Five Novels that Changed My Life

Every once in a while you’ll pick up a novel and it will completely change your life. Those moments are few and far between, but worth it. As you grow older, they become even rarer. It’s not that I am jaded or set in my ways, but many times I’ve read or heard the idea before.

Here is my list of novels that changed my life and why. Note, I am not saying these are necessarily the best novels ever. In fact two of these novels I no longer even like. (Tastes change, experiences change.) Sometimes a novel comes into your life at exactly the right moment to really affect you.

1. Little House on the Prairie

I know, it’s a pretty pedestrian book to be on a list of life changers, but there is a good reason it belongs at the top of my list.

I can’t remember how old I was when I read it, but I was in elementary school. I was supposed to write a book report, but like most kids that age, I put it off. I told my mom on Friday, “oh by the way I have a book report due on Monday.” I hadn’t so much as decided on a book.

She shoved Little House on the Prairie into my hands and forbade me from leaving the house until I had my report done. By the time the weekend was over I’d read the book, written my report and became a lover of books.

2. The Mists of Avalon

I bought the hardcover of the Mists of Avalon from one of the many book clubs when I was a teenager and it had first came out. I was looking for a good fantasy read, and it was that.

I was also soul searching. I had decided sometime in my teens that I was not a christian. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Lutheran church where I was raised or against religion in general. Nor did I, as many others have, become an atheist or agnostic. I simply wanted something more from religion, an intense personal experience of connection that I couldn’t find in christianity.

The Mists fueled my imagination. Pagan religions, not as a some ancient superstition, but as a deep spiritual path, mesmerized me. It would be several more years and another, nonfiction book, Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler before it became official. But the Mists of Avalon set me on the path to paganism.

3. SlaughterHouse Five

In high school I was a science fiction geek. Oh, I read fantasy, too. That was the extent of it. I strongly resisted the notion that any other genre might be worth a peek. I had a particular disdain for literature.

Some of this was just the age old bias between science fiction fans and literary fans. Literary writers and readers have looked down their noses at genre writers for years. Science fiction writers and readers have looked right back at literary writers with almost the same level of disdain.

It was also, in part, a failing of my education. Perhaps everybodies education suffers in this way. We want to teach great American writers in one semester, so we opt for a short story here, an excerpt there. We want to teach about themes in writing, so we look for the best book about war, or the best book about coming of age.

But as I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that many of the truly great novels won’t fit into a one semester course on great American writers. The most representative book by a twentieth century American writer might not be the best book of that period.

Educators must make trade offs. They have limited time and a lot to cover. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a short story and boom, Hemingway’s done. Never mind A Farewell to Arms or The Sun Also Rises. We don’t have time for novels.

The point being that in high school I was made to read a smattering of the great literary writers, but managed to miss almost all of the works that actually made them great. I read a bunch of representative stories and excerpts that completely failed to convince me that literature was worth my time.

Kurt Vonnegut changed that. Actually a cute guy named Wally changed that, but that’s a slightly more convoluted story. I met him my first semester and he loved literature. I cracked Slaughterhouse Five mostly because he loved it and I wanted another reason to talk to him.

Slaughterhouse Five taught me that literature was worth my time and that literature and science fiction weren’t so far apart.

I went on to read many phenomenal writers and they all affected my worldview, but Vonnegut gets credit for the most life changing experience because he was my entry into literature.

4. Stranger in a Strange Land

I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time in the early nineties, after moving to Des Moines, going to nursing school and getting into the local pagan community. The book opened my mind to a new way of looking at relationships, spirituality and what was possible. All at the same time that I was moving in an eclectic new community that embraced many of those same ideas.

Learning the martian language, in the book, gave people super powers. There is an incredible insight buried in that. Words have power. Without the linguistic tools to discuss certain issues or ideas, they remain impossible. Once we start to develop the words, the ideas can be discussed and they can grow.

I was not out about my gender identity for much of my early life. To say I was in the closet isn’t exactly true, nor can I say I was in denial. The closet implies that I knew, but didn’t want to say. Denial implies that I didn’t want to know. The truth is that I simply didn’t have the language to think the issue through. I knew I was not like any of the men I knew. I had more in common with most of the women I knew. But the term transgender was never used growing up. Gender was never clearly distinguished from physical sex, making it very hard for me to describe just how I was different from men or like women.

