Dystopia for Adults – A Reading List

Dystopian Challenge

I’m taking part in the Dystopian challenge (see also the original post for this challenge) but find that many of the Dystopian books I come across are directed towards a Young Adult (YA) audience. Now, I do like those books, for sure! The Hunger Games or Lost are great books, but really I would like to find some more dystopian books for adults. And what I mean by that is: dystopian books with an adult protagonist.


—>>>> This list has been updated recently. See the new list HERE. <<<<—


What is Dystopia?

A dystopia is a society after some great disaster or change has taken place (post-apocalyptic), life is not as easy as it was. The main character in a dystopian story generally does not accept society as easily as most other people do and joins up with like-minded people to try and change their situation.

Creating a Reading List

So here it is: a list with Dystopian books that have adult protagonists. Do you know any? Let me know (as a comment or by email and I will add it to the list). I’ll start off the list, below, please help me find more! Thanks!

  1. White Horse by Alex Adams
  2. Feed by M. T. Anderson
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  6. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  7. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
  8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  9. Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks
  10. Veracity by Laura Bynum
  11. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  12. Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
  13. The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
  14. Into the Forest by June Hegland
  15. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  16. The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
  17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  18. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  19. The Children of Men by P. D. James
  20. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  21. In a Perfect World, by Laura Kasischke
  22. The Stand by Stephen King
  23. Always Coming Home by Ursula LeGuin
  24. Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
  25. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
  26. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  27. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  28. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov
  29. Sulphuric Acid by Amelie Nothomb
  30. 1984 by George Orwell
  31. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  32. Seeing by Jose Saramago
  33. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  34. Earth Abides by George R Stewart
  35. Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling – maybe not quite dystopia?
  36. The Domination by S. M. Stirling
  37. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
  38. Far North by Marcel Theroux
  39. The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks,
  40. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  41. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
  42. The Crysalids by John Wyndham
  43. We by Yvengy Zamyatin

Do you know any Dystopian books where the main character is an adult? Let me know!

About Judith
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com and bookhelpline.nl. We edit books and articles for independent writers.

42 Responses to Dystopia for Adults – A Reading List

  1. Carin B. says:

    Someone listed Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks as dystopian on a website I saw.

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. Wikipedia gives a teenager as one of the main characters, though.

      I’m amazed how Brooks has moved from the Shannara series on to this related one (I read several Shannara books). Does he never stop with the Shannara idea?

      • Carin B. says:

        No, he doesn’t. I’ve read almost all the Shanarra books. The earlier ones were better (I didn’t like the first book at all, but trudged through and then really ended up liking the series). I haven’t read The Genesis of Shanarra or one other trilogy he’s written I think. I figured it would have a teenager since that’s usually the way the books are (the Ohmsfords were always teenagers).

        Blindness by Jose Saramago was fantastic. Also, I haven’t read it, but Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin was listed on the Wikipedia link from the Dystopian Challenge website. I read Left Hand of Darkness by her. It was pretty good. 1984 by George Orwell is really good too (although my guess is that you’ve probably already read it).

      • Carin B. says:

        Oh, my husband said he would classify Book of the New Sun as dystopian. He read it and really liked it. He’s been asking for more of Gene Wolfe’s books lately.

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  3. stilettostorytime says:

    Have it in my TBR pile but I have heard good reviews…will be movie in 2010… Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”. Love the list you have put together, hope you don’t mind I am going to link it on my blog. It’s been so nice meeting someone who likes dystopian the way I do. I have another book in mind for you I read a few years ago…I just have to track down the title. It was quite good. Great list so far though!


    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks, Stiletto, Never Let Me Go is actually a favorite of mine. How could I forget it!!

      Link away, I love it when more people find their way to my blog.

      I’ve only found the Dystopian Challenge in April or May but am enjoying trying to get my quota before August 24th. 🙂

  4. OH boy – I haven’t read one book on this list. I tried to read The Year of the Flood but put it down (DNF). I have a copy of The Passage but I think I will pass on this book too… who knows.

    I wish I had the imagination to read these books but I tend to enjoy historical fiction and could happen today.

  5. Amanda says:

    Hi Judith,

    I should point out that two of the main character’s in Terry Brooks’s Armagreddon’s Children, Angel and Tom are most definitely adults, meaning that they are in their mid/late 20s. So the books should be ok for you to read.

    I read them as they came out, so it took me a couple of years, and I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Another dystopian book that I loved was Into the Forest by June Hegland. It might not scrape into your classification as it’s about two late teen sisters – but the book is most definitely NOT YA fiction.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. I’ve followed you because we have very similar reading tastes and added you to my blog roll!

    • leeswammes says:

      Hi Amanda, thanks about explaining the Terry Brooks classification. I think it would be OK to read. I’ve also heard of Into the Forest but somehow didn’t realize it was dystopian too. Thanks! & Thanks for following my blog.

