The literature of utopias reaches all the way back to Plato, though attempts to actually launch utopian communities are a more modern phenomenon. You can read about utopian literature at the informative website Development of Utopian Fiction. Below is a selection of some utopian novels, in order of publication. Between 1800 and 1860 some 70 utopian communities were launched in the United States. So Hiawatha Colony came late to the movement. But as far as I can tell EDEN WAITS is the first based on an actual utopian community!
Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More
Possibly the quintessential utopia, Utopia was written during the Renaissance. Book I constitutes a discussion of the ills of the laws, governments, economics, and morals of European nations of the time, detailing the severity of the penal code, gross inequities in the distribution of wealth, and the unequal participation in productive labor. Book II describes the imaginary island of Utopia, where everyone is employed in a productive trade. There is no private property and no money, and inhabitants are free to take from the supply stores whatever food they need. The family and marriage are stressed, and religious freedom is encouraged. Oddly, a system of slavery exists, consisting mainly of criminals and captured prisoners of war, although war is considered barbaric and a course of last resort.
The Blazing World (1666) by Margaret Cavendish.
The only 17th century work known to have been written by a woman, this novel is a satirical, fanciful depiction of a utopian kingdom in a world that can be reached via the North Pole. It is told in what we now call proto-science fiction.
Three Hundred Years Hence (1836) by Mary Griffith
The first utopian novel by an American woman, and the first to be set in a different time rather than a remote and inaccessible place. The novel's hero wakes after a long, deep sleep to a future utopian society and a vastly improved social order in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
The Blithedale Romance (1852)
This is a novel by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Its setting is a utopian farming commune based on Brook Farm, of which Hawthorne was a founding member and where he lived in 1841. The novel dramatizes the conflict between the commune's ideals and the members' private desires and romantic rivalries.
The Begum's Fortune (1879) by Jules Verne
In Verne's novel, based on a manuscript by the exiled Corsican revolutionary Paschal Grousset, two men inherit fabulous wealth from an Indian Begum. One, a Frenchman, uses his inheritance to build a utopian model city with public health as its main concern. The other, a German, uses his share to build a very different utopia, one devoted to ever more powerful and destructive weapons, with all the pollution and environmental destruction that comes with it.
A Modern Utopia (1905) by H. G. Wells
In a not-too-distant future, the whole world is part of one commonwealth, and national boundaries no longer have any significance. Money, personal property, and competition remain, although the Earth’s land and its sources of power belong to the state. Beyond a minimum requirement of labor, individuals are free to either work more or take their leisure. The ruling Samurai caste furnish the World State with its administrators, legislators, lawyers, doctors, and other leaders. The lower classes of citizens (the dull-witted, the criminals and the deformed) are exiled from society and prevented from childbearing.
Herland (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a feminist utopia (written at the peak of the battle for women’s rights) about an isolated society composed solely of woman who reproduce by asexual parthenogenesis. It is a clean, peaceful, prosperous land and in every way superior to the male-dominated status quo elsewhere. The book posits the idea that gender is a purely social construct.
The Millennium (1924) by Upton Sinclair
Subtitled “A Comedy of the Year 2000” and based on his much earlier 1907 play, this is Sinclair’s proposition of communism as the solution to all our societal woes. In a millennial world at the peak of its capitalistic excess, an accident kills all but a handful of people across the world. After attempts to build a new capitalistic society fail miserably, a sub-group successfully builds a utopian communistic society known as the Co-operative Commonwealth.
Lost Horizon (1933) by James Hilton
A British diplomat finds peace in the utopian lamasery of Shangri-La high in the mountains of Tibet. There the monks practice a combination of Christianity and Buddhism in which peace and moderation in all things are paramount.
Islandia (1942) by Austin Tappan Wright
When John Lang becomes the U.S. consul to the remote and mysterious island Islandia, he is gradually converted to their way of life and encourages their increasing isolation from the rest of the world. Islandia is an Arcadian, rural society where Western technology has been largely (but not completely) rejected, but in which the understanding of human emotions and psychology has become much more important.
Island (1962) by Aldous Huxley
Will Farnaby is a cynical journalist shipwrecked on the fictional island of Pala, a Buddhist paradise where modern science and technology are embraced only insofar as they can improve medicine and nutrition, not for industrialization; drugs are used for enlightenment, not for pacification; and the evils of corporatism are unknown.
Ecotopia (1975) by Ernest Callenbach
Subtitled “The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston,” this was the first of the ecotopia sub-genre. In a future independent American North-West, the free-thinking, creative and energetic citizens make selective use of technology to optimize the social, medical, and ecological health of their society. Callenbach’s Ecotopia Emerging (1981) is a prequel to this novel.
The Daybreak Series, Slant of Light (2012), This Old World (2014), and The Language of Trees (2017), by Steve Wiegenstein
Daybreak is a fictional community Wiegenstein explores in his three-book series. Slant of Light, set on the brink of the Civil War, traces James Turner, a charming, impulsive writer and lecturer; Charlotte, his down-to-earth bride; and Cabot, an idealistic Harvard-educated abolitionist drawn together in a social experiment deep in the Missouri Ozarks. Inspired by utopian dreams of building a new society, Turner is given a tract of land to found the community of Daybreak. But not everyone involved in the project is a willing partner.
In the second book in the series, This Old World, James Turner and the men of Daybreak return home to find that the Civil War has changed their Utopian community forever. The women they left behind survived raiders and bushwackers, raised children, and lived on little more than dogged determination. Now that the men are back—those who fought for the North and those who fought for the South—the community must somehow put the past behind them.
In The Language of Trees, the final book in the series, a powerful lumber and mining company courts the inhabitants of Daybreak, forcing them to search their souls as the lure of sudden wealth tests their ideals. Love, deception, ambition, violence, and reconciliation abound as the citizens of Daybreak try to live oft-scorned values in a world that is changing around them.
When the English Fall (2018) by David Williams
When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, unleashing unthinkable violence. When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?
The Magic Kingdom (2022) by Russell Banks
In 1971, a property speculator named Harley Mann begins recording his life story onto a reel-to-reel machine. Reflecting on his childhood in the early twentieth century, Harley recounts that after his father's sudden death, his family migrated down to Florida's swamplands—mere miles away from what would become Disney World—to join a community of Shakers. Led by Elder John, a generous man with a mysterious past, the colony devoted itself to labor, faith, and charity, rejecting all temptations that lay beyond the property.
This Other Eden (2023) by Paul Harding
Harding's beautifully written novel was inspired by the true story of Malaga Island, an isolated island off the coast of Maine which was settled in 1792. The community that formed there became one of the first racially integrated towns in the Northeast. This Other Eden is a story of resistance and survival and the enduring testament to the struggle to preserve human dignity in the face of intolerance and injustice.
The podcast Nice Try! from Curbed reminds us that the many varieties of utopias have been tried—and failed. From the Biosphere 2 experiment intended to analyze the ways in which humans are connected to their environments to the mid-19th century perfectionist Oneida Community, which has since become a popular vendor of silverware, Nice Try! tracks utopias from their initial bursts of optimism to their inevitable implosions.
Get more recommendations for books about utopias at Shepherd.com.