Stranger in a Strange Land gave me the idea that if I could discover the right words, I could figure this issue out. It began a long and winding process of self discovery. Sadly when I returned to the book years later, I discovered that none of the specific issues that I unraveled were actually in the book. But still, the notion of the notion was there. And that was enough.

5. Orlando

I stumbled across a tiny video rental store in Sherman Hills just a few blocks from my apartment. It was early nineties, about the same time I read Stranger in a Strange Land. On a whim I went home with the movie adaptation of Orlando, knowing nothing of the book or Virginia Woolf.

As I have said I was still beyond denial of my gender issues. I was in some vague I-have-these-feelings-I-can’t-put-into-words phase of dealing with my gender.

Imagine my surprise when midway through the novel the male protagonist wakes to find himself a female. My deepest dream, the fantasy I lived over and over without knowing what it meant, was suddenly displayed in front of me. Did others think these thoughts? Could there be words, notions that expressed them?

I had to find the book and read it. It’s since become a favorite of mine. I re-read it recently, post transition. Even now I am struck by Virginia Woolf’s insight into what it’s like to live in more than one gender. I laughed aloud when Orlando, seeing what it’s like on both sides of the gender fence has to fight the urge to run off and become a gypsy. How many times did I feel the same urge through my transition?


So there you have it, five novels that changed my life and why. What novels have changed your life? Why?

10 signs you just binge read the Game of Thrones

I just finished reading the final book in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. It’s one of those highly immersive series, where you get sucked into the world. It affects how you see the world for weeks after. Here are my top ten signs that you’ve just binge read all five Game of Thrones books.

It’s Songs of Fire and Ice, you stupid TV watching cretins

Maybe it’s a stereotype, but we literary types can be snobs. Like insisting that the book series was really named Songs of Fire and Ice, not Game of Thrones.

Phrases like “mayhaps” and “ever so” have suddenly become part of your vocabulary.

Initially some of the archaic language and made up medieval language bothered me. You might even say I had my smallclothes in a bunch over it. But by book two it starts to roll off your tongue easily and by book five, you find yourself using it in daily life. As in “Mayhaps we will have pizza tonight. That would be ever so tasty.”

You are craving stew served in a trencher, even though you have no clue what a trencher is.

A trenchers were rounds of flat bread that were used as plates and then eaten afterwards, the medieval forerunner of the bread bowl. And yes, that does sound pretty tasty. The less tasty aspect? Trenchers were generally served with stews to soften stale, dried breads. Hardly the grossest thing in the Game of Thrones world, but I personally prefer my bread fresh.


Wait, pease porridge is a real thing?

They eat pease porridge frequently in the series. All most of us know about pease porridge is the old children’s rhyme;

pease porridge, hot,

pease porridge cold,

pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.

A common recipe in medieval Europe, pease porridge is a thick stew made from dried peas, not unlike split pea soup. It was often left to congeal overnight and then eaten cold in the morning. In some cases a large pot was left to warm by the edge of the fire as a quick any time meal. More was added to the stew as needed and it was quite possible that some of the ingredients had indeed been in the pot nine days by the time they got eaten.

When your spouse asks you to do a chore you reply, “Valar Dohaeris.”

Valar Morghulis, “All men die” and Valar Dohaeris, “All men must serve” are sayings from old Valyrian. Both are heavy with meaning both in the series and without. Valar Morghulis however is harder to work into everyday conversations.

You call poison control to ask if there is reliable antidote to Tears of Lys.

My day job is working as a nurse. The first indication I had that I had become too entrenched in the world of Game of Thrones came at work. There was a note on a patients chart about contacting poison control. It took several minutes trying to figure out who would try to poison them before I realized it was about an overdose attempt. Oh, right, people don’t generally poison each other in real life.

When you see an eleven year old girl walking down the street, you cross to the other side. (It might be Arya Stark.)

Arya Stark is a pretty bad ass character, until you stop to consider the fact that she’s an eleven year old girl. And she’s killed how many people? Yikes.

All your other fannish friends are saying things like: “I wish I could go to Hogwarts.” “I wish a blue telephone box would materialize right here.” You just look at them and think, “nope, I’m fine with this world, thank you very much.”

Most fans would love to live inside the world of their favorite series. I don’t blame them, but the world of Game of Thrones is way too bloody for that. Life is cheap and characters die unexpectedly throughout the books. If you are a noble, your life is in constant danger. If you are smallfolk it’s even worse. No thanks, I’ll pass.

