Reading the Works of Philip K. Dick

John Tommasino, Cybernaut, Van Nuys Branch Library,
Photo of author Philip K Dick against a surreal background
Photo of author: Frank Ronan

Existential struggles with technology, authoritarian governments, and paranoia; these are just a few of the themes readers will encounter when reading the works of Philip K. Dick.

The writer, commonly known by his initials PKD, was born on December 16, 1928, and died in 1982. He wrote 44 novels and over 120 short stories, most of which were published in the science fiction magazines of his era. But the novelist’s ideas would find their way into big-budget Hollywood film adaptations, including Blade Runner (based on PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) Total Recall (based on, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Minority Report (based on PKD’s The Minority Report) among other film and television adaptations.

PKD didn’t simply write science fiction; and he used the genre to explore deep philosophical and psychological questions about the nature of reality and individual perception. The writer’s protagonists were often misunderstood loners in conflict with authoritarian regimes and corporate entities and were often the ultimate underdogs. Reading PKD can be an exercise in questioning one’s own place in the universe.

Although he is regarded as one of the most important science fiction writers of the 20th century, PKD struggled both financially and with his own personal health for many years. It was during a period of immense hardship that the writer was helped by fellow science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, who offered to buy PKD an electric typewriter.

Whether you have read PKD before or have yet to explore the many worlds of the writer, here’s a list of PKD titles and related works that are worth reading and seeing.

Philip K Dick Titles and Related Works

Book cover of The man in the high castle
The Man in the High Castle
Dick, Philip K.

PKD asks and explores the terrifying question—"What if the Axis powers won World War Two?" This page-turning novel won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963 and was later adapted to an Amazon streaming series.

Book cover of Do androids dream of electric sheep?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Dick, Philip K.

In post-apocalyptic San Francisco, almost all animals have become endangered or extinct. Rick Deckard must hunt down sentient androids while a man with sub-level IQ, John Isidore aids the non-humans.

Book cover of Blade runner
Blade Runner (DVD)

In this big-budget Hollywood adaptation of PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Police Officer Deckard(Harrison Ford) strikes down rogue androids while falling in love with Rachel, a Nexus-Six android played by Sean Young. Although Director Ridley Scott ventures away from the original text, the film contains stunning visuals and special effects with a rousing soundtrack by Vangelis.

Book cover of A scanner darkly
A Scanner Darkly
Dick, Philip K.

Policeman Bob Arctor is living a double life while posing as a drug addict and seeking to expose high level dealers of the psychoactive drug, Compound D. Based on the author’s experiences with drug use and rehabilitation efforts, this is a rousing novel worth reading. This novel is the December selection of the Van Nuys Branch Library’s Science Fiction Book Club.

Book cover of A scanner darkly
A Scanner Darkly (DVD)

Starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr.,this film uses rotoscope animation which perfectly captures the weirdness and bizarre qualities of the original PKD novel.

book cover
The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Dick, Philip K.

A great survey of PKD’s short stories with introductions by other noted science fiction writers including Roger Zelazny and Norman Spinrad.

Book cover of Dr. Bloodmoney
Dr. Bloodmoney
Dick, Philip K.

What happens after the end of the world? PKD explores the world after a nuclear war. Desperate characters, including those mutated by the bomb’s radiation, plot and plan to get ahead in this captivating novel.

Book cover of Minority report
Minority Report (DVD)

In this 2002 action film directed by Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise stars as Precrime Chief John Anderton who arrests criminals before they commit their crimes. In an age when certain thoughts are crimes, Anderton begins to question his authority.