20 best books on world building – 2023 reading list & recommendations

If you’ve ever marveled at the intricate and immersive worlds created in your favorite novels, then you’re probably familiar with the art of world building. Whether you’re an aspiring writer looking to create your own fantastical realm or simply a fan of immersive storytelling, there’s a book on world building out there for you. In this article, we’ve rounded up the 20 best world building books that will transport you to new and captivating realms.

The Fifth Season

by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is a captivating book about world building that will transport you to a realm of unimaginable possibilities. Set in a world plagued by frequent cataclysmic events, known as “Fifth Seasons,” Jemisin weaves a tale of survival, power, and the delicate balance of nature.

The City We Became

by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is an extraordinary book on world building that takes readers on an exhilarating journey through the realms of imagination. This captivating novel is not just a book about world building, but a world building masterpiece that will leave you spellbound.

The Water Knife

by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi is a riveting book about the art of world building. Set in a dystopian future where water scarcity has become a brutal reality, this gripping novel takes readers on a thrilling journey through a meticulously crafted world.

The Power

by Naomi Alderman

The Power: A Game-Changing Tale of Shattered Norms

Prepare to be captivated by Naomi Alderman’s electrifying masterpiece, The Power. This groundbreaking novel, hailed as a world-building sensation, takes readers on a thrilling journey into a parallel reality where the balance of power has been upended.

In this thought-provoking book on world building, Alderman skillfully crafts a society where women possess an extraordinary ability – the power to generate electricity. As this immense force awakens within them, women emerge as the dominant gender, flipping conventional dynamics upside down. The world as we know it morphs into a dangerous and unpredictable place, where the playing field is forever altered.

Explore the far-reaching consequences of this power shift as Alderman delves into the intricacies of politics, religion, and human nature. Through the eyes of four central characters – an ambitious politician, a runaway, a religious leader, and a journalist – we witness the profound transformations that take hold as power corrupts, relationships fracture, and new alliances form.

Alderman’s book about world building leaves no stone unturned, examining the complex implications of this newfound power. With skillful prose and a captivating plot, she explores gender dynamics, the fragile nature of societal norms, and the profound impact of power on individuals and communities alike.

Prepare to be enthralled by Alderman’s vivid imagination as she constructs a mesmerizing world that forces readers to confront their own assumptions and question the very fabric of our reality. This world-building book is a tour de force that challenges perceptions, ignites discussions, and leaves an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

If you’re ready to embark on an exhilarating journey that will shake the foundations of your understanding, dive into The Power and experience the awe-inspiring power of Naomi Alderman’s storytelling.

The Three-Body Problem

by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu is a mind-bending book on world building that will transport you to a realm of scientific wonder and intrigue.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, this world-building book takes you on a thrilling journey that spans decades, continents, and even galaxies. As you immerse yourself in Liu’s intricate narrative, you’ll discover a meticulously crafted universe that is both familiar and alien.

With its richly developed characters and ingenious plot twists, The Three-Body Problem will keep you on the edge of your seat, eagerly turning pages to uncover the mysteries hidden within. Liu’s masterful storytelling and meticulous attention to detail will make you feel as though you are a part of this meticulously constructed world-building experience.

Prepare to be captivated by a story that seamlessly weaves together science, philosophy, and human drama. Liu’s exploration of complex scientific concepts, such as astrophysics and quantum mechanics, is accessible and thought-provoking, making this book about world building a compelling read for both science enthusiasts and casual readers alike.

Whether you’re a fan of science fiction or simply appreciate a well-crafted story, The Three-Body Problem will transport you to a world-building experience like no other. Don’t miss your chance to explore the boundless depths of Cixin Liu’s imagination and embark on a journey that will leave you pondering the mysteries of the cosmos long after you’ve turned the final page.

The Windup Girl

by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl is a mesmerizing book on world building that transports readers to a dystopian future where imagination knows no bounds. Paolo Bacigalupi weaves a captivating tale set in a post-apocalyptic Bangkok, where biotechnology reigns supreme and humanity grapples with the consequences of its own actions.

The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is a mesmerizing masterpiece that takes the concept of ‘world building’ to a whole new level. This groundbreaking novel immerses readers in a meticulously crafted universe, showcasing Le Guin’s unparalleled talent for creating intricate and diverse societies.

The Alchemist of Loom

by Elise Kova

The Alchemist of Loom is a mesmerizing book on world building written by the talented author, Elise Kova. Step into a realm where creativity knows no bounds as Kova weaves a captivating tale in this world-building masterpiece. Prepare to be transported to a world unlike any other, as the author expertly crafts a vibrant and immersive setting that will leave you spellbound.

