Alternate-History Books for Fans of The Man in the High Castle

Shelf RenewalThe alternate-history TV series The Man in the High Castle, loosely based on the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, has become Amazon’s most-watched original series. The premise here is that the Axis powers won WWII and the U.S. has been split into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Pacific States. People live in fear and gloom (this may be the dimmest series ever filmed—and I felt grimy after each episode), and there is a resistance movement attempting to break free by smuggling films that show alternate realities. While the show really only keeps the basic plot of Dick’s book, the drama and mystery are there in full force.

man_in_the_high_castleAlternate history is appealing because it’s rooted in real events. These books stand out from the rest of the dystopian genre or alternate-world books because there is a specific point of divergence—a moment in time when the fate of the world changed, which is different than a time-travel story or a skewed version of reality. These novels appeal to readers who like sf and fantasy, history, and people who just enjoy speculating “what if?”  After all, it’s fascinating to wonder how things might look today had major events gone a different way—especially in light of our current political theater. To that end, entice your patrons with a display of these alternate-history titles.

11/22/63, by Stephen KingKing11-22-63

A schoolteacher accepts a mission: prevent the assassination of JFK.

The Alteration, by Kingsley Amis

In this one, Catholicism dominates Great Britain and The Reformation never took place.

Fatherland, by Robert Harris

As in Dick’s novel, the Nazis won WWII.

How Few Remain, by Harry Turtledove

What if the South won the Civil War?

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth

Hitler and Nazis are alternate-history evergreens. In Roth’s novel, Charles Lindbergh is the U.S. President and makes nice with Der Führer.

Ruled Britanniaby Harry TurtledoveRuledBritannia

Turtledove has a knack for this kind of thing: here, the Spanish Armada was successful and England is under Spanish control.

Voyage, by Stephen Baxter

JFK survives the assassination attempt and goes on to champion mass space exploration.

The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Black Plague has killed 99% of Europe’s population, changing the global balance of power in startling ways.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon

Alternate history based on an obscure historical fact: Alaska, not Israel, is the post-WWII homeland for the Jews.



About the Author:

Rebecca Vnuk is the editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist. She is also the author of 3 reader’s-advisory nonfiction books: Read On…Women’s Fiction (2009), Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2014), and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009). Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_RVnuk.

6 Comments on "Alternate-History Books for Fans of The Man in the High Castle"

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  1.' Robin Bradford says:

    So many of these have passed through my radar, but I hadn’t stopped to check them out. Thanks for this!

  2. Anna M says:

    I’m going to suggest you add FARTHING by Jo Walton to this list posthaste! I think Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series could also make a case, but I can’t tell if I’m suggesting it because it fits or because I think everyone should read it….

  3.' Sue Banks says:

    And check out Stephen Fry’s 1998 novel “Making History” to experience a darkly humorous examination of what would have happened if Hitler had never been born. Paperback publication 2014.

  4.' Gerard Saylor says:

    FATHERLAND and YIDDISH are good choices to fit with MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. They both match the post-war setting.

    FATHERLAND was neat because it talks about the Nazi’s architectural plans for Berlin. The MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE showed the CGI versions of those plans for the Berlin scenes.

  5. Rebecca Vnuk says:

    I love these suggestions, folks! Keep ’em coming!!

  6. What a great list! I was going to do a post somewhat similar about readalikes for this great show, but now I don’t need to :-) Timely and useful!

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