  6. gnoegnoe says:

    I finally bought a copy of Oryx & Crake, it’s been on my wishlist for ages (but you already knew that). Now I need to find the time to read it 😉

    Tip: you could combine some of these books with the Read a Book, See the Movie Challenge! Children of Men is a good movie, The Road is… intense but you wouldn’t want to miss it! Then there’s 1984 and I Am Legend and… Never Let Me Go has recently been completed and Cloud Atlas is being made into a movie too: by no less than Tom Tykwer.

    Erm… like you need any more challenges… Right? 😛

    • leeswammes says:

      Hmm, Gnoe, it WOULD be an interesting idea, but I don’t really need another challenge… I will first finish the Dystopian challenge before considering others (so that defeats your point a bit).

  7. I’m a big fan of dystopian books. I have enjoyed several from your list, but am struggling to remember many others at the moment. The only one that springs to mind is Far North by Marcel Theroux which is quite good. Enjoy your dystopian challenge!

  8. Alessandra says:

    I’d suggest Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

  9. JudithG says:

    I noticed that you have Lathe of Heaven on your list. You might want to try Always Coming Home by Ursula LeGuin, also. It’s a very different approach to dystopian lit. It got a lot of attention when it first came out in the 80’s. My copy came with a cassette tape of original music composed for the book. (Pretty soon, I won’t own anything that I can play it on.)
    The first sentence of the book is “The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern Californina.”

    I loved looking at your blog!

  10. I didn’t know about this challenge but I do enjoy dystopia books so I may think about joining in.

    I haven’t read any of these 3 books but I have heard great things about them:

    Death of an Ordinary Many by Glen Duncan
    Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
    Earth Abides by George R Stewart

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks, Boof! I added the second and third suggestion to the list. Not sure about the first one, I couldn’t find anything that refers to dystopia for this book.

      I DID find some other lists with dystopian books! 🙂

  11. Carin B. says:

    I found another that I heard was really good. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s been on my list to read at some point in the near future. I think it’s a fairly popular book. Maybe you can find that at the library? 🙂

  12. stilettostorytime says:

    Got a new one in the mail today from a fellow book blogger…just started it. Published in January 2010 though so it’s pretty new. It’s called “Veracity” by Laura Bynum.


  13. Heather says:

    I just read In a Perfect World for my book club. You can see my review of it at:


  14. shallie says:

    thank you so much for this blog! i have just travelled to this genre from paranormal fantasy, and i have to say its a welcome change. The only problem was that all the books i was reading were young adult. and while these books were really good(divergent, the hunger games, the forest of hands and teeth,ashes. just to name a few) i was getting kind of sick at listening to teenages prattle on, and i wanted something a bit more grown up and with a bit more substance to it. and this list has helped me immensely. so thank you. : )

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thank you for your comment, Shallie. I posted this list a while ago but I’m glad it’s still useful. If you come across other adult dystopia do let me know. I love dystopia!

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  16. Sarah says:

    Some of these, like The Road are actually post apocalyptic. However many times dystopian can overlap with it, its just not a pure dystopia like Brave New World. Any place where society has collapsed is post apocalyptic.

  17. Thank you so much for this list 🙂 I have been trying to remember the name of a novel I read in November and couldn’t think of the name. I remembered details, but kept thinking the title was “The Clinic”, but thanks to your blog, I found it! “The Unit” by Ninni Holmqvist. Now after 3 days of racking my brain and endless Google searches, I can move on. I am creating a list of books I have read on the Goodreads website. Great book, by the way.
    Two more great novels you can add to your list: “White Horse” by Alex Adams & “When She Woke” by Hillary Jordan.
    Thanks again!

  18. stampingfox says:

    Thank you for this list. I saw several on it I want to see about. 🙂 Wish I could add to it for you but you seem to have all the ones I know about. 🙂 Just finished White Horse a couple of weeks ago. 🙂

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  20. dolphinie13 says:

    How about Ayn Rand? Any of her books would work: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We the Living, Anthem (novella). Animal Farm can be dscribed as dystopian, and though the main characters are animals, they are decidedly ADULT animals. 🙂 Short stories? How about The Lottery by Shirley Jackson? The Twelve also by Justin Cronin (sequel to The Passage). I would argue that The Time Machine fits better into sci-fi than dystopia, but it’s not really my list. I really wish there were more adult dystopian books rather than the plethora of YA series. I love this genre!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Dophine, thanks for all these discussions. I’m not sure The Twelve is dystopian (but then, I didn’t finish it, I didn’t like it – while I loved The Passage). I’ll look at your recommendations in more detail later, and will add them to the list. Thanks so much!

  21. wonderful list! Thanks so much!
    I loved The Passage and The Twelve very much; am bummed I have to wait until 2016 for the third: The City of Mirrors.
    May I recommend The Silo by Hugh Howey possibly it should also be post-apocalyptic?

  22. Fred says:

    I read The Postman by David Brin twice. Like it.

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