One of the best dystopian novels of all-time, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 shows us a future American society where books are outlawed and burnt. The title refers to the temperature in which novels catch fire, when knowledge and literature turn to ash. For many, fiction books like Fahrenheit 451 remind us how real-life government oppression often goes terribly wrong.
If you loved Fahrenheit 451, I’ve got good news! I’ve put together a personal list of some of the best dystopian novels. This list is in no particular order. I’ve also only included books I’ve actually read.
In addition. I’ve decided to exclude 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, and The Hunger Games. Only because these are too obvious choices for great dystopian books. Instead, I’ll focus on slightly lesser-known novels about government oppression, just to offer you something fresh.
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My list of the best dystopian books like Fahrenheit 451
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1. The Handmaid’s Tale
Now a successful Hulu series, I find The Handmaid’s Tale to be one of the best dystopian novels to come out in recent times. I don’t think it’s the overall greatest on this list (due to pacing issues). However, the book is definitely worth reading for its original premise.
Margaret Atwood paints a dystopian future where human fertility has come under government oppression. Falling birth rates and climate disasters have led to the Second American Civil War. Amid this chaos, a new totalitarian regime rises. They enslave women, taking away their rights and relegating them to mere child-bearers, all in the name of ‘greater human interest’.
To be honest, I think The Handmaid’s Tale starts off a little slow. However, it picks up with a strong middle section. In particular, the plot thickens with its own original dystopian ideas carried by interesting characters.
Overall, if you’ve got an itch for more books like Fahrenheit 451, you’ll want to give this novel a go.
To be straight with you, I’m not a big fan of Ayn Rand. Maybe because I kind of shrugged at Atlas Shrugged (ha!). I found the book way too long and self-indulgent. However, Anthem is much more enjoyable!
This dystopian novel imagines a world where socialism is pushed to its extremities. People’s names are non-existent, and autonomy of thought is outright crushed. Above all, notions of ‘I’ have given way to a suffocating form of collectivist ‘we’.
In short, Anthem is Rand’s ideological rebuttal of communism. To this end, her exaggerated work pushes you to see the vices of uncritical conformity. This aligns with her personal mantra of Objectivism.
I sometimes question the merits of Rand’s broader brand of philosophy. However, as a fictional dystopian novel, I fully enjoyed Anthem‘s inventive world-building that, to me, makes it among the best books like Fahrenheit 451 out there.
Inspiring both Orwell and Rand, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We is a classic dystopian novel set in OneState – a glass city under the totalitarian rule of the ‘Benefactor’. Similar to Fahrenheit 451, you’ll love We for its exploration of what happens when free thought gives way to government enforced conformity.
The main protagonist (simply named D-503) lives a life devoid of passion and creativity. Above all, he exists in a world where love, family, and reproduction are all closely monitored – with deviation condemned. However, D-503 soon meets I-330, whose free spirit inspires him to break free from the system.
In short, if you yearn for books like Fahrenheit 451, look no further than We. This is among the best dystopian novels that helped to expand the sub-genre, paving the way for like-minded authors to come.
4. The Windup Girl
Many consider The Windup Girl to be a modern dystopian classic. Set in 23rd century Thailand, the book weaves a world feeling the full impact of global warming. Carbon fuel has also been depleted. In addition, vast populations have been afflicted or entirely wiped out by human-caused plagues and mutant pests. Yikes!
The story starts with Anderson Lake, an ‘economic hitman’ hired by a biotechnological company to infiltrate Thailand’s protected market. However, he soon meets ‘windup girl’ Emiko – a bond that pulls him into a civil war between the controlling ministry and rebels.
As a dystopian fiction fan, I really enjoyed The Windup Girl for its rich cultural detail and diverse cast of characters. I think it’s a must-read for anyone who loves books like Fahrenheit 451. However, some people may find the novel to be a pretty dense read. So, you’ll need to commit yourself to long – but thoroughly engaging – reading sessions!
