[Book Recs] Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Over a year into *gestures broadly* and I find myself turning to books that I never expected to be able to relate to in this specific way, in many cases because they remind me that, hey, life goes on (and things could be so much worse).

Maybe you’d rather not think about the current state of the world — totally valid and understandable. In that case, this list is probably not for you, but thanks for dropping by anyway! (Might I interest you in a different Book Recs post?) But maybe, just maybe, you’re in the same boat as me, in which case this list is for you.

  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is the first book I remembered for this list, even though I read it way back in middle school. It’s definitely more Quiet YA than Action YA or hard Sci-fi YA; give it a shot if (like me) you want to read about ordinary people doing somewhat-ordinary things in not-ordinary times.
  • The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson stands out in my memory because I read it for an extracurricular class. It’s a bit heavy on the moralizing and all the characters are under, like, twelve years old — though something about a group of kids rebuilding society in a post-adult world continues to fascinate me.
  • A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen, to be quite honest, didn’t totally work for me — in part because of unfortunate timing (this post-global-pandemic novel was published January 2020). But some elements are stunningly prescient, eerily similar to our reality; it digs into socioeconomic and psychological impacts thoughtfully.
  • Newsflesh by Mira Grant is not a series I expected to enjoy so much, with a premise based on zombies, politics, and the press, but the focus on a single central storyline really helps bring out the best aspects of the worldbuilding and character relationships. So I’m truly glad it was a Books and Tea readalong pick. 
  • The Feverwake duology by Victoria Lee is the closest I may ever get to recommending a dystopian novel. In this case the post-apocalyptic aspect is more of a backdrop (though directly tied to the viral magic and refugee crisis), but that’s not to say this doesn’t have a vivid setting, as well as nuanced characters who deal with nuanced issues … though this is definitely a series where I urge you to check the content warnings first.
  • The 100 (series) by Kass Morgan, perhaps better known as a TV show, follows four teenagers living on a space station following nuclear war. It’s a romance, it’s a survival story, it’s a fairly easy read despite the life-and-death stakes? (I should probably admit that I found the show more engaging, at least through Season 5 … but I honestly did enjoy the books overall.)

(To round out this post, here are three more recs that I have not yet read but have heard primarily great things about.)

  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman. One for the horror/thriller fans, and one that was made into a fairly popular movie. The Goodreads summary bills it as “a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.”
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel has been on my TBR for quite a while now. It’s won awards from renowned critics and 4- or 5-star reviews from many of my friends. Plus, I hear that it’s character-driven (which is totally my jam).
  • The Stand by Stephen King needs no real introduction from me. Maybe this is the year I finally get around to it.
  • Do you prefer apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction? Or do you avoid both?
  • Which characters would you want on your post-apocalypse survival team?
  • Would you rather live in a post-apocalypse survivalist world or a post-apocalypse dystopia?

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