature of utopian fiction. Can a “good place” exist, or is it all just smoke and mirrors concealing some horrible, hidden truth? Is a utopia even compatible with human nature? Authors of the genre grapple with these questions, often walking a fine line between utopian and dystopian descriptions. Intrigued? We’ve got some vital utopian novels for you to check out below.
The Lathe of Heaven
By Ursula K. Le Guin
What if your dreams could control your reality? What would you dream of—an end to world hunger, to prejudice and discrimination? What about world peace? Such power may seem enticing to many, but not to George Orr. Living in a future (and still rainy) Portland, Oregon, George’s dreams are coming to life.
Disturbed and desperate for help, he turns to psychiatrist Dr. William Haber, who immediately recognizes the power George possesses and begins to manipulate him. The two men quickly discover the disastrous results of playing God.
In this deeply philosophical and riveting novel, acclaimed science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin addresses the dangers of power and the volatility of human nature. This book is a must-read for any science fiction enthusiast.
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By Arthur C. Clarke
When the Overlords arrived on Earth, everything changed. Technologically and intellectually superior, they could have violently imposed their will on humanity. Instead, they demanded peace, ushering in a Golden Age where there were no wars, no poverty, no suffering.
But this utopia comes at a price, as the people of Earth soon begin to realize. With all the world’s problems solved, there is no need for human ingenuity or creativity. Humans become restless, eager for the movement and change that once built empires. But with the overwhelming power of the Overlords bearing down on the world, resistance to this illusory peace could bring about the end of civilization.
Divided into three parts, this classic of alien literature expands on Arthur C. Clarke 's short story “Guardian Angel,” and is told through the perspective of an anonymous omniscient narrator.
Enemies of the System
By Brian W. Aldiss
In the far future, Homo sapiens evolve into Homo uniformis, a fully civilized species of humankind no longer affected by the flaws of human nature like war, disease, and emotion.
From this utopia come fifty-two elites on a tour of Lysenka. After an accident leaves them stranded, they soon discover that the planet is home to the descendants of a crashed spaceship. Over the course of a million years, these humans have devolved in ways unimaginable.
Faced with a horrifying glimpse into their future should they remain, the utopian elites must find a way to escape before they are consumed by the animal within.
By Ernest Callenbach
This book about a sustainable environmentalist utopia follows journalist Will Weston, the first American citizen to enter Ecotopia. Twenty years prior, Northern California, Washington, and Oregon seceded from the Union, forming their own country in the hopes of creating a “stable-state” ecosystem. Ecotopia is now a thriving civilization with energy-efficient cities, pollution control, and a matriarchal government.
Although initially skeptical, Will soon finds himself enchanted by the Ecotopian lifestyle and impressed by their progress. Ernest Callenbach tells the story through a collection of diary entries and articles written by Will. Hopeful and inspiring, this science fiction environmental classic has maintained its relevance since its initial publication in 1975.
RELATED: 10 Solarpunk Books for When You Crave Optimistic Sci-Fi
Woman on the Edge of Time
By Marge Piercy
Consuelo “Connie” Ramos, a Chicana living in New York City, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with two potential timelines in the year 2137.
One future features a utopian androgynous society called Mattapoiset, where humans of all races, genders, and sexualities live in harmony. The other future offers a horrific alternative where grotesque exploitation and violent racism and misogyny have destroyed society for all but a few wealthy elites.
Faced with these two futures and an increasingly disturbing present, Connie tries to change the course of humanity. Absorbing and transformative, Woman on the Edge of Time is a classic of both utopian and feminist literature.
By Robert Heinlein
Set in Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History universe, this classic science fiction novel introduces Lazarus Long—the kilt-wearing, gun-strapped immortal space traveler featured in several of Heinlein’s books.
Lazarus is old, so old he can’t remember how old he is. Descended from a family bred for health and longevity, Lazarus and his extended brethren live in secret.
When their abilities are revealed to the world, they're forced to flee Earth before the government and the public, eager for the chance at immortality, can get their greedy hands on them. Hijacking a spaceship, Lazarus and co. sail through the universe looking for another world to call home.
By Alduous Huxley
In this utopian counterpart to Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World , a thriving and prosperous island nation in the Pacific attracts the eye of an English journalist and the envy of the world.
William Farnaby, journalist and lackey of oil baron Lord Joseph Aldehyde, has successfully managed to wreck his ship on the shores of Pala. All according to plan—with the exception of a leg injury.
As an agent of a conspiracy to take over Pala, Farnaby has arrived with a mission: convince the island’s queen, the Rani, to sell Aldehyde Pala’s oil rights. But to his surprise, Farnaby soon finds himself enthralled by the Palanese spiritualism, philosophy, and culture.
RELATED: 9 Unsettling Sci-Fi Books Like Lord of the Flies
Venus Plus X
By Theodore Sturgeon
Charlie Johns awakes a stranger in a strange new world. Believing that he somehow was transported to the future, Charlie learns that he is in the country of Ledom.
In this utopia, all humanity’s problems have been solved by technological innovation and, to Charlie’s surprise, eradicating biological sex.
The inhabitants of Ledom are determined to convince Charlie of the benefits of living in this model society, but things are not as they seem.
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Best Book Lists, Award Aggregation, & Book Data
The Best Utopian Books Of All-Time
“What are the best Utopia books of all-time?” We Looked at 278 books, aggregating and ranking them, in an attempt to answer that very question.
Earlier this week we made a list of the “ Best Dystopian Books of All-Time “. For this list, we looked for books that showed a brighter possibility for the future. Interestingly, there are several books that appear on both the Dystopian and Utopian book lists. One reason for this is that Utopias are, (surprise surprise) not always as good as they appear on the outside.
Below we aggregated and ranked the top 27 Utopia books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, with short summaries, images, and links. At the bottom of the page we included the remaining 215 books, as well as the sources we used, in alphabetical order.
The Top 27 Utopian Books
27 .) always coming home by ursula k. le guin.
- Utopia and Dystopia
- Utopian Fiction
Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America’s most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast.
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26 .) Christianopolis by Johann Valentin Andreae
25 .) Lost Horizon by James Hilton
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James Hilton’s famous utopian adventure novel, and the origin of the mythical sanctuary Shangri-La.
24 .) The City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanella
First published in 1602, this is a philosophical work by the Italian Dominican philosopher Tommaso Campanella. The book is presented as a dialogue between ‘a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller and a Genoese Sea-Captain’. Inspired by Plato’s Republic and the description of Atlantis in Timaeus, it describes a theocratic society where goods, women and children are held in common. It also resembles the City of Adocentyn in the Picatrix, an Arabic grimoire of astrological magic.
23 .) The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Stories By Williams
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
22 .) The Iron Heel by Jack London
Set in the future, “The Iron Heel” describes a world in which the division between the classes has deepened, creating a powerful Oligarchy that retains control through terror. A manuscript by rebel Avis Everhard is recovered in an even more distant future, and analyzed by scholar Anthony Meredith. Published in 1908, Jack London’s multi-layered narrative is an early example of the dystopian novel, and its vision of the future proved to be eerily prescient of the violence and fascism that marked the initial half of the 20th century.
21 .) The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
“In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes. The Lathe of Heaven is an eerily prescient novel from award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin that masterfully addresses the dangers of power and humanity’s self-destructiveness, questioning the nature of reality itself. It is a classic of the science fiction genre.”
20 .) The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith
Denver detective Win Bear, on the trail of a murderer, discovers much more than a killer. He accidentally stumbles upon the probability broach, a portal to a myriad of worlds–some wildly different from, others disconcertingly similar to our own. Win finds himself transported to an alternate Earth where Congress is in Colorado, everyone carries a gun, there are gorillas in the Senate, and public services are controlled by private businesses.
19 .) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
In Tally Youngblood’s world, looks matter. She lives in a society created to function with perfect-looking people who never have a chance to think for themselves. And she’s tired of it. First as an ugly, then a pretty, and finally a special, Tally takes down the social infrastructure. And then, a generation later, a world obsessed with fame and instant celebrity—and filled with extras—will reap the consequences.
18 .) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
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Gulliver’s Travels records the pretended four voyages of one Lemuel Gulliver, and his adventures in four astounding countries. The first book tells of his voyage and shipwreck in Lilliput, where the inhabitants are about as tall as one’s thumb, and all their acts and motives are on the same dwarfish scale. In the petty quarrels of these dwarfs we are supposed to see the littleness of humanity. The statesmen who obtain place and favor by cutting monkey capers on the tight rope before their sovereign, and the two great parties, the Littleendians and Bigendians, who plunge the country into civil war over the momentous question of whether an egg should be broken on its big or on its little end, are satires on the politics of Swift’s own day and generation.
17 .) Island by Aldous Huxley
The final novel from Aldous Huxley, Island is a provocative counterpoint to his worldwide classic Brave New World, in which a flourishing, ideal society located on a remote Pacific island attracts the envy of the outside world.
