57 Books That Are Widely Celebrated As The Top Eye-Opening Authoritarian Stories
Despotism, dictatorship, military dictatorship and tyranny – those are the few common characteristics of authoritarianism. Totalitarianism is an extreme version of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism primarily differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under governmental control. Political scientists use the term authoritarianism to describe a way of governing that values order and control over personal freedom. A government run by authoritarianism is usually headed by a dictator. The goal is to dominate not only the executive and legislative branches, but also the media, the judiciary, civil society, the commanding heights of the economy, and the security forces. An authoritarian leadership style is exemplified when a leader dictates policies and procedures, decides what goals are to be achieved, and directs and controls all activities without any meaningful participation by the subordinates. Such a leader has full control of the team, leaving low autonomy within the group.
Interestingly enough, authoritarianism is not applicable only to humans, but also to any form of entities which satisfy the above requirements – namely robots, aliens, overdeveloped artificial intelligence or supercomputers. These 57 books listed below are one of the top authoritarian / totalitarian stories out there. If you wish to explore such storylines into your reading schedules, this list will give you a lot of resources that’ll last you for months or years to come.
The following ebooks are not free but links will be provided if they are.
It is set in a near-future society that has a youth subculture of extreme violence. The teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates his violent exploits and his experiences with state authorities intent on reforming him.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A satire on totalitarianism in which farm animals overthrow their human owner and set up their own government.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
A 1940 dystopian novel by Swedish novelist Karin Boye, which envisions a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain is a depiction of a totalitarian world state.
Kallocain by Karin Boye
In his prescient vision of the 21st century, Huxley explores Buddhist ideology, nuclear threat and ‘big oil’ corporate greed. For over a hundred years the Pacific island of Pala has been the scene of a unique experiment in civilisation.
Island by Aldous Huxley
Centers on the crisis of the conscience of the Magistrate–a loyal servant of the Empire working in a tiny frontier town, doing his best to ignore an inevitable war with the “barbarians.” After he witnesses the cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war, he reconsiders his role in the regime and carries out a quixotic act of rebellion.
Waiting for the Barbarians by JM Coetzee
The Castle is the haunting tale of K.’s relentless, unavailing struggle with an inscrutable authority in order to gain access to the Castle.
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines.
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
The story of survival in a Siberian labor camp for political prisoners during World War II. Ivan Denisovich depends upon his shrewdness, self-preservation and skills as a mason to survive.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
About reincarnation and the universality of human nature, and the title references a changing landscape over manifestations of fixed human nature.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a futuristic novel set in London in 1984. Chesterton envisions neither great technological leaps nor totalitarian suppression. Instead, England is ruled by a series of randomly selected Kings, because people have become entirely indifferent.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill by GK Chesterton
Set in England in 2021, it centres on the results of mass infertility. James describes a United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses.
The Children of Men by P. D. James
Confronted with a killer from beyond the grave, Detective Peter Sebeck comes face-to-face with the full implications of our increasingly complex and interconnected world–one where the dead can read headlines, steal identities, and carry out far-reaching plans without fear of retribution. Sebeck must find a way to stop Sobol’s web of programs–his Daemon–before it achieves its ultimate purpose.
Deamon by Leinad Zeraus
A deadly plague has devastated Earth, killing all the adults. Lisa and her younger brother Todd are struggling to stay alive in a world where no one is safe. Other children along Grand Avenue need help as well. They band together to find food, shelter, and protection from dangerous gangs invading their neighborhood.
The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson
Two botanists live in peaceful isolation on the titular cliffs, surrounded by the wonders of nature in both plant and animal form. Below them, though, dark powers are stirring and eventually the forces of good must take up arms against the spreading evil.
On the Marble Cliffs by Ersnt Jünger
The State Brun, fictitious political organization, prohibits the possession of dogs or cats which are not brown, ostensibly for scientific reasons. The protagonists of the story, not feeling concerned, find reasons to approve this law. However, a new decree requires the arrest of all those who have not a brown animal in the past, as well as their families and friends.
Brown Morning by Franck Pavloff
A powerful and haunting portrait of a Communist revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s.
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
The World Set Free is H. G. Wells’ prophetic 1914 novel, telling of world war and the advent of nuclear weapons. Although Wells’ atomic bombs only have a limited power of explosion, they keep on exploding for days on end.
The World Set Free by H. G. Wells
In a surreal, but familiar, vision of modern day Egypt, a centralized authority known as ‘the Gate’ has risen to power in the aftermath of the ‘Disgraceful Events,’ a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate in order to take care of even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the Gate never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer.
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz
At once hilarious and frightening, it follows Daniel Weinreb as he attempts to escape the repressive laws and atmosphere of the isolationist State of Iowa. A rich black comedy of bizarre sexual ambiguity and adventurism.
On Wings of Song by Thomas M. Disch
John Lyle, the personal guard of the Prophet Incarnate comes under pressure to rebel against the theocratic military dictatorship ruling the United States.
Revolt in 2100 by Robert Heinlein
Every night the whole nation watches the ultimate live game show on TV, as the contestants try to beat annihilation at the hands of the hunters in order to win the billion dollar jackpot. And now there is a new contestant, the latest “Running Man”, staking his life while a nation watches.
The Running Man by Stephen King
Recently ‘resigned’ from his job as the coolest samurai sword-toting pizza-delivery guy in the world, Hiro has had to fall back on his old hi-tech scavenger ways. Not that he’s a nobody on the virtual street – one of the founders of The Black Sun, he helped write the rule book for the digital Metaverse.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
In a world where deviations from the norm are considered evil, David’s talent to communicate by thought is a crucial secret.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
The primary subject is overpopulation and its relation to culture. Religion, government, and history are also addressed. A significant portion of the book is a condemnation of war.
