1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Though originally published in 1932, Brave New World is still very much relevant in the 21st century. This dark satire depicts the Earth as a supposed “utopia,” where humans are genetically bred and taught to suppress their emotions and free will through the use of pharmaceutical anesthetics. This emotional and intellectual desensitization is done to make human beings malleable enough to serve the ruling order without complaint.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Published in 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of the tragic downfall of the titular character. After selling his soul in exchange for youth and eternal good looks, Dorian descends into a life of hedonism and debauchery. As time passes and his acts become more and more depraved, the painting becomes disfigured while Dorian remains the same.
3. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
In this, one of Shakespeare’s comedies, Bassanio is faced with a problem: he wants to impress a young woman named Portia but lacks the wealth needed to do so. He asks his friend, Antonio, for assistance in procuring the necessary funds, and Antonio acquires a loan from moneylender Shylock. But, when Antonio’s business venture fails and he cannot hold up his end of the bargain, trouble ensues. As per their loan agreement, Shylock then demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
This is the book upon which the Blade Runner film was based and it shares some similar themes. Though published in 1968, the action is set much closer to home, in January 2021. The protagonist in this story has a licence to kill. No, it’s not James Bond; it’s Rick Deckard. His mission: to find the rogue androids who are hiding out among humanity and “retire” them. The problem: they really don’t want to be found.
5. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel tells the story of fifteen-year-old Kambili and her brother Jaja. They live in Enugu, Nigeria and, on the surface, their lives appear almost idyllic. This, however, is quickly proven to be false. Kambili’s father is tyrannical and her home suffocating. When the siblings return home after a freeing stay at the house of their aunt, the turmoil of their domestic life begins anew.
6. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
The Overlords are superior to humanity in every way. So, when their spaceship appears in the sky one day, homo sapiens decide to take heed of their demands and, in so doing, can sit back and watch as a peaceful utopia sets in. But, with the lack of collective struggle, comes creative stagnation. To the few humans who choose to rebel, it quickly becomes evident that the Overlords are not purely altruistic.