Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the events of history didn’t turn out to be the way they were? About how we have proper running democracies, not just divided into factions or sectors? It seems we got the best out of the worst deals. Our world seems a lot better than the scenarios and settings of these best dystopian series. Various plots are ranging from different scenarios, the worlds are set in post-apocalyptic worlds. The characters fight against the evil to get a world they want. It is great to see such a strong group of rebels fighting against the pre-set societal norms and rules. This list consists of the best Dystopian books of all time. I hope I can give you the best Dystopian Book series I’ve read! Let’s get started:
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
I honestly regret not picking up this book earlier. I had to get into this after binging the Tv show based on the book. It can safely be said that The Handmaid’s Tale is the best dystopian book of all time. The writing style is amazing; the world set up was good, characters very intriguing right from the start. Of course, the show’s characterization was slightly off from the book, but they were equally great, nevertheless. Gilead has been established for a few years. The protagonist settles in pre-destined life as a handmaid. The framework of the Gilead has made the citizens seem to be muddling through life. The novel takes up real issues like the misogynist patriarchy, they give women little to no rights.
Believe it or not, the highest rank a woman is ‘worthy’ of is being a Wife. Handmaids wear red, wives wear blue and unmarried women wear white. Fertility and birthrate are at an all-time low in Gilead. So, a wife is unable to bear children, the handmaids come into play. The handmaids are sent to colonies and killed if they can’t procreate. Further, more hierarchy includes Marthas, Aunts, and Econowives. The plot skips between life before and at Gilead. The book shows the brutal ways of a handmaid. It is truly a horrifying yet thought-provoking novel. We see what might’ve happened if women never got their rights.
It is awfully close to the kind of history our women had in the past. This treatment is still prevalent in many countries to date, and that’s what makes this book an intriguing read. This is indeed one of the best Dystopian Books I’ve read!
2. The Man in the High Castle
Author: Phillip K. Dick
This is one of the best Dystopian books of all time, it is a constant reminder to me that a little diversion in history can change the future. This is a dystopian novel with an alternative history. Here the Americans lose against the Axis powers in World War II. The aftermath of America after the ultimate victory of the Nazi and Japan. Here the Japanese control the American West Coast and the Nazi rule the Eastern part of the US. Describing the state of free people when they come face-to-face with tyranny. This situation is nothing like the current political situation. In our world, Nazis have been defeated and the US is a powerful country.
This dystopian book universe shows the reversed events of World War II. In Phillip’s rendition, the Japanese were the better rulers, because of their principles of introspection and reflection. This book is banned in Germany. But in Japan, many people still read it. The unstable arrangement of two superpowers in this scenario, Japan and Nazis come to a disagreement. The Nazi plan to bomb the Japanese Islands and make themselves the ultimate rulers. We don’t know whether the Nazi will actually Bomb Japan in this world. Or no matter how the history turns out, will it end up getting bombed?
3. The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
A classic novel that gives rise to many questions and initiatives of discussions. Like most of the best dystopian books on this list, The Giver was also made into a movie. So, I decided to pick up this book before the movie. This book has an innovative plot, a young boy living in a society free of all sadness and crimes. The children are to contribute to society at the age of 12. Everything is chosen for them; from life partners to their parents. Jonas is a Memory Keeper and lives away from civilization. One of the most important aspects of society. Memory Keeper keeps all the negativity from society, someone who holds all the good and bad memories of the citizens.
They are kept away from the good, they do not know the difference between good and bad. Originally a children’s book, it has complex features that adults can enjoy and dissect. Following the life of Jason, shows the hardships of accepting a new aspect of life where everything seems different. We see the sudden pressure of responsibilities a child feels. When they are thrust into the world of adults. It shows Jonas defies the life laid out in front of him. He makes a transition from an innocent child to a well-educated adult who makes choices for himself.
To me, it seemed like a utopia where we feel no pain. But feeling happiness is one of the best parts of life. Sadness makes the happy parts x100 sweeter. So, I feel a world where no sadness and happiness are not ideal world. It is a top-tier book that gives you a feeling of gratitude. You can feel happiness but also make you envy a world there’s no concept of sadness. To me, among many, this is one of the best dystopian books of all time.
Author: Veronica Roth
Imagine a world divided based on just 4 traits, smartness, bravery, honesty, and charity. This world Veronica built is one that is totally different from ours. A world where if you belong to none of there four traits you turn into a homeless person. But if you fit into more than one trait you are hunted. At the age of 16, the youngsters are asked to choose a faction. If they choose a different faction form that they were born in, they give up everything from their past factions. Such a 16-year-old, Beatrice is different, she did not feel she belonged to the faction. She was born in Abnegation, the giving. She felt different from her family and friends.
