Want to get started reading Octavia Butler’s best books? Check out this guide to Octavia Butler Books in Order: Based on what genres you like to read.
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When we talk about great African American writers, you cannot leave out Octavia Estelle Butler. The sci-fi and speculative fiction author published 15 novels and short story collections in her lifetime. In a literary genre dominated by white men, Octavia Butler won the coveted Hugo Award and Nebula Prize twice each for her novellas “Bloodchild,” her short story “Speech Sounds,” and her novel Parable of the Talents. She was also the first science fiction writer to ever receive the MacArthur Fellowship,
If you want to introduce yourself to Octavia Butler’s Work, then lucky for you I have written this guide to help you navigate and decide where to start with her work. Keep reading for the essential works of Butler to get you started.
FAQ’s About Octavia Butler
How Many Books Has Octavia Butler Written?
Octavia Butler wrote 12 original novels and two short story collections. Many of the novels she wrote were part of three different book series called The Patternist series, the Xenogenesis series, and the Parable series or the Earthseed series.
In What Order Should I read Octavia Butler’s Books?
Spoiler: it might be best NOT to read Octavia Butler books in order. Especially if you are new to speculative fiction or science fiction. So I’m going to approach this in a different way. I’m not going to give you an order per say, but more of a where to start based on your interests.
You should make your way through all of her books, but these ideas will give you the perfect idea of where to start.
Where to Start: Octavia Butler Books in Order depending on what you like to read.
New Readers who have never even thought of reading science fiction/fantasy..
Butler’s most popular novel, Kindred, which was published in 1979 is the best novel to start with. The book follows a young african-american woman Dana. Though she lives in 1976 L.A with her new husband, she’s suddenly transported to a Civil War-era plantation in the antebellum south. Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to the antebellum south to rescue a boy named Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner. She soon realizes the purpose of her summons to the past: protect Rufus to ensure his assault of her Black ancestor so that she may one day be born. As she endures the traumas of slavery and the soul-crushing normalization of savagery, Dana fights to keep her autonomy and return to the present.
You Like Adventure?
Read Wild Seed. The Patternist Series Book 1
For a thousand years, Doro has cultivated a small African village, carefully breeding its people in search of seemingly unattainable perfection. He survives through the centuries by stealing the bodies of others, a technique he has so thoroughly mastered that nothing on Earth can kill him. But when a gang of New World slavers destroys his village, ruining his grand experiment, Doro is forced to go west and begin anew. He meets Anyanwu, a centuries-old woman whose means of immortality are as kind as his are cruel. She is a shapeshifter, capable of healing with a kiss, and she recognizes Doro as a tyrant. Though many humans have tried to kill them, these two demigods have never before met a rival. Now they begin a struggle that will last centuries and permanently alter the nature of humanity.
You like dystopias…
Read Parable of the Sower (Book #1 in the “Parable” Series)
Parable of the Sower is the first of the two-book Earthseed/Parable series. Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is the story of Lauren Olamina. in a dystopian society in the 2020s, a future society that has been ravaged by climate change and economic stratification, Lauren is a young woman living in a gated community who suffers from “hyperempathy” which makes her feel the pain of anyone around her. When her home is destroyed, Lauren must lead the survivors of her community to safety with a revolutionary idea she feels could save humankind.
Like Sex? Alien Sex?
Read Dawn and the rest of the Xenogenesis Trilogy
Dawn is the first book in the trilogy known as the Xenogenesis series or, more popularly known as , Lillith’s Brood. The xenogenesis series is a trilogy with includes Imago’, ‘Dawn‘ and ‘Adulthood Rites’
Lilith Iyapo who wakes up 250 years after Earth was destroyed by nuclear war. She finds herself in the possession of an alien race called the Oankali, who saved all the human survivors and healed earth. Now, they task Lilith with leading the return to her home planet through interbreeding and genetic manipulation. And yes, Alien Sex.
Like to read about psychic powers?
Butler’s first novel, Patternmaster is set far into the future, when the descendants of the immortals have overtaken the world through a psychic network known as the pattern. Their ascension pitches much of society into slavery, and Butler follows two superpowered brothers as they vie to become the Patternmaster, the virtually omnipotent puppeteer of the pattern.
A 10-year-old with amnesia makes a surprising discovery that she’s actually a 53-year-old vampire. She fights to recover her memories in order to save herself and those she cares for. Fledging was Octavia Butler’s last book. Her vampires of course are night creatures and drink blood, but they also worship a goddess, own vineyards and farms, and form…sex harems with humans.
Just want a sample of her writing?
Try the short story collection Bloodchild.
Bloodchild was a breakout work for Butler. This collection of short stories includes the Hugo and Nebula award winning Bloodchild which takes place in a world in which insect-like organisms called Tilc establish a parasitic relationship with humans. It’s a land where human children who inhabit the planet are raised to host the Tlic’s eggs. Other stories include “The Meaning and the Morning of the Night” and “Speech Sounds. Each piece is followed by an afterword, offering insights into Butler’s inspirations and writing process
Or try Unexpected Stories, published 8 years after her death., Unexpected Stories features two short stories that were originally written in the 1970s. “A Necessary Being” is set in a world with leaders that are biologically determined, while “Childfinder” follows an african american woman in the 1970s who imagines the future of the human race.
Octavia Butler died unexpectedly of a stroke at age 58 in 2006. In 2019, the Los Angeles Public Library named its studio space the Octavia Lab in her honor. Her legacy lives on with new readers discovering her work every year.
Hopefully this guide will get you started!
Looking for more Books by African American Writers?
Check out these 10 Banned Books By Black Authors