Celadon White logo

11 Spellbinding Books to Read After The Handmaid's Tale

These provocative reads will haunt you. 

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale stands as a landmark in feminist dystopian literature—and a prescient, dire warning about a society in which women no longer have control over their own bodies. The narrative imagines an alternate America ruled by a patriarchal theocracy known as the Republic of Gilead. Birthrates are at an all-time low, and handmaids like Offred, the book’s narrator, are forced to serve as reproductive surrogates for the ruling male class.

Atwood’s award-winning parable and its sequel, The Testaments, are must-reads. And when you’ve finished, we’ve got a set of equally powerful books like The Handmaid’s Tale that are sure to entrance you.

Kaitlyn Johnston
Image for Alexis Schaitkin's book Elsewhere, featuring a fire in the foreground rising up to the Elsewhere text

Elsewhere

By Alexis Schaitkin

From Alexis Schaitkin, author of Saint X, comes a “stunning work of speculative fiction… [that] channels early Margaret Atwood” (Library Journal, starred review). Vera lives in an isolated mountain community where motherhood is both a blessing and a curse. Tradition dictates that the women here become wives and mothers, yet some mothers simply disappear into the clouds. Members of the community revere the mysterious affliction that haunts their village — indeed, it sets them apart from people elsewhere — and expectant mothers speculate on who will be the next to go.

Now Vera is approaching motherhood, and she wonders if she’ll get to see her child grow up or if she too will disappear into the mountain mist. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Elsewhere is a dark and mesmerizing tale that examines personhood and the many mysteries of becoming a mother — its joys, frustrations, and dangers — through the eyes of a fully realized female protagonist.

Related: Alexis Schaitkin, Author of Elsewhere, on the Timeless Questions of Motherhood

Vox

By Christina Dalcher

In Vox, Christina Dalcher envisions a near-future United States where women’s voices have been silenced. The U.S. government declares that women cannot speak more than a hundred words a day. Adult women are barred from holding jobs, while girls are no longer taught to read. Dr. Jean McClellan, a neurolinguist, refuses to accept these conditions. The narrative tracks her journey as she rails against the misogynistic regime — for the sake of herself, her daughter, and women everywhere. It’s a story suffused with powerful passion, and fans of The Handmaid’s Tale are sure to enjoy Dalcher’s bestselling futuristic thriller.

Red Clocks

By Leni Zumas

In Leni Zumas’s prophetic narrative, abortion in America has been criminalized, in vitro fertilization is no longer an option, and every embryo is guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and property. It’s a world that is both horribly regressive and scarily new for five women living in a small Oregon fishing town. Red Clocks follows their stories, which are linked together by the modern-day witch hunt of Gin, the herbalist “mender” who lives in the forest. Like Atwood, Zumas powerfully chronicles the female experience in her national bestseller, wrestling with the life-changing experience of motherhood and confronting the patriarchal policing of women’s bodies.

The Water Cure

By Sophie Mackintosh

In The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh spins a feminist revenge fantasy that Margaret Atwood hails as “a gripping, sinister fable.” Seeking refuge for his family, King settles on an island with his wife and three daughters, far away from the violence of men on the mainland. But when King goes missing and two men and a boy wash in with the tide, the family’s island sanctuary is thrown into jeopardy. Sibling rivalries flare and sexual tensions rise as the sisters face the unfamiliar threat on their beach. At once a futuristic imagining of a world consumed by violence and a biting social commentary on sexual politics and power dynamics, The Water Cure adeptly follows in the feminist dystopian footsteps of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Before She Sleeps

By Bina Shah

In Green City, the futuristic capital of South West Asia, society is on the brink of collapse. Sickness and war have laid waste to its population. In response, the government unleashes a campaign of state-sanctioned oppression, surveilling its citizens and forcing women into multiple marriages to procreate as quickly as possible. But much like Atwood’s handmaids, not everyone bends to the will of the regime. An underground network of women emerges, and with the help of high-powered individuals, members of the group come out at night to offer a priceless commodity to Green City’s elite: intimacy without sex. Celebrated author Bina Shah brilliantly weaves together themes of religious repression and the surveillance state in this “haunting dystopian thriller [that] fans of The Handmaid’s Tale won’t want to miss” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Future Home of the Living God

By Louise Erdrich

Award-winning author Louise Erdrich explores female agency and self-determination in her acclaimed Future Home of the Living God, making it a stirring next read for Atwood fans. Evolution has begun to reverse. Women are giving birth to seemingly primitive human babies, sending the U.S. government into a panic. There’s talk of a registry, pregnant women are menaced with confinement, and the threat of martial law creeps across the country. For Cedar, the unfolding catastrophe hits close to home — she’s four months pregnant. And while she loves her adoptive parents, she feels compelled to seek out her birth mother on the Ojibwe reservation. As Cedar learns more about her identity and her baby’s origins, she must also take care to avoid the prying eyes of informants in this time of troubling change.

