These must-read socially conscious novels belong on your to-be-read list.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian future, environmental disasters and declining birthrates have led to a Second American Civil War. The result is the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. Offred is one of these, a Handmaid bound to produce children for one of Gilead’s commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her own name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive. At once a scathing satire, an ominous warning, and a tour de force of narrative suspense, The Handmaid’s Tale is a modern classic.
2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
“Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.”
3. Consider the Feast by Carmit Delman
“New York City is obsessed with food. Especially in the streets of The Quarter, every imaginable delicacy is made and devoured, every unspeakable hunger is fulfilled. Talia, a recent divorcee, comes to The Quarter to be reborn. She discovers fresh purpose in the sensual pleasures there, and a possible new love. But eventually she finds herself face to face with the darkness under its surface—in both the privileged patrons who feast there, and the third-world laborers who feed them. Now Talia must separate the truth from the madness because in The Quarter, the haves and have-nots are about to face a reckoning.”
4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
“As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals, and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, we begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization; and in our most charismatic leaders, the souls of our cruelest oppressors.”
5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
“A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is “huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures.”—Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times