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Biblio File

Love ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’? Try One of These.


A new miniseries adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s all-too-relevant 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, hits Hulu April 26, 2017, and The New York Public Library's copies are flying off the shelves. (The story of an anti-woman totalitarian dystopia also won our Literary March Madness competition last month.)

Whether you’re waiting for your copy from the library or you’ve already read the Atwood classic and are looking for a good follow-up, we have a few suggestions.


The Children of Men by P.D. James 

Another sci-fi tour de force by a consummate writer, this tale of a near-future society in which all men are infertile has direct echoes of Atwood's work. 

This book is: bleak, character-driven, menacing, richly detailed.






The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

In a dark Kafka-esque version of present-day Egypt, citizens are forced to wait in an endless line for an authoritarian power — “The Gate” — to take care of their most basic needs.

This book is: bleak, fast-paced, intricately plotted.






Oryx & Crake (and the rest of the MaddAddam series) by Margaret Atwood

Try Atwood's more recent dystopian novels: Her subsequent forays into science fiction build a very different world than Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale. This trilogy deals with a post-apocalyptic future, science, ethics, and the decline of humanity... and it's also a bit funny.

This book is: darkly humorous, disturbing, fast-paced, reflective, thought-provoking, witty.




The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book is an interesting counterpoint to The Handmaid's Tale — neither a dystopia nor a utopia, but an alternative imagining of history. After Cora escapes from the plantation where she's lived all her life, she has to run from a brutal slave catcher and search for a safe place to land.

This book is: compelling, disturbing, stylistically complex, thought-provoking.



Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

The world powers that control the planet's nuclear future — and the alien race that makes contact with the residents of Earth — have distinctly creepy dystopian echoes in this sci-fi thriller.

This book is: action-packed, atmospheric, lyrical, intricately plotted.





The Herland trilogy by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman sets up the inverse of Atwood’s world: an all-woman utopia. The books were published over a century ago, and parts of the book feel dated, but the ideas are well worth investigating.

This book is: allegorical, idea-driven.





Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

In this creative work of alt-history, Ursula Todd is born in 1910 and dies over and over again, until she comes back as the protagonist the world needs her to be.

This book is: haunting, intricately plotted, melancholy.






The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

A fantastical YA tale about identity, power, and oppression in a world that’s losing its mind. 

This book is: descriptive, offbeat, plot-driven.







Passion of the New Eve by Angela Carter

A truly original work of allegory and storytelling, this radical novel begins in a dystopian New York City populated by gigantic fertility goddess and an all-female biker gang, calling gender dynamics and identity into question.

This book is: disturbing, lyrical, offbeat, steamy.





When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Jordan’s dystopian novel uses the color red as a symbol inspired by The Scarlett Letter. Hannah Payne is forced to become a “Chrome” — her skin has been turned red to shame her for having an abortion.

This book is: compelling, fast-paced, thought-provoking.


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Dystopian fiction

Don't forget Arcadia by Pears. It's a good read!

How did this list leave off

How did this list leave off Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper?!

Activities at libraries

I live close to three public libraries. I frequent each one for books, book sales, movies and various activities. Each has a unique monthly schedule, provided only at its respective branch. Please make the schedules for the three or four closest libraries, available at each library. This is simple to accomplish by having each email it to designated branches for printout. Attendance at activities would increase. For example, the Riverside Branch would also have the schedules for the branch to its immediate south, the Performing Arts Branch, and the St Agnes Branch. This would enable people in each area to participate in activities of interest, at each branch convenient to them. Currently, each branch has only its own schedule, requiring a trip to each one just to obtain the schedule. Thanks for your consideration.

thank you

Thanks for the feedback -- that's a really good idea and I will pass it on! And you can always ask a librarian if you're in a branch and wondering about other schedules. They're all online here, sortable by branch:

Octavia Butler?

Cannot believe there isn't a Octavi Butler or Samuel 'Chip' Delaney book on this list. Two fantastic dystopian authors. And kich more aligned with Atwood's rights/ identity based oppression and technological regression.

good call

Good call on the Octavia Butler -- co-signed!

More Readalikes from a librarian

I would add to this list: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neil - in a dystopian future teen girls are reduced to competing to be wives of the bland sons of the elite. Their self worth and self esteem hinging on their beauty and perfection in all areas and they're encouragement to turn on each other for points. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King - A teen girl is given nightmarish visions of a dystopian future where women lose all rights.

Top Picks emails

I have to say "thank you" for your emails regarding top picks. I don't have a lot of time to read as I'm a HS math teacher and am more often than not preoccupied with other things. However, I make it a point to keep a plan to encourage me to read for pleasure. I maintain a book list in my phone where I've been keeping track of what I read as well as titles I'd be interested in reading. I just added a whole bunch of titles thanks to your May Top Picks. Keep them coming. Thank you so much.


Thanks so much for the feedback... we will definitely keep the them coming! And if anyone else wants to sign up for Top Picks or our other e-newsletters, you can do it here:

The Unit

Atwood herself recently blurb-ed the dystopian novel "The Unit" by Ninni Holmqvist

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