There are no doubts about it – society is changing. There are different ages out there and they vary in length. You could notice a few different trends as time goes by. A decade ago, society was hooked onto technology. These days, the society seems to adopt a louder voice, with protests going on all over the world if people are unhappy.

The society you live in will always be in change. There will always be new trends. New generations will have different points of view too. It is a continuous cycle and it makes perfect sense for some things to repeat. Now, whether you are after an analytical approach on society or you want to read more about potential future scenarios, here are some of the best books on society to try.

What Are Outstanding Thought-Provoking Books On Society?

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies, by Mortimer Maddie

This debut novel is a multifaceted narrative encompassing a coming-of-age tale, an exploration of illness and death, and a vivid portrayal of a woman's life, partially narrated by the personification of her disease. It centers around Lia, her husband Harry, and their daughter Iris, portraying their life as a close-knit family, which becomes unsettled by Lia's sudden illness.

This diagnosis not only impacts their daily lives but also unearths secrets from Lia's past, involving her devout mother and a troubled first love. The story oscillates between various time periods, revealing the influences on Lia's youth and how they manifest in her present struggles.

The novel skillfully blends domestic scenes with grander themes, infusing both humor and poignancy to illustrate the complexities of Lia's life, with her disease emerging as a prominent and increasingly bold character.

A Time Outside This Time, by Amitava Kumar

The chaos of global events, including a raging president, a pervasive virus, and a relentless news cycle, infiltrates the retreat. While these events are mere distractions for others, they resonate deeply with Satya, affecting both his American and Indian identities.

This turmoil inspires him to write his novel which discovers the depths of truth, fiction, and the prevalence of misinformation. The book blending Satya's personal experiences as a father, husband, and immigrant with various media snippets and artistic observations, is a profound exploration of life in a post-truth era and seeks to envision a reality beyond the current tumultuous times.

The History of a Difficult Child, by Mihret Sibhat

The book primarily explores the social problem of political oppression and its impact on families and communities in 1980s Ethiopia.

Selam, the youngest in the Asmelashes family, grows up in Ethiopia amidst political turmoil and family strife. Her family, once wealthy, faces ostracism under a socialist junta, with her mother turning to Pentecostalism amid illness.

Despite her youth, Selam battles against societal oppressions and internal conflicts, driven by a deep longing for education, freedom, and love.

Conjunction, by A. D. Zoltan & Steven N. Nagy

This is one of the best books on future society out there and will give you the world from a completely different point of view. The action takes place in the future – 2625. Obviously, a series of changes have occurred overtime. People are different in the future and superpowers are quite common. The story starts when a fairly unknown man called Erin tricked these superpowers with his global initiative to create a “Central Intelligence System”. The new initiative will slowly demolish these superpowers and leads the humanity into a better future.

As time flies, the world is then pictured in 3200. Artificial Intelligence is part of the everyday flow. The Central Intelligent System – CIS – is used by the humankind to ensure the solar system is managed by an unbiased democracy. Beyond it's important democratic role CIS is also a helpful technology that makes life easier for everyone.

After the intergalactic travel becomes a possibility, the humankind decides to explore the universe in order to find other beings. Four planets are more likely to be inhabited and this is where the humans are going. A bunch of people is selected for this mission and Keat is one of them. Keat has a series of questions in mind – the same questions you will ask yourself as you go through this book.

Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond

This book is not necessarily based on the future. It will not give you potential details about a future scenario. Instead, it is one of the best books about change by showing you how the past has been altered overtime. It is one of the most appreciated works on the human past and while not new, it represents a classic in this genre.

This book is a delight to read, but it is also rich in artful details and informative aspects regarding the past. The author agrees that environmental factors have seriously contributed to changing the modern world. On the same note, geographical factors are not to be overlooked either. All these things have shaped societies in the past and they are less likely to stop now.