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5. Wool / Silo Trilogy
How do you balance the desire for freedom and security? That’s the existential question Hugh Howey poses in his epic and well-loved dystopian trilogy, Silo.
Thousands of people spend their lives in a giant silo, unable to leave. Their underground habitat is made up of 130 levels, sheltered from an outside world that’s all but collapsed. Those who speak of escaping are banished from the silo and made to suffer the toxic climate beyond.
To me, the series is made up of some of the best dystopian novels published in recent years. Above all, Howey shows us how self-published authors are capable of creating great books like Fahrenheit 451 – all on their own! You’ll also be happy to know his work is now being made into a TV-series.
6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The source material for Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick’s dystopian fiction classic is about a post-apocalyptic world wrecked by global nuclear war. Human-like androids made on Mars are now commonplace. However, the government soon ban them due to their uncanny similarity to humans, forcing the androids to go into hiding.
Above all, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? explores what it means to be human. In particular, the book imagines a state-controlled world where empathy is marketed as a cultural product – which, ironically, turns the emotion into a nexus for deep class division.
In short, you can count on this sci-fi dystopian epic to quench your thirst for more books like Fahrenheit 451. The book remains as fresh as ever, despite being written way back in 1968.
7. V for Vendetta
I just had to slip this into the list, even if it’s technically a comic. Adapted into a blockbuster movie, V for Vendetta‘s dystopian future possesses similar totalitarian government themes found in books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.
Following a nuclear conflict, a fascist regime has seized full control of England. Anyone who opposes them is thrown into concentration camps, never to be seen again. The state also controls all media, molding people to think and behave the way they are expected to.
Personal liberty seems all but lost. That is, until the masked vigilante known only as V takes matters into his own hands. He destroys key government buildings, inciting people to rebel against their oppressors.
I really loved the movie – and enjoyed the comic even more! It’s an insightful allegory of what happens when governments go unchecked, and sociopaths are allowed to become leaders.
In short, if you’re a fan of the best dystopian novels, don’t miss V for Vendetta!
8. The Program
In this dystopian series, suicide has become a national epidemic. This allows the government to seize control of monitoring those under 18 for signs of emotional ‘infection’ (i.e. depression). Those who fail the screening are thus forcibly taken into ‘The Program’.
The problem? Well, people who enter ‘The Program’ never come out the same. Their memories are wiped clean, without consent.
I think this dystopian premise is very intriguing. In particular, it alludes to the real-life stigma of mental health issues – and the power institutions hold over how people are labelled and treated.
Overall, I believe readers who enjoy books like Fahrenheit 451 will easily take to The Program.
9. The Giver
Lois Lowry’s The Giver crafts a dystopian world disguised as a utopia. People are taken care of. However, nearly every aspect of their lives is controlled. This includes birth rates, the weather, family units, and the social roles each person is assigned to. In short, freedom is traded in for comfort.
However, when Jonas is selected as the new Receiver of Memory, he soon learns the dark truth that lies behind the calm facade. He is thus compelled to escape the powers who threaten his life and the ones he loves.
I adored The Giver from the very first time I read it. In addition, I find Lowry‘s followup books – which include Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son – to be just as entertaining. In short, these are easily some of the best dystopian novels you’ll ever read.
10. The Children of Men
The human species is dying as mass infertility afflicts the world. Amid this strange phenomenon, Xan Lyppiatt appoints himself the Warden of England, crushing democracy with his despotic rulership. Juries are gotten rid of, libidos regulated, and the elderly are reduced to mere burdens.
In the wake of all this, people have become apathetic. However, there remains a band of rebels known as the Five Fishes. Their goal: to reclaim people’s lost liberties and fight to protect how society used to be.
I enjoyed reading The Children of Men and also loved its movie adaptation. Yes, some parts of the novel do suffer from odd pacing. However, this is still easily one of the best dystopian novels I’ve ever read, thanks to its thought-provoking plot.