16 .) New Atlantis by Sir Francis Bacon
“Although unfinished, this story sets out a process of discovery whereby sailors, lost somewhere off the Peruvian coastline, stumble across Bensalem. While the opening passages hold only the bare bones of plot, the emphasis once the explorers arrive in Bensalem is its university – Salomon’s House. Various tenets of the society include kindness, compassion and honesty at all levels of the social strata, aesthetic beauty in public buildings and civic life, an intellectual spirit fostered among the population, a university named Salomon’s House where both theoretical and applied sciences are studied and developed, and a strong sense of religious piety held by the entire population. Today the work is most significant for its statement of the ideals of the nascent Enlightenment period, in which Francis Bacon was one of the most influential thinkers. However the text is richly interpretative, with Bensalem’s conversion to Christianity and the nature of its hierarchy all poignant elements in the fiction. “
15 .) Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson
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2065: In a world that has rediscovered harmony with nature, the village of El Modena, California, is an ecotopia in the making. Kevin Claiborne, a young builder who has grown up in this “green” world, now finds himself caught up in the struggle to preserve his community’s idyllic way of life from the resurgent forces of greed and exploitation.
14 .) A Modern Utopia by H. G. Wells
This book is in all probability the last of a series of writings, of which—disregarding certain earlier disconnected essays—my Anticipations was the beginning. Originally I intended Anticipations to be my sole digression from my art or trade (or what you will) of an imaginative writer. I wrote that book in order to clear up the muddle in my own mind about innumerable social and political questions, questions I could not keep out of my work, which it distressed me to touch upon in a stupid haphazard way, and which no one, so far as I knew, had handled in a manner to satisfy my needs. But Anticipations did not achieve its end. I have a slow constructive hesitating sort of mind, and when I emerged from that undertaking I found I had still most of my questions to state and solve. In Mankind in the Making, therefore, I tried to review the social organisation in a different way, to consider it as an educational process instead of dealing with it as a thing with a future history, and if I made this second book even less satisfactory from a literary standpoint than the former (and this is my opinion), I blundered, I think, more edifyingly—at least from the point of view of my own instruction.
13 .) Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends–and then the age of Mankind begins…
12 .) Erewhon by Samuel Butler
Setting out to make his fortune in a far-off country, a young traveller discovers the remote and beautiful land of Erewhon, and is given a home among its extraordinarily handsome citizens. But their visitor soon discovers that this seemingly ideal community has its faults – here crime is treated indulgently as a malady to be cured, while illness, poverty and misfortune are cruelly punished, and all machines have been superstitiously destroyed after a bizarre prophecy. In Erewhon, criminals are considered to be ill and are ‘treated’ by ‘straightners’ who make them well, whereas those who have physical illnesses (or suffer bad luck) are considered criminal and are tried and punished. Thus an embezzler will be treated for his ‘illness’ and the party who was robbed will be tried in the Court of Misplaced Confidence. The consistency with which Butler carries through with this conceit is impressive and consistently entertaining, and this is only one of the ‘curious’ conventions of Erewhonian society. Another fascinating chapter in Erewhon explains how machines are on an evolutionary track that will surpass and then come to dominate their human creators. The detail of the argument is impressive (the discussion of ‘vestigial organs’ in machines is hysterical and accurate), and no matter how far-fetched it must have seemed in 1872 when the book was published, it seems much less a satire and more a serious fear today. This is a book of great intelligence and wicked humor. As a simultaneous mind stretching exercise and laugh generating experience, there are few novels of any age that are its peer.
11 .) Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright
Austin Tappan Wright left the world a wholly unsuspected legacy. After he died in a tragic accident, among this distinguished legal scholar’s papers were found thousands of pages devoted to a staggering feat of literary creation—a detailed history of an imagined country complete with geography, genealogy, literature, language and culture. As detailed as J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle-earth novels, Islandia has similarly become a classic touchstone for those concerned with the creation of imaginary world.
10 .) Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
Looking Backward 2000–1887 is a utopian science fiction novel by Edward Bellamy, a journalist and writer from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; it was first published in 1888. It was the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day.
9 .) Men Like Gods by H.G. Wells
Men Like Gods is a novel written in 1923 by H. G. Wells. It features a utopian parallel universe.
8 .) News From Nowhere by William Morris
This volume illustrates the variety of William Morris’s prose, while focusing on one theme: the earthly paradise. The “Nowhere” of News from Nowhere (1890) is England in 2102, an ideal pastoral society born out of revolution. It is as compelling a dream of the future as the nightmares of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Exhilaratingly, it reminds us that nothing is inevitable about the way we live—now or in 1890.
7 .) The Republic by Plato
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice, the order and character of the just city-state and the just man—for this reason, ancient readers used the name On Justice as an alternative title (not to be confused with the spurious dialogue also titled On Justice). The dramatic date of the dialogue has been much debated and though it might have taken place some time during the Peloponnesian War, “there would be jarring anachronisms if any of the candidate specific dates between 432 and 404 were assigned”. It is Plato’s best-known work and has proven to be one of the most intellectually and historically influential works of philosophy and political theory. In it, Socrates along with various Athenians and foreigners discuss the meaning of justice and examine whether or not the just man is happier than the unjust man by considering a series of different cities coming into existence “in speech”, culminating in a city called Kallipolis, which is ruled by philosopher-kings; and by examining the nature of existing regimes. The participants also discuss the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, and the roles of the philosopher and of poetry in society.
6 .) Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.
5 .) Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
“Hailed as a classic of speculative fiction, Marge Piercy’s landmark novel is a transformative vision of two futures—and what it takes to will one or the other into reality. Harrowing and prescient, Woman on the Edge of Time speaks to a new generation on whom these choices weigh more heavily than ever before. Connie Ramos is a Mexican American woman living on the streets of New York. Once ambitious and proud, she has lost her child, her husband, her dignity—and now they want to take her sanity. After being unjustly committed to a mental institution, Connie is contacted by an envoy from the year 2137, who shows her a time of sexual and racial equality, environmental purity, and unprecedented self-actualization. But Connie also bears witness to another potential outcome: a society of grotesque exploitation in which the barrier between person and commodity has finally been eroded. One will become our world. And Connie herself may strike the decisive blow.”
4 .) Utopia by Sir Thomas More
Published originally in 1516, More made popular the common usage of the term Utopia, “as a communal place where everything is perfect.” A lawyer himself, Utopia includes no lawyers due to the law’s simplicity. Reading More’s version gives insight into the original thought of what a Utopia should be.
3 .) The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. he will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
2 .) Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“A prominent turn-of-the-century social critic and lecturer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is perhaps best known for her short story “”The Yellow Wallpaper,”” a chilling study of a woman’s descent into insanity, and Women and Economics, a classic of feminist theory that analyzes the destructive effects of women’s economic reliance on men. In Herland, a vision of a feminist utopia, Gilman employs humor to engaging effect in a story about three male explorers who stumble upon an all-female society isolated somewhere in South America. Noting the advanced state of the civilization they’ve encountered, the visitors set out to find some males, assuming that since the country is so civilized, “”there must be men.”” A delightful fantasy, the story enables Gilman to articulate her then-unconventional views of male-female roles and capabilities, motherhood, individuality, privacy, the sense of community, sexuality, and many other topics.”
1 .) Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
“Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, twenty years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston. Skeptical yet curious about this green new world, Weston is determined to report his findings objectively. But from the start, he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth-friendly agenda: energy-efficient “mini-cities” to eliminate urban sprawl, zero-tolerance pollution control, tree worship, ritual war games, and a woman-dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. His old beliefs challenged, his cynicism replaced by hope, Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.”
#28 to 278 Best Utopian Books
Best utopia book lists, related posts.
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10 of the best utopian books everyone should read.
The best utopian works – selected by Dr Oliver Tearle
Utopian literature has a long history, so in the following top ten selection we’ve tried to pick a representative sample of what the genre has to offer. Here are ten of the best utopian novels, romances, and philosophical treatise (utopian fiction loves to blur the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, essay and story).
For more great book recommendations, see our pick of the greatest science fiction novels of all time , these classic detective novels , and these classic early dystopian novels .
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Thanks for alerting me to Margaret Cavendish, who I’d not come across. I shall be looking that one up.
Unfortunately, Plato is the only one on your list that I have read I’ve read. I shall check out the others. :)
Thank you for a fascinating list – the most modern example I have recently read is Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy where an experiment based on Plato’s precepts expounded in The Republic are brought into being by Athene and Apollo.
This is a very helpful post thank you! Looking forward to these reads :)
Reblogged this on 21st Century Theater .
Thanks for the fun post. Utopias are very interesting. I think I like dystopian fiction even better. My favorite dystopian novel ever would have to be This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin!
Very interesting list! If you are interested, have a read on my blog of the review about the V&A exhibition on the 1960s cultural revolution. The 1516 “Utopia” of Thomas More was one the of the most denied operas during those years… https://writingonartandculture.wordpress.com
Dystopian WE highly recommended https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yevgeny_Zamyatin
Interesting list. Utopias seem to have dried up in the 20th century. A dystopian list would probably be dominated by 20th-century novels.