Societies with a head start have managed to keep their domination. From food production and writing development to technology and religion, these societies have conquered the world in one way or another. On the same note, the gap between these societies and the slower ones has also deepened – the further the growth, the faster evolution becomes.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

This novel is a classic that will not let you down. The acclaimed novel discussing a dystopian future makes more sense than ever these days and things are likely to go in the predicted direction. The story revolves around the main character – Guy Montag. He is a fireman and his role is to destroy illegal commodities, such as books that try to change the world, as well as the houses they are in.

Some of his missions may not always make sense, but he is there to follow the orders. His orders are never questioned and he never bothers about the consequences of his action. He does the same thing day by day, only to get back home to his wife Mildred, who spends most of her days in the house. But then, things are about to change when Guy meets Clarisse.

Clarisse is an eccentric neighbor with a disorganized life. However, Clarisse has an incredible effect over Guy. He is introduced to the past. He gets to see how people used to live, with no fear at all. Guy can now see the differences between an old society and a modern one where people are fully controlled. At this point, he starts questioning everything he knows. Will he adopt a different approach to life?

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Initially published in 1994, this is probably one of the best books about change when it comes to society. It is a fiction release that makes sense today – more sense than when it first came out. The story follows Shevek. He is a well-educated physicist who knows what he is doing. He decides to think out of the box and question everything around him – simply put, he wants some action.

Shevek will try to find answers for everything around him. He will question facts and statements and will even try to change the world. The world is different now. Hatred has taken over. There are walls of separation between anarchists and the rest. There is chaos everywhere and someone needs to change this – Shevek believes he is the one meant to do it.

In order to handle this task, Shevek will need to give up his life. He will need to lose friends and overlook his family. To make the change, Shevek must take a trip to the mother planet – Urras – in order to change the concept of life and its overall structure. The world only needs a spark to change and Shevek is about to make it happen. But then, what is the price of such an action? What are the consequences?

We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin

We is a book about vision. It is inventive and brutal at times, but it can also force you to see things differently and ask yourself a series of questions. The book has inspired other writers overtime and has become a cult book. The action takes place in a city of glass – everything is enclosed in glass and looks weird, yet beautifully modern.

The city has been built from scratch and ruled by the so-called Benefactor. The totalitarian society is known as OneState. There are no such things as creativity, passion and goals. Everything changes one day, when a mathematician – D-503 – discovers something incredible. He actually has a soul, so he decides to research it further for more details.

The dystopian society is somewhere in the 26th century AD. It has an interesting story, but from many points of view, the author tries to underline the consistent cry for individual freedom. The science fiction is totally engaging, yet the hidden message is what most people appreciate the book for. With these thoughts in mind, it was banned in Russia for many years.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff

This is an incredible story of a man who tried to stop the world. The question is – why did he fight against the world? Why did he go against the people who actually needed him, rather than his enemies? He stopped the world’s motor and he did it consciously. The novel is not necessarily about this man, but about the stunning human life.

It all begins with a super genius who can achieve anything he wants. He ends up being a playboy, only to push himself up and become a steel industrialist. The reader may not notice it in the beginning, but the successful man ends up destroying himself in the long run. The human life has impressive ups and downs and this is what the story is about.

There are a bunch of characters involved in this book and each of them faces some major unexpected changes. From some points of view, this book is all about the mystery behind society. From other points of view, it could be a philosophical revolution. Everything is told in an action thriller that brings in plenty of suspense.

A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick

Substance D is associated with death and there are a few good reasons behind it. This is the most toxic drug ever used and its popularity has skyrocketed in more areas of Los Angeles. Basically, once inside the body, the drug is focused on the brain. It will destroy the connection between the hemispheres, leading to incredible damage in the short run.

At first, substance D leads to disorientation – the user has no idea what is going on. A few more doses will cause brain damage. Unfortunately, going on with this abuse will make the damage permanent. There is no way to reverse it and it will eventually damage the brain completely. With all these, the drug is quite popular out there.

An undercover narcotics agent is trying to save the society by infiltrating into a network. Known as Bob Arctor, his goal is to find the source of supply. But in order to get there, he obviously needs to become a user first. One thing leads to another and Bob ends up addicted. He realizes he is just as bad as the junkies he hangs around with. Will he manage to complete his mission?