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni: A Captivating Tale of Magical Beings

Step into a mesmerizing world where the fantastical becomes reality in Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. This extraordinary novel is not just a book about world building; it is a masterful example of the art itself.

Set in 1899 New York, this enchanting tale introduces us to two mystical beings who find themselves navigating a world they never asked to be a part of. On one hand, we have Chava, a golem brought to life by a troubled Jewish rabbi. On the other hand, we have Ahmad, a jinni who emerges from a copper flask after being trapped for centuries. Both creatures possess incredible powers and abilities, yet they are confined by their own limitations.

Wecker’s meticulous attention to detail transports readers into a richly imagined world that seamlessly blends historical fiction with elements of folklore and enchantment. As we follow Chava and Ahmad’s journeys, we witness the vivid tapestry of immigrant life in bustling New York City, from the teeming streets of the Lower East Side to the opulent homes of the Upper West Side.

But it is not just the setting that captivates us; it is the intricate web of relationships that Wecker weaves. As Chava and Ahmad’s paths intertwine, they form an unlikely bond, finding solace and understanding in each other’s company. Their struggles, desires, and conflicts mirror those of the human characters they encounter, reminding us of the complexities of the human experience.

With lyrical prose and an immersive narrative, Wecker invites us to ponder profound questions about identity, freedom, and the choices we make. She explores themes of loneliness, belonging, and the blurred lines between good and evil, all while painting a vivid portrait of a world that dazzles the senses.

So, if you’re in search of a world building book that will transport you to a realm where magic and reality coexist, then The Golem and the Jinni is an absolute must-read. Prepare to be spellbound by this remarkable tale of two extraordinary beings navigating the complexities of human existence.

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a mesmerizing book that takes readers on a thrilling journey through a world of enchantment and wonder. This magical tale is a true masterpiece of storytelling, a book that will transport you to a realm where reality and imagination blend seamlessly.

At its core, The Night Circus is a book about world-building. Morgenstern’s vivid descriptions and intricate details create a rich and immersive setting that will leave readers spellbound. With every turn of the page, you will find yourself captivated by the beauty and mystery of the circus, a place that exists only between dusk and dawn.

But this is no ordinary circus – it is a stage for a fierce competition between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. As they showcase their extraordinary skills, their lives become intertwined in a web of love, danger, and secrets. The circus becomes a battleground for their talents, a place where their every move is watched and their every decision could have life-altering consequences.

As the story unfolds, Morgenstern weaves together multiple perspectives and timelines, adding layers of complexity to the world she has created. The characters are beautifully developed, each with their own desires, motivations, and flaws. From the enigmatic ringmaster to the mysterious fortune teller, every character has a role to play in this intricate tapestry.

The Night Circus is not just a book to be read – it is an experience to be savored. Morgenstern’s prose is lyrical and evocative, painting a vivid picture of a world that feels both familiar and otherworldly. From the smell of caramel apples to the sound of the carousel, every detail is meticulously crafted, leaving you longing to step through the pages and experience it all for yourself.

So, if you are looking for a world-building book that will transport you to a realm of magic, mystery, and romance, look no further than The Night Circus. Prepare to be enchanted and enthralled as you lose yourself in this extraordinary tale.

The Name of the Wind

by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a mesmerizing tale that transcends the boundaries of a simple book on world building. It is a symphony of imagination, an opus of creation, and a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Rothfuss weaves a tapestry of words that transports readers into a world so vivid and intricately detailed, it feels as if one could step through the pages and find themselves amidst the very essence of his creation.

The Grace of Kings

by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings is a mesmerizing book on world building that takes readers on a breathtaking journey through an intricately crafted realm. With every page turned, author Ken Liu reveals a world that is both familiar and yet entirely unique.

The Invisible Library

by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library: A World-Building Adventure

Welcome to the extraordinary universe of The Invisible Library, a captivating novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through countless parallel worlds. Genevieve Cogman’s masterpiece is a true gem for any lover of books, an enchanting blend of fantasy and mystery that will leave you utterly spellbound.

In this mesmerizing tale, the protagonist, Irene, is a resourceful and adventurous Librarian, working for the enigmatic and mysterious Invisible Library. Tasked with retrieving rare and unique books from different realms, she must navigate treacherous dimensions, where danger lurks around every corner.

The Invisible Library is not your typical library. Nestled between worlds, it houses countless volumes of literature from different realities, each with its own set of rules and possibilities. With its vast collection of books, the library serves a vital purpose – preserving the balance of knowledge across the multiverse.