Indeed – dystopias tend to be more the thing recently (especially right now – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four becoming a bestseller again in the last few months being a good example of this). We compiled a list of 10 early dystopian novels here: https://interestingliterature.com/2015/05/10/the-best-dystopian-novels-written-before-orwells-1984/
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The Top 10 Best Utopian Books/Series in Science Fiction
“Your utopia is my dystopia." —Gordon Jack
A few weeks ago, we asked you to think about the best utopian science fiction books and series.
Now we're asking: Does such a thing even exist?
This is a question many put forward in response to the various titles that were nominated and considered because, as we noted, many stories centring on utopian themes pose this very same question. And, what we see over and over again is that, indeed, what is a utopian existence for one, is inevitably someone else's dystopian nightmare.
While we'd love to believe that someday, somehow, a utopian world can be found, in literature the tension required to carry a story that is of interest often ends up finding itself in the juxtaposition between the perfect world and what we have to give up in order to achieve it; that or an examination of who still suffers.
As always, these top ten lists are not meant to be all-inclusive or definitive, but give a great finger on the pulse of our communities interests and favorites. Want to see who missed out? Here's the original nomination list from the blog .
Without further ado, based on the combined nominations and votes here on the Discover Sci-Fi blog and the Facebook group , here are your top choices for the best utopian sci-fi books/series.
10. Those Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin
We were thrilled to see this brilliant work nominated and pleased that it garnered enough votes to make the final cut. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that the fact it placed tenth in the final poll may be an indication that it hasn’t been read as widely within in our community as some of the other (excellent) selections. It's a very short read, something you could likely finish over your morning coffee. Perhaps it’s time to pick it up?
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a 1973 work of short philosophical fiction by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin .
With deliberately both vague and vivid descriptions, the narrator depicts a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Short Fiction in 1974 and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1974.
Get The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas here on Amazon
9. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ninth on our list is another selection from Ursula K. Le Guin ! T he Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel set in the fictional universe of the seven novels of the Hainish Cycle, about anarchy and other societal structures, like capitalism and hierarchy.
Over the course of this poll, we’ve heard many a debate about why one title or another doesn’t meet the criteria for exploring the theme of utopias. The Dispossessed , it seems, is beyond reproach in that regard. A true masterpiece, the book that “started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish, but couldn’t quite let go” was, by Le Guin’s account, the result of a lot of soul-searching and deep thought about “war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak” which helped her land on a clear vision of what she wanted to explore with this book: “an anarchist utopia.” It is a wholly original and compelling book.
Read the classic, The Dispossessed here on Amazon .
8. To the Stars by Harry Harrison
Perhaps better known for his Stainless Steel Rat Series , author Harry Harrison ’s To The Stars Trilogy opens with Homeworld , which presents a dystopian world some centuries in the future. Like other books on this list, this dystopia is initially presented as a utopia, with an elite class enjoying a life of privilege that comes at great cost.
Jan Kulozik was one of Earth's privileged elite. A brilliant young electronics engineer, he enjoyed all the blessings of a 23rd-century civilization that survived the global collapse and conquered the stars, unaware of the millions who slaved or starved to maintain his way of life.
Then Jan met Sara, a beautiful agent of the rebel underground dedicated to smashing Earth's rigid caste system. Through her he discovered the truth behind the lies he'd been taught. His every move watched by state surveillance, Jan risked his position and his life to restore humanity's heritage.
Get your copy of Homeworld , the first book in the To the Stars Trilogy here on Amazon .
7. The Earthseed Series by Octavia E. Butler
Our seventh place selection, the Earthseed Series , by sci-fi luminary Octavia E. Butler , takes place in (what is now) the very near future, in the United States, which—in the book— has fallen into collapse. The series was meant to be a trilogy, but Butler died before finishing the third book.
Billed as a dystopian novel, the book deals heavily with utopian themes. The first book in the series, Parable of the Sower, takes place in In 2025 where, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
Lauren Olamina, is the daughter of a Baptist minister who serves their walled-in neighborhood. Because of her mother's addiction to a prescription drug, Olamina suffers from hyperempathy , which causes her to share pain or perceived pain with any living creature she sees. When her community is attacked, burned, and looted, seventeen-year-old Olamina barely escapes with her life. She travels, at great danger, into northern California in search of a haven where she and others can build the first Earthseed community.
Pick up the Earthseed Series here on Amazon .
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
In sixth place, we have Brave New World , a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley , written in 1931 and published in 1932. A dystopian novel.
Did we say it already?
Perspective is everything .
“Brave New World is either a perfect-world utopia or its nasty opposite, a dystopia, depending on your point of view: its inhabitants are beautiful, secure and free from diseases and worries, though in a way we like to think we would find unacceptable." —Margaret Atwood, The Guardian, 2007
Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order--all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. It asks us to consider whether a “perfect” world is possible, or even desirable. It ask us to consider if a utopia is worth the cost.
Huxley followed this book with a reassessment in essay form, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with his final novel, Island (1962), the utopian counterpart. They are both definitely worth checking out if you've already read Brave New World, and if you haven't, as always, we've got you.
Get Brave New World , here on Amazon .
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5. Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
We’ve reached the top five! Coming in fifth place is Logan’s Run , the bestselling dystopian novel that inspired the 1970s science-fiction classic starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, and Richard Jordan. The book, co-written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson is yet one more that explores the idea that “your utopia is my dystopia,” by presenting a utopian future society on the surface, revealed as a dystopia where the population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by killing everyone who reaches the age of thirty. An ageist dystopia, masquerading as a utopia. Nevertheless, an excellent read exploring utopian societies and their price.
It's the 23rd Century and at age 21... your life is over! Logan-6 has been trained to kill; born and bred from conception to be the best of the best. But his time is short and before his life ends he's got one final mission: Find and destroy Sanctuary, a fabled haven for those that chose to defy the system. But when Logan meets and falls in love with Jessica, he begins to question the very system he swore to protect and soon they're both running for their lives. When Last Day comes, will you lie down and die... or run!
Grab your copy of Logan's Run here on Amazon .
4. The Culture Series by Iain M. Banks
The Culture Series is a science fiction series written by Scottish author Iain M. Banks , one he has said will ultimately “form the largest part of [his] life’s work.” So much has been written about the series and the way it explores utopian themes, including some fascinating interviews with the author—such as the one previously quoted—in which he discusses, among other things, why he feels it’s unlikely we humans will ever succeed in establishing a utopia.
The stories in the Culture Series centre on the Culture, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoids, aliens, and advanced artificial intelligences living in socialist habitats spread across the Milky Way galaxy. The main theme of the novels is the dilemmas that an idealistic hyperpower faces in dealing with civilizations that do not share its ideals, and whose behaviour it sometimes finds repulsive.
The series currently stands at ten books written over more than 25 years. While the books work as standalones, the first book, Consider Phlebas , is a great place to start as it gives a different perspective from the other books and provides a great foundation for understanding the world Banks has created.
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Get your copy of Consider Phlebas here on Amazon .
3. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The top three! In third place, is Starship Troopers by sci-fi giant Robert A. Heinlein . As with other selections on the list, the setting of our third place title has been described as dystopian, but it is presented by Heinlein as utopian; its leaders are shown as good and wise, and the population as free and prosperous.
Do a Google search for “misunderstood science fiction book,” and you’ll find plenty of discussion on this one. Is it a criticism of democracy? A celebration of the military? Satire? Of course, some of the confusion comes not from the novel itself, but with how it was adapted to the screen, but it’s fair to say that regardless, this classic gives us plenty to think (and talk) about.
In Robert A. Heinlein’s controversial Hugo Award-winning bestseller, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the Universe—and into battle against mankind’s most alarming enemy...
Get your copy of Starship Troopers here on Amazon .
2. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
“No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.”— Arthur C. Clarke , Childhood's End
We were not surprised to see this incredible entry near the top of the list. Childhood's End is a true classic written in 1953 by the British author Arthur C. Clarke. The story follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture. If you’ve missed this classic, consider this your invitation to pick it up! You won’t be disappointed.
The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began.
But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind . . . or the beginning?
Start Childhood's End , here on Amazon .
1. The Lazurus Long Series by Robert A. Heinlein
We've reached the top! The number one entry in our poll—the Lazarus Long Series by Robert A. Heinlein —won by a hearty margin.
“At the time I wrote Methuselah’s Children I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes that various libertarian notions could be put over by political processes…”—Robert A. Heinlein
Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. The first book in which he appears is Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children and given it won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for "Best Classic Libertarian Sci-Fi Novel” in 1997, you can safely assume it explores the virtues of Libertarianism. Given the series’ first place standing in a poll on books exploring utopian themes in science fiction, is it safe to say that many among us feel a society that maximizes political freedom and autonomy is a utopian one? Or, at the very least, that the notion is an enticing one?
No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them: nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality...
Lazarus Long, member of a select group bred for generations to live far beyond normal human lifespans, helps his kind escape persecution after word leaks out and angry crowds accuse them of withholding the “secret” of longevity. Lazarus and his companions set out on an interstellar journey and face many trials and strange cultures, like a futuristic Odysseus and his crew, before returning to Earth.
Start the journey with Methuselah's Children here on Amazon .
"Someday we'll find it, the Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me..."
