Feeling down about the world’s current state of affairs? Cheer up! Things can get much worse, according to dystopian books. Twentieth-century classics like George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange set the tone for dystopian literature by devising nightmarish totalitarian societies.
More recently, Susanne Collins’s Hunger Games series is among a number of young-adult books that deal with a dark, difficult future. YA dystopian sagas include Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Veronica Roth’s Divergent and James Dashner’s Maze Runner books.
Gone series begins with the premise that everyone over 15 has suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. In Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It trilogy, the lives of several typical teens are changed forever when an asteroid knocks the Moon off its orbit, triggering massive floods and other natural disasters. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go follows a group of young clones whose only reason for existence is to provide organ transplants for their DNA twins.
Lest you think teens are the only ones struggling in the future. In The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, women have lost their civil rights. Atwood’s speculative Oryx and Crake trilogy also explores a post-apocalyptic world. Hugh Howey’s Silo series of novellas deals with a community living in a giant, underground silo, deep beneath the Earth’s ruined, toxic surface.
Perhaps the most depressing future imaginable is depicted in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Less grim, yet equally compelling, is Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, about survivors of a virus that wiped out most of the earth’s people.
zombies! Experience the problems unleashed by the undead in The Walking Dead graphic novels and TV series.
Lastly, if you prefer facts about the future, nonficton books like Andrew Guzman’s Overheated and Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet paint a worrisome portrait of encroaching climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and Michael Tennesen’s The Next Species predict the next mass extinction and its likely aftermath. If all this apocalyptic angst and dystopian doom is more than you can bear, delve into Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us and enjoy thinking about the future of the planet after humans have vanished completely.