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What to Read After "The Handmaid's Tale"

May 25, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood in 1985, has been a popular dystopian novel that’s never gone out of print. Set in a near future East coast city, the U.S government has been overthrown by a religious totalitarian regime, and due to environmental and medical catastrophes much of the population is infertile. Besides the elite, women have lost all autonomy, and the fertile few are cast as Handmaids, their only purpose to reproduce for those in charge.

Atwood’s writing comments on the social, political, and religious trends of America, speculating what reality would become if those trends were taken to the limit. The Handmaid’s Tale has been a feminist favorite that seems to never lose relevance. Often throughout her career Atwood has disagreed with the novels “sci-fi” branding. She prefers, “speculative fiction,” with the reasoning that society already has the means to create such a world.

Post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, new and old, are having a moment in pop-culture, and The Handmaid’s Tale has not been left behind. The online streaming service, Hulu, developed a TV series adaptation of the literature that debuted this spring.

Whether you’ve been a long-time fan or you’re a new reader, these 10 read-a-likes will have you turning the pages and pondering the content as much as Atwood’s acclaimed novel.


"LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND " by PAULETTE JILES

In the coming centuries the world's population has exploded. The earth is crowded with cities, animals are nearly all extinct, and drought is so widespread that water is rationed. There are no maps, no borders, no numbered years, and no freedom, except for an elite few. It is a harsh world for an orphan like Nadia Stepan. Growing up, she dreams of a green vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest.

"WHEN SHE WOKE " by HILLARY JORDAN

In the middle of the 21st century, a young woman in Texas awakens to a nightmarish new life: her skin has been genetically altered, turned bright red as punishment for the crime of having an abortion. Stigmatized and in a hostile and frightening world, Hannah Payne must make a perilous journey northward to safety.

"BRAVE NEW WORLD " by ALDOUS HUXLEY

Hundreds of years in the future, the World Controllers have created an ideal civilization. Its members, shaped by genetic engineering and behavioral conditioning, are productive and content in roles they have been assigned at conception. Only Bernard Marx is discontented. When he brings back a young man from one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old unenlightened ways still continue, he unleashes a dramatic clash of cultures.

"1984 " by GEORGE ORWELL

This classic novel portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all of its activities, including punishing those who dare to rebel and think for themselves.

"RED RISING" by PIERCE BROWN

A tale set in a bleak future society torn by class divisions follows the experiences of secret revolutionary Darrow, who after witnessing his wife's execution by an oppressive government joins a revolutionary cell and attempts to infiltrate an elite military academy.

"FAHRENHEIT 451" by RAY BRADBURY

In a society in which books are outlawed, Montag, a regimented fireman in charge of burning the forbidden volumes, meets a revolutionary school teacher who dares to read. Suddenly he finds himself a hunted fugitive, forced to choose not only between two women, but between personal safety and intellectual freedom.

"UNWIND " by NEAL SHUSTERMAN

In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives "unwound" and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs--and, perhaps, save their own lives.

"THE BEES " by LALINE PAULL

This book is set entirely in a beehive, but the novel and its characters are so beautifully rendered that it could have been set anywhere. Societal codes and social mores combine with the ancient behavior rituals of bees, bringing forth a remarkable story.

"THE WRATH AND THE DAWN " by RENEE AHDIEH

In this reimagining of The Arabian Nights, Shahrzad plans to avenge the death of her dearest friend by volunteering to marry the murderous boy-king of Khorasan but discovers not all is as it seems within the palace.

"A CLOCKWORK ORANGE " by ANTHONY BURGESS

Burgess' satire of the present inhumanity of man to man through a futuristic culture where teenagers rule with violence.

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