Frogs singing their hearts out about a utopian dream? Definitely the stuff of science fiction, right? We all can dream, but as Margaret Atwood pointed out in the Guardian article we quoted earlier, "Utopia" is sometimes said to mean "no place", from the Greek ou-topos; others derive it from eu, as in "eugenics", in which case it would mean "healthy place" or "good place". Sir Thomas More, in his own 16th-century Utopia, may have been punning: "utopia is the good place that doesn't exist…"
But whether or not a utopian society could ever be possible is beside the point, and we think it's safe to say, at the very least, it's something none of us will ever live to see. However, we sure hope science fiction authors continue to explore the possibility in their work, even if it doesn't look quite as rosy as we'd like because one thing these books offer that their purely dystopian counterparts don't always manage, is a little bit of hope.
What do you think of the books on our final list, and do you think it's possible for a author to write a compelling, yet purely utopian work? One that captures readers without the tension of a dystopian threat being introduced at some point? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Visit us here in our Facebook group to chime in on the debate, and then check out our most recent poll while you're there. Don't have Facebook? Feel free to add to the comments below.
*All book-related copy in this post was pulled from Amazon, Goodreads & Wikipedia, unless otherwise credited.
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A bit odd the way that Banks’s Culture series is described as if he might write more. That’s not going to happen, is it?
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8 Utopian Books for Dystopian Times
Allegra hyde, author of "eleutheria," recommends stories about what a better world could look like.
Disaster is everywhere. In our movies, our television shows, our books, and, of course, on our news channels. Given the many crises plaguing our modern age—from climate change to a deadly airborne virus, the erosion of democracy to NFTs—it is no wonder that dystopic storytelling rules the day. Apocalypse is now.
There is another reason, too, for the ubiquity of disaster stories. Dystopic scenarios are narrative friendly. Crises create challenges for characters, and challenges create conflict, and—voila!—we’ve got ourselves a plot.
I am as transfixed by tales of doom as much as the next person, but I also have a long-term fascination with utopian fiction. How can a writer create conflict in a world where everything is perfect? Where does the tension come from? The drama?
As the author of a book of short stories exploring the utopian imagination— Of This New World —and now a novel about an aspiring eco-utopianist— Eleutheria — I have spent some time wrestling with these narrative conundrums. One approach to creating plot is for a seeming utopia to turn out to be terrible (surprise!). Another approach involves the pursuit of utopia—the struggle to realize an ideal—which subsequently points us to the parallel conflict inherent in losing a paradise (think: Garden of Eden). Still another approach revolves around the fact that one person’s heaven can be another person’s hell (e.g. Chuck E. Cheese).
The books on this list embody a variety of relationships to utopia. Some of the choices may seem surprising, given their conspicuous dystopic elements. All of these works, however, feature an effort to pursue a better world (or country, or community)—an effort that may or may not succeed, and that may in fact be quite troubling, but that still has something to teach us. These books offer us opportunities to reflect on what a better world could look like, as well as why that world doesn’t exist. In times of catastrophe, tales of doom might be omnipresent and narratively omnipotent, but if we are going to move ourselves toward better realities, we need to engage with best case scenarios alongside worst case ones—and fiction is a place to start doing that.
The Seep by Chana Porter
In many ways, this novel is the most truly utopian of all the books on this list. Aliens called “The Seep” invade the Earth and bring with them enlightenment and incredible new technophysio capabilities. Guns are melted into scrap metal, student loans disappear, and people can grow unicorn horns if they choose. Humanity has loads of free time and infinite opportunities for self-knowledge—but what does it mean when self-knowledge alters the balance of existing relationships? This novel imagines what a healing world might look like, as well as how that world could still be a source of tremendous pain.
Forbidden City by Vanessa Hua
Set primarily in China in the mid 1960s, this work of historical fiction takes readers behind the scenes of the Communist governance of that era, getting up close and personal with Chairman Mao via the experience of his teenage paramour, Mei. The novel explores Mao’s utopian vision for China—the promise of independence and liberation, modernization and prosperity—as well as the distance between those ideals and the lived reality of millions of people. Mei is, initially, an ardent believer in Mao’s vision, but her belief is tested by her exposure to the callousness of the revered political leader, as well as the violence of the Cultural Revolution—which she plays a role in inciting. Forbidden City is a powerful example of devotion to a utopian promise gone wrong.
Why Visit America by Matthew Baker
Not every story in this collection could be classified as utopian, but its pages are filled with twisty, speculative utopian premises. Take, for instance, the prospect of a society in which owning less is celebrated. Or, the ability to escape the indignities of a physical body by uploading one’s consciousness to the information paradise of the Internet. Or, of a woman-governed world—as is the premise for “A Bad Day in Utopia”—in which a lady having a hard time remembers her grandmother’s musing:
“The worst day under the matriarchy… was still better than the best day she had ever lived under the patriarchy.”
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
It was tempting to included Groff’s latest novel, Matrix , which surely has utopian vibes, but Arcadia is a classic. Set at a hippie commune in upstate New York, the novel opens in the 1960s with a haze of free love and an abundance of tofu. But the paradise can’t last forever, nor can it serve all of its constituents the same way—especially the children of the community’s founding adults, who had no say in the circumstances of their upbringing. A depiction of going back-to-the-land that ultimately surges forward to an imagined present, this novel considers the long-term impacts of a hippie experiment.
Palmares by Gayl Jones
This elliptical and incantatory work of historical fiction is set in the late 17th-century during brutal colonization of South America—specifically Brazil. Centering primarily on the life of Almeyda, a Black woman born into slavery, the novel documents the horrors wrought by plantation owners, as well as the utopian promise of Palmares: a community said to offer sanctuary and freedom to those who have escaped enslavement. However, as Robert Jones Jr. writes in his New York Times review: “utopias come at a severe price.” As Almeyda discovers, freedom is not so straightforward in Palmares, and that freedom is fragile amidst the relentless onslaught of European oppression and greed.
The Amateurs by Liz Harmer
In this near-future novel, a tech company called PINA invents a product called “Port”—a mysterious device that is advertised as a doorway to any time and place the user desires. After some initial hesitation, nearly all of the Earth’s human population chooses to pass through a Port. Almost no one comes back. According to PINA, this is evidence of the effectiveness of the product: People can live out their wildest utopian fantasies, so why would they return? For the few Port hold-outs, meanwhile, a strange new life on Earth unfolds amidst the detritus of an abandoned civilization. There are no taxes, no desk jobs, no more rules at all—which supposes a kind of return to paradise—and yet, as one character frustratedly reflects: “All utopias were bullshit.”
Another Now by Yanis Varoufakis
A thought experiment in the form of a novel, Another Now asks what the world might have looked like if Wall Street’s collapse in 2008 had precipitated a socio-economic revolution. Like The Amateurs, this novel involves a portal to the multi-verse, as well as a choice to cross over or to remain behind in our current reality. Can a world beyond late-stage capitalism—a world of radical transparency and democratized corporations—offer people a better life? Varoufakis, an economics professor and politician, investigates this utopian prospect through discussions between political archetypes and their doppelgangers in the Other Now.
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
The sequel to the more well-known Parable of the Sower, and the second book in the Earthseed series, Parable of the Talents is an undeniably brutal—and in many ways dystopic—novel. Butler paints a portrait of an America in the 2030s that is beset by roving gangs of Christian fascists, as well as near constant sexual violence, human trafficking, slavery, and degradation of the most appalling variety. But it is also a novel about a radically accepting community—Earthseed—and the persistent utopian vision of its leader, Lauren Oya Olamina, who imagines a world in which people come together to venture beyond the planet and “take root among the stars.” This novel shows how the utopian vision of a single person can be contagious, and how, despite the odds, that vision can counteract the most dystopic of realities.
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DON’T MISS OUT
100 Best Utopian Books of All Time
We've researched and ranked the best utopian books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more
George Orwell | 5.00
Richard Branson Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)
Steve Jobs called this book "one of his favorite" and recommended it to the hires. The book also inspired one the greatest TV ad (made by Jobs) (Source)
D J Taylor In terms of how technology is working in our modern surveillance powers, it’s a terrifyingly prophetic book in some of its implications for 21st-century human life. Orwell would deny that it was prophecy; he said it was a warning. But in fact, distinguished Orwell scholar Professor Peter Davis once made a list of all the things that Orwell got right, and it was a couple of fairly long paragraphs,... (Source)
See more recommendations for this book...