The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess
In a near future, the air pollution is so bad that everyone wears gas masks. The infant mortality rate is soaring, and birth defects, new diseases, and physical ailments of all kinds abound. The water is undrinkable—unless you’re poor and have no choice. Large corporations fighting over profits from gas masks, drinking water, and clean food tower over an ineffectual, corrupt government.
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
Anthem takes place in a dark, dystopian future. Collectivism and socialist economics have driven mankind to a technological standstill. The individual is not acknowledged in this society, the word “I” having been eliminated from speech altogether. Rand explores the tension between collectivism and individualism and equates the errors or triumphs of these with socialism and capitalism.
Anthem by Ayn Rand
It describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual lives in isolation in a ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine.
The Machine Stops by EM Forster
When humanity begins to chafe under Multivac’s benevolent tyranny, one man takes matters into his own hands to destroy the great computer. By appearing to betray his fellow humans, he places himself in a position to permanently destroy Multivac.
The Life and Times of Multivac by Isaac Asimov
A few months after the Germans’ secret V-2 rocket bombs begin falling on London, British Intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing the V-2 impact sites.
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
In the storyline, a civilization much more advanced than ours falls to its knees when electricity suddenly disappears. Chaos, disease, and famine ensue, which readers witness through the adventures of a small group of survivors led by François Deschamps. The group leaves Paris and starts a journey toward Provence where the survivors will create a new patriarchal society with Deschamps as their leader.
Ashes, Ashes (AKA Ravage) by René Barjavel
The story concerns a visit by the devil to the officially atheistic Soviet Union. The Master and Margarita combines supernatural elements with satirical dark comedy and Christian philosophy, defying a singular genre.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhael Bulgakov
It is both a gripping psychological thriller and an indictment of totalitarianism which, as Philip Boakes argues in the new introduction to this edition, is more relevant than ever.
One by David Karp
In a futuristic military adventure a recruit goes through the roughest boot camp in the universe and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry in what historians would come to call the First Interstellar War.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinline
One of the few works of fiction in the 20th century to explore the dangerous yet glamorous appeal of fascism and the less than satisfactory answer of traditional democracy.
The Aerodrome: A Love Story by Rex Warner
In a near-future political thriller, a network of investors has a vested and sinister interest in the presidential race, and together the shadowy coalition attempts to control the worldwide economy.
Interface by Neal Stephenson
Ishmael aims to expose that several widely accepted assumptions of modern society, such as human supremacy, are actually cultural myths that produce catastrophic consequences for humankind and the environment.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
The early story of the Foundation, an institute founded by psychohistorian Hari Seldon to preserve the best of galactic civilization after the collapse of the Galactic Empire.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Butler meant the title to be understood as the word “nowhere” backwards even though the letters “h” and “w” are transposed. The book is a satire on Victorian society.
Erewhon by Samuel Butler
The ultimate tale of teen rebellion – one seventeen-year-old against the surveillance state.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.
Feed by MT Anderson
Surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards, escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But even escape is no guarantee of freedom . . . because Matt is marked by his difference in ways that he doesn’t even suspect.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
A mother and father struggle with their technologically advanced home taking over their role as parents, and their children becoming uncooperative as a result of their lack of discipline.
The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
This chilling portrait of an all-boys prep school casts an unflinching eye on the pitfalls of conformity and corruption in our most elite cultural institutions.
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
This brief, intense novel is a powerful and timely indictment of terror and closed-mindedness throughout the world, and a fitting final statement from this acclaimed writer and tireless fighter for democracy.
The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout
The world is managed by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of monthly treatments so that they will remain satisfied and cooperative “Family members”.
This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago and similar industrialized cities. The book depicts working class poverty, the lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and a hopelessness among many workers. These elements are contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
In the aftermath of an atomic war, a new international movement of pacifism has arisen. Multitudes of young men have chosen to curb their aggressive instincts through voluntary amputation – disarmament in its most literal sense.
Limbo and Limbo ’90 by Bernard Wolfe
Logan-5 has the opportunity to become the greatest Sandman of them all, he just needs to bring down Sanctuary and everyone who believes the stories the underground organization dishes out. The only problem is, Logan is now the hunted instead of the hunter.
Logan’s Run by William Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….
Dune by Frank Herbert
This book was written by a Catholic priest in 1906, and describes the appearance of the Antichrist at the end of the world. The world has become extremely hostile to the Church, and there are many who have fallen away from the Faith. Even some of the priests have joined the Antichrist’s movement.
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Chronicles the journey of Severian, a journeyman torturer who is disgraced and forced to wander. Severian lives in a nation called the Commonwealth, ruled by the Autarch, in the Southern Hemisphere. It is at war with Ascia, its northern neighbor, which is extremely totalitarian.
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolf
In Max Barry’s twisted, hilarious and terrifying vision of the near future, the world is run by giant corporations and employees take the last names of the companies they work for.
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
In a utopian world, fourteen-year-old Linus, who is approaching the test that will determine which Realm he will live, rejects the accepted way of life and ventures to change his destiny.
The Destiny of Linus Hoppe by Anne-Laure Bondoux
Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
This title tells the story of a time traveller who builds his own time machine and to the disbelief of his friends, travels to the future world of 802,701 AD, a world which seems perfect at first, but hides a terrible secret.
The Time Machine by HG Wells
Jordan’s test results are in: his intelligence quotient exceeded the legal limit that the totalitarian government allows and he was therefore executed. The parents burst into tears as the government examiners ask them how they would like to handle their son’s remains.
Examination Day by Henry Slesar