Time travel is a powerful tool for storytelling. It allows writers to see how their world would change and how their characters might fare under different circumstances. These ten books, from classics like The Time Machine and Slaughterhouse Five to contemporary favorites like 11/22/63 and Outlander, will take you on journeys through time in every sense of the word.
Best Time Travel Books of All Time
There are many time travel books you can find online and in bookstores. But finding the very best of them turns out to be a daunting task sometimes. The best time travel books of all time to check out today include:
1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, first published in 1895. The novel is usually credited with popularizing the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The story follows an unnamed protagonist as he travels into the future, where he witnesses the ultimate decay of humanity’s dominant societies; these changes are related to economic inequality, overpopulation, and misuse of technology.
In a final apocalyptic event, this “Time Traveller” is left wandering through Earth’s landscape in search of other survivors like him who might be able to help rebuild civilization after the last cataclysmic war which exterminated most human life on earth.
2. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five is a satirical novel about the effects of war on the survivors. The book is narrated by Billy Pilgrim, who has become unstuck in time and can relive past events with no warning. He experiences these episodes in random order, sometimes able to move through them at will and other times unable to control them.
The book is set in the fictional town of Ilium, New York (which Vonnegut modeled after his hometown of Indianapolis). It follows Pilgrim’s life from his days as a POW during World War II to his current life as a husband and father living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s divided into three parts: “All This Happened,”; “What I Did During The War,”; and “Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade.”
3. Kindred by Octavia Butler
In this novel, a modern black woman finds herself being transported back in time on several occasions to the antebellum South, where she is forced to live with her white slave-owning ancestor. The protagonist must learn how to survive while also learning about the history of slavery and race relations in America. This book gives a powerful voice to those not often heard—the enslaved people of the past and their descendants.
4. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
The book is about a man who goes back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy and save his wife. The main character is Jake Epping, and he lived in 2011. The central conflict is that Jake has to find someone who can travel back in time with him before Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK on November 22, 1963. He goes back to 1958 so that he can try again to stop the assassination, but when he goes back, there’s no other way out except to die or return to 2011. This book teaches readers that they shouldn’t give up on their goals because they might succeed if they try hard enough.
5. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
This classic Philip K. Dick novel was published in 1962, but its setting in a world where the Nazis won WWII and have occupied much of North America is even more relevant today than ever before. In 2032, our protagonist is a young American Resistance member whose job is to help smuggle a film reel into the country that proves the Allied Powers actually won World War II.
The book raises serious questions about history, memory, and identity while providing plenty of political intrigue and suspenseful action scenes. The Man in the High Castle also includes many of Dick’s signature stylistic tics, including unreliable narrators who can’t always be trusted to tell you their true feelings or motives (spoiler alert: they’re usually not good people). One thing’s for sure: if you like this book, there are plenty more where it came from.
6. Time and Again by Jack Finney
Published in 1970, Time and Again is a classic time travel novel. The main character, Simon Morley, can jump back and forth between two timelines: one set in New York City during the 1870s and 1880s and one in the present. In his travels to the past, Simon meets up with some unusual characters, including a detective who works for Boss Tweed. He begins to uncover clues about his future self’s disappearance from modern-day New York City.
7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
If you were to name the ten best time travel books of all time, most people would include this one. The book was first published in 1962 and has since become a classic of children’s literature. It was made into a movie in 2003, which is when most people were introduced to it.
This work of science fiction is about a girl who travels through time and space to save her father. This is one of those stories that can be enjoyed by readers young and old though it might be better suited to older teens looking for something they can sink their teeth into (literally).
8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander is a series of novels and a television series. The first book in the series, Outlander, was published in 1991. The television adaptation premiered on Starz in 2014 and has since produced four seasons. It is based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, which consists of eight books at the time of writing this article (a ninth book will be released next year).
9. Doomsday Book By Connie Willis
As the title suggests, Doomsday Book is about a time traveler returning to the Middle Ages. But it’s not just about her experiences in 14th-century England; this book also explores what it means for a person to try and deal with the past, present, and future all at once.
This novel is written as two parallel stories: one told by our main character Kivrin as she adjusts to life in 1348 Oxfordshire and struggles with her purpose there (she doesn’t know why she’s being sent back), while at the same time, we see how that experience affects those around her both now and later on in their lives.
The story has a fantastic amount of detail about medieval life. You’ll learn all sorts of interesting tidbits that you wouldn’t find out anywhere else (for example: did you know that leeches were used as a medicine during this period?). It also makes some interesting points about how historians have historically treated women from this era and how some things haven’t changed since then.
10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Harry August was born in England in 1894 and died at the age of 20. He then finds himself reborn as an infant named Andrew, who lives a happy life until a burglar kills him at the age of 16. Harry’s subsequent life is as Matthew, an infant boy who suffers from cancer and dies during childhood. After spending several more lifetimes as other people, he begins to notice that there are recurring events that happen to him throughout his life.
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