Two missionaries knock on your door. You demand, “Can your god protect us when the cold winds blow and snows are ten feet deep, when the others come and the dead walk? I think not. Winter is coming.”

Just a few short weeks ago you thought all those fanboys and fangirls complaining about the slow progress on book six were being whiny brats. Now you feel their pain. Come on, George, hurry up already!

Most importantly though, if you binge read the saga you will have the satisfaction of knowing what a great bunch of books they are. Enjoy.

Top Ten Posts of 2014

I’ve been blogging pretty consistently this year. This site has slowly been gaining a bigger following as well. What’s been your favorite posts? Here are the ten posts that resonated the best with you, the readers.

  1. Six books that prove book banners don’t read.

Back in August I wrote a tongue in cheek post about books that conservative book banners have overlooked, because most are not avid readers. Apparently you enjoyed that post because it’s been the most viewed blog post of the year.

  1. Ten Adult Dystopians to read now that you’ve read Hunger Games

Dystopians are all the rage these days. Or maybe not, publishers and agents have been quietly spreading the word through writers conferences that “dystopian is dead.” I’ll believe that when the sales start to drop. Until then, many young readers don’t realize that dystopian is nothing new. I posted a list of classic dystopians for those who have already whet their tastes on the likes of the Hunger Games but want something more adult.

  1. How to Kick an Internet Troll, Right in the Freedom of Speech

After the gamergate uproar, I got so sick of trolls trying to justify their actions with the freedom of speech mantra, I decided to shut them down. I guess most readers must have been sick of it, too.

  1. Ten Problems with being a Werewolf

I am guessing that people already know the good parts of being a werewolf, because the ten best things about being a werewolf didn’t even come close to making the list. However a lot of you were curious about the problems.

  1. Hiding in Plain View

Not my favorite post of the year. I hate bringing the news that a heroine to many was far less of a heroine after all. But abuse likes to lurk in the dark. If we are to ever live in a better world, we need to face the truth about sexual abuse.

  1. Shield Maidens, Bell Curves and Strong Women

My post about viking shield maidens didn’t get many hits at the time and I was pleasantly surprised to see it so high on the list at the end of the year. As in ancient times, viking women keep on coming.

  1. Books Everyone Talks About but Almost No one Reads

Another tongue in cheek post, poking some gentle fun at book snobs. There are books that lots of people talk about, but they rarely read.

  1. The Suckiest Superpower

The suckiest superpower arose from a conversation with my son, and like that conversation it was a fun one. I still get a chuckle every time I think about Chicken Man, he can’t really fly but he can sort of flutter places.

  1. Reviving an Old Manuscript with Scrivener

Scrivener is my go to piece of writing software. I love scrivener. It’s so versatile and useful for all sorts of writers. This tip on using Scrivener to revive old manuscripts was well received. I guess my writer friends like Scrivener, too.

  1. Trivia Time: Florence Nightingale

This humorous post about the founder of modern nursing, ends my top ten list. I am happy you’ve enjoyed these and other posts throughout the year.


Five Fantasy Stories to Read to your Kids

The best way to teach your kids to love books is to read to them. Here is my top five books to read to your kids. Some of them are well known classics and some are ones I’ve discovered at the back of library book sales. I’ve read all of them and I’ve read them to my son.

1. Watership Down
I have to admit that when I went to read this book to my son I hadn’t read it. I had no clue what an incredible experience we were both in for. Watership Down tells the story of a group of rabbits fleeing from a warren that has been destroyed by man. They are seeking a new home on Watership Down.
Make no mistake, this is no simplistic animal story, like so many kids books. The rabbits tell their own stories within the larger story. Their stories have a strong mythic feel to them.

2. The Hobbit
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” It’s one of my favorite opening lines. I’ve read the hobbit a dozen times or more. Seriously, from junior high to high school I wrote a book report on the Hobbit every single year for nearly six years straight. The sad geeky truth is that I re-read it each time, too. Of course I introduced my son to the Hobbit as soon as he was old enough to understand the words.

3. The Magic Thief
My son actually found this book on his own in elementary school. One of his teachers was reading it aloud, a chapter every friday. He was so entranced and so eager to find out how it ended, that he checked his own copy out of the library. We took turns reading, a page each, and plowed through it over a long weekend.
One of the ongoing jokes in the book is Conn’s terrible cooking skills. One of the wizard’s other henchmen has to take over cooking just to have some bearable food. At the very end of the book there are two recipes for biscuits. We made both. Benet’s biscuits looked like biscuits and tasted great. Conn’s turned into a running pile of dough. Still my son insisted they were just as good and ate the entire batch.

