December 8 is National Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day. Do you love stories about time travel, or have you ever wished to become a time traveler? Here’s your chance! In honor of this auspicious celebration (or silly holiday—you decide), we’re counting down our thirteen favorite books about time travel to help you brush up on your time dilation skills.
13.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling
In this the third book in the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger acquires the time-turner, a device that lets her travel back in time. In true Hermione style, she uses it to attend multiple classes at once. Hijinks ensue, but the device also proves invaluable in helping Harry Potter defeat his enemy. Since time travel isn’t the primary focus, it’s number 13 on our list.
12.) Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers, by Dav Pilkey
It’s never too early to introduce the younger crowd to the joys of science fiction. That’s why this comic, a favorite with the elementary school crowd, comes in at number 12 on our list. In this tenth book in the series, our illustrious hero, Tippy Tinkletrousers, travels through time—through the plots of books eight and nine—to save his friends and Captain Underpants. Just be sure to read this series in order, or you might find yourself needing a time machine to figure out the plot.
11.) The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
When the ending of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is suddenly changed, the world is tossed into chaos. Literary detective Thursday Next must travel back in time and into the book itself to save the fate of humanity and the dashing Mr. Rochester. This hilarious story combines time travel with a love of literature, and that’s why it’s number 11 on our list. Keep your eyes open for Easter eggs from all your favorite Brit-lit stories, including a character named Mycroft (Sherlock fans will understand).
10.) Timescape, by Gregory Benford
When ecological disasters threaten the welfare of humankind in 1998, scientists figure out a way to send messages back to 1962 to help stave off disaster. This prize-winning novel, despite having been written in 1980, will feel eerily current as it follows the drama of scientists both in 1998 and 1962 trying to prevent an environmental catastrophe. It’s almost like the author went to the future before writing this book. That’s why it’s number 10 on our list.
9.) Doctor Who (a series of 530 novels)
If this were a list about time-traveling TV shows, Doctor Who would definitely be at the top. But we’re focused on books here, so that’s why the series (all 530 books) rounds out our list at number 9. If you’re looking for quintessential time travel, Doctor Who has it all. The Doctor—as he’s known—is a mysterious Time Lord from a distant planet who always seems to show up just in the knick of time. He’s accompanied by a band of plucky companions who help him defeat a wild variety of bad guys, from robots to dinosaurs, and travel with him in his iconic time machine, the TARDIS.
8.) Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
A World War II nurse wakes up in eighteenth-century Scotland after an excursion to Scottish standing stones in 1943 sends her hurtling back in time. The story takes a hard look at what a twentieth-century woman might encounter, from smells to attitudes, two hundred years in the past. This acclaimed romance series is based on Doctor Who, which is why it’s number 8 on our list. Don’t believe us? Find out for yourself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_McCrimmon.
7.) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams
Have a hankering for a spot of tea? Don’t panic! Just grab your towel, and follow this second book in the five-part trilogy (that’s not a grammatical mistake, folks) of the hilarious Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All our favorite characters—Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and even the moody android Marvin—are back for another trip through space. They escape danger by popping into the future for dinner at—you guessed it—the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Because 42 wasn’t available, we’ll put this at number 7 on our list.
6.) Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
What would the inhabitants of the court of King Arthur think of a nineteenth-century Yankee engineer? They’d think he was a regular ol’ Merlin, that’s what. This classic tale by none other than Mark Twain follows a firearms manufacturer who wakes up in sixth-century England after a blow to the head. Twain’s book is renowned as the first novel to feature time travel, although we’d like to point out it is merely the most famous: multiple other books written around the same time include time travel. That’s why this is number 6 on our list.
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5.) The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
Henry DeTamble was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously and involuntarily travel to random points along his own timeline. When he meets his wife for the first time, she has already known him for most of her life. This best seller explores the strain of a romance that blooms in a nonlinear timeline and the drama that ensues. “Time travel” is in the title, so we just had to put this at number 5 on our list.
4.) 11/22/63, by Steven King
November 22, 1963, is a date that will ever live in infamy as the day President Kennedy was assassinated. But what if he wasn’t? Diner proprietor Al recounts to his friend Jake the tale of trying to prevent Kennedy’s death by traveling through a time portal in his diner pantry. When Al becomes too sick to time travel, Jake picks up where he left off by heading back to the 1950s to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. This twisted tale is an award-winning best seller, and that’s why it’s number 4 on our list.
3.) Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5 is considered Vonnegut’s most influential work. The narrator recounts the nonlinear tale of Billy Pilgrim, from his time as a young World War II soldier to his captivity in a zoo on a distant planet in the future. This dark satire dives deep into philosophy as the plot winds back and forth through Billy’s life. This classic should be on everyone’s bookshelf; that’s why it’s number 3 on our list.
2.) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Since Time Traveler Day is in December, we couldn’t leave this Christmas classic off our list. Three ghosts appear to the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and enlighten him as to the past, the present, and the bleak future if he doesn’t change his greedy ways. His journey through time opens his heart to the true Christmas spirit. This feel-good holiday read is perfect for time traveling in December. That’s why it’s number 2 on our list.
1.) The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
We’re topping off our list with the tale that popularized science fiction stories about time travel: The Time Machine. Can you imagine what the world would look like in the year 802,701? The time traveler, a scientist from Victorian England, recounts his tale of traveling far into the distant future to meet the creatures that evolved from modern humans. If you’re looking for tips on becoming a time traveler, there’s no better book to read. For that reason, it’s number 1 on our list. Happy travels through time!