The Giver (The Giver, #1)
Lois Lowry | 4.98
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley | 4.98
Yuval Noah Harari The most prophetic book of the 20th century. Today many people would easily mistake it for a utopia. (Source)
Ellen Wayland-Smith It is a hilarious, and also very prescient, parody of utopias. Huxley goes back to the idea that coming together and forming a community of common interests is a great idea – it’s the basis of civil society. At the same time, when communities of common interests are taken to utopian degrees the self starts to dissolve into the larger community, you lose privacy and interiority; that becomes... (Source)
John Quiggin The lesson I draw from this is that the purpose of utopia is not so much as an achieved state, as to give people the freedom to pursue their own projects. That freedom requires that people are free of the fear of unemployment, or of financial disaster through poor healthcare. They should be free to have access to the kind of resources they need for their education and we should maintain and... (Source)
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
Suzanne Collins | 4.84
Bill Gates [On Bill Gates's reading list in 2012.] (Source)
Robert Muchamore A brutal, exciting, action-based sci-fi novel. Hugely popular and excellent fun. (Source)
George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens | 4.75
Whitney Cummings [Whitney Cummings recommended this book on the podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show".] (Source)
Vlad Tenev When I was in sixth grade I remember being very upset by the ending of [this book]. (Source)
Sol Orwell Question: What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path. Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 (though Huxley's Brave New World is a better reflection of today's society). (Source)
The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood | 4.66
Grady Booch I read this several years ago but — much like Orwell’s 1984 — it seems particularly relevant given our current political morass. (Source)
Cliff Bleszinski @HandmaidsOnHulu Done. Love the show, book is a classic, can't wait for season 2. (Source)
Jason Kottke @procload Not super necessary, since you've seen the TV show. This first book is still a great read though...different than the show (tone-wise more than plot-wise). (Source)
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Veronica Roth | 4.66
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Suzanne Collins | 4.62
Ursula K. Le Guin | 4.59
Nicholas Whyte The hero of The Dispossessed grows up on a planet which is one of two twin planets in a solar system far away from here. The planet where the hero grows up is essentially a communist-socialist utopia, and the twin planet that they see every day and every night hanging in the sky is a more capitalist society, much more similar to our western society. (Source)
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
Suzanne Collins | 4.56
Don't have time to read the top Utopian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.
Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:
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Thomas More, Paul Turner | 4.55
Ellen Wayland-Smith More was building on older ideas about an earlier age, an Edenic state, when private property didn’t exist. (Source)
Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)
Neal Shusterman | 4.54
Insurgent (Divergent, #2)
Veronica Roth | 4.54
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline | 4.51
Steve Jurvetson A gift to all of my Apple II programming buddies from high school and Dungeons & Dragons comrades. (Source)
Fabrice Grinda I have lots of books to recommend, but they are not related to my career path. The only one that is remotely related is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. That said here are books I would recommend. (Source)
Dominic Steil [One of the books that had the biggest impact on .] (Source)
Lord of the Flies
out of 5 stars5,34 | 4.51
Scott Belsky [Scott Belsky recommended this book on the podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show".] (Source)
Chigozie Obioma William Golding imbues some of these children with wisdom that would read, in the hands of a lesser author, as implausibly knowing (Source)
Disco Donnie @JoshRHernandez1 I love the book “Lord of the Flies” so just started watching The Society (Source)
Aldous Huxley | 4.50
Jordan B Peterson Island by Aldous Huxley https://t.co/7N4nyrwCCj, a book from my great books list https://t.co/AxBNX3QpMb (Source)
Ray Bradbury | 4.42
Timothy Ferriss This classic work on state censorship remains as relevant in today’s world of digital delights as it was when published in the black-and-white world of 1953. In a futuristic American city, firefighter Guy Montag does not put out blazes; instead, he extinguishes knowledge and promotes ignorance by conducting state decreed book burnings. After an elderly woman chooses a fiery death with her books... (Source)
Ryan Holiday I’m not sure what compelled me to pick Fahrenheit 451 back up but I’m so glad I did because I was able to see the book in a very different context. Bradbury’s message (made explicit in his 50th Anniversary Afterword) is much less a warning against government control and much more about a road to hell paved by people attempting to rid the world of offensive speech and conflicting ideas. In a world... (Source)
The Influential Classic
Plato | 4.42
Maria Popova Tim Ferriss: "If you could guarantee that every public official or leader read one book, what would it be?": "The book would be, rather obviously, Plato's The Republic. I'm actually gobsmacked that this isn't required in order to be sworn into office, like the Constitution is required for us American immigrants when it comes time to gain American citizenship." (Source)
Rebecca Goldstein Living today in Trump’s America, I am constantly reminded of specific passages in the Republic, most saliently his warnings of how a demagogue might arise in the midst of a democracy by fanning up resentments and fears. (Source)
David Heinemeier Hansson I’m about a third through this and still can’t tell whether Plato is making a mockery of Socrates ideas for the idyllic society or not. So many of the arguments presented as Socrates’ are so tortured and with so disconnected leaps of logic that it’s hard to take it at face value. Yet still, it’s good fun to follow the dialogue. It reads more like a play than a book, and again, immensely... (Source)
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)
Neal Shusterman | 4.42
Matched (Matched, #1)
Ally Condie | 4.42
The Selection (The Selection, #1)
Kiera Cass | 4.37
Utopia for Realists
And How We Can Get There
Rutger (Translated by Elizabeth Manton) Bregman | 4.36
Duan Pavlovi Thank you @rcbregman for this great book! (I am writing a short review, but only in Serbian for a Serbian daily.) (Source)
Uglies (Uglies, #1)
Scott Westerfeld, Rodrigo Corral | 4.34
Orson Scott Card | 4.34
Mark Zuckerberg Oh, it’s not a favorite book or anything like that, I just added it because I liked it. I don’t think there’s any real significance to the fact that it’s listed there and other books aren’t. (Source)
Timothy Ferriss At one point, this was the only book listed on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. If it’s good enough to be the sole selection of the founder of Facebook, maybe there’s something to it. The plot: In anticipation of another attack from a hostile alien race, the search for a brilliant military strategist has led to Ender Wiggin. In space combat school, Ender stands out, demonstrating exceptional... (Source)
Travis Kalanick About a kid who is trained by the military to play video games [...] But he realizes at the end that the video games he was playing were an actual war. (Source)
Messenger (The Giver, #3)
Lois Lowry | 4.33
Delirium (Delirium, #1)
Lauren Oliver | 4.33
Charlotte Perkins Gilman | 4.32
Woman on the Edge of Time
Marge Piercy | 4.30
Joanna Kavenna What’s really brilliant about this novel is that it could obviously all be in her head, about the way we create our own realities and how our sense of reality is totally determined by our own mental states. (Source)
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)
Marissa Meyer | 4.27
The Toll (Arc of a Scythe, #3)
Neal Shusterman | 4.27
Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)
Lois Lowry | 4.26
Arthur C. Clark | 4.26
Kevin Kelly This story of a singularity always stuck with me as something to prepare for. (Source)
Ben Shapiro The best science fiction book probably ever. (Source)
Adam Roberts Childhood’s End is Clarke’s best book by a long way. Alien overlords land on Earth and impose – by force – a benign and workable utopia. That sounds like a whole story there, but that’s only the start of Clarke’s compact, evocative novel. (Source)
Incarnate (Newsoul, #1)
Jodi Meadows | 4.25
Crossed (Matched, #2)
Ally Condie | 4.25
Edward Bellamy | 4.25
Chan Koonchung This book came out early, in the 19th century. It’s set in America, where a future socialist state will solve or eradicate all the ills of society of late 19th century American capitalism. (Source)
Pretties (Uglies, #2)
Scott Westerfeld | 4.24
Reached (Matched, #3)
Ally Condie | 4.23
Cormac McCarthy | 4.23
Oprah Winfrey It's got everything that's grabbing the headlines in America right now. It's about race and class, the economy, culture, immigration and the danger of the us-versus-them mentality. And underneath it all, pumps the heart and soul of family love, the pursuit of happiness, and what home really means. (Source)
James Miller It is such a powerful story … against an utterly bleak scenario you have the father and the son, and the novel builds up this incredibly emotive relationship. (Source)
Mark Boyle In my view, The Road is the greatest novel ever written, and McCarthy one of the most important writers of the last hundred years. Its bleakness is interspersed with sentences so beautiful I wept. (Source)
The One (The Selection, #3)
Kiera Cass | 4.23
Son (The Giver Quartet, #4)
Lois Lowry | 4.22
V for Vendetta
Alan Moore, David Lloyd | 4.22
Boris Starling V for Vendetta is a graphic novel set in a future, fascist Britain. It mirrors 1984 in some ways. The fascists are called Norsefire. (Source)
Evan Goldberg I often give [this book] to people. (Source)
The Elite (The Selection, #2)
Kiera Cass | 4.22
The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)
Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery | 4.22
Adam Savage An impressive and powerful experience. (Source)
Adam Roberts Ursula Le Guin may be the writer I most admire. The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, may be her best novel….The Left Hand of Darkness is often discussed, and indeed taught, as a machine for thinking about gender, and it performs that function admirably. But there is much more to it than that. There is a rather dangerous gender-essentialism in the assumption that Le Guin, being female,... (Source)
