Everyone loves good time travel stories. Whether it’s about jumping back to Austen’s England or leaping forward to the swinging Sixties, time travel is a beloved theme in fiction.
Grad school dropout Matt Fuller accidentally constructs a time machine and, with a dead-end job and cheating girlfriend, has nothing to lose by taking a trip. This Newbery Medal winner is part sci-fi, part coming of age.
The Shining Girls by Stephen King
One of the scariest books with time travel on this list, The Shining Girls, is an unashamedly creepy thriller. In Depression-era Chicago, serial killer Harper Curtis stumbles upon a house that opens onto other times, giving him the ability to murder his victims and return to his timeline unscathed. He scours through the lives of his “shining” girls, bright young women who burn with potential—until one of them, Kirby Mazrachi survives to hunt him back.
Beukes’s novel is a masterful blend of genres, combining the thrills of a crime story with the whimsy of a horror flick and the mystery of time travel (usually reserved for science fiction stories). Her heroine, Kirby, is a gutsy and believable character, and she also possesses a skill for writing original characters. She is not the usual complacent, loveable protagonist—she’s gutsy and original and she wants what she wants.
Despite some clumsiness in its execution, The Shining Girls is still an exciting and suspenseful read. It’s the kind of high-concept book that requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief to work, but it’s a story worth reading.
The award-winning 11/22/63 is another excellent time travel story for history lovers. Al asks Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, to travel back in time and stop the assassination of JFK. But can he succeed without inadvertently changing the course of history? This is a must-read for any fan of time-travel stories.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Harry August
This thought-provoking and entertaining novel follows Harry August, a man who can remember every single detail of his past life. The premise is similar to Groundhog Day, with Harry being reborn on his deathbed again and again. As he nears his 11th death, a girl appears and alters the course of his life. What follows is a fascinating look into how we live our lives, and what matters most in them.
The author, Claire North (under her pen name Catherine Webb), has a talent for weaving historical facts into this sci-fi tale in a way that never feels like a lesson. She has also managed to keep the story compelling, although each life resets itself each time.
While the beginning of this book can feel slow, it picks up pace in the second half. It becomes a sort of multi-life espionage thriller. I found myself staying up far too late to finish it, and it was worth it.
Another interesting point about this novel is that it introduces the concept of parallel universes. It’s not something I had considered before, but the idea is quite intriguing. It’s similar to the concept of time travel, but instead of going back or forward in time, the world can open up into different timelines. I found it to be a very original take on the idea, and one that was worth reading.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
As its name suggests, this classic novel explores the consequences of time travel on a couple’s marriage. Henry DeTamble, a librarian at Chicago’s Newberry Library, has a rare genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. He meets 20-year-old Clare Abshire at the library in 1991, and though she knows him from his visits to the past, he doesn’t recognize her. They begin a romance, have a child, and live their lives together, navigating the mysteries of their condition along the way.
For adults who want a lighter take on time travel, this book from the author of The Rhythm of the Rain is about a middle-aged neighbouring couple struggling to bridge a gap after a tragedy in their lives. Cora and Quinn are reunited in an attempt to prevent the event from ever occurring, but they quickly discover that their attempts to change history might make it worse.
One of the most popular books of all time, this is a science fiction classic that’s as imaginative as it is thought-provoking. When Professor Murdoch Ross’s grandfather invents a machine that allows him to send messages to himself in the future or the past, he realizes he has enormous power to control the world and becomes obsessed with changing the course of history for himself and those around him.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by David Levithan
A time traveller can alter the course of history, but it’s a risky business. A young scientist’s invention gives him the ability to go back in time, and the ensuing chaos leads to an epic battle of good versus evil.
This popular and award-winning YA novel, the first of a series, asks readers to consider the pitfalls of playing God with the past. When a perverted serial killer discovers an ancient portal in Depression-era Chicago, he uses it to visit his victims multiple times and ultimately kill them. A harrowing tale of love, loss, and guilt.
Unlike some other time travel story books that can get a bit bogged down by excessive world-building and lengthy descriptions, this story moves quickly and has just the right amount of twists to keep readers guessing. It’s a dark and often funny take on what happens when one fateful act has far-reaching and unexpected consequences.
While other time travel novels can veer into the dark or romance, this one is heavy on the action and a little gory. Readers follow a woman named Faye, who accepts a job in South Carolina and becomes obsessed with the local lighthouse’s legend. Soon, she finds herself caught in a vicious cycle of violence where the ghosts of “the shining girls” haunt her every move.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
A century after its publication, The Time Machine continues to fascinate readers with its wide-ranging narrative, complex symbols, and thematic exploration of both utopias and dystopias. The book has received significant scholarly commentary since the early 1960s, initially contained in broad studies of Wells’s early scientific romances (such as Bernard Bergonzi’s The Early H. G. Wells: A Study of the Scientific Romances) and later occupying a central place in studies of utopias and dystopias in science fiction.
The Time Traveler’s encounter with a society of far-future descendants of humans is one of the most recognizable and influential time travel stories. It influenced many of the writers who followed it in exploring similar themes, including Olaf Stapledon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
During the time traveller’s stay with the Morlocks, he is forced to choose between helping them recover their lost technology and rescuing his friend Weena from certain death. Ultimately, he is unable to return home, and he dies in the London Blitz. Despite this, he does leave behind two faded flowers as proof that humanity will survive in the future.
When his grandfather begins to forget things, fifteen-year-old Cosmo finds himself at Blackbrick, a crumbling estate on the edge of town. There, he discovers that time travel stories are possible, but they come with a price. This heartfelt tale about love, loss, and memory is one of the most life-affirming time-travel novels ever written.