Apparently, she did not fit into just one faction. But, when given a chance to switch factions, she chooses Dauntless, the fearless. She finds herself in a brutal faction where she can trust no one. When she sniffs a political plot to destroy the system set in place, she rebels against her own faction. She finds plots running deeper than she imagined. Tris has amazing character development as she transitions from a plain life to one with adventures and more freedom. She turns from a hesitant teenager to a fearless fighter. The world is intriguing, and its rules and power distribution are astonishing. The higher-ups have a crazy amount of power to rule over anyone, much similar to our world.
I would recommend reading the books before watching the movies. The movies totally ruined two out of three movies in the trilogy. The books did amazing and went on to be bestsellers! It won Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction. It shows that it is one of the most popular and best dystopian series of all time!
5. The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Another one of the best Dystopian book series that was turned into a movie franchise. Another series where the books were better than the movies, in my opinion. The movies were good, don’t get me wrong. The books just have a feeling that the movies failed to recreate to some extent. Set in Panem surrounded by twelve districts. The Capitol is a very rich and powerful city, that basically controls all the districts. All the districts are mandated to send a girl and boy of age 12-18. Those kids compete in the Hunger Games. This is an event that airs live on TV’s in Panem. When Katniss’ sister is chosen, she volunteers to take part on her behalf. She does not believe that she will come out alive.
These games are brutal where the last survivor wins, so the kids resort to killing one another. But Katniss never wanted to kill anyone, but when it came to survival, her instincts were to kill to survive. She has confusing feelings for a fellow contender, but only one can survive. This makes you happy that you are not forced to take part in a death match and live in fear of being selected as one of the tributes. It’s a good take on how the ones with power prey on the weak for pure entertainment purposes. Unexpected alliances, the survival of pure hunting skills, and the suspense and fear of characters being killed at any moment is brilliant storytelling. This is one of the most famous ones and I 100% recommend this Dystopian Book series if you like action with a bit of romance.
6. The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
The post-apocalyptic setting of the world is an amazing aspect, the beginning of the book itself is extremely intriguing. It starts off with Thomas who wakes up in a moving box, disheveled, with a few weird dreams. He reaches to the stop and above him are standing a group of boys. He has no idea who he is, what place he is in, and why he was surrounded by boys he didn’t know. The only thing he remembers is that he is to solve the maze they live in the middle of. The Glade is surrounded by huge walls and a maze, the boys inside must solve the maze to get out.
A few of the boys known as runners run outside and into the maze and must return every night because the maze changes every day and there are mechanical monsters known as the Grievers that come out at night. The book is written in a third-person perspective that gives the book its movie feels. The runners did what they couldn’t do for two years with the help of Thomas. They found clues after going into the maze. It is an extremely action-packed book with a huge mystery behind who put them in there, who these kids are, and why are they trapped in a maze full of monsters.
Thomas is an amazing character who runs for his life and has empathy for days. He makes and promises to get them back home, but their home is not what not it used to be. They discover the horrors of the outside world. You’ll love this series if you enjoyed the Hunger Games, it has its similarities, but are very different from each other in other ways. I binged all the three books in two days, so it’s safe to say it’s one of my favorites. Another one of my best dystopian series of all time.
7. Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
This dystopian book is a homage to the rocking 80s. It is the year 2045 in Oklahoma, with huge towering buildings and neon signs everywhere. The high-tech scenery gives you a similar picture to every sci-fi Hollywood movie. A teenager named Wade escapes his sad reality by spending time in the virtual utopia OASIS. The late creator of OASIS hid pieces in the virtual before he died. Among millions whoever finds the easter egg hidden in one of the million planets in the game will get a huge prize. If the puzzles are solved in order, it will lead the player to a location and will inherit the creator’s entire estate and OASIS worth billions of dollars. Wade has to solve the puzzles hidden in classic vintage arcade games from the 1980s. The story grips the reader and gives you a ride on its rollercoaster.
The unique aspect of Ready Player One is not only just killing characters and leveling up, but it also has its benefits of being a virtual classroom for millions of kids around the world. I never heard about the author before, but this book was so hyped in the book community I decided to give it a try. I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed at all; the character development of Wade was phenomenal. But, It was an unusually heart-warming read, considering it to be sci-fi dystopian novel about virtual reality, I didn’t expect the humor and unusually warm atmosphere. It was a pretty fun read, I was totally engrossed and invested in the plot and the characters.
You don’t necessarily have to be a geek or vintage game nerd; you can easily enjoy the book. I have seen many authors trying and failing at this concept, but Ernest Cline nailed it. This is a really futuristic Dystopian book series you’ll love.
