I just finished watching the Handmaid’s Tale and I just loved it! I’ve always loved dystopian novels, and to celebrate the fantastic first season of the show I figured I’d made a list of my favorite ones. If you’ve also just finished the show and want more, here are 8 dystopian novels to read after watching the Handmaid’s Tale.
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”
The quote above from the Handmaid’s Tale really sums up the dystopian genre as a whole. In the dystopian novels it’s always worse for some, and mostly for the main characters.
One of the hardest questions booklovers get is what is your favorite book, or what is your favorite author. Oh the choices! It’s so hard. But I want to go on record with this: Margaret Atwood is my favorite author.
While none of her books are on my top five list (or maybe even top 10), her whole body of work gives her the top spot on my list. With a lot of authors I have one book I love with a passion, but that might be the only book of theirs I’ve read. Margaret Atwood writes in so many different genres, and does them all well. She has a way of writing and a gift for crafting characters that just leave me in awe. I read my first Atwood book 10 years ago, and she is someone I always come back to. When I start a new Atwood book I know I’m in for something great!
This is a long winded way of saying that if you loved The Handmaid’s Tale, I highly recommend reading the book. It’s a brilliantly written story about a future that is so different from our world, but as you read it you see how possible it actually is. The show made a few changes from the book, and the book will lend a different perspective.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
All it takes,” said Crake, “is the elimination of one generation. One generation of anything. Beetles, trees, microbes, scientists, speakers of French, whatever. Break the link in time between one generation and the next, and it’s game over forever.
Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved.
I figured we could start with another great dystopian novel by Atwood: Oryx and Crake, the first book in the MaddAddam trilogi. As I’ve already said in this post, Margaret Atwood is a brilliant author. The way she spaces out information and history in this book is masterful. We mostly follow Snowman, but the flashbacks are what mostly drives the story, because how he got where he is, is in many ways more interesting than Snowman himself.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
After a fictional swine flu pandemic, known as the “Georgia Flu”, has devastated the world, this book follows several people both before and after the outbreak. A famous actor falls over dead in the middle of a production of King Lear, a man tries to save him, a child actor feels lost looking on, and somewhere outside an illness is taking hold of the world. We follow several people in the past, until we move with some of them into a new future. In the future the world is different, and we follow the Travelling Symphony, a theater and music company travelling between settlements.
This is a beautiful book, and one I can’t stop thinking about! It has a lot of connections, characters crosses paths and loose each other again, and I loved following along.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.
First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.
I’ve just started reading this, and the beginning is so intriguing, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
In order to live in nature, with nature, we must detach ourselves from the nature in ourselves.
England, 1852: William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive, one that will give both him and his children honor and fame. United States, 2007: George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming. China, 2098: Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared.
This book is Norwegian, just like me, so I might be a bit biased. But it’s also really good. Maja Lunde tells the story of the collapse of the bees through three people, and while all three timelines are about the bees and their effect on the human world, it’s also about so much more. Each story explores family, expectations and disappointment. William, George and Tao all put expectations on their children that are difficult to live up to, they all want a better future for their children. The book does a great job of showing all sides of a family and how it can be difficult to navigate.
Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special.
This is one of the books where it’s best to not know all the details. Discovering the books secrets are the best part! I read this one in one sitting, or one night to be precise, I was on holiday, and we were spending the night on a pier to catch a morning ferry. I couldn’t sleep, and I finished the book just as the sun rose over the Mediterranean Sea. This might color my view of it, but it was a truly wonderful reading experience, that I highly recommend!
1984 by George Orwell
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.
Written in 1949 Orwell’s 1984 is the ultimate classic of dystopian novels. It paints the bleak future of 1984 when big brother is watching everyone, nothing is safe and everything is different.
If you like this genre, this is one of those you should read! It informed the genre as a whole, and and you can still see traces of it in modern dystopian novels.
The Children of Men by PD James
Feel, he told himself, feel, feel, feel. Even if what you feel is pain, only let yourself feel.
Like in The Handmaid’s Tale, the Children of Men tells of a world where no more children are born – the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England and everything changes.
This is a dark thriller which describes a world without hope. But it’s also about finding hope, about choosing to believe and about forging a future.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.
This is the only YA book on this list, I wanted this list to reflect The Handmaid’s Tale which is not a YA. But I wanted one book to represent the myriad of dystopian YA novels, and the book I chose was The 5th Wave. In this one aliens come to earth and they don’t come in peace. We follow Cassie, who’s on a mission to find her brother, and we get to see this new world through her eyes.
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So these are some of my favorite dystopian novels. Have you read any from this list, or do you have any to add? Please let me know, dystopian novels are one of my favorite genres, so I want more to read 🙂
Get other great reads at ModernMrsDarcy’s monthly roundup!