Allegiant (Divergent, #3)
Veronica Roth, Joel Tippie (jacket) | 4.22
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)
Marissa Meyer | 4.22
Estelle Francis The story weaves politics, technology and fantasy in with the classic fairytale that we all know and love. (Source)
The Fifth Sacred Thing
Starhawk | 4.22
Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)
Margaret Atwood | 4.21
Matthew Taylor Oryx and Crake is here because it’s about the logical conclusion of a whole set of processes that we could have called progress. In my lecture I talked about the logic of progress: the logic of science and technology, the logic of markets, the logic of bureaucracy. And if you want a wonderful dystopian vision of what happens if you take these forward without any recourse to ethical considerations... (Source)
Tim @Realscientists The theme of hopelessness was the most profound I thought, as the narrative rattles through the devastatingly self-conscious decay of the main character's mind, the echoes of his life writhing and senescing inside his withering brain. Please read this great book :) https://t.co/1XVpw92bbb (Source)
Specials (Uglies, #3)
Scott Westerfeld, Rodrigo Corral | 4.21
James Hilton | 4.20
Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)
Tahereh Mafi | 4.19
Parable of the Sower
Octavia E. Butler, Gloria Steinem | 4.19
Brian Boyer One book that’ll be in my bag: Parable if the Sower. It’s a brilliant, prescient read and, like all of Butler’s work, has much to teach us about justice. But it’s also informed my thinking about teamwork, and (surprise!) project management. https://t.co/NrPd9uiV2c (Source)
The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner, #1)
James Dashner | 4.18
Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)
Victoria Aveyard | 4.18
Zoe The Red Queen series is about a girl living in a world where the colour of your blood determines your status. (Source)
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)
Marissa Meyer | 4.17
Legend (Legend, #1)
Janie Chan | 4.17
World War Z
An Oral History of the Zombie War
Max Brooks | 4.17
Geoffrey Miller World War Z (the book, not the movie) by @maxbrooksauthor is an incredibly well-researched, thoughtful, horrifying page-turner that explores the many ways that people, media, & gov'ts are likely to mismanage global pandemics. Highly prescient must-read. https://t.co/04YMqnu06e https://t.co/7dyx0F9qqB (Source)
P W Singer and August Cole It’s about more than a zombie takeover, it’s about what it means to live together in a prosperous and stable world. (Source)
Greg Garrett World War Z is a novel that bridges the gap between pulp and high literature. It takes a subject matter which we would think of as mainstream geek culture, but it finds universal human themes, develops characters that you care about, and also manages to be culturally critical. It is clearly critical of many of the post-9/11 choices made by the United States and Britain. (Source)
Ayn Rand | 4.16
Prodigy (Legend, #2)
Marie Lu | 4.16
The Death Cure (The Maze Runner, #3)
James Dashner | 4.14
Mary Shelle | 4.13
Michael Arrington Shelley wrote this book as a teenager, and most of us read it in high school. Often credited as the first science fiction novel. You can read just about any political viewpoint you want into the book, and there are strong undertones that technology isn’t all good. But what I get out of it is the creativeness that can come with solitude, and how new technology can be misunderstood, even perhaps by... (Source)
Adam Roberts Brian Aldiss has famously argued that science fiction starts with Mary Shelley’s novel, and many people have agreed with him. (Source)
Wool (Silo, #1)
Hugh Howey | 4.13
Damien Mulley I'm expecting to not be able to tell what happens next as I like surprises. (Source)
Cat Williams-Treloar I loved the Hugh Howey "Silo" trilogy. An epic science fiction story about the above ground world coming to an end and the remaining society living underground in Wool Silos. Makes me shiver thinking about what could happen in the future. It's an intense set. (Source)
Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein | 4.13
Timothy Ferriss Ever feel like you don’t quite fit in? Don’t want to follow society’s silly rules? Then you can probably relate to human-born and Martian-raised Valentine Michael Smith. In this controversial 1960’s cult classic, Heinlein questions long held assumptions on religion, government, and sexuality (free Martian love for all!). It’s also where the term “grok” originated. (Source)
Michael Arrington Valentine Michael Smith is a human raised by Martians on Mars, orphaned when the crew of a human expedition to the planet died. He comes back to Earth as an adult when a subsequent expedition finds him. He is initially weak because of the high gravity of Earth, but recovers. He’s superhuman and psychic, and teaches these skills to others. Just about everyone in power on Earth wants him and his... (Source)
Gunhee Park I just finished up Stranger in a Strange Land, and am also reading Churchill, A Life and The Perennial Seller. I can’t really pinpoint what I expect to gain from any books I read, but am hoping to gain perspective and some valuable lesson that I can take away from each book. What that is exactly is different for every book. (Source)
The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset (The Hunger Games, #1-3)
Suzanne Collin | 4.12
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)
Marissa Meyer | 4.11
Asunder (Newsoul, #2)
Jodi Meadows | 4.11
Children of Time
Tchaikovsky Adrian | 4.10
Seb Leedelisle @rem Oh that’s the spider one huh? Love that book, so unusual (Source)
The City of Ember
Jeanne Duprau | 4.10
Alom Shaha Post-apocalyptic, character driven, novel with anti-nuclear themes about an underground world where electricity is an incredibly rare resource. (Source)
City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)
Cassandra Clare | 4.09
Extras (Uglies, #4)
Scott Westerfeld, Rodrigo Corral | 4.08
The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood | 4.07
Champion (Legend, #3)
Marie Lu | 4.07
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)
Tahereh Maf | 4.06
Shift (Shift, #1-3; Silo, #2)
Keion Henderson and Worthy Book | 4.06
The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)
Rick Yancey | 4.06
The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner, #2)
James Dashner | 4.06
Number the Stars
Lois Lowry | 4.06
Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)
Beth Revis | 4.06
Red Rising (Red Rising Saga, #1)
Pierce Brown | 4.06
Dust (Silo, #3)
Hugh Howey, Tim Gerard Reynolds, et al | 4.06
News from Nowhere
William Morris, David Leopold | 4.06
Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng | 4.05
Reese Witherspoon Y’all! I’m so excited to tell you that @kerrywashington and I will be bringing #LittleFiresEverywhere to the screen together ! I love this beautiful book about motherhood and I can’t wait to finally collaborate with one of my favorite actresses. https://t.co/98pq64llMU (Source)
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)
Cassandra Clare | 4.05
Yevgeny Zamyatin, Clarence Brown | 4.05
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess | 4.05
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)
Sarah J. Maa | 4.04
The Heir (The Selection, #4)
Kiera Cas | 4.04
The Last Book in the Universe
Rodman Philbrick | 4.04
Erewhon (Erewhon , #1)
Samuel Butler | 4.04
Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)
Veronica Rossi | 4.04
The Passage (The Passage, #1)
Justin Cronin | 4.03
Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
Iain M. Banks | 4.03
Elon Musk SpaceX, the rocketry firm he founded in 2002, owns two ocean-going barges that serve as mobile landing pads for its rockets. One is called Just Read the Instructions, the other Of Course I Still Love You. Both are named after sentient spaceships in the “Culture” books, all of which have similarly playful names (one warship, which spends most of its time waiting idly to be called up for action, is... (Source)
Demis Hassabis excited for this, Banks' Culture series is brilliant. Consider Phlebas is one of my favourite books, I read it back in the day when I was programming Theme Park, the cheat code for the game is 'Horza', the main character from the book... https://t.co/rUPwVpZU1f (Source)
John Quiggin Iain Banks is the writer you probably think of as being furthest from utopia in all sorts of ways. But the underlying conceit is that this is a post-scarcity society where people are free from any kind of material concerns. If they want to tear down their existing planet and build a whole new one, they can just go ahead and do it. It’s quite a successful imagining of what things might be like,... (Source)
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
Cassandra Clare | 4.02
A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)
Beth Revis | 4.01
A Land Apart from Time
James Gurney | 4.01
Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)
Veronica Rossi | 4.01
Infinite (Newsoul, #3)
Jodi Meadows | 4.01
Unwind (Unwind, #1)
Neal Shusterman | 4.01
The Machine Stops
E. M. Forster | 4.01
Elon Musk Worth reading. (Source)
Jonathan Swift | 4.00
Neil deGrasse Tyson Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] Gulliver's Travels (Swift) [to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)
P J O’Rourke In the first place, it is very funny. We read it first as an adventure story, when we were kids, without understanding the political context in Europe or the philosophical context. Then when we read it again as adults we realise that Swift is having a good deal of fun here. Just the religious allegory with the Big-enders and the Little-enders and the idea of people who live for ever. And don’t... (Source)
The Fever Code (Maze Runner, #5)
James Dashner | 4.00
The Best Sci Fi Books
Find a great science fiction book, 19 best utopian science fiction books.
“Lilypad” by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut
This comedy of manners focuses on Bron Helstrom, a young man living on Triton who has previously worked on Mars as a male prostitute. The society of Mars is far harsher than that of utopian Triton, and it has evidently influenced Bron’s personality. He is self-absorbed, often lacks insight about himself and others, and has great difficulty with personal relationships. Though the civilization of Triton offers everything that he could reasonably want, he is unhappy with his life, out of harmony with those around him, and continually looking for others to blame whenever things go wrong.
Triton itself is embattled and enters into a war with Earth.
Bron’s troubles become more and more complex, and he decides the best answer to his problems is to become a woman.
Author Delany has said that Trouble on Triton , whose subtitle is An Ambiguous Heterotopia , was written partly in dialogue with Ursula K. Le Guin’s anarchist science fiction novel The Dispossessed , whose subtitle was An Ambiguous Utopia .
