Dystopia for Adults – A Reading List (Updated)


Three years ago, I took part in a Dystopia reading challenge and posted a list of Dystopian books for adults. There are many, many dystopia books for YA readers, but dystopian novels that are primarily for adults, are often harder to find: dystopian books with an adult protagonist. This list has been one of the most popular posts on my blog, and it’s time for an update.

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

For my 3-year blogoversary I asked my readers to suggest new dystopian books that weren’t on the original list and they were very helpful! Here is the updated list – a list that will keep growing, I hope.

So here it is: a list with Dystopian books that have adult protagonists. Do you know any others? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list. I’ll include post-apocalyptic novels that aren’t necessarily classified as dystopian but will be of interest to dystopia readers.

  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. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
  8. Nod by Adrian Barnes
  9. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
  10. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
  11. Mountain Man by Keith Blackmore
  12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  13. The Postman by David Brin
  14. The Sheep Look Up by David Brin
  15. Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks
  16. The End of This Day’s Business by Katharine Burdekin
  17. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  18. The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess
  19. Veracity by Laura Bynum
  20. The Death of Grass by John Christopher
  21. Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee
  22. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  23. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  25.  Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  26. Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
  27. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  28. The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
  29. The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
  30. Into the Forest by June Hegland
  31. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  32. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  33. The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
  34. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  35. Wool by Hugh Howey
  36. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  37. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs
  39. The Children of Men by P. D. James
  40. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  41. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  42. In a Perfect World, by Laura Kasischke
  43. The Stand by Stephen King
  44. Always Coming Home by Ursula LeGuin
  45. Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
  46. This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
  47. The First Century After Beatrice by Amin Maalouf
  48. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
  49. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
  50. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  51. A Creed for the Third Millennium by Colleen McCollough
  52. I Have Waited and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh
  53. Malevile by Robert Merle
  54. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  55. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  56. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  57. 1Q84 by  Haruki Murakami
  58. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov
  59. Sulphuric Acid by Amelie Nothomb
  60. The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard

  61. 1984 by George Orwell
  62.  A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest
  63. Anthem by Ayn Rand
  64. Atlas shrugged of Ayn Rand
  65. The Beyond series by Kit Rocha
  66. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  67. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  68. Seeing by Jose Saramago
  69. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  70. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  71. Earth Abides by George R Stewart
  72. Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling
  73. The Domination by S. M. Stirling
  74. Warday by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka
  75. A Voyage to Kazohinia by Sandor Szathmari
  76. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
  77. Far North by Marcel Theroux
  78. The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks
  79. The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells
  80. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  81. Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
  82. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
  83. A Gift Upon the Shore by MK Wren
  84. The Crysalids by John Wyndham
  85. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  86. We by Yvengy Zamyatin
  87. Corpus delicti by Juli Zeh

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.

61 Responses to Dystopia for Adults – A Reading List (Updated)

  1. Roxanne says:

    That’s quite a list! I have Battle Royale waiting for me on my book shelf and I have always wanted to read 1984, but that was mostly because of the title, as I was born in 1984. Also because my brother never reads a book, but he has read that one and loved it, so that made me curious as well.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Roxanne, Battle Royale is the Japanese Hunger Games. Some people think it’s better – at least I can say it’s the original Hunger Games, and more gruesome. 🙂

  2. Fantastic list! This has to be one of my favourite genres so it is no surprise that I’ve read many of these. Blindness, The Road, The Death of Grass and Cloud Atlas are my favourites.

    There are a few I haven’t heard of so I’ll be back to investigate and add some more to my reading list soon.