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

This is the first book in the Divergent series and tells the story of Beatrice Prior. She lives in Chicago, somewhere in a dystopian society. The society is split into five different parts – each of them with the aim to promote a specific virtue. You have the selfless, the brave, the intelligent, the honest and the peaceful. Those who turn 16 years old must decide which section they want to join.

Beatrice finds it quite difficult. She has to make a big decision. She wants to be with her family, but she also wants to be who she truly is. There is no middle option. Forced to make this decision, she does it and everyone is surprised about it – even herself. The initiation begins and Beatrice is renamed Tris. Struggles begin from day one as she has to join a group of people who made the same choice.

The group goes through some harsh challenges and simulations. Tris must decide who her real friends are. A bit of romance kicks in, but later on, she has to confront her secret. She has a secret that no one really knows about and this secret may lead to conflicts that could kill people. The secret could destroy this whole new society.

Cat’s Craddle, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

This is one of the most exciting books on society and tells the story of Dr. Felix Hoenikker. He is one of the most appreciated doctors in the world, as well as one of the scientists who invented the atomic bomb. He has no idea that he has left such a bad legacy to the world – a deadly element that could kill hundreds of thousands of people in no time.

The doctor is also the name behind the so-called ice nine. This chemical is deadly and can literally ruin everyone. It has the power to freeze the whole planet. Given its power, there are obviously a bunch of people trying to find it. This extreme search will bring in lots of adventure and a series of risks for the humankind.

The reader meets the doctor’s three eccentric children, dictators in the Caribbean and other interesting characters and scenarios. The doctor’s death wish comes true in the end, when the deadly chemical almost destroys the world. What is going to happen to the society? Will the humankind survive this fatal element?

The Machine Stops, by E. M. Forster

The Machine Stops is among the most appreciated books about change and society. The science fiction story is relatively short when compared to other books, but it is totally worth the time. It was initially published in The Oxford and Cambridge Review at the beginning of the 20th century, but it gained more notoriety when it was published in his own book in 1928.

All in all, this book was republished a few times and tells a science fiction story that has fascinated everyone about 100 years ago. The author was a visionary who managed to predict a plethora of different technologies that seem perfectly normal these days. For instance, there are stories about instant messengers, as well as the Internet.

Told as a fiction story, the book amazes with its accuracy.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The story takes place in the 17th century, in Boston, Massachusetts. The reader will discover Hester Prynne, who ends up having a daughter. However, her daughter is not legit. Her mother had an affair, but she decides to keep the lover’s identity secret.

As a result, Hester must wear the letter A for adultery on all of her clothes. Public shaming is inevitable as well. This is the society’s punishment for her affair, as well as her decision to keep everything secret from others.

Struggling in the society, Hester tries her best to come up with a new life of dignity. The author goes through a few different motives in this book, such as sin, guilt and legalism – totally worth a read for these hidden meanings.

Final Thoughts of Thought-Provoking Books

Moral ambiguity and the search for the meaning of life are two thought-provoking concepts that resonate with almost everybody.

Consider the story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. Frankl's experiences in Nazi concentration camps, where he endured unimaginable suffering and loss, led him to deeply contemplate the search for meaning in the face of adversity. Despite the dire circumstances, Frankl found that individuals who maintained a sense of purpose and meaning were more likely to endure and survive the horrors of the camps.

I could collect hundreds of thought provoking topics, but this is the mere essence of it, that the source of these ideas is almost unlimited. The best we can do is to jump into the right topic that is close to us, even if it is a social or spiritual one.

The above list can definitely go longer, with both fiction and nonfiction titles, but the above-mentioned releases will have you question a few things in the attempt to discover more about what runs the society you live in. Whether you are after some drama, ideas, action or scientific research, these books will answer many of your questions and bring in a few others.

If you are looking for more philosophical fiction books check out our latest list article.

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