“Delany’s most controlled, and therefore his most successful, experiment to date … Triton is a novel of manners—those of a rich and complex society in which the avowed highest good is the free expression of each individual’s personality.” —Gerald Jonas, New York Times Book Review
In the summer of 1921, a disenchanted journalist escapes the rat race for a drive in the country. But Mr. Barnstaple’s trip exceeds his expectations when he and other motorists are swept 3,000 years into the future. The inadvertent time travelers arrive in a world that corresponds exactly to Barnstaple’s ideals: a utopian state, free of crime, poverty, war, disease, and bigotry. Unfettered by the constraints of government and organized religion, the citizens lead rich, meaningful lives, spent in pursuit of their creative fancies. Barnstaple’s traveling companions, however, quickly contrive a scheme to remake the utopia in the image of their twentieth-century world.
Wells’s optimistic take on working utopias will likely feel false to modern readers. Men Like Gods and other novels like it provoked Aldous Huxley to write Brave New World , a parody and critique of Wellsian utopian ideas.
A young man named “Rush that Speaks” comes of age in Little Belaire, a mazelike village of invisible, shifting boundaries, of secret paths and meandering stories, and antique bric-a-brac carefully preserved in carved chests. Little Belaire appears to be free of any violence or even serious competition.
Rush’s journey is set in motion when the girl he loves, Once a Day, elopes from Little Belaire to join another group, an enigmatic society called Dr. Boots’s List.
He travels through a strange, post-apocalyptic world in pursuit of several seemingly incompatible goals.
Fans of this little-known book commonly place it their favorite ten books of all time.
Andromeda portrays Soviet author Yefremov’s conception of a classic communist utopia set in a distant future. Throughout the novel, the author’s attention is focused on the social and cultural aspects of the society, and the struggle to conquer vast cosmic distances. There are several principal heroes, including a starship captain, two scientists, a historian, and an archeologist. Though the world described in the novel is intended to be ideal, there’s an attempt to show a conflict and its resolution with a voluntary self-punishment of a scientist whose reckless experiment caused damage. There’s also a fair amount of action in the episodes where the crew of the starship fight alien predators.
It is a series of parables about one man’s attempt to preserve traditional African culture on a terraformed utopia.
Koriba, a distinguished, educated man of Kikuyu ancestry, knows that life was different for his people centuries ago, and he is determined to build a utopian colony, not on Earth, but on the terraformed planetoid he proudly names Kirinyaga.
As the mundumugu (witch doctor) Koriba leads the colonists. Reinstating the ancient customs and stringent laws of the Kikuyu people, he alone decides their fate. He must face many challenges to the struggling colony’s survival: from a brilliant young girl whose radiant intellect could threaten their traditional ways to the interference of “Maintenance” which holds the power to revoke the colony’s charter. All the while, only Koriba—unbeknownst to his people—maintains the computer link to the rest of humanity.
Ironically, the Kirinyaga experiment threatens to collapse—not from violence or greed—but from humankind’s insatiable desire for knowledge. The Kikuyu people can no more stand still in time than their planet can stop revolving around its sun.
“[S]tunning.” — School Library Journal
Over one thousand light-years away, a star vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance , is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him. He comes across a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the utopian Commonwealth… and humanity itself.
“Hamilton’s exhilarating new opus proves that ‘intelligent space opera’ isn’t an oxymoron.” — Publishers Weekly
In this classic feminist story, Connie Ramos is a Mexican American woman living on the streets of New York. Once ambitious and proud, she has lost her child, her husband, her dignity—and now they want to take her sanity. After being unjustly committed to a mental institution, Connie is contacted by an envoy from the year 2137, who shows her a time of sexual and racial equality, environmental purity, and unprecedented self-actualization. But Connie also bears witness to another potential outcome: a society of grotesque exploitation in which the barrier between person and commodity has finally been eroded. One will become our world. And Connie herself may strike the decisive blow.
“A stunning, even astonishing novel… marvelous and compelling.” — Publishers Weekly
2065: In a world that has rediscovered harmony with nature, the village of El Modena, California, is an ecotopia in the making. Kevin Claiborne, a young builder who has grown up in this “green” world, now finds himself caught up in the struggle to preserve his community’s idyllic way of life from the resurgent forces of greed and exploitation.
Pacific Edge is the final book in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three Californias Trilogy. It’s okay to read them out of order.
“An outstanding achievement….Robinson’s writing ranks in the highest levels of the genre. The book generates a soaring optimism.” ― Publishers Weekly
The Giver , winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, is set in a society which is at first presented as utopian, but gradually appears more and more dystopian. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Twelve-year-old Jonas is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. Jonas learns the truth about his dystopian society and struggles with its weight.
The Giver is a part of many middle school reading lists, but it is also on many challenged book lists and appeared on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books of the 1990s.
For sixteen-year-old Jane, life is a mystery she despairs of ever mastering. She and her friends are the idle, pampered children of the privileged class, living in utopian luxury on an Earth remade by natural disaster. Jane’s life is changed forever by a chance encounter with a robot minstrel with auburn hair and silver skin, whose songs ignite in her a desperate and inexplicable passion.
Jane is certain that Silver is more than just a machine built to please. And she will give up everything to prove it. So she escapes into the city’s violent, decaying slums to embrace a love bordering on madness. Or is it something more? Has Jane glimpsed in Silver something no one else has dared to see—not even the robot or his creators? A love so perfect it must be destroyed, for no human could ever compete?
“[E]xotic and a little frightening, but quite believable….One of Lee’s most fully realized creations.” — Publishers Weekly
Station Eleven is more pre-utopia than strict utopia, but it’s good enough to include in the list.
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear . That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence.
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015.
“Darkly lyrical… A truly haunting book, one that is hard to put down.” — The Seattle Times
Three male explorers stumble upon an all-female society isolated somewhere in South America. Noting the advanced state of the civilization they’ve encountered, the visitors set out to find some males, assuming that since the country is so civilized, “there must be men.”
Written by an early feminist before women were allowed to vote, this 1915 magazine serial wasn’t published as a book until 1979.
Uglies is a young-adult book set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned “Pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16.
Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high-profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story is that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will.
This book is a science fiction environmental classic (and there aren’t too many of them).
Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, twenty years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston.
Skeptical yet curious about this green new world, Weston is determined to report his findings objectively. But from the start, he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth-friendly agenda: energy-efficient “mini-cities” to eliminate urban sprawl, zero-tolerance pollution control, tree worship, ritual war games, and a woman-dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. His old beliefs challenged, his cynicism replaced by hope, Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.
Published in 1888, Looking Backward was the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ . It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day. In the United States alone, over 162 “Bellamy Clubs” sprang up to discuss and propagate the book’s ideas.
On the surface, the novel is the story of time-traveler Julian West, a young Bostonian who is put into a hypnotic sleep in the late 19th century, and awakens in the year 2000 in a socialist utopia. In conversations with the doctor who awakened him, he discovers a brilliantly realized vision of an ideal future, one that seemed unthinkable in his own century. Crime, war, personal animosity, and want are nonexistent. Equality of the sexes is a fact of life.
It also predicted radio, television, motion pictures, credit cards, and covered pedestrian malls.
The final novel from Aldous Huxley, Island is a provocative counterpoint to his worldwide classic Brave New World , in which a flourishing, ideal society located on a remote Pacific island attracts the envy of the outside world.
“A mirror for modern man. . . . Should be read and reread.” — Saturday Review
It looks like a good deal at first: a peaceful alien invasion by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival ends all war, helps form a world government, and turns the planet into a near-utopia. However, they refuse to answer questions about themselves and govern from orbiting spaceships. Clarke has said that the idea for Childhood’s End may have come from the numerous blimps floating over London during World War II.
Iain M. Banks is my second-favorite SF author (after Stanislaw Lem), and The Player of Games was my first Banks book, so I’m always happy to recommend it.
The Culture—a utopian human/machine symbiotic society—has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the cruel and incredibly wealthy Empire of Azad, to try their fabulous game…a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life—and very possibly his death.
The Dispossessed is a utopian science fiction novel set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness .
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
“Le Guin’s book, written in her solid, no-nonsense prose, is so persuasive that it ought to put a stop to the writing of prescriptive Utopias for at least 10 years.” — The New York Times
3 thoughts on “ 19 Best Utopian Science Fiction Books ”
Can I nominate “The Werewolf Principle” by Clifford Simak for this list ? https://www.amazon.com/Werewolf-Principle-Clifford-D-Simak/dp/0786701005/
It is the story about a longtime space traveler coming home to Earth and the society has converted to utopian.
Read it. Loved it.