As Irene embarks on her perilous missions, she encounters countless obstacles, from rogue fae creatures to zealous automatons, all fiercely guarding the precious books she seeks. With her wit, intelligence, and a trusty sidekick named Kai, a charming and secretive detective, Irene must unravel conspiracies and outsmart her adversaries to complete her tasks.

What sets The Invisible Library apart is its meticulous attention to world-building. With every turn of the page, readers are transported to new and mesmerizing realms, each with its own intricate details, histories, and magical systems. Cogman’s skillful storytelling paints vivid landscapes filled with wonder and danger, igniting the imagination of readers and leaving them yearning for more.

So, if you’re craving a book about world-building that seamlessly combines elements of fantasy, mystery, and adventure, look no further than The Invisible Library. Prepare to be whisked away on a breathtaking journey through parallel dimensions, where books hold the power to shape entire worlds.

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a mesmerizing book that takes the reader on a journey through a beautifully crafted and immersive world. This enchanting tale is a true masterpiece of world building, transporting readers to a realm filled with magic, folklore, and wonder.

Arden skillfully weaves together elements of Russian mythology and history to create a vivid and atmospheric setting. From the frozen landscapes of rural Russia to the mystical creatures that inhabit its forests, the world of The Bear and the Nightingale is brought to life with incredible detail and imagination.

As the story unfolds, readers are introduced to a cast of memorable characters, each with their own unique personalities and motivations. Vasya, the brave and independent protagonist, is a captivating heroine who defies societal expectations and embraces her magical abilities.

The book explores themes of faith, courage, and the clash between tradition and modernity. Arden seamlessly incorporates these themes into the narrative, creating a thought-provoking and deeply satisfying read.

With its lyrical prose and captivating storytelling, The Bear and the Nightingale is a must-read for fans of fantasy and those who appreciate a meticulously crafted world. Arden’s ability to transport readers to a different time and place is truly remarkable, making this book a standout in the genre of world building.

The Long Earth

by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Embark on an extraordinary journey through the pages of The Long Earth, a captivating collaboration between the literary legends Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. This remarkable novel takes readers on an epic adventure, transporting them to a multitude of parallel worlds, each holding its own unique wonders and mysteries.

In this imaginative tale, Pratchett and Baxter weave a mesmerizing tapestry of infinite possibilities, inviting readers to delve into the boundless realms of the Long Earth. This captivating world-building book crafts a universe where humanity discovers the existence of countless parallel Earths, all accessible by a simple device known as a “Stepper.”

Through the eyes of Joshua Valiente, a solitary explorer with the uncanny ability to traverse these parallel worlds, we witness the awe-inspiring diversity of the Long Earth. From barren landscapes to lush forests, bustling civilizations to untouched wilderness, the authors skillfully create a vivid tapestry of alternate realities, each ripe with its own set of challenges and discoveries.

As we journey with Joshua, we encounter a cast of fascinating characters, each grappling with the implications of this newfound frontier. We witness the clash of ideologies, the struggle for power, and the profound impact that the Long Earth has on humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos.

With their masterful storytelling, Pratchett and Baxter expertly blend elements of science fiction, adventure, and philosophy, offering readers a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be human in a vast and uncharted multiverse. Through their collaborative efforts, they create a world-building masterpiece that ignites the imagination, leaving readers yearning to embark on their own journey into the unknown.

So, step into the Long Earth and prepare to be captivated by a literary feat that transcends boundaries and transports readers to a realm of infinite possibilities. This is a book about world-building that will leave you mesmerized and longing for more.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

by N.K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is a mesmerizing book on world building that will transport you to a realm of gods and mortals, power and betrayal.

In this captivating world building book, Jemisin weaves a tale of intricate politics and divine machinations. The story follows Yeine, a young woman who is suddenly thrust into a deadly game of power after her mother’s murder.

As Yeine navigates the treacherous court of the Arameri, the ruling family of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, she uncovers the secrets of her mother’s past and the true nature of the gods who walk among them.

Jemisin’s masterful book about world building creates a richly layered universe, where gods have been enslaved and human lives hang in the balance. The intricacies of the world’s history and mythology are expertly interwoven with the personal narratives of the characters, making for a truly immersive reading experience.

With its complex characters, intricate plot, and thought-provoking exploration of power and oppression, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a must-read for fans of fantasy and anyone who appreciates a brilliantly crafted world building book. Prepare to be spellbound by Jemisin’s stunning prose and transported to a realm unlike any other.

