Now, my friends, is an excellent time to be a Trekkie. With Discovery in full swing, a miniseries following Captain Picard in the works, and a fanbase with over 50 years of material, how couldn’t it be? I’ve been a passionate Star Trek fan since high school and, every year, I find myself even more (to steal Spock’s catchphrase) fascinated with Starfleet’s mission to not only explore but understand the universe.
Fellow bookworm Trekkies, this one’s for you. Check out this list of 16 sci-fi recommendations matched with some of the best Star Trek characters.
Jean-Luc Picard: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
To reflect Picard’s love of classic literature, I thought it was fitting to recommend one of the cornerstones in the sci-fi genre. The Galactic Empire, a once powerful nation, is dying, and only psychohistorian Hari Seldon knows why. He believes that humanity is falling into another dark age of barbarism and ignorance and, unless they take action, all of the art and knowledge of the past few millennia will be lost. Along with other scientists and scholars, Seldon works against time to establish the Foundation—a sanctuary for Galactic culture—before the corrupt empire destroys all hope of preserving their history.
Spock: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
One of Spock’s most powerful character arcs is his transition from repressing his emotional, human half to recognizing it as part of who he is. For that reason, I recommend More Happy Than Not. When 16-year-old Aaron Soto meets Thomas, he experiences emotions that leave him afraid and shatter everything he thought he knew about himself. So when he hears about a new memory-altering procedure at the Leven Institute, he signs up in an attempt to erase the parts of himself he finds shameful. But is returning to blissful ignorance worth it if it means sacrificing parts of who you are?
Data: City by Clifford D. Simak
Most sci-fi books featuring AI involve robot takeovers, but this one is much more wholesome and hopeful. It explores the “humanity” of androids through the eyes of dogs in a way that reminds me of Data and his cat Spot. After the end of human civilization, robots act as the guardians of the canine species and guide them towards developing their own society. These connected short stories project the future as one with sentient dogs and compassionate robot caretakers and, to be honest, that sounds like an alright prediction to me.
Leonard “Bones” McCoy: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
If you’re looking for a book that fits Dr. McCoy, you’ve got to either go space western or go home. After a Second Civil War tears the United States apart, the West is once again a wild and lawless place. Serendipity “Pity” Jones is a dystopian Annie Oakley, a quick shooter with perfect aim that she learned from her mother. When she’s offered a chance to pursue glory and riches in the underbelly of the city Cessation, she can’t refuse it. But there’s something dark lurking behind Pity’s newfound fortune, and she must discover it before it changes—or ends—her future beyond repair.
Michael Burnham: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Star Trek: Discovery gave us a chance to fall in love with an entirely new set of crew members, and this space opera can do the same. When Rosemary Harper joins the Wayfarer, she’s less than impressed by the old, rusty ship itself. But as long as she gets to explore the stars, she doesn’t care. Plus, she’s fascinated by her vibrant crew members and how she never knows what to expect each day she’s on board. But this exciting atmosphere turns dangerous when they’re recruited to tunnel wormholes that reach a planet in the furthest corner of the galaxy. Will Rosemary and her found family survive their most treacherous mission yet?
Kathryn Janeway: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Kivrin is a professor at Oxford University in the near future, where she travels through time to witness and understand key historic events. When she’s approved to study the Black Plague “on site” in the 14th century, she’s thrilled despite the danger she and her colleagues face. But when an emergency strikes, Kivrin is left stranded during one of the deadliest times in human history. Yet, if Kivrin can survive, she may hold the key to curing the pandemic currently ravaging the 21st century.
T’Pol: Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, translated by Joel Martinsen
As a science officer, I think T’Pol would have appreciated the ingenuity of Ball Lightning. After ball lightning kills his parents, Chen becomes a scientific researcher so he can understand what happened to them. His determination takes him all over the world, from an old Soviet science labs to an undercover military lab. Here, Chen discovers that he’s not the only one who’s interested in ball lighting. But unlike him, others are interested in weaponizing it. Is Chen’s single-minded scientific obsession worth it if it may be used in war?
Quark: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
With Quark, you’ve got to go with something quirky and humorous that, deep down, still has a lot of heart. When an alien race called the Boov take over the Earth (now called “Smekland” after the Boov Captain Smek), 12-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is separated from her mother. But Tip is determined to find her and enlists a Boov mechanic named J. Lo to help. In a hovercar called the Slushious, Tip and J. Lo embark on a cross-country adventure to find Tip’s mom and save the world from an entirely different alien invasion.