8. Station Eleven
Author: Emily St John Mandel
Another Apocalyptic world, but it has a different side to it. Instead of showing the aftermath of the apocalypse and striving for survival, the events leading up to the apocalypse are depicted. A theater actor named Arthur has a heart attack onstage, people seem to come out of shock and the world has another disaster planned for its citizens. A pandemic flu’s arrival wreaks havoc and kills almost the entire population within weeks. Jumping 20 years forward, there are no countries, all the borders were dissolved because all that is left are ghost towns and scattered houses. Kristen is a part of a nomad group named Travelling Symphony, a small group of artists who wander town to town to entertain what’s left of humanity. Her memories of a world with electricity and the internet were already gone.
In the past, Kristen carries a comic book series Dr. Eleven, which was about a physicist who escapes Earth after an alien invasion. Arthur is a huge part of the book, throughout we see flashbacks of his past, his acting career, and his personal life. Kristen starts seeing parallels between her life and that of Dr. Eleven. Her group and her fall into misadventures when they come across religious cults in a town. But, The Novel is a deeper dive into the themes of happiness in material things. It shows that at any time the world could collapse, but it would not ruin the people alive, because art is well alive. If people are alive, art and the memories of a world that was once significant will remain.
It is a great read, with hidden allegory for those who understand. The philosophy the book depicted changed my way of thinking to some extent. Station Eleven is one of the best dystopian books, according to me.
9. Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Locked away, isolated from the world, Juliette spends her time in an asylum by the government. Her touch has the power to kill and she was sent there for committing a murder. So, The Reestablishment plans on using her powers as a weapon. Fading away in a cell, Juliette hasn’t spoken a word for 264 days, while the world outside her cell is in utter shambles. This is an amazing series following Juliette who goes through mental turmoil, until a boy, Adam appears to join her in the cell. Further, she is thrust into political agenda soon enough. She has a cute romance with Adam and realizes he is someone she knew. Another man enters her life and it’s turned upside down.
She is forced to be a pawn for the government. She regains her confidence and is able to act on her own soon but see what that isolation did to her was very interesting. Her powers scared her, she was terrified of touching another person, and she comes in terms with it. It is a journey of self-discovery in a ruined dystopian where the government is harsh and ultimate. The characters are very well written and the emotional touch to their stories made me connect to them very easily. It is a quick and easy read for a trilogy. But the high demand and popularity of the book resulted in an extension of the series to another three books.
I wasn’t complaining, I had more of Juliette and her partner’s story, and I was more than happy to oblige. Indulge in this action romantic dystopian book series, that will make you emotional and empowered.
Author: Marie Lu
This Dystopian book series might seem full of tropes, but Marie Lu did a great job. Sure, it can look like it’s just another rip off of The Divergent or Hunger Games series, but the strong plot and the complex characters really did it for me. Setting a post-apocalyptic world in Los Angeles in the year 2130 is no easy feat. The plagued houses are marked by a huge red X. The story is narrated from June and Day’s perspective. June is a smart and military girl and Day a poor boy from the slums. Both were raised in completely different worlds from what it seems. June is a highly pampered elite who lived a good life. While Day struggled to rescue his family from a contagion. However, both have one thing in common, both were the products of broken families.
June is a proud person with a huge ego because she knows she is better than everyone around her. Day sets his plans to destroy the Republic and his past plays an important role in his thirst for revenge. So, June is the only person who can stop him. When they cross paths, they realize nothing is as simple as it seems. I read the whole book in a single sitting. It was a roller coaster, the chemistry between the protagonists is perfect and the characters are very likable.
Further, there are brilliant plot twists and if you read a book on this list ‘The Giver’, you might find slight echoes of the theme of that book in world-building. Marie Lu is a genius writer who has written multiple bestsellers. Yes, this book was worth the hype. It pulled me in and gripped me till I devoured the whole book at once. This is one of the most exciting and best dystopian series in recent years!
Here are my recommendations for the Best Dystopian series I’ve personally read. I loved the writing style and beautiful plot building in every book mentioned. The main reason I indulge in the best Dystopian book series is the pure creativity it takes on the writer’s part to build a story worth reading. However, I am very picky. But, I rarely read very commonly used tropes’ books. There are few exceptions, of course, If a friend or my favorite book-tuber recommends me this book, I might consider reading it. That is how I ended up reading books like Legend and Hunger Games. The books which really intrigued me in terms of Plot were Shatter Me, The Giver, Handmaid’s Tale, and Station Eleven. These are one of the best dystopian books of all time! Did I miss any of your favorites? Comment down your favorites, maybe someone else or I might find a new book to add to our TBR list!
Leaving so soon? Looking out to trying out some other types of books? Here is a list that can help! List of 30+ Best Books to read before you die|Fiction|Non-Fiction|Misc! – Best Books to read before you die