The Power

By Naomi Alderman

Winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Power by Naomi Alderman flips the dystopian script by imagining a world where women have the upper hand. Suddenly, and for no discernable reason, teenage girls around the world possess the ability to inflict debilitating pain on others with a simple flick of the wrist. Men everywhere realize they’ve lost control, and the Day of the Girls begins. But where exactly will this new power dynamic lead? A superb speculative fiction thriller that asks you to imagine a world where the patriarchy cowers before women, The Power is a thought-provoking read that Margaret Atwood calls “electrifying.”

The Farm

By Joanne Ramos

Joanne Ramos’s The Farm, like The Handmaid’s Tale, considers a future where surrogacy has been pushed to the extreme. There’s a luxury retreat in New York’s Hudson Valley. It’s an all-inclusive dream come true, where organic meals, personal trainers, and daily massages await you. In fact, they’ll pay you to come visit. There’s just one catch: During your nine-month stay at the retreat, you’ll be cut off from the outside world while you produce a healthy baby for someone else. Desperate for a better future, Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, signs up to become a Host at Golden Oaks (aka the Farm). As her pregnancy proceeds, however, Jane becomes overwhelmed with concern for her family and yearns to connect with them. But leaving the Farm means forfeiting the life-changing payment she’ll receive upon delivering the child she’s carrying. Vividly imagined and disquietingly believable, The Farm is a gripping new addition to feminist dystopian literature that doubles as excellent next read after The Handmaid’s Tale.

When She Woke

By Hilary Jordan

In When She Woke, award-winning author Hilary Jordan presents a gripping dystopian reimagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter that “holds its own alongside the dark inventions of Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury” (The New York Times Book Review). The narrative is set in a near-future America where Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the separation of church and state is abolished, and criminals are “chromed” instead of imprisoned, their skin given a bright hue to reflect the class of their conviction. Hannah, a Texas woman chromed red for murder after having an abortion, must navigate this cruel and hostile world. As she searches for sanctuary, she also finds herself on a path of transformation, questioning her faith and the brutal fanaticism of her homeland.

An Excess Male

By Maggie Shen King

By the year 2030, China’s one-child policy and its cultural preference for boys has resulted in an extreme surplus of men. Wei-guo, one such “excess male,” holds out hope that he’ll find love and be able to start a family. He scrounges together enough money to enter the matchmaking discussion at the lowest tier, with the possibility of becoming a potential partner’s third husband (the maximum number of spouses that a woman is allowed by law to possess). But only one family shows interest in Wei-guo, and they’re already harboring an illegal spouse. In the company of May-ling and her two husbands, however, Wei-guo feels at home. With the state’s hypervigilant surveillance and the disposability of men, Wei-guo will be pushed to the limit if he hopes to hold on to his newfound family. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Maggie Shen King’s The Excess Male explores themes of gender, marriage, and the all-seeing eye of the state, delivering a startling vision of human connection under the thumb of repression.

The Unit

By Ninni Holmqvist

In Ninni Holmqvist’s dystopia, women over 50 and men over 60 who are unmarried and childless are sent to live in a retirement community called the Unit. The Unit is a luxurious facility with a wide array of perks, from gourmet meals and luxury apartments to lush walking gardens. But while the residents lead a seemingly idyllic life, they also serve as live organ donors — forced to surrender their organs, one by one, until the final donation occurs. When Dorrit arrives at the Unit, she’s accepted her fate and just wants to spend her last days as peacefully as she can. She didn’t expect to fall in love, though, and suddenly her future as a “dispensable” is not so easy to swallow. Like Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, Holmqvist maps out a disturbing future in her dystopian narrative, confronting topics of bodily autonomy, ageism, and the dubious ways in which society assigns value to human life.

Share with your friends

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest

Related Articles

You may want to read these dark thrillers during daylight hours — we can’t promise you’ll fall asleep if you crack one open at night.

The holidays are just around the corner, and we’re here to help you find the ideal gift for every book lover on your list. From award-winning true crime narratives and acclaimed essay collections to uproariously funny memoirs, here are the best nonfiction book gifts to give this holiday season.

Looking for stellar fiction recommendations? Check out our list of the best fiction book gifts to give this holiday season!

Being an informed citizen is a cornerstone of our democracy. That’s why we gathered 11 books for politically minded readers looking to prepare for election day, whether you want to learn more about voting rights, the history of partisan conflict, or the future of democracy in America and beyond.

Connect with

Celadon

Sign up for our newsletter to see book giveaways, news, and more!