Welcome to Top Sci Fi’s countdown of the 25 best time travel books on the market. A mix of classics and modern novels have been chosen. The books offer unique and thought-provoking twists on time travel. If you like the sound of any of the books on the list, you can enjoy two for free by signing up for Audible's one month free trial.
By HG Wells
HG Wells is one of the true titans of the scifi genre and The Time Machine is one of his finest stories. This time travel tale focuses on the story of a Time Traveller who has ventured hundreds of thousands of years beyond his own time. The level of imagination shown in the story is especially impressive when the reader considers Wells published The Time Machine in 1895. The story was the first to help Wells breakthrough as an author and remains essential reading for time travel fans.
By Stephen King
Stephen King is well known as a horror author, but in 11/22/63 he shows is a more than capable master of time travel fiction. This is a story which explores one of the most interesting chapters in American history and showcases the humanity behind the history books. As always, King presents a gripping, character-focused story full of twists and turns guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very last page.
By Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 is proof that time travel fiction can be critically acclaimed and have literary merit at the same time. Slaughterhouse 5 is a time travel book with a powerful antiwar message. Vonnegut entertains while making his point through the use of masterfully crafted characters including memorable members of the British military. Slaughterhouse 5 is the ideal time travel novel for a reader with discerning literary taste.
By Madeleine L'Engle
The Time Quintet series begins with A Wrinkle in Time. This time travel novel tells the story of a family who are interrupted by a mysterious visitor. The fact that the father of the family has been carrying out mysterious scientific work is no coincidence. A Wrinkle in Time is a captivating story of rescue and time travel which is the perfect introduction to L’Engle’s series.
By Michael Crichton
Timeline is a combination of classic time travel fiction with pure page turner thriller elements.
By Isaac Asimov
The End of Eternity is a classic take on the time travel genre by science fiction mastermind Isaac Asimov. The book’s main character is Andrew Harlan, a man tasked with the cosmic role of Eternal. This job requires Andrew to travel back and forth through time, making adjustments to its course where needed. However, Andrew soon makes the decision to begin twisting the direction of time for his own purposes.
By Joe Haldeman
Joe Haldeman is one of the most talented modern science fiction writers, and The Accidental Time Machine is perfect for those new to his work, as well as existing fans. The story tells the tale of a scientific researcher who accidentally creates a time machine. Deciding that time travel is more alluring than his present life, the scientist sets off on a time traveling adventure that scifi fans are sure to love.
By Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson tells the story of a man seeking his soulmate by traveling back in time to iconic past eras. Somewhere in Time is a story of mortality, love, and the concept of a soulmate. The story is an interesting take on the time travel
By Robert J Sawyer
Robert J Sawyer makes use of a fascinating premise to tell the story of Flashforward. This time travel novel is based in a world where everyone has blacked out for a couple of minutes. This naturally causes widespread death and destruction and significantly disrupts life on Earth. However, the people who survive the blackout have been given glimpses of their own future, drastically altering their behavior as a result.
By Stephen Baxter
The Time Ships is Stephen Baxter’s homage to classic time travel science fiction. This time travel novel makes use of classic ideas, characters, and concepts from the world of science fiction. The Time Ships is an
By Tim Powers
Tim Powers imagines a world where time traveling is such a commonplace activity
By Rysa Walker
Rysa Walker begins The Chronos Files with
By Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen offers a time travel novel with genuine depth in The Devil’s Arithmetic. The story is about the Holocaust and presents an unflinching look at the atrocities which took place. Although the story is often presented to young adults, readers of any age are sure to find meaning and interest in its pages. Although the subject matter is upsetting, this story of a young American Jewish girl traveling back in time is an important read.
By William Gibson
Robert Charles Wilson’s The Chronoliths is a time travel novel telling the story of a slacker called Scott Warden. Scott is drifting through life when a major event happens which disrupts humanity and its collective understanding of the nature of reality. Although Scott Warden is only interested in looking out for himself, he keeps getting drawn into the story’s events, and it soon becomes clear why.
By Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter
The first installment in A Time Odyssey is Time’s Eye, a collaborative work from two masterful time travel writers, Stephen Baxter and Arthur C Clarke. Time’s Eye looks at what happens when a mysterious group of beings known as The Firstborn plunge the Earth into chaos, mixing up many different timelines into a single ‘present’. Historical figures and relatable everyday characters all have a role to play in getting to the bottom of these strange events.
By Robert Silverberg
Up The Line is a time travel novel considering the practicalities and temptations faced by a Time Courier, someone whose job it is to accompany time tourists back to a significant historical event, again and again. The book’s main character, Judson, eventually learns that it is possible to break the rules, and Up The Line explores the consequences when this occurs.
By Jack McDevitt
Time Travelers Never Die sees a linguist and the son of a scientist embarking on an unexpected adventure through time. The two are in search of a missing scientist who is feared to be lost somewhere in time. Many significant periods from Earth’s history feature in their quest. The two have a rule to never visit the future - a rule which is eventually violated with significant ramifications.
By Philip K Dick
Philip K Dick is one of the most significant authors in the science fiction genre, and Now Wait for Last Year is a time travel tale which causes you to question the very nature of time itself. The story is exciting and features an intergalactic war as well as engaging and relatable human characters. This is one of the more obscure Philip K Dick novels and is one of his most imaginative and creative.