  3. Fantastic list! I’ve read a lot of them but there are quite a few that are new to me so thanks 🙂

  4. One of my favourite types of fiction. I can see myself looking up a number of these.
    A list of Dystopian fiction is not complete without the incredible Riddley Walker and at least one Ballard – The Drowned World or High-Rise perhaps?
    I’ve also been meaning to read On The Beach after many recommendations and that isn’t here either.
    Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

  5. Nish says:

    This is a great list. I know I am going to refer to it for some good dystopia reads. Thanks for compiling this 🙂

  6. Alice says:

    *Booksmarks* Thank you! This is amazing 🙂

  7. Susan Tunis says:

    Great post, Judith! But I do have some quibbles and an addition.

    While most of the book’s on this list are dystopian, I’d argue that you are conflating the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres in some cases, and there’s a difference. Also, Battle Royale has teen protagonists.

    My addition to your list is Jasper Fforde’s wonderful, satirical novel Shades of Grey, about a society that’s a “colortocracy.”

    • Leeswammes says:

      Susan, you’re right – I did mention it in my post, that I’m also accepting (some) post-apocalyptic stuff – I’m not strict. Battle Royale has teen protagonists, but I didn’t find it a YA book at all. For me, it fits into the adult category.

      Thanks for your suggestion.

  8. Just a few ideas:

    The Beyond series by Kit Rocha (but these are VERY erotic and maybe not for you)
    Wool by Hugh Howey
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
    And there are the Fuse books by Julianne Baggott although I’m not sure whether or not they qualify as adult books. GoodReads has them down as both YA and adult so that doesn’t help (although it does make me wonder if we should maybe call them New Adult? All these terms are getting too confusing for me.

  9. ludieke says:

    I miss Atlas shrugged of Ayn Rand and Waiting for the Barbarians of Coetzee

  10. Awesome!!! I love reading dystopian novels and many times have found YA ones I have enjoyed, but I’m more of an adult fiction reader than YA reader, so this list is great!

  11. Isi says:

    What a list! I have read some of them (1984, The passage, I am legend) and I liked them very much. And I have just started Do androids dream of electric sheep? in English!!

    I didn’t enter the giveaway because I didn’t know titles to answer your question, but some of the titles of the list will be on my list soon!! 😉

  12. Kyanite99 says:

    Fabulous list! You’ve got all my favourites (especially Attwood) and some others I’m going to try now. “Death of Grass” is a brilliant concept but very much of it’s time and now reads as an essay in misogynism….

  13. Melinda says:

    I can’t remember reading any dystopian fiction yet, thanks for this list!

  14. Great list! Will investigate the (many!) I don’t know The often described as ‘Science Fiction’ writer Christopher Priest writes a lot of dystopias and post-apocalypse stuff A Dream of Wessex; The Islanders:; The Dream Archipelago.

    The author he rather reminds me of is David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)

  15. Wonderful list! I enjoy the genre (ugh… that sounds bad…LOL) There are some on here I still need to read!

  16. Marie says:

    I love dystopian fiction and am delighted to see so many titles on this list that are completely new to me! My wishlist won’t know what’s hit it!

  17. I believe Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence would count. Haven’t read it yet so not 100% on the age of the protagonist but it’s adult epic fantasy. Might have to double check though.

  18. Some of my favorites hat are not on this list:

    A Gift Upon the Shore by MK Wren
    Swan Song by Robert McCammon
    Malevile by Robert Merle
    The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard

    I’ve only read about 25 on this lists, so I need to check some out.

    I made up a bunch of top 10 lists for different types of Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian fiction for my Welcome to the Apocalypse feature. Most of my blog is audiobooks, but the Apocalypse lists cover print as well. I also do a annual top 10 lists covering both PA and Zombie fiction.

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  21. cbjames says:

    I’ve just now found this list. I think I’ve found some summer reading…..

  22. melanie says:

    Warday by whitley Strieber and James Kunetka is excellent too

  23. Spotsify says:

    Great list! Here is another short list of the top ten greatest adult dystopian novels.


  24. Danielle Tremain says:

    Your list is WONDERFUL!!! I do have one to add though. This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. While Brave New World ( my all time favorite book) focuses on consumerism, This Perfect Day seems to me to focus on solcialism. Otherwise they are very similar. Just a different approach to the same broken Utopia. Thanks again for this great list!

