Bespoke Book List: Great Books that Take You Back in Time

To celebrate H.G. Wells’ 151st birthday this month, we’ve collected some of the most engaging descendants of The Time Machine. Wells wasn’t the first writer to send a character through time to explore wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, but his time-traveling gentleman inspired generations of writers to explore the future and the past and gave science-fiction space on literary bookshelves. Grab your sonic screwdriver and do the past-future shuffle with one of these time-travel tales.

Time and Again by Jack Finney
Si Morley agrees to participate in time travel experiment that will take him back to 1880s New York City—but he doesn’t expect to fall in love with the past or the young woman he meets there.
(High school)



Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time, and lives his life simultaneously, travel- ing in time from his childhood to his alien abduction to his shattering experience as an American prisoner of war in World War II Germany. 
(High school)


To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
If you read only one of Connie Willis’ time travel books, make it this one. Historian Ned Henry needs a break, but he’s not going to get one when he time travels to Victorian England in this P.G. Wodehouse-meets-Doctor Who romp of a book. 
(High school)


Kindred by Octavia Butler
When Dana travels back in time from 1976 to antebellum Maryland, she learns first-hand how hard life is for a black woman in pre-Civil War America. But the situation is even more complicated than she first realizes.
(High school)


Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
When a restless Tom hears the clock strike 13, he discovers a secret garden and a girl named Hatty. But which of their times is the real one?
(Middle grades)



The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
When Hannah opens the door at her family’s Passover Seder, she is transported to 1942 Poland, where Jews like her family are being rounded up and sent to camps.
(Middle grades)


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes from someone who seems to know things before they happen— but what does the visitor from the future want her to help him accomplish?
(Middle grades)



The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
When Tolly comes to spend the holidays with his grandmother in the vast and ancient family manor, he discovers that the past is very much alive at Green Knowe.
(Middle grades)



Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
Charlotte feels out of place at her new boarding school, but that’s nothing compared to waking up in 1918 with everyone calling her Clare.
(Middle grades)



A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley
While visiting her uncle’s house in the English countryside, dreamy Penelope discovers that she can visit the 16th century—and becomes caught up in a plot to put Queen Mary of Scotland on the British throne.
(Middle grades)


When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
Anna’s always been a lonely misfit, but when she meets Marnie on her summer holiday, everything changes. When Marnie suddenly disappears, Anna discovers that her first friend was not exactly who she thought she was.
(Middle grades)


Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd

Life in the 20th century hasn’t been particularly kind to Susan—so she’s thrilled when the elevator doors of her building open up and deposit her 80 years in the past.


The Magic Half by Annie Barrows
As she’s unpacking her bedroom in her family’s new house, Miri accidentally travels back to 1935 and she meets Molly, who could really use a friend.



A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
A case of mistaken identity (or is it?) brings Vivian Smith from the London Blitz evacuations to Time City, which exists outside of the time/space continuum. But Time City—and all of history with it—is in trouble, and Vivian may be the only one who can help.
(Middle grades)


Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
That mysterious habit cats have of disappearing and reappearing right in front of you gets explained by the author of the Chronicles of Prydain: some cats, like Gareth, can travel in time—and every now and then, one might take his owner along for the ride.  (Elementary)


This list was originally published in the summer 2016 issue of HSL.