Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, 352 pages
In the near future, Lauren Olamina lives in a small, walled community outside of Los Angeles. But this isn't the kind of fancy gated community we're used to; no, this one is walled and insular to protect the residents and homes from thieves and arsonists that would take and destroy their meager pantries and closets. When the fire and robbers finally break through the walls, Lauren and two of her neighbors flee to the north, where they hope to find paying work, shelter, and drinkable water. Along the way, they pick up some traveling companions that find interest in Lauren's new religion, Earthseed, as well as her innate vulnerability as a hyperempath — someone who uncontrollably feels the same physical sensations as those around her.
I'd call this book "post-apocalyptic," except that nothing apocalyptic has happened; rather, it's the gradual degradation of society, government, and environment that created the situation in which we find Lauren. It's a world full of disconnected politicians, abject poverty, drought, price-gouging, gun culture, and apathy to human suffering. It's scary, and haunting, how prescient Butler was, publishing this book nearly 20 years ago. It's beautifully written, and somehow full of hope, and I highly recommend it.