Dystopian Literature: Recommended Reads for Key Stages 3-5

A familiar learning objective in the English classroom is for students to be able to “explain and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers” (A02, GCSE). In order for students to be able to demonstrate their understanding of this objective, they need to be able to comment on structure (influenced by genre, the organization of the text as a whole, the sequence of events, plot, conflict, and the structure of smaller parts of the text), and language use (the tone of the text, whether it is influenced by the genre [it often is], and word choice in terms of narrative, dialogue, and characterization. The dystopian novel is an obvious pick in the English classroom, as common themes that present themselves across this genre can be easily identified, making the analysis of purpose, language choice and structure fairly easy. In addition, students are required to be able to read a wide range of texts written for different purposes and be able to compare one author’s purpose to anothers (A03). Being able to identify a dystopian novel between say, a romantic novel, is essential for this reason.

What’s great about teaching the dystopian novel is that students often enjoy reading the genre, as a teens love for exploring alternative realities is quite common.

For educators, dystopian literature also provides ample opportunities for discussion and further teaching on much broader topics that often weave into other subjects such as history, social studies, and global citizenship.

As it’s a classroom favourite, we have compiled a list of 30 great dystopian novels to teach in the classroom, along with their lexile levels and age appropriateness. Some of these books are likely familiar to you and commonly taught in schools, whereas others are hidden gems just waiting for you to discover them. 

Note: Lexile levels with a — indicate that the Lexile levels are currently unknown.

List Updated October 21st 2021

George Orwell
1984 Lexile 1090L
Year 10-11

Ray Bradbury
Farenheit 451 Lexile 890L
Year 10-11

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Lexile 810L
Year 10-11

Cormac McCarthy
The Road Lexile 670L
Year 10-11

Aldous Huxley
Brave New World Lexile 870L
Year 10-11

Jose Saramago
Blindness Lexile --
Year 10-11

A Clockword Orange
Anthony Burgess
Lexile 1310L
Year 10-1

PD James
The Children of Men Lexile --
Year 10-11

Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Lexile 490L
Year 9

J. G. Ballard
The Drowned World
Lexile --
Year 10-11

Yevgeny Zamyatin
We
Lexile --
Year 10-11

Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go
Lexile 970L
Year 8+

SEmily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven
Lexile 750L
Year 8+

Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake
Lexile --
Year 11

Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games
Lexile 810L
Year 8

Octavia E. Butler
Parable of the Sower
Lexile 710L
Year 10-11

John Wyndham
The Chrysalids
Lexile 490L
Year 10-11

Lois Lowry
The Giver
Lexile 760L
Year 7-8

Stephen King
The Stand
Lexile --
Age 18+ Recommended

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dispossessed
Lexile 820L
Year 8+

Jeff Vandermeer
Borne
Lexile --
Year 11+

Koushun Takami
The Drowned World
Lexile 710L
Year 9+

Jack London
The Iron Heel
Lexile --
Year 10-11

John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids
Lexile --
Year 9+

Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five
Lexile 850L
Year 10+

Ernest Cline
Ready Player One
Lexile 990L
Year 8

William Golding
Lord of the Flies
Lexile 770L
Year 9+

John Lanchester
The Wall
Lexile 970L
Year 10-11

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