A Dweller on Two Planets (pub. 1905) by Frederick Spencer Oliver (1866-1899). It is an early science fiction novel begun when the author was 17, that portrays Atlantis as a society with modern technology not yet extant in our world in Oliver’s time and with many progressive features such as universities comparable to late 19th century U.S. land grant schools attended by both men and women. His claim, possibly emanating from one or both of his parents, that it was the result of dictation by a Tibetan master named Phylos was partly debunked later by Oliver himself when he admitted most of the stories came from mental pictures in his own head. Oliver apparently was an omnivorous reader of the science fiction of his day as well as of 19th century utopian works and of Theosophy writers such as Helena Blavatsky. It is hard to sustain the idea of authorship by “Phylos” when so many details can be traced to sources contemporaneous with Oliver. His Atlantis has many utopian features and the hero, after his death, spends time in another utopia, more like Edward Bellamy’s, in a higher dimension before being reincarnated. The book is of startling originality and should classify not only among the best science-fiction utopias but as an important work of 19th century American literature in a more general sense.
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The best books of utopian fiction
With a passion for animal rights transforming into one for ecological issues, when I was in high school, I’ve been involved in activism research for 40+ years. Recently this has translated into an intense search for radical alternatives to ‘development’ and all the structures of inequality and unsustainability underlying it, including capitalism, state-domination, and patriarchy. I’ve been documenting many ‘living utopias’ where communities are forging pathways of well-being without trashing the earth or creating abysmal inequalities. Many groups & networks I’ve helped start, including Kalpavriksh, Vikalp Sangam, and Global Tapestry of Alternatives, focus on these issues. So it's always fascinating also to see how fictional utopias relate to these!
Pluriverse – a post-development dictionary ashish kothari.
By Ashish Kothari (editor) , Ariel Salleh (editor) , + 3 more ⌄ Arturo Escobar (editor), Federico DeMaria (editor), Alberto Acosta (editor)
What is my book about?
Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary contains over one hundred essays on transformative initiatives and alternatives to the currently dominant processes of globalized development, including its structural roots in modernity, capitalism, state domination, and masculinist values. It offers critical essays on mainstream solutions that ‘greenwash’ development and presents radically different worldviews and practices from around the world that point to an ecologically wise and socially just world.
The books I picked & why
Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors ( learn more ).
News from Nowhere
By William Morris ,
Why this book?
Deeply engaging and bold in its vision, News from Nowhere shows how a truly egalitarian society can work without any centralised power and private property. Seen through the eyes of a socialist who wakes up one day to find himself in such a world, I particularly liked how this departs from usual socialist visions which are dependent on a central state; here, ‘public’ property truly belongs to the public! Written in the 1890s, this book spawned many other utopian writings, but perhaps none matched up to the simple sophistication of Morris’ vision.
Why should I read it?
2 authors picked News from Nowhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
What is this book about?
News from Nowhere(1890) is the best-known prose work of William Morris and the only significant English utopia to be written since Thomas More's. The novel describes the encounter between a visitor from the nineteenth century, William Guest, and a decentralized and humane socialist future. Set over a century after a revolutionary upheaval in 1952, these "Chapters from a Utopian Romance" recount his journey across London and up the Thames to Kelmscott Manor, Morris's own country house in Oxfordshire. Drawing on the work of John Ruskin and Karl Marx, Morris's book is not only an evocative statement of his egalitarian convictions… show more.
- Similar books
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- Coming soon!
By Aldous Huxley ,
The complete antithesis to Huxley’s much more famous book, Brave New World , this novel depicts the ideal life of an imaginary island, Pala, somewhere in South-East Asia. Huxley seems to have picked up elements from the actual life-ways of islanders in the Asia-Pacific region, rather than do a lot of futuristic fable-building. Economic production, spiritual and ethical values, nature conservation, and other aspects of life are integrated into a harmonious whole which is quite alluring! But though this was written 30 years after Brave New World , Huxley seems not to have completely shaken off that dystopian outlook. The ending of Island is disquieting, to say the least. Or perhaps he is simply reminding us that an island of utopian living is not enough, and will always be threatened if the world as a whole remains enthralled by the trappings of money-making and power-seeking.
2 authors picked Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
For over a hundred years the Pacific island of Pala has been the scene of a unique experiment in civilisation. Its inhabitants live in a society where western science has been brought together with Eastern philosophy to create a paradise on earth. When cynical journalist, Will Farnaby, arrives to research potential oil reserves on Pala, he quickly falls in love with the way of life on the island. Soon the need to complete his mission becomes an intolerable burden and he must make a difficult choice. In counterpoint to Brave New World and Ape and Essence, in Island Huxley gives… show more.
By Ursula K. Le Guin ,
We live in a world where freedom of thought and expression is constantly threatened by those who would like to be unquestioned rulers. Le Guin’s Aka planet is one such, where those in power have attempted to erase history and ban books. But as in so many of Le Guin’s books, a utopian streak comes shining through here in the form of an underground movement keeping alive memory through the sacred act of telling. I loved the subversive current in the story, The Telling of which is itself an act of hope and inspiration.
1 author picked The Telling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
- The Chinese Cultural Revolution
Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
By Adrienne Maree Brown (editor) , Walidah Imarisha (editor) ,
Anthologies of science fiction often tend to be darkly foreboding. This one takes us on a journey of 20 bold, hope-inspiring stories infused with the scent of freedom, justice, emancipation. The authors, many of them black, feminist, queer, rebel artists, and the like, all involved in some kind of social action, come up with dazzling imaginations of what a better world could look like. Like any good collection of stories, it’s the kind one can dive into every once in a while, whether one has 10 minutes to read or the whole day … and having finished it, come back to it yet again for a dose of inspiration.
2 authors picked Octavia's Brood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
Whenever we envision a world without war, prisons, or capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought 20 of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. These visionary tales span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around… show more.
- Social justice
- Queer topics and characters
The Ministry for the Future
By Kim Stanley Robinson ,
The latest book on my list of 5 is a blockbuster in many ways. Taking the earth’s biggest crisis, climate, head-on, the author starts with a horrifying heatwave killing 20 million people in north India but then goes on to build a much more hopeful and astonishingly realistic narrative of how the world moves rapidly into tackling the crisis. It's fiction, but not fantasy, and Robinson builds a solid scientific base for the actions his characters take. As in most of the books in my list, women take a lead … and though I’m not nationalistic, I was more than a little pleased that the author puts India at the centre of many of the solutions!
11 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR “The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem "If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox) The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite… show more.
- The United Nations
5 book lists we think you will like!
Interested in the united nations, utopian, and social justice.
7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the United Nations , utopian , and social justice .
And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!
We think you will like Drawdown , The Overstory , and The Road if you like this list.
By Paul Hawken (editor) ,
From Sara's list on eco for the practical to the poetic heart .
Edited by Paul Hawken, and written by a team of writers, researchers, and scientists from around the world, this book includes 80 game-changers—things that, if everyone got on them now, could create a dent in global warming for good.
From solutions like offshore wind farms to minimizing food waste, Drawdown takes initiatives that are world-large in scope and puts them into easily conceptualizable material. Includes information on how much carbon any given solution would reduce in the atmosphere if certain changes were made, to how much money it would cost (& save!) to do so.
If you're overwhelmed by global warming and climate breakdown, Drawdown is a handbook for imagining a more hopeful future, and giving you hard numbers regarding how to get there. If you had to take one book to a climate desert island, it would be this one.
6 authors picked Drawdown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
• New York Times bestseller • The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world “At this point in time, the Drawdown book is exactly what is needed; a credible, conservative solution-by-solution narrative that we can do it. Reading it is an effective inoculation against the widespread perception of doom that humanity cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. Reported by-effects include increased determination and a sense of grounded hope.” —Per Espen Stoknes, Author, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming… show more.
- Global warming
- Climate change mitigation
- Greenhouse gases
By Richard Powers ,
From Nina's list on eco-fiction that make you care and give you hope .
What resonated with me on so many levels was the author’s use of lyrical and beautiful language in describing trees and forests: as characters. I’m an ecologist and I felt a particular kinship with the botanist Patricia Westerford, a disabled introvert who must swim against the hegemonic tide with heretical ideas. When she argues that trees communicate, learn, trade goods and services, have intelligence and society, her scientific peers ridicule her and end her university career. This story is as much her triumph over overwhelming challenges as it is about the dwindling majestic forests that must quietly endure our careless apathy as they continue to offer their gift of life-giving oxygen and medicinal aerosols for hundreds of years.
16 authors picked The Overstory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of-and paean to-the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers's twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours-vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see… show more.
- Climate change
By Cormac McCarthy ,
From L.R.'s list on fantasy to put some fire in your blood .
I read The Road when I was working three jobs, enrolled in university full-time, and trying to figure out what it meant to be an adult. I felt the gut-punch bleakness of McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic future, and yet despite all the gray, grim privation, I found hope in the Man and the Boy’s march toward…something. While it’s not quite a fantasy, the ashen world rendered in McCarthy’s beautifully austere language changed the way I write, and changed the way I read. There is a sobering warning that I hear echoed in The Odyssey and Gilgamesh ; something like an Ozymandian warning: look upon the works of man, ye mortal: all this shall fade. The Road stays with you like a scar, but one you earned, that taught you something.
23 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it .
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle). A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if… show more.
- Societal collapse
- Favorite Book or Author
Topics are things like World War 1, dinosaurs, grief, or jazz. We will add genres in 2022 .
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