4. The Harry Potter series
I discovered Harry Potter a year or two after it came to America, when it was still mostly a geek phenomena. I read the first three books to my son as I read them and then we had to wait for the next like everyone else.
I have a friend who made her son read them to her. I think that might be better approach. They grow darker and more adult as the series goes on, but if a kid is reading them for themselves, they keep pace pretty well. i.e. an eight year old isn’t going to plow through The Deathly Hallows by themselves, most likely, but if they fall in love with the first one at eight, by the time they hit number seven they’ll probably be ready for it.

5. The Hounds of the Morrigan
Pidge discovers an old Latin book at a rare book seller near the Irish cottage he shares with his Grandmother and little sister, Brigit. Opening the book, he accidentally releases an evil spirit. He and his sister must go on a mythic journey to return the serpent to it’s trapped state. Filled with celtic mythology and figures, the book is a delight to read.
I discovered this little gem by accident at the back of library sale. The spine was damaged and I picked it up for quarter. I loved the story and it became a treasured book. After my son was born, it was one of the first I read to him. We read it again later, when he was old enough to really understand the story.

Books Everyone Talks About but Almost No One Reads

There are books that everyone has heard of, are frequently discussed in various circles and yet almost no one has ever actually read. Here is my list.

1. The Bible

When I was a young person, the Lutheran church gave every kid, upon reaching a certain age, a copy of the Bible. Being an avid reader even then, I plowed through it from start to finish. Chapter upon chapter of so and so begat so and so. All the disjointed stories of the old testament, the list of rules in Leviticus that make almost no sense to the modern reader, you name it. I only recall a fraction of it now, but I read it once upon a time.

It is not my intention to get into a religious debate. But there is something that has always bothered me about a lot of fundamentalists. If you believe this one book is the actual written word of God, shouldn’t you read it? But in many churches, this is not how it’s done. Instead “Bible Study” is largely learning a few choice phrases out of context and very little actual reading of whole books in context.

And yes, I know, a lot of people have read the Bible. Still it belongs on this list because the number of people who have read it pales to the number of people who claim it as the holy testament of their religion.

2. The Big Book

Sometimes called the blue book or even the big blue book (not the one you find car prices in) because the dominant cover is a light blue. Written in 1939 by Bill W. one of the founders of AA, the Big Book is a long rambling testament, laying out the twelve steps, peppered with lots and lots of anecdotes about people who have been helped by them.

As AA has grown to become the predominant treatment for addictions of all kinds, the Big Book has undergone many editions and printings. It is handed out in meetings, sold in bookstores and passed from hand to hand by many people.

The quintessential symbol of what the Big Book has become was a recent TMZ photo of actress Lindsay Lohan entering a nightclub clutching the Big Book, as though it were a talisman to prevent relapse. Perhaps her recovery would have gone better if she had stayed home and actually read the damn thing.

I work in mental health and our unit always has a half dozen copies of the big book floating around. One night I got curious enough to crack the Big Book and see what it’s all about. And I have to say, I tend to agree with the non-readers on this one. It’s long. It rambles. The twelve steps are pretty well known by now, and explained more concisely in other books. The Big Book remains important as a testament to the history of the movement.

3. The Constitution

The Constitution of the United States of America is not really a book. I include it in this list because it shares so much in common with the first two books on the list. It’s often held up as a symbolic emblem by people who haven’t read it and are often arguing against it.

I won’t open an ugly can of worms by discussing politics here. However, in my school days every student had to read the Constitution and at least attempt to understand it. Judging from the state of politics today, I doubt many people have done either.

4. Atlas Shrugged

Love it or hate it, Ayn Rand’s objectivist manifesto, Atlas Shrugged in one of the most important works of the twentieth century. A large chunk of the Neo-libertarian Republicans in politics today swear by Ayn Rand’s philosophical world view.

If you want to appear intellectual and hip among that crowd, you must have a passing familiarity with Atlas Shrugged. But if you try to engage such people in debate you will find that it often ends at a passing familiarity.

Honestly I am not a fan of either the philosophy or the book. Judging the book solely on its literary merits, it’s long, dense and stilted. The characters are flat and spend most of their time espousing Ayn Rand’s philosophy rather than interacting with each other. I tend to agree with reviewer Dorothy Parker, who said, “This is not a novel tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” And all the pseudo-intellectuals that quote Ayn Rand should be forced to read her entire collection for themselves.

