11 Books to Read After The Handmaid’s Tale

Amazon / Amazon

So, you just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale and are wondering where to go next. If dystopian worlds, social commentary, or feminist literature are your bag, these 11 books deserve a place on your to-be-read pile.

1. Vox // Christina Dalcher


Vox gets compared to The Handmaid’s Tale a lot, because it’s a story about women losing their voices. In this case, literally. Dr. Jean McLellan works as a linguistics specialist in a world where all women are limited to speaking only 100 words a day; going over the limit results in punishment in the form of electric shocks. But when the authorities need her help to find a cure for the president's brother's brain injury, she negotiates some limited freedom and uncovers a dark plot that will silence women further.

Like the book’s protagonist, author Christina Dalcher has a background in neurolinguistics. Her inspiration for the story of Vox came from a real-world account she once read about a young girl named Genie [PDF], who was socially isolated by abusive parents in the ‘70s, leaving her unable to speak. As Dalcher wrote Vox, this story stayed on her mind and helped form the main conflicts in the book.

2. Parable of the Sower // Octavia E. Butler


In Parable of the Sower, author Octavia Butler takes us into a world devastated by climate change where violence is around every corner and well-off communities are protected by huge walls that keep out the lower classes. Throughout the story, readers follow a Black teenager named Lauren, who is looking to free herself from the conflicts around her while dealing with an extreme form of empathy that allows her greater insight into the pain of others. Parable of the Sower—with its timely themes of climate change and racial injustice—finally made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2020, 14 years after Butler passed away and nearly 30 years after it was originally published.

3. The Water Cure // Sophie Mackintosh


In Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel, we join three sisters who live on an island far away from the rest of the world. The only male influence in their lives is their father, who makes the girls go through purifying rituals to "cleanse" them of the toxins of men (their father, who is referred to as "King," claims to be the exception to this male toxicity). But one day, King doesn’t return from his regular supply run—and soon afterward, three mysterious men wash up on their island, threatening the world the family has created for themselves.

As in The Handmaid’s Tale, the women in this oppressive world don't have control over their own bodies and are subject to the whims of domineering men. But Mackintosh gives readers hope by rooting The Water Cure in the beauties (and complications) of sisterhood. Mackintosh, a sister herself, is fascinated with the psychology of those relationships, and used elements of her real-life sibling bond in this story.

"Sisterhood is no light and airy bond; it is existential, raw, one of the most intense forms of love there is," Mackintosh wrote in an essay for Penguin. "However it is also a source of kindness, of support, of friendship."

4. Blind Faith // Ben Elton

Black Swan/Amazon

In Blind Faith, readers are thrown into a world dealing with the after-effects of global warming and numerous pandemics (both of which are big trends on this list). Religion is mandatory, vaccines are criminalized, and it’s compulsory to share every aspect of your life online (because, as this society believes, "only perverts do things in private"). But the protagonist, Trafford, tries to rebel against this cult-like society and finds a potential love interest who might secretly be doing the same.

If you don’t know Ben Elton, then you’ll likely know his work. He’s one of the writers behind the classic British comedy Blackadder and the stage musical We Will Rock You, featuring the songs of Queen. Blind Faith features that same wry humor and wacky style—but for a book released in 2007, it's almost chilling how many aspects of our current world made their way into it.

5. Station Eleven // Emily St. John Mandel

Knopf Doubleday/Amazon

After a virus sweeps across the world, civilization as we know it is destroyed. But 20 years after the outbreak, a traveling theater company has a mission to preserve humanity's art and culture even as society crumbles. The story itself focuses on Kirsten, a young troupe member who's trying to find a purpose—other than simply survival—in this new world. Along the way, Kirsten and her group come into conflict with a man known as The Prophet, who leads a cult of religious zealots that believe the virus was meant to "cleanse" the world of unworthy members of the population and leave the chosen ones to rebuild.

Despite Station Eleven focusing on a deadly virus going global, it didn't stop sales of the book from surging during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it's set to be adapted as a 10-episode HBO Max series debuting in December 2021.

