So, here are the 25 greatest time travel books ever published.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells [ buy here ]
It would be a crime to start a list oftravels books without mentioning the father of modern science fiction, H.G. Wells. The Time Machine recounts the adventures of an English inventor, who develops a machine that makes it possible to travel from one timeline to another. The novella has been adapted for the big screen by several well-known directors.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain [ buy here ]
Though not strictly a time travel novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court occupies a well-deserved position on this list by virtue of its author, the one and only Mark Twain, combining humor and satire in a brilliant fashion to deliver a critical commentary on monarchy, democracy and various other sociopolitical issues of the day.
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osbourne [ buy here ]
The Magic Tree House series of books was published in the early ‘90s and records the adventures of Jack and Annie, two siblings from Pennsylvania, who transport themselves to different timelines via a magical tree house to carry out missions. The fact that children all over the world continue to enjoy these books more than 25 years later is a testament to their popularity.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger [ buy here ]
The book that helped develop one of the most successful box office romances of all time, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a heart-warming love story of a man with a rare genetic strain that compels him to travel to different points of his life randomly and how his wife learns to cope with his unique gift.
A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury [ buy here ]
A time travel book that goes beyond its scope to talk about the unethical use of technology and its repercussions, A Sound of Thunder charts the story of a hunter from a dystopian future and how his reckless killings result in his present state of being going haywire. It was one of the most re-published short stories for years after its publication.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler [ buy here ]
Butler’s literary genius is exemplified in Kindred, which may be set in the larger framework of time travel, but has been delicately combined with prominent subtexts of the horrors of racial abuse in a pre-abolition era. The protagonist is an African-American woman in modern-day America, Dana, who finds herself being randomly transported to a slave settlement in Maryland.
Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg [ buy here ]
Hawksbill Station offers the reader an insight into the human psyche and how existing in a prolonged state of fight-or-flight impacts the normal functioning of the mind. The book deals with the survivors of a penal settlement, who are able to travel into the future to eliminate their oppressors only to find out that their trauma refuses to end there.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle [ buy here ]
One of the most popular contemporary time travel novels, A Wrinkle in Time is a must-read for those with a penchant for critically analyzing the unknown. The book has won a number of awards, including the coveted Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and has been adapted into a movie of the same name by Disney.
Millennium by John Varley [ buy here ]
Set in Oakland City, California, Millennium is a thrilling tale of a team of rescuers from the future, who travel back in time to save a group of people from an imminent plane crash, while at the same time attempting to leave the natural course of history undisrupted. For first-time readers of this genre, this is an excellent pick to start with.
The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan [ buy here ]
The Proteus Operation cemented Hogan’s name among the biggest contributors to the travel guide books genre. It is the story of how a group of people from a dystopian future, where the Nazis had won, attempt to go back in time to counter another group, who sent the Axis forces weaponry from the future and change history for the better.
11.22.63 by Stephen King [ buy here ]
King, shifts his focus to time travel with his 2011 bestseller 11.22.63, which charts the attempt of a time traveler to travel into the past in order to stop President Kennedy from being assassinated. Although not as popular as his contributions to the horror genre, the novel created ripples within the science fiction community and for all the good reasons!
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor [ buy here ]
Just One Damned Thing After Another is the story of Madeleine Maxwell, who is employed at St. Mary’s Historical Research Institute, a research library that employs time travel as a means to correct wrongs in history. This is an excellent choice for those, who do not like to follow a lengthy narrative but instead prefer a compilation of related yet distinct episodes.
Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp [ buy here ]
Lest Darkness Fall has been touted by many as a response to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. An American archaeologist recovers his wits from a thunderclap only to find that his trip to the Pantheon has led him closer to history than he had anticipated. The book is considered one of the most iconic alternate history stories ever published.
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier [ buy here ]
The House on the Strand deserves a permanent place on the list of the best travel books ever written due to the fact that du Maurier was one of the first authors to connect time travel to drugs. The protagonist is Dick Young, a hesitant test subject for a new drug, who learns to mentally transport himself into the past.
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pierce [ buy here ]
A fantastical tale of a young boy, who discovers a secret garden that is accessible to none but him, Tom’s Midnight Garden is the perfect time travel book for your little one. The book comprises a simple yet interesting storyline with illuminating instances of time slips that will have any child hooked till the ultimate page.