5. Anything by James Joyce

“For this, O Dearly Beloved, is the genuine Christinne: body, and soul and blood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, Gents. One moment. A little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.”

James Joyce is the great grandmaster of the modern novel. Stream of consciousness? He practically invented it. He revolutionized novel structure. He wrote in his own Irish accent and voice, and in doing so championed a new literary form. His work is some of the most scrutinized and studied in all of literature.

The literary snobs of the world will sneer their contempt at anyone who suggests that they would prefer to read something, well, a little more readable than most Joyce. Which probably explains why literary aficionados everywhere tend to agree with the snobs, mutter an apology for not having “gotten around” to Joyce and quickly change the subject.

6. War and Peace

Tolstoy’s great masterpiece about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia is a giant of a book. Everyone knows its a masterpiece and one of those books you ought to read. But they never seem to get around to it, put off by the size of the book or the long Russian names.

It’s too bad, because it really is one of my favourites. How I finally got around the size of the book was to realize, it’s not any longer than many of the fantasy series I read regularly. If you have read all seven of the Harry Potter books you’ve devoured more pages than War and Peace. So grab a copy and get cracking.

7. The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx’s short little book, The Communist Manifesto belongs on this list because it’s influence far out reaches it readership. It has spawned revolutions, been the primary influence on numerous communist, socialist and marxist governments. But how many people have actually read the manifesto?

8. The Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese classic, penned by the sage Lao Tsu. The book is second to only the Bible in terms of the numbers of language it’s been translated into. It has been enormously influential in the east. It has been seeping into western thought since it’s translation in the mid eighteen hundreds.

Carl Jung was influenced by the Tao Te Ching. Many of the new agers, from Wayne Dyer to The Secret, will quote freely from the Tao Te Ching.

But reading the book is another story. It’s an ancient spiritual text and it tends to be dense and obscure at times, not what you would call light reading. Which explains why so many people talk about it, own it, but few have actually read it.

That’s my list. What books would you add?

Ten Adult Dystopian novels now that you’ve read Hunger Games

Now that you’ve read the Hunger Games, Divergent and a slew of other YA dystopias, including one titled Dystopia, where do you go next? Dystopian novels are nothing new. Long before Suzzane Collins brought them to the YA genre, writers were exploring dystopian worlds in literature, science fiction and fantasy. Here are my favorites.

What makes a novel Dystopian?

Before we begin the list, what makes something dystopian? I will give my answer in two parts. First, what makes a society dystopian and then what makes a novel dystopian.

What’s a dystopian society?

Dystopia, at its simplest definition, is the opposite of a utopia. A utopia is a perfect society, so a dystopia must be a terrible society. But that’s pretty vague. I prefer to define a dystopia as a dysfunctional society.

Some families or groups look and act crazy, but function fairly well together. Others act normal but are loaded with dysfunction once you get inside. So what makes a group dysfunctional? A common litmus test that sociologists and psychologisst use is the Über rule. The űber rule is; you can’t question the rules.

Every group has certain rules and expectations. Ideally these rules were established for a reason. Members understand why the rule is there, when it was instituted and how. There is a protocol in place for discussing and changing rules as the situation changes.

But when the űber rule is in place, you aren’t allowed to question the rules. The reason the rules are in place are hidden or forgotten. Any attempt to discuss the rules or change them is an act of treason against the group.

For example, the United States might act a little crazy at times but we all know how the laws are made, how they can be changed and we are free to discuss what changes we might want to make, so it’s not a true dystopia. Of course you can argue that there’s corruption in how laws are made, unequal enforcement, etc. and we are times, pretty dysfunctional. But it’s still short of a true dystopia.

In Soviet Russia, on the other hand, laws were made by a small group who didn’t have to explain how or why they choose those laws. Any attempt to question the regime was harshly dealt with. It does qualify as a dystopian society.

So what makes a novel dystopian?

I have two simple criteria. The dominant group in the novel must be dysfunctional to the point of being dystopian. The group’s dysfunction must drive the novel.

A lot the novels that you find on the average listopia don’t really qualify as dystopian to me. By the same token there are a lot of good novels that should be considered dystopian but aren’t.

I don’t have any zombie or apocalypse novels on this list, because the dysfunctional society, if it exists, doesn’t drive the story. It’s a side effect of the apocalypse. Most epic fantasies don’t qualify either, because they tend to be about stopping the totalitarian regime (AKA evil wizard) from taking over. A true dystopian novel is about the character’s struggles living within a dystopian society.

