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Steampunk? Huh? I confess I didn’t know

What is steampunk? Steampunk is an interesting mixture of technology, alternate history and 19th Century England. If you are like me, you may have read several steampunk novels without realizing it like Leviathan or the Harlequin Teen Romance novels by Kady Cross. I recently read The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross which is one of her Steampunk Chronicles titles which I recommend for grades 8-12. Which titles have you read from the list below and which are the best for high school vs middle school collections?

According to TEL’s Gale database Books & Authors “Steampunk is one of the most popular emerging genres in sci-fi and fantasy literature. It’s an amalgamation of several different elements – steampunk texts imagine an alternate history – often largely centered around Victorian London – where the occult, vast conspiracies, advanced scientific discoveries, and steam-powered machines right out of a H.G. Wells novel all collide to create an exciting, undeniably “alternate” perspective on the 19th Century. (Though some steampunk novels even stretch into the early 20th Century as well.)”

Books & Authors has a short list of Steampunk titles listed below:

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Android Karenina – Leo Tolstoy; Ben H. Winter
  • Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel – Paul Guinan; Anina Bennett
  • Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
  • The Difference Engine – William Gibson; Bruce Sterling
  • The Extra – Michael Shea
  • The Kingdom of Ohio – Matthew Flaming
  • Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld; Keith Thompson
  • The Native Star – M.K. Hobson
  • Perdido Street Station – China Mieville
  • A Place So Foreign and Eight More Stories – Cory Doctorow
  • The Prestige – Christopher Priest
  • The Silent Army – James Knapp
  • State of Decay – James Knapp
  • The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

I love using the Books And Authors database. Here’s another review I will share with my students:

In Boneshaker, author Cherie Priest crafts an inventive steampunk story set in Seattle during the years following the Civil War. Leviticus Blue invents a radical gold-mining machine that he hopes will revolutionize the industry. But after the machine backfires, a huge portion of Seattle is decimated. Sixteen years later, Blue has died and the city has become a walled fortress, fencing in the breed of zombies that resulted from the catastrophic accident. Blue’s son, Zeke, ventures into Seattle in hopes of rebuilding his father’s reputation. Zeke’s mother, Briar Wilkes, is fast on his trail, hoping to save her son from the crazed zombies. But there’s another inventor quickly gaining infamy in Seattle–and he bears a striking likeness to Leviticus Blue.

Source: “Boneshaker.” 2011.   Books & Authors Gale. Gale Internal User. 20 Jul 2011

I was intrigued so during a recent librarian training on Blackboard in my district, I posted some of this information in a discussion thread of best books. I found many other librarians like me who didn’t know the term “steampunk”, but many of us had read selections.  We spent some time rapidly researching all things steampunk and found amazing information.

Some of the librarians wondered if the new movie Cowboys and Aliens was steampunk. Everywhere we looked Boneshaker was being touted as one of the best titles published combining steampunk with zombies. I immediately thought of my friend Susan and wondered how many steampunk titles were in her classroom collection. Yet the Goodreads reviews weren’t as positive. I guess I’ll just have to go read Boneshaker myself.

Did you know about steampunk? Thank goodness the wonderful people at the booth at ALA introduced me to steampunk.


  1. mary gavlik says:

    Don’t forget about the Leviathan Series written by Scott Westerfeld.

  2. Sabrina McClure says:

    I just started getting into Steampunk. My first was an adult novel by Katie MacAlister, so then I went looking for some children’s/YA and found Nick Valentino’s Thomas Riley, a local author I met at last year’s Southern Festival of Books. His publisher, Quake , has some interesting titles.