  25. Kelly says:

    WOW, awesome list! I am going to be saving this for sure. I’ve only read a few of them so I have some work to do!

  26. I’m so glad to find this list. I really wished someone would recommend some dystopia novels for adults because I see (and have read) a few YA dystopia novels but they don’t really tickle my fancy. I hope these will! I only read 1Q84 from the list. Thanks for this!

    • Leeswammes says:

      5eyed, thanks for your comment. I had the same problem, I like dystopia but not always YA. Hence the list. Hope it inspires you to read a lot of great dystopian novels.

      On Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 11:46 PM, Leeswammes' Blog

  27. Markus says:

    Good morning! Great list!!! I’m missing Kurt Vonnegut though (e.g. Cat’s Craddle). Not sure if James Lovegrove – Untied Kingdom – should make it onto your list as well. Utopia by Thomas More? Jack London – Iron Heel. ….. Looking ahead to laying my hands on some of the mentioned books on your list! Happy New Year to you.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Hi Markus, Thanks for your additions to the list. I’m sure there are loads more than I got here, I just add them as I go along, so: thanks! Happy New Year. I hope you get to read a lot of great books.

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  29. Anne C says:

    I’m bookmarking this! I love dystopian and I would try to read each and every book in this list! 😉

  30. Mic says:

    I literally just asked for recommendations of these. I haven’t read a lot of these so i’m hoping to narrow it just a bit. …Ok I still like to have the romance in my dystopias. Not like Kit Rocha erotic trash but you know Titanic like romance. I wonder if you could add a ❤ next to those with romance?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Hi Mic, thanks for your comment. I’m glad this list is useful for you. I’m not interested in romance myself, plus I haven’t read all the books on the list, so I won’t be doing anything with a heart. Nice idea in principle. 🙂

      • Mic says:

        Hey Just getting started on another off this list I’ve bookmarked this page it’s great. but i do believe your missing kurt vonnegut here. Cat’s Cradle, Galapagos, Player Piano, Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, and his collection Welcome to the Monkey House should not be missed.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Thanks, Mic. I’m not sure if Vonnegut is strictly speaking dystopian or ‘merely’ post-apocalyptic. I love his work, though. I may look into it when I have more time. Thanks for the recommendations.

  31. Just thought of 2 more, by Maria Doria Russell: The Sparrow and Children of God

    How about the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card?

  32. Marlieke says:

    Great list! I really like post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction as well. That much even, that I wrote my master thesis about it two years ago!
    I researched eight post-apocalyptic novels written shortly after the Second World War, published either in America or in Britain. Five of them are already on your list, but I can add three more!
    The books I researched were:
    *already on your list:*
    The Death of Grass by John Christopher
    I am Legend by Richard Matheson
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute
    Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
    The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
    *not on your list yet:*
    The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke
    The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
    Ape & Essence by Aldous Huxley

    From those three that are not on your list yet I did not really like Aldous Huxley’s. It is also not as well-known as Brave New World (which is on your list). I haven’t read Brave New World, so I cannot compare the two, but I found Ape & Essence quite boring and over the top. I did like the other two that are not on your list yet. Also the five novels that are already on your list were very good!

  33. This is a great list – I lobe good dystopia!

  34. Tiffany says:

    I just finished The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. It was a great read!

  35. berezira says:

    J. G. Ballard – Concrete Island

  36. BR549 says:

    Just published dystopian fiction – Traverse by BR549. A quick read, need more reviews. Thanks.

  37. Bart says:

    Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

  38. nakebatodd says:

    The Unbroken series by Na’Imah Anderson on Amazon has a protagonist that is 23 and most main characters are 19 and up. I really like how the parents play an important role rather than kids taking charge. It is a very unique novel in many other ways. Unbroken: The Renegades

    The website: unbrokenseries.blogspot.com

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