The Martian

by Andy Weir

Are you ready to embark on an extraordinary journey through the vastness of space and the depths of human resilience? Then buckle up and prepare to be captivated by “The Martian” by Andy Weir, a mind-blowing world-building book that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

The Passage

by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin: A Captivating Book on World Building

Get ready to embark on a thrilling journey through a meticulously crafted and immersive world in Justin Cronin’s mesmerizing novel, The Passage. This captivating book about world building takes readers on an extraordinary adventure unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

Within the pages of The Passage, Cronin skillfully constructs a richly detailed and expansive world, brimming with vibrant landscapes, intricate histories, and an array of compelling characters. This world-building masterpiece is sure to leave readers spellbound from start to finish.

In this epic tale, Cronin introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world that has been overrun by bloodthirsty creatures known as virals. As the remnants of humanity struggle to survive, a group of desperate individuals embarks on a dangerous mission to find a cure for the virals and restore hope to a world on the brink of destruction.

The Passage is a world-building book that seamlessly weaves together elements of science fiction, horror, and suspense. Cronin’s vivid descriptions and meticulous attention to detail bring this dystopian world to life, immersing readers in a visceral and hauntingly beautiful landscape.

Through his masterful storytelling, Cronin explores themes of survival, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit. As readers dive deeper into the intricacies of this world, they will find themselves emotionally invested in the fates of the characters, eagerly turning each page to unravel the mysteries that lie ahead.

With its rich world-building, engrossing plot, and unforgettable characters, The Passage stands as a testament to the power of imagination and the transformative experience of being transported to a wholly different reality. This world-building gem is a must-read for fans of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and anyone who appreciates a captivating and immersive storytelling experience.

The Broken Earth Trilogy

by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin is a captivating book about world building like no other. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where cataclysmic events called “Seasons” have reshaped the very fabric of the planet, this trilogy takes readers on an unforgettable journey through a shattered and enigmatic landscape.

With each installment, Jemisin demonstrates her incredible talent for crafting a rich and immersive world building book. From the intricate details of the unique geological phenomena that shape the land, to the complex social structures and political intrigues of the various civilizations, every aspect of this world is meticulously thought out.

But what truly sets The Broken Earth Trilogy apart is Jemisin’s ability to seamlessly weave together the book on world building with a compelling and deeply personal story. Through a diverse cast of characters, she explores themes of oppression, survival, and the indomitable human spirit.

Prepare to be captivated by Jemisin’s masterful storytelling as she takes you on a journey through a world unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. The Broken Earth Trilogy is a world building book that will leave you breathless, eager to uncover the secrets of this beautifully crafted and hauntingly familiar world.

The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, a remarkable book on world building, takes readers on an unforgettable adventure through the imaginative mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. This world building book introduces us to Bilbo Baggins, a meek and unassuming hobbit, who is whisked away from his comfortable life in the Shire to embark on a perilous journey.

Set in the enchanting realm of Middle-earth, this book about world building transports readers to a world filled with mythical creatures, breathtaking landscapes, and incredible lore. From towering mountains to mysterious forests, every corner of this intricately crafted world is brought to life through Tolkien’s vivid descriptions and unparalleled storytelling.

As Bilbo joins a band of dwarves led by the legendary Thorin Oakenshield, he finds himself confronting treacherous trolls, cunning goblins, and a formidable dragon named Smaug. Along the way, he discovers hidden treasures, encounters magical beings, and learns valuable lessons about courage, friendship, and the true nature of heroism.

The Hobbit is not just a tale of adventure; it is a testament to Tolkien’s unparalleled skill in world building. With meticulous attention to detail, he creates a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and histories that make Middle-earth feel like a living, breathing world. From the bustling city of Rivendell to the eerie depths of the Misty Mountains, each location has its own unique charm and significance.

Through his masterful storytelling, Tolkien invites readers to immerse themselves in this world building book and experience the wonders of Middle-earth firsthand. As we follow Bilbo’s journey, we are captivated by the sheer beauty and complexity of the world he inhabits, and we can’t help but be inspired by the boundless creativity and imagination of its creator.

In the end, The Hobbit is more than just a book; it is a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring impact of a well-crafted world. Whether you are a fan of fantasy literature or simply appreciate the art of world building, this timeless tale is sure to captivate your imagination and leave you longing for more adventures in Middle-earth.


In conclusion, these 20 best books about world building offer a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration for any aspiring or seasoned writer. Whether you’re crafting an epic fantasy realm, a dystopian future, or a whimsical alternate universe, these books provide invaluable guidance on creating rich, immersive worlds that captivate readers. From exploring the intricacies of culture and politics to delving into the geography and magic systems, these authors offer a wealth of expertise and practical tips. So, grab a copy of these books and embark on a journey to build your own extraordinary worlds.