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman [ buy here ]
The Accidental Time Machine has been featured by several leading literary journals and newspapers on their list of evergreen bestsellers, irrespective of the genre! It tells the story of Matt Fuller, a struggling MIT research assistant, who accidentally ends up creating a time machine. The unpredictable plot twists and concrete storyline make the novel a must-read for people of all ages.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut [ buy here ]
A delectable read for adults with a twisted sense of humor and an appetite for biting satire and dark comedy, Slaughterhouse-Five is actually an abstract commentary on war and the loss of individuality. The absence of a firm storyline, characters and narrative have helped the book become a cult classic in English literary history since its original release in 1969.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon [ buy here ]
Gabaldon found international renown with her Outlander series. “Dragonfly in Amber” is the second installment in the series and chronicles the attempts of Claire and her husband, a Scottish Highlander from the 18th century, to stop the Jacobite uprisings. The series draws heavily on the established notions of time travel and is one of the most successful science fiction novella series to ever have been published.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen [ buy here ]
The Devil’s Arithmetic is 170 pages of pure delight! Written in a lucid manner with a delightfully-constructed plot and solid character development, the book tells the tale of Hannah, who travels back in time, during a seemingly typical Passover Seder. It is a well-read book amongst the teenager as well as young adult demographic.
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers [ buy here ]
Winning the Philip K. Dick Award is no small feat, and The Anubis Gates did just that back in 1984. The road less travelled book begins with a group of sorcerers in Egypt coming together to preserve their old religion and magic, and snowballs into a professor’s attempts to survive kidnapping, attempted murder, temptations to resurrect his deceased wife and lots more!
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis [ buy here ]
Recipient of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and nominated for several others, Doomsday Book was published in 1992 and has since been critically acclaimed for its contribution to the canon of science fiction literature. The protagonist travels back in time to the Middle Ages and her observations of the time helped William the Conqueror establish the Domesday Book.
Replay by Ken Grimwood [ buy here ]
Grimwood is a noteworthy name in the genre of travel guides books by virtue of his introducing the concept of a “time loop” in Replay. It is the story of a 43-year-old man, who passes away only to begin again in 1963 as his 18-year-old self. He experiences each day of his life in a different fashion within each loop to the point of his death.
The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein [ buy here ]
Although the central theme of The Door into Summer is time travel, Heinlein seems to have developed the perfect formula for combining science fiction, romance, betrayal, and anticipation, resulting in a bestseller for ages! The protagonist is Daniel, an inventor who’s been cheated and thus uses time travel to rectify the course of things.
The Langoliers by Stephen King [ buy here ]
King grabs the penultimate spot on this list with his popular novella, “The Langoliers” that was adapted into a mini-TV-series. A red-eye flight goes terribly wrong when the passengers and crew members on board travel into a nullified past via a “time rip” while asleep. The 10 surviving members must sort out the mess before the Langoliers arrive to remove them from the timeline.
Tau Zero by Poul Anderson [ buy here ]
Last but not the least, Tau Zero is a book for the more mature reader, with a critical bend of mind. Anderson really piles it on there with abstracts about time travel narrated by means of a well-knit plot. However, more than the storyline it is the between-the-lines subtext that has garnered widespread acclaim.
Not just for science nerds!
No mainstream genre of good literature has ever been restricted to a particular demographic. While a reader well-versed in scientific facts may be better able to determine whether the book has been well-researched or not, you don’t exactly need a degree in rocket science to understand this genre. Their objective is to provide you with a story so gripping that you are unable to put it down, not douse you with science stuff. Their popularity stems from the fact that they are able to create a pseudo-scientific world of fantasy, where even the reader gets to be a part of the plot.
Not just for children either!
Contemporary fantasy novels are written keeping a more mature audience in mind. Just look at some of the more popular TV shows and movie franchises! No matter your age range, there is always something for you in the time travel section. While the ones meant for children aim to stimulate their critical thinking faculties, those catering to an elder demographic usually consist of an elaborate plot with unexpected plot twists and an adult reading content to make the story more relatable and engaging for the readers. In recent times, books on time travel seem to be written mainly in a serial format.
The best time travel books are the ones that make you think. The more books you cross off from the list, the more in love you will fall with them.