30 most popular dystopian novels (30 items)

Bethan Owen

June 19, 2014

George Orwell's dystopian classic "1984" was published in June of 1949 — roughly 65 years ago — and has served as a cautionary tale to people and their governments ever since.

The landmark novel even introded new words — including "Big Brother," "Orwellian" and "doublespeak" — into the English lexicon.

It has also inspired, directly or indirectly, numerous other novels which describe dystopian futures. Here we've compiled a list made up of 30 books ranked by Goodreads users, ordered according to popularity among voters.

Because the list is based on popularity, it is subjective. Some books may not seem to meet the dystopian prerequisites — "Lord of the Flies," for example, is not typically viewed as dystopian — but they have still been included here to reflect the views of the Goodreads voters.

1 of 30. The Children of Men - P.D. James

In "The Children of Men" (1992), humans have become infertile and lost all hope for the future. As the last generation of humans reach adulthood, one pregnant woman is discovered and must be transported to safety, as she might be the key to saving humanity.

2 of 30. Anthem - Ayn Rand

The novella "Anthem" was first published in 1938 and warns of a dystopian future where individualism has been eliminated. Collectivism and socialism have reshaped the world and crushed innovation.

3 of 30. Battle Royale - Koushun Takami

In an alternative Japan, the government, which fears its young people, transports a certain number of its youth to a deserted island and forces them to fight until there's only one left standing.

If you think "Battle Royale" and "The Hunger Games" have similar plot lines, you're not alone. "The Hunger Games" has been accused by some of imitating Takami's book, which was published eight years before "The Hunger Games," according to ABC News. “I think every novel has something to offer,” Takami told ABC News of the controversy. “If readers find value in either book, that’s all an author can ask for.”

4 of 30. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

The time traveller lands on earth in the year 802,701 and finds it is inhabited by two species; the lazy, glamorous Eloi who need the Morlocks to survive, and the Morlocks who prey openly on the Eloi. The book was published in 1895.

5 of 30. Matched - Ally Condie

In "Matched" (2010), young people are assigned to their love interests. When the protagonist is assigned to be with a man she doesn't love, she must figure out how to find happiness in her dystopian society.
1. BYU Joe
June 20, 2014

I read 1984 in High School and did not really understand it. I re read it last year as a grown man and all I can say is that it is the scariest book I have ever read. It is not just a warning against the misuse of power but a fearful story of how dark the soul of man can become when given absolute power.

If you have not read this lately - do so - it will change the way you view a lot of things, especially free agency, political power and of course rats.

Room 101.

2. TimBehrend
Auckland NZ, 00,
June 20, 2014

Wish you could have published two lists, one geared towards adolescents, the other towards adults. This list is a mishmash.

3. The Real Maverick
Orem, UT,
June 20, 2014

Whenever I read 1984 I think of the early 2000s and the patriot act. Boy did that administration destroy the constitution. And we did nothing but allow it. So sad

4. Northern
Logan, UT,
June 20, 2014

And now this administration continues to destroy the constitution and bring about the gov type in 1984.

5. raybies
Layton, UT,
June 20, 2014

Dystopian novels tend to come in two forms when they relate to politics:

1. The government is the oppressor.

2. There are a group of thugs or criminals who take freedom too far.

They stand on opposite extremes and are praised by idealogs who see type #1 as proof Socialism/Communism or some form of Fascism is the ultimate evil.

The second type use such novels to decry Capitalism as proof humans are untrustworthy of self governance and will ultimately destroy one another in an orgy of self-destructive behavior.

A lot of dystopian novels also share the theme that technology is dehumanizing and will ultimately prove to be our downfall. The glum nature of these books tends to make reading too many an exercise in being depressed.

FWIW, I find books about alien invasions like Ender's Game and the Host to be only tangentially dystopian, and would not have included them in the list.