Here are my top ten picks for adult dystopian novels.


1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When a conservative Christian group takes over the United States, the Republic of Gilead is formed. Marketplaces now features pictures since women aren’t allowed to read. Facing declining fertility they begin to employ handmaids, to let the ruling caste procreate. In order to avoid the idea that this is adultery, the handmaid must lay under the sheets while the man stares at his wife.

Told from the point of a view of a handmaid, there is no doubt the novel is both dystopian and adult. It’s very well written.

2. Make Room! Make Room! (AKA Soylent Green) by Harry Harrison

Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel about an overcrowded urban society facing food and space shortages, became the inspiration for 1973 movie, Soylent Green. It’s a great dark dystopian novel. Fans of the film beware, Make Room! Make Room! doesn’t include cannibalism.

3. Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool tells the story of a future where the world has been blighted and unlivable. Survivors live in underground silos. What really makes Wool a true dystopian is that the survivors don’t even remember what happened to make it that way, and even thinking of outside is a criminal offense punishable by death.

4. The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert had a thing about survival of the fittest. It shows up frequently in his works. The Fremen of Dune are tough because they’ve spent generations in one of the toughest environments ever, the planet Arakis. Arakis, however, can’t hold a candle to Dosadi. The novel is set in the Whipping Star series, though it’s easy to read as a stand alone novel. Aliens have conspired to keep a small group of aliens and humans trapped on a toxic planet, until the survivors have become so strong they now fear to let them out.

5. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash is a classic cyberpunk novel but it also qualifies as dystopian in my opinion. The government has more or less ceased to function and sovereign corporations have moved into the power vacuum. The result is a byzantine world of sovereign corporations that is well described.

I have always admired Stephenson’s gutsy writing style, but never more than his decision to make his hero a half-Japanese American named Hiro. Hiro is a hacker turned pizza delivery guy who is drawn into a friendship with a young skateboard courier named YT. The two of them must work together to uncover the secret of Snow Crash, a computer virus that can infect hackers brains.

6. 1984 by George Orwell

Published in 1959, when the title date seemed far in the future, 1984 is a dystopian classic. It’s so old school that most 1984 fans still think old school is a popular catchphrase. Even so, it’s a must read, especially if you have ever wondered where terms like thought police, big brother and double speak come from. It’s a world that is so fucked up and dystopian that after the main characters is caught and re-educated for his thought crimes, they leave him alive until he is so brainwashed that he agrees with his sentence and volunteers for death.

7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

One of Bradbury’s classic novels, Fahrenheit 451 is an allusion to temperature at which a book will ignite and burn. The novel tells of a world where knowledge is censored and books are all banned. Guy Montag is a fireman. It’s his job to find and destroy books. That is until he is sucked into a secret society that strives to save literature by memorizing books whole.

8. Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson

Life under the dome is perfect, except for one small fact. To conserve resources everyone must die at thirty. That doesn’t seem like much of a problem when you are in your early twenties, and as you near thirty, well that’s what the Sandmen are for, to make sure no one runs.

9. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut is one of the great American writers of the twentieth century. His style is dark and cynical, and several of his novels show up frequently on listopia and elsewhere as dystopian novels. Most of those novels don’t make my cut. Titles like Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five are unrelentingly dark, but the societies are not true dystopias. But Player Piano is different. The society is one where machines are rapidly replacing humans in virtually all jobs, creating a new lower caste of unemployed or barely employable men. Strikes a little too close to home at times.

10. The sword of truth series by Terry Goodkind

I have left almost the entire fantasy genre off this list for one simple reason. Most epic fantasies are about the struggle of good and evil. The evil is the threat, a wizard, lord or ruler that is trying to take over the land. While that can make a great story, its not a dystopia. A dystopian novel must be driven by the characters reaction to living within a dystopian society. The Sword of Truth series is one of the few that meets that requirement.

My Shameless Promotion:

I’ve dabbled in post-apocalypse and have one book out that could be defined as dystopian. In Children of a New Earth, Amy Beland has been raised on Freedom Ranch, deep in the Rocky Mountains in the years after the collapse. The ranch is run by white supremacist. They don’t allow much discussion or input in decision making and they’ve lied to the younger generation about why the collapse has even happened, making it a pretty clear dystopian society. You can download a copy from Amazon:

Children of a new earth, front