6. Piranesi // Susanna Clarke


In Piranesi, author Susanna Clarke introduces readers to the titular occupant of a strange, sprawling building known as the House. Within these endless marble hallways, Piranesi knows of only one other occupant—at least, that's what he thinks. Slowly, Piranesi begins to believe there are even more people living with him, radically changing his views on the world.

Piranesi's isolation can be seen as a reflection of Clarke's own life. Since the mid-2000s, the author has suffered from what she describes as "chronic fatigue," which has impeded her ability to write and, at its worst, rendered her bedridden. As she wrote a character who is perpetually isolated inside, Clarke told NPR that she wanted to let readers know that "there's still beauty to fill your eyes, even though you are cut off from a lot of other things." In a time of self-isolation, Piranesi wound up being more timely than anyone could imagine when it came out in fall of 2020.

7. The Power // Naomi Alderman

Back Bay Books/Amazon

If The Handmaid’s Tale is about what happens when women don’t have power, this is about what happens when they do. In this world, women have the power to wield electricity and use it to dominate the former patriarchy. But as they flex their might to gain control, they create something just as dangerous. Like Station Eleven, this story is also set for a small-screen adaptation on Amazon Prime Video.

8. Annihilation // Jeff VanderMeer

FSG Originals/Amazon

In Handmaid's Tale, societal systems have been manipulated into something terrifying and overbearing—in Annihilation, it's nature itself that takes control of the future. In this book, which is the first part of a trilogy, we join a female-led expedition into the mysterious Area X, following 11 previous attempts that have all ended in unexplained disasters. It's in this strange, overgrown coastal region, that the women find a twisted wilderness, mutant creatures, and a lighthouse full of secrets.

Author Jeff VanderMeer has said that the inspiration for Annihilation came to him in a dream—he even went so far as to use some of the words from the dream within the book, and subsequently became superstitious about editing any of them out.

9. The Girls // Emma Cline

Random House/Amazon

Author Emma Cline's The Girls focuses on a wayward teenager named Evie, who finds herself sucked into a violent cult-like family in 1960s California. The whole thing is heavily inspired by the real-life Manson Family, but instead of glorifying the Manson stand-in, Cline puts the focus on Evie and the other teenage victims who see their liberties taken away by an inescapable male cult leader.

"I think we've heard enough at this point about the men at the center of a cult, the charismatic leader," Cline said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. "It's kind of a familiar story, and I'm not interested in that story as a writer. I'm interested in complex experience, and to me, the women involved in groups like that had never had their story told in a way that I felt fully recognized their humanity."

10. The Fifth Season // N. K. Jemisin


In this dystopian world by writer N. K. Jemisin, people on the continent known as the Stillness live in constant fear of earthquakes and tsunamis, navigating from apocalypse to apocalypse with no end in sight. Living among these ordinary people (known as "stills") are beings called the orogenes, who have the power to stop—or create—these earthquakes. Like the women in The Handmaid’s Tale, the orogenes are oppressed and controlled for their abilities, and Jemisin tells the story of this off-kilter world through the perspective of three orogene women across different time periods.

The Fifth Season is the first of a trilogy, with 2016's Obelisk Gate and 2017's The Stone Sky rounding out the story. Jemisin earned the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row for the series, a feat that had never been reached before.

11. Severance // Ling Ma


Focusing on Candace Chen, an unfulfilled production coordinator at a Bible company, Severance presents a world torn apart by Shen Fever, a disease that has a zombifying effect on victims. Chen, like a choice few others, somehow finds herself immune to the illness and has to figure out what this new post-pandemic life means for a former office drone.

Like any good work of science fiction, Severance has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2018. But Ma didn't set out to write some sort of definitive pandemic book; instead, as she told PBS News Hour, her goal was to write "a meditation on work."

"I’ve cycled through various jobs since high school, from shelving library books to making sandwiches to serving as a fact checker," Ma said. "I was thinking about how people reconcile themselves to the type of work that they do, how they make it meaningful for themselves and take pride in it—or don’t."