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20 Gripping Books Like “The Last of Us” For Post-Apocalyptic Fans

Explore Survival and Human Connection With These Riveting Books Similar to "The Last of Us"
by The Blinkist Team | Apr 2 2024

The narrative universe of “The Last of Us,” enriched by its haunting prequel comic co-created by Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann and celebrated comics artist Faith Erin Hicks, dives deep into the backstory of thirteen-year-old Ellie.

This compelling origin tale, set against the backdrop of a violent, post-pandemic world where a parasitic fungal outbreak decimated the majority of humanity, offers a glimpse into the life of Ellie as she navigates the complexities of adolescence amidst chaos.

Her challenging journey, marked by conflicts with military authority, newfound friendships, and daring explorations beyond the confines of her quarantine zone, lays the foundational themes of survival, human connection, and resilience that are further explored in the beloved video game and its hit HBO series adaptation.

For fans captivated by Ellie’s early adventures and the richly depicted world teetering on the brink of collapse, the quest for stories echoing the same depth, emotion, and post-apocalyptic intrigue continues.

Dive into this collection of 20 books that resonate with the spirit of “The Last of Us,” each offering its own unique exploration of life after the fall.

Top 20 best books to read if you liked “The Last of Us” by Neil Druckmann


1. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

A traveling theater troupe navigates the Great Lakes region after a devastating flu pandemic wipes out most of humanity.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • Post-apocalyptic setting with lingering hope.
  • Focus on the survival of art and humanity.
  • Exploration of interconnected stories across a shattered world.


2. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America, heading to the coast in this dark, but moving narrative.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A perilous journey through a devastated landscape.
  • The deep bond between a parent and child.
  • Themes of survival and the essence of humanity.


3. “The Girl With All The Gifts” by M.R. Carey

A unique girl named Melanie, who is kept in a cell for being “different,” may hold the key to understanding a fungal infection that has ravaged humanity.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A focus on a fungal infection leading to societal collapse.
  • Complex relationships between caregivers and those they protect.
  • A blend of horror and poignancy in a post-apocalyptic setting.


4. “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

Survivors must navigate a world overrun by creatures that drive anyone who sees them to madness.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • Survivors facing extraordinary threats.
  • The challenge of protecting loved ones in a dangerous new world.
  • Tension-filled, survivalist journey.


5. “The Stand” by Stephen King

After a deadly plague devastates the globe, the remaining population is drawn into a fundamental battle between good and evil.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A post-apocalyptic world caused by a pandemic.
  • An epic struggle for the future of humanity.
  • Rich character development and moral dilemmas.


6. “California” by Edan Lepucki

A couple seeks solace in the wilderness after society collapses, only to confront the challenges of a community with dark secrets.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A story of survival in a post-collapse world.
  • Complex dynamics of rebuilding society.
  • Themes of isolation and community.


7. “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood

In a world devastated by scientific experimentation gone wrong, Snowman might be the last human left, guided by memories of his friends Oryx and Crake.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • Genetic experiments leading to societal collapse.
  • Exploration of what it means to be human.
  • A journey through the remains of the world.


8. “The Passage” by Justin Cronin

A government experiment gone awry turns human test subjects into vampires, leading to the fall of civilization and a battle for survival.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A virus that drastically changes humanity.
  • An epic narrative spanning years of struggle.
  • Focus on individual stories within a broader disaster.


9. “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C.A. Fletcher

A boy crosses a world taken back by nature to find his stolen dog, discovering the strength of human connection along the way.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A journey through a world reclaimed by nature.
  • Themes of loyalty, survival, and humanity.
  • The bond between a boy and his companion.


10. “World War Z” by Max Brooks

A collection of individual accounts showing the global battle against the zombie pandemic, offering insights into a humanity pushed to the brink.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A worldwide catastrophic event and its aftermath.
  • Diverse perspectives on survival and adaptation.
  • The exploration of societal collapse and rebuilding.


11. “The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau

In an underground city built as a last refuge for the human race, two teens discover clues to the outside world they never knew existed.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Young protagonists discovering the truths of their reality.
  • Themes of hope and the search for a new beginning.


12. “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller

A pilot named Hig and his dog navigate the challenges of survival in a world decimated by a flu pandemic.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • The bond between a man and his dog amidst devastation.
  • A journey in search of other survivors.
  • Themes of loss, hope, and the will to live.


13. “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler

In a future America where society has collapsed, a young woman with a unique ability seeks to build a community in which people can live in harmony.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A dystopian future with societal breakdown as the backdrop.
  • A strong focus on community and rebuilding.
  • The journey of a protagonist with unique abilities.


14. “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

Teens wake up in a maze with no memory of the outside world and must work together to find a way out, facing numerous dangers.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • Young characters facing dire post-apocalyptic challenges.
  • Mystery and survival in a changed world.
  • Themes of memory, identity, and human resilience.


15. “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson

The last human survivor in a world overrun by vampire-like beings, Robert Neville battles loneliness and the constant threat of turning.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A sole survivor narrative in a post-pandemic world.
  • The blurred lines between humanity and monsters.
  • Themes of isolation and the fight for survival.


16. “Wool” by Hugh Howey

In a future where humanity lives in a giant silo underground, questioning the outside world is forbidden. But not everyone is content to stay inside.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • Humanity clinging to survival in a dystopian setting.
  • The curiosity and courage to uncover the truth.
  • A rebellion against a controlled, confined life.


17. “Pandemonium” by Lauren Oliver

In a future where love is considered a disease, Lena navigates a resistive group, fighting for the freedom to love and live.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A dystopian future where basic human emotions are controlled.
  • The struggle for survival and autonomy.
  • Themes of love and resistance.


18. “The Reapers Are the Angels” by Alden Bell

In a world overrun by zombies, a young girl named Temple wanders America, seeking both survival and redemption.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • A post-apocalyptic journey across America.
  • The battle against the inhuman and the pursuit of humanity.
  • A strong, young female protagonist.


19. “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan

Mary dreams of life beyond the fenced community she lives in, but the surrounding forest filled with the undead threatens her quest for truth.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • The struggle for survival in a world overrun by the undead.
  • The yearning for a better life beyond known borders.
  • The exploration of love and loss in dire circumstances.


20. “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

After waves of alien attacks decimate Earth, Cassie searches for her brother, surviving in a world where trust can be fatal.

Elements in common with The Last of Us:

  • An apocalyptic event leading to the collapse of society.
  • A young protagonist on a rescue mission.
  • The theme of holding onto humanity amidst chaos.

In conclusion, if “The Last of Us” left you yearning for more stories that explore the depths of human resilience, the nature of societal collapse, and the haunting beauty of life after the fall, this list offers a diverse range of narratives to dive into.

Each book promises to take you on a journey through worlds both eerily familiar and chillingly foreign, where the endurance of the human spirit is tested time and again.

So, pick up one of these titles, and let the journey into the depths of humanity and survival begin. Happy reading!


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