Books To Read After “The Handmaid’s Tale”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a novel that has left a profound impact on its readers, prompting them to ponder complex themes such as women’s rights, totalitarianism, and the manipulation of power. Its chilling portrayal of a dystopian future has not only made it a modern classic but has also inspired readers to seek out books that resonate with similar themes and narratives.

Our selection of books in this blog post is centered around several core themes found in The Handmaid’s Tale: dystopian futures, profound explorations of feminism, and sharp social commentaries. These elements contribute to the haunting allure of dystopian literature, reflecting our own societal fears and anxieties back at us.

If you’ve recently turned the last page of The Handmaid’s Tale and are craving more thought-provoking reads, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s venture together into these captivating worlds.

Overview of Dystopian Literature

Brief History and Common Themes of Dystopian Literature

Dystopian literature is characterized by the depiction of societies that are nightmarish, oppressive, and fearful. Its roots can be traced back to works such as Jack London’s The Iron Heel and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. However, the genre truly came into its own during the 20th century, as authors began to grapple with the horrors of totalitarian regimes, world wars, and emerging technologies.

Common themes in dystopian literature include totalitarian governments, loss of individuality, and societal collapse due to various factors such as environmental catastrophe or an oppressive ruling class. These narratives often serve as a warning against certain political or societal trajectories, reflecting and amplifying the anxieties of the times in which they were written.

Significance and Relevance of Dystopian Literature in Contemporary Society

In our contemporary society, dystopian literature serves as a mirror, reflecting our fears and anxieties about the world. These stories allow us to confront and consider worst-case scenarios in a safe space, encouraging us to engage with pressing issues such as climate change, political instability, and threats to personal freedom.

Even more critically, dystopian literature often provokes thought and stimulates discussions about our society’s direction and our responsibilities to prevent such potential futures. It reminds us of the need for vigilance against the erosion of our rights and freedoms, serving as a clarion call for resistance and resilience in face of potential adversity.

1984 by George Orwell

Brief Summary of the Book

1984 is George Orwell’s prophetic novel set in a totalitarian future where independent thought is outlawed, history is manipulated, and the very language is controlled to restrict freedom. The novel presents a chilling depiction of a society dominated by pervasive government surveillance, public manipulation, and perpetual war.

Similarities and Contrasts with The Handmaid’s Tale

Like The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 is rooted in the exploration of a society where individual freedoms are sacrificed in favor of a controlling regime. Both novels emphasize the dangers of totalitarianism and the manipulation of truth.

However, the two novels diverge in their depiction of gender roles and societal structure. While The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on the plight of women in a patriarchal society, 1984 presents a more general exploration of the loss of individual freedom, irrespective of gender. Moreover, Atwood’s dystopia is grounded in a perverse interpretation of religious doctrine, while Orwell’s is driven by political ideology.

Why You Should Read It

1984 stands as a seminal work in dystopian literature, offering a harrowing vision of a future where personal liberty is non-existent. It’s a potent reminder of the power of language and the potential dangers of unchallenged authority. If The Handmaid’s Tale sparked your interest in dystopian futures and the exploration of power dynamics, 1984 should be next on your reading list.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Brief Summary of the Book

Parable of the Sower is a gripping tale set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed due to climate change and economic crises. The protagonist, Lauren Olamina, possesses ‘hyperempathy’—the ability to feel pain and other sensations she witnesses. Despite the dangers of a chaotic world, Lauren is determined to spread her newly founded religion, Earthseed, which promotes adaptable beliefs for survival.

Similarities and Contrasts with The Handmaid’s Tale

Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, Parable of the Sower presents a society where the state has collapsed, giving rise to oppressive systems. Both novels focus on strong female protagonists navigating an oppressive world, emphasizing themes of survival, resistance, and hope.

However, the societies portrayed in the two books have different roots: Atwood’s dystopia is the result of religious extremism, while Butler’s is born out of ecological disaster and economic collapse. Furthermore, while The Handmaid’s Tale is largely about the struggle against a repressive system, Parable of the Sower adds a dimension of rebuilding and creating a new belief system in the midst of chaos.

Why You Should Read It

Parable of the Sower is an immersive exploration of a world teetering on the brink of collapse, offering a unique perspective on resilience and adaptation in the face of dire circumstances. Butler’s powerful storytelling and deep exploration of themes like empathy, survival, and spirituality make it a compelling read for those who appreciated the thought-provoking nature of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Brief Summary of the Book

In The Power, Naomi Alderman reimagines a world where women have the power to emit deadly electric jolts from their fingers, effectively making them the dominant gender. The book explores the lives of four main characters and shows how the world changes, both politically and socially, when the traditional power dynamics are inverted.

Similarities and Contrasts with The Handmaid’s Tale

Both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power scrutinize gender dynamics and power structures, but they approach these themes from contrasting angles. Where The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a world where women are subjugated and their rights are stripped away, The Power flips the gender power structure, illustrating a world where women hold physical dominance.

In addition, while both books probe the abuse of power, The Power distinctly delves into the idea of how those who gain power can become the oppressors, offering a more cyclical view of power dynamics.

Why You Should Read It

The Power is a provocative exploration of the dynamics of power and gender, making it a must-read for anyone intrigued by the themes in The Handmaid’s Tale. By completely inverting the traditional power structure, it prompts readers to reevaluate their understanding of power, dominance, and the societal structures that perpetuate them.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Brief Summary of the Book

The Testaments is Margaret Atwood’s much-anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Set 15 years after the events of the first novel, it provides new perspectives on Gilead from the points of view of three women. Their stories intertwine in a narrative that elucidates the mechanisms of power in Gilead and reveals cracks in its seemingly invincible facade.