By Lewis Aleman
Lewis Aleman makes his mark on the time travel genre with Faces in Time, the story of a man racing back through history to prevent the woman he loves making a massive mistake. He ends up making plenty of enemies along the way, and finds himself chased by an ever growing cast of adversaries. Faces in Time explores the vast personal cost which can be associated with time travel, and explores what would motivate us to take such a drastic journey.
By Peter Delacorte
Time on My Hands is a time travel novel exploring what happens when a travel writer is offered a trip like no other - a trip through time. In order to receive this journey, the writer is given a task to carry out. Time on my Hands looks at both the big picture implications of traveling back in time with knowledge of the future, and also considers the personal questions we would have to answer.
By Paul Antony Jones
Towards Yesterday is a fascinating spin on the time travel genre, as it deals with an entire human population being sent back in time, rather than the usual situation of one or two individuals. The entire population of 2042 are sent a quarter of a century back into the past. Towards Yesterday has an incredible set of unconventional characters, coupled with a unique premise, and is guaranteed to be hard to put down for all fans of time travel science fiction.
By Christin Terrill
Cristin Terrill uses All Our Yesterdays to tell the story of Em. Em is trapped in her present reality, at least until she finds a very unusual note. The note is from none other than her future self and orders her back in time to prevent an event from taking place. All Our Yesterdays is a Young Adult time travel tale which is likely to appeal to fans of the genre of any age. Christin Terrill offers a gripping look at the personal implications of a mission spanning the eras of time.
By Darryl Brock
If I Never Get Back is a true treat for fans of baseball and fans of time travel science fiction. The story is based around a dissatisfied reporter who is sent back through time, and soon finds the past to be very much to his taste. Darryl Brock’s vivid descriptions of some of the most classic times in baseball history make the reader feel as if they have actually been on the journey!
By Terence M Green
The first book in the Ashland series, Shadow of Ashland, explores the implications of the Great Depression and how it resonates on through the ages. The book’s main character is Leo Nolan, who must keep his promise to his dying mother. His discovery is fascinating and leads him down the path of complex family discovery which will keep readers hanging on for the next book in the series.
By Pat Murphy
The Shadow Hunter is an incredibly imaginative time travel tale which mixes futuristic technology with the very earliest ancestors on Earth. Pat Murphy has updated the story since its original publication to more faithfully represent the story of The Shadow Hunter. This time travel novel is a fascinating mix of spirituality and science fiction which is sure to leave an impression on the reader long after the story ends.
Time Travel: Science Fiction or Fantasy
If you had to categorize time travel into a specific genre, what would it be? Many hardcore genre enthusiasts would be hard pressed to give you an answer. The casual passing fan will more than likely call science fiction. This may be due largely in part to the H.G. Wells Classic, The Time Machine.
But does that mean all time travel books are SciFi?
Depends on how you look at it. There's a particular school of thought I like to follow. The question is not "What is it?" but "What's the methodology?". If we're hopping the timeline via Tardis, genetic ability, or a souped up DeLorean... then we're talking SciFi.
But if spells, ancient beings, artifacts, or other forms of wizardry are employed... Fantasy. However, the lines tend to get blurred more often than not with both Fantasy geeks and SciFi nerds clamoring for control of the genre.
Either way that does not change the fact that Time Travel books are freaking awesome and should be part of any bookavore's diet.
A Brief History of Time Travel in Science Fiction
Time Loops, Slips, and Paradoxes: What's what?
When approaching a time travel theme, authors have so many to choose from. But what are the different angles they can take? What's the difference?
First, time loops. Books with time loops are rather interesting. This is where the character's repeatedly experience the same time period. Many times with the hopes of escaping via some redeemable action or changing the way events are to unfold. Remember that Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day? Time loop.
Next up: Time slips. What are time slips? This is where the character travels through time often unexpectedly for an indeterminate amount of time. Books about time machines often times are NOT time slips. Time machines normally allow for a controlled venture throughout the timeline with a destination both in space and time predetermined. However, time slips occur due to seemingly random events and are either corrected by another seemingly random event. Or the character is just stuck and must learn to get by. Oh well.
Lastly, everybody loves a good time paradox. Time paradoxes are really neat stuff. This is when a character travels through time (normally to the past) to change an event and alter the future. These are primarily disruptive events and even have their own classification of paradox known as The Grandfather Paradox. Pretty much... What would happen if you went back in time and killed your own grandparents? Sorry Grandma.
The Butterfly Effect
Not all time travel is just based purely on science fiction (or fantasy), but on some real world magic.
The Butterfly Effect is one often used in time travel stories. Based off of real-life Chaos Theory, the butterfly effect states that even the simplest of actions causes a ripple in time. These ripples then eventually grow into waves which mature into tsunamis.
For instance, if you were to go back in time and kill one locust during the dinosaur days... that may lead to the a mass hunger among certain flying lizards. This could cause those lizards to migrate towards the ocean for food. Which then causes them to evolve to be ocean creatures. That leading to survival after the extinction event. Leading to reptilian creatures to swarm the gene pool. Yadda yadda yadda... Lizard people.
There's actually a movie dedicated to this called (That's right. You guessed it.) The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher. But the most notable example of the butterfly effect in science fiction literature is A Sound of Thunder written by SciFi legend Ray Bradbury.
Get These Best SciFi Time Travel Books for Free!
If you are interested in getting some of these science fiction cyberpunk books for free here are two ways in which you can do that:
1. Audible's One Month Free Trial: You can download any two of the time travel books found on this list by signing up for Audible’s free trial. Audible is arguably the best audiobook service on the market. Even if you cancel your trial and decide not to continue with a membership, you can still keep the two books you chose.