Nyota Uhura: Stories Of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
This collection of short stories features a linguist who is reminiscent of Lieutenant Uhura and inspired the film Arrival. Louise Banks is assigned to decipher an alien language and communicate with this unique species who have come to Earth. But as she makes progress in understanding their language, Louise realizes that it has implications on the human concept of time. This raises important questions about free will and the consequences of a language that encompasses so much more than our own.
Guinan: Invictus by Ryan Graudlin
As a member of the mysterious and long-living El-Aurian, Guinan has a few things in common with Farway Gaius McCarthy, the son of a Roman gladiator and a time-traveling Recorder from the year 2354. After Farway fails his time-traveling exam, he decides to join an illegal operation to sell valuable items from the past on the black market. But during a heist on the Titanic, his plans take an unexpected turn. Here, he meets a mysterious young girl who seems to know—and stop—his actions before he even thinks them. Through her, Farway discovers that perhaps time isn’t as linear as he thought.
Q: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I couldn’t possibly think of a better sci-fi match for Q than this book that explores how absurdly wonderful the universe is. Arthur Dent wakes up one morning to discover that his best friend Ford Prefect is an alien researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a must-have for every space traveler. But that’s the least of his problems. An alien race called the Vogon has come to demolish Earth to make room for, wait for it…an intergalactic freeway. If Arthur and Ford can escape the planet before they’re destroyed along with it, they’ll embark on a journey that may just lead them to the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
Worf: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
As Worf was the first Klingon to attend Starfleet Academy, he reminded me of Binti. When she becomes the first of the Himba people to receive admittance at intergalactic Oozma University, Binti accepts the spot even though it will mean leaving her family and those who understand or respect her culture. But all is not well at Oozma University. A dangerous alien race called the Meduze is warring with the university, and Binti puts her life at risk by traveling near either planet. Binti must use her intellect and the talents she learned through the Himba people to make it to the university alive.
Elim Garak: Warcross by Marie Lu
To those who play it, the video game Warcross has transcended its status as a virtual reality game. It’s an obsession and a cultural phenomenon, and for some—like hacker Emika Chen—it’s a living. Emika works as an online bounty hunter of sorts, tracking down and busting rogue players who break the in-game rules. But when she becomes desperate for cash, Emika crosses the line from vigilante to criminal after attempting to hack into the Warcross Championships.
When she’s caught after a glitch that exposes her plan, she’s surprised to learn that she will not go to jail. Instead, the mysterious founder of Warcross offers her a job. If she accepts it, she’ll become an undercover spy for a conspiracy that envelops so much more than a simple video game.
Seven of Nine: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Much like former Borg drone Seven of Nine, Shatter Me tells the story of a woman who learns to see herself as more than just a weapon. Everyone who Juliette touches dies, and nobody knows why. People tend to fear what they don’t understand, and The Reestablishment—a dystopian government—throws Juliette into jail for murders she didn’t mean to commit. But a war is brewing in Juliette’s post-apocalyptic world, and The Reestablishment may not remain in power for long. If Juliette chooses to fight back against the corruption surrounding her, the same power that made her a pariah may just become her strength.
Geordi La Forge: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
One of my favorite TNG episodes is “Elementary, Dear Data,” where Geordi and Data use the holodeck to solve an out-of-control Holmesian mystery. For that reason, this sci-fi take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories reminded me of him. In a world of sentient spaceships with human avatars, a transport ship called The Shadow’s Child brews tea and mild-altering drugs for space travelers after her military career was cut short. When The Shadow’s Child befriends an eccentric scholar named Long Chau, however, the two turn to solving crimes when a corpse meant to be used for scientific study turns out to have been murdered.
James T. Kirk: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
It felt not only fitting to end this list with the Starfleet captain who started it all but also with a sci-fi classic as progressive as Star Trek itself. When a human emissary named Genly Ai is assigned to the alien world Winter, the culture he discovers baffles him. In Winter, inhabitants are not born with an inherent gender. Instead, they choose—and may later change—a gender throughout their lives. Initially, Ai is determined to homogenize Winter’s culture and help them integrate into the larger intergalactic society. But as he spends time on Winter, he discovers that perhaps this alien culture is not wrong but simply different from his own.
Once you’ve read these book recommendations for some of the most beloved Trek characters, consider reading a few Star Trek novels. Here’s a newcomer’s guide on where to start with Star Trek books.