Connection to The Handmaid’s Tale

As the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments directly continues the narrative and further explores the society of Gilead. Readers gain a deeper understanding of the dystopian society that Atwood created, with new insights into its structures, inner workings, and the experiences of women living within and outside its constraints.

Why You Should Read It

For fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments is a must-read. Not only does it continue the narrative of Gilead, but it also offers new perspectives and more complex understandings of the world Atwood has created. It’s a gripping read that maintains the thought-provoking and chilling themes of the original while shedding light on the hope and resistance within dystopian realities.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Brief Summary of the Book

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows the lives of a troupe of Shakespearean actors traveling across the Great Lakes region after a devastating flu pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. The novel flits between the time before and after the pandemic, painting a rich and hopeful picture of humanity’s resilience and the enduring power of art.

Similarities and Contrasts with The Handmaid’s Tale

While The Handmaid’s Tale and Station Eleven both depict dystopian futures, their approach and underlying themes differ significantly. Both books delve into the fall of society and the emergence of new societal structures. However, where The Handmaid’s Tale presents a society ruled by a repressive regime, Station Eleven explores the aftermath of societal collapse in a more decentralised, fragmented way.

Also, Station Eleven carries a distinctly hopeful undertone compared to the bleakness of The Handmaid’s Tale. Mandel’s book underscores the power of art and human connections as pivotal to survival and rebuilding, which contrasts with Atwood’s emphasis on the dark and oppressive structures of power.

Why You Should Read It

If you found The Handmaid’s Tale compelling for its exploration of societal breakdown and the human capacity for survival, you’ll likely appreciate Station Eleven. While it’s a departure from the darker tone of Atwood’s book, it offers a nuanced portrayal of post-apocalyptic life and humanity’s resilience, making it a fascinating and heartening read.

Additional Recommendations (Lesser-Known Dystopian Books)

While the previous books are widely recognized and praised in the genre of dystopian literature, there are a few less-known gems that carry similar themes and narratives. Here are a couple of them:

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell

Jeff Goodell’s The Water Will Come isn’t a novel, but rather an unnerving prediction of our potential future. This non-fiction work explores the inevitable rise in sea levels due to climate change and its disastrous effects on our cities and societies. Its relevance and urgent warning make it a compelling read, particularly for those interested in environmental dystopias.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M is a haunting tale set in a world where people lose their shadows – and with them, their memories. This

As society crumbles in the face of this inexplicable phenomenon, a group of survivors embark on a quest to understand the cause and hopefully find a cure. The book beautifully blends elements of dystopian literature with magical realism, resulting in a thought-provoking narrative about memory, identity, and loss.

The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock

The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock presents a future where fertile women are the most valuable commodity due to a widespread infertility crisis. The novel navigates themes of reproductive rights and the commodification of women’s bodies, making it a relevant read for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale.

These books, although lesser-known, provide unique dystopian visions that will surely provoke thought and discussion just as The Handmaid’s Tale does.

More Great Recommendations

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

In The Road, McCarthy presents a post-apocalyptic world through the journey of a father and his son across a desolate American landscape. This novel is chosen for its poignant exploration of human endurance and the power of love amidst despair.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This classic dystopian novel portrays a society engineered for ‘happiness’ through the eradication of individuality, family, and art. Brave New World is selected for its disconcerting vision of a future where human values are forsaken for societal stability.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s novel subtly weaves dystopian themes into an intimate narrative about friendship, love, and the human soul. Its understated approach to dystopia and thought-provoking exploration of the value of human life make it a must-read.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is a story about a society that has eradicated pain and strife at the cost of personal freedom and emotion. This novel stands out for its accessible exploration of complex themes like individuality, conformity, and the importance of memory.

The Children of Men by P.D. James

In this dystopian novel, the human race faces extinction due to universal infertility. Its exploration of survival, morality, and what it means to be human in a dying world makes it a relevant recommendation.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s classic depicts a future where books are banned, and ‘firemen’ burn any they find. Its emphasis on the power and importance of knowledge and critical thinking makes it a valuable addition to any dystopian reading list.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin’s novel imagines a world where individuals are not restricted by a fixed gender. Selected for its exploration of gender, duality, and the unknown, it offers a unique perspective on societal norms.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Another Le Guin novel, The Dispossessed presents a physicist’s struggle between two contrasting societies: one anarchist, the other capitalist. Its insightful examination of political systems and individual freedom makes it an interesting read.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This fast-paced dystopian novel, centered around a group of teenagers trapped in a lethal maze, is chosen for its captivating plot and its exploration of memory, identity, and survival.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in future Thailand, this novel explores a world affected by biotechnology and climate change. Its focus on environmental issues and the consequences of genetic manipulation make it an important read in the context of contemporary concerns.


The unnerving charm of dystopian literature is its ability to mirror our deepest fears, to warn us about the slippery slope of certain paths, and to underline the resilience of the human spirit, even in the darkest of times. If The Handmaid’s Tale was your gateway into this genre, the books we’ve highlighted here will undoubtedly deepen your exploration. Each one, in its unique way, echoes some of the same themes found in Atwood’s seminal work, while also offering fresh perspectives on dystopia.

From the iconic 1984 to the profound Parable of the Sower, and the gripping The Power to the hopeful Station Eleven, this reading journey promises to be filled with compelling characters, haunting narratives, and thought-provoking themes. So, get comfortable and prepare to turn page after page of these captivating reads.

After all, dystopia is not just about witnessing our fears come to life; it’s also about understanding the power of resistance, resilience, and, above all, hope in the face of adversity.

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