Dystopian America: Common Reads Selections from Orwell to Atwood

By Sara Clemens | August 8 2018 | Community & School Reads Adults: Fiction Community & School Reads Kids: Fiction First-Year Reading: Fiction

Dystopian fiction is an already-evergreen literary genre that nonetheless seems to be gaining popularity all the time.

New York Times article on the subject recently observed:

Even outside the United States, interest in 1984 has grown. So far this year, sales have risen by 20 percent in Britain and Australia compared to the same period a year ago, according to Jess Harrison, a London-based editor at Penguin Books. The novel is usually a best-seller, she said, and it sold 100,000 copies last year in English-speaking countries outside the United States and Canada. “But we’ve definitely seen an uplift” in sales, she added.

Dystopian novels are “chiming with people,” Ms. Harrison said, adding that The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, an alternative history in which the Nazis defeated America to win World War II, is also selling well.

Below you’ll find a list of classic and contemporary dystopian fiction with offerings for all-ages, ideal for use in both first-year and community reads.

Click here for even more dystopian fiction titles.

978-0-440-00078-5
Fiction - Women
Fiction - Dystopian
Fiction - Thrillers - Political
Set in a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.
$26.00 US | $35.00 CAN
Aug 21, 2018
6 x 9
Hardcover
336 Pages
Berkley
US, Canada, Open Mkt

978-0-452-28423-4
Fiction - Classics
Fiction - Political
Fiction - Dystopian
A startling and haunting vision of the world, 1984 is so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the influence of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
$17.00 US
May 06, 2003
5-7/16 x 8
Paperback
368 Pages
Berkley
US, Opn Mkt (no CAN)

978-0-375-71236-4
Fiction - Classics
Fiction - Science Fiction - General
Fiction - Literary
A towering classic of dystopian satire, Brave New World is a brilliant and terrifying vision of a soulless society—and of one man who discovers the human costs of mindless conformity.
$25.00 US | $29.95 CAN
Sep 24, 2013
Hardcover
280 Pages
Everyman's Library
US Only

A Novel
978-0-385-49081-8
Fiction - Dystopian
Fiction - Political
Fiction - Science Fiction - General
The seminal work of speculative fiction from the Booker Prize-winning author. Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and literary tour de force.
$15.95 US
Mar 16, 1998
5-3/16 x 8
Paperback
336 Pages
Anchor
US, Opn Mkt (no CAN)

978-0-307-38789-9
Fiction - Literary
Fiction - Coming Of Age
Fiction - Sagas
The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other’s world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
$16.00 US | $22.00 CAN
Mar 28, 2007
5-3/16 x 8
Paperback
304 Pages
Vintage
US, Canada, Open Mkt

978-0-14-011948-0
Fiction - Literary
Fiction - Psychological
Fiction - Classics
At twenty-eight, David Bell is the American Dream come true. He has fought his way to the top, surviving office purges and scandals to become a top television executive. David’s world is made up of the images that flicker across America’s screens, the fantasies that enthrall America’s imagination. And the the dream–and the dream-making–become a nightmare. At the height of his success, David sets out to rediscover reality. Camera in hand, he journeys across the country in a mad and moving attempt to capture, to impose a pattern on his own, and America’s past, present, and future.
$17.00 US | $20.00 CAN
Jul 06, 1989
5-1/16 x 7-3/4
Paperback
384 Pages
Penguin Books
US, Opn Mkt (no CAN)

A Novel
978-1-101-97313-4
Fiction - Literary
Fiction - Coming Of Age
Fiction - Dystopian
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
$16.95 US
Jan 30, 2018
5-3/16 x 8
Paperback
432 Pages
Vintage
US, Opn Mkt (no CAN)

978-0-553-51153-6
Young Adult Fiction - Visionary & Metaphysical
Young Adult Fiction - Boys & Men
Young Adult Fiction - Social Themes - Friendship
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.
$17.99 US | $20.99 CAN
Aug 05, 2014
5-1/2 x 8-1/4
Hardcover
400 Pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age 12 and up
Grade 7 & Up
US, Canada, Open Mkt

978-0-394-82337-9
Juvenile Fiction - Nature & The Natural World - General
Juvenile Fiction - Classics
Juvenile Fiction - Stories In Verse (See Also Poetry)
Long before “going green” was mainstream, Dr. Seuss’s Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment. In this cautionary rhyming tale (printed on recycled paper) we learn of the Once-ler, who came across a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots, and how his harvesting of the tufted trees changed the landscape forever.
$16.99 US | $21.99 CAN
Aug 12, 1971
8 x 10-7/8
Hardcover
72 Pages
Random House Books for Young Readers
Age 6-9 years
Grades 1-4
US, Canada, Open Mkt

978-1-4000-7949-0
Fiction - Literary
Fiction - Alternative History
Fiction - Jewish
In an extraordinary feat of narrative invention, Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic aviator and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. Shortly thereafter, Lindbergh negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism. For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America—and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.
$16.00 US | $22.00 CAN
Sep 27, 2005
5-3/16 x 8
Paperback
416 Pages
Vintage
US, Canada, Open Mkt

978-0-451-46564-1
Fiction - Classics
Fiction - Political
Fiction - Historical - General
It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, crime, and a liberal press.
$9.99 US | $11.99 CAN
Jan 07, 2014
4-1/4 x 7-1/2
Mass Market Paperback
416 Pages
Signet
US, Canada, Open Mkt

A Novel
978-0-307-88744-3
Fiction - Science Fiction - Action & Adventure
Fiction - Dystopian
Fiction - Thrillers - General
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
$16.00 US | $22.00 CAN
Jun 05, 2012
5-3/16 x 8
Paperback
400 Pages
Broadway Books
US, Canada, Open Mkt