15 Books Like The Last of Us

Books Like The Last of Us

Imagine a world overrun by nature’s reclamation, where humanity clings to survival amidst the ruins of civilization. If you’ve ever been captivated by the haunting beauty and gripping story in “The Last of Us,” then prepare to embark on a literary adventure that will evoke similar emotions and take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore a selection of books that capture the essence of survival, resilience, and humanity in the face of adversity, much like the acclaimed series. 

So without further ado, let’s explore the post-apocalyptic world of literature together.

Books Like The Last of Us

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months, as they traverse a post-apocalyptic landscape, blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. 

The narrative focuses on the bond between the father and son, emphasizing survival, the depths of despair, and the glimmers of hope in a brutal, unforgiving world. 

McCarthy’s sparse and eloquent prose paints a vivid picture of a desolate, ash-covered landscape, where the remnants of humanity are reduced to their most primal instincts.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Last of Us” and “The Road” explore themes of survival and the bonds formed in the wake of societal collapse. They share a grim, post-apocalyptic setting where the protagonists face constant threats from both the environment and other survivors. 

The emotional depth and complexity of the relationships between the characters, set against a backdrop of a world stripped of its humanity, mirror the narrative and thematic elements central to “The Last of Us.”

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“Station Eleven” weaves together multiple storylines before and after a devastating pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. The novel explores the lives of a traveling symphony, a famous actor, a paparazzo turned paramedic, and a group of survivors striving to maintain their humanity by preserving art, culture, and community in a world where survival often takes precedence over everything else. 

Mandel’s narrative is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of art and storytelling in our lives.

Major Similarities:

Like “The Last of Us,” “Station Eleven” delves into the aftermath of a global catastrophe and examines how survivors navigate a fundamentally altered world. 

The emphasis on the importance of human connection, culture, and the arts as beacons of hope in a post-apocalyptic landscape closely aligns with the themes of “The Last of Us.” Both stories showcase the enduring human capacity for kindness, brutality, and everything in between.

3. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

This novel presents a unique take on the zombie genre by focusing on Melanie, a special young girl who, along with other children, holds the key to understanding a fungal infection that has turned most of the human population into mindless, flesh-eating “hungries.” 

As the story unfolds, Melanie embarks on a journey with her beloved teacher, a scientist, and two soldiers, exploring themes of humanity, sacrifice, and what it means to be alive. Carey’s novel is both a gripping survival story and a poignant exploration of love and what it means to be human.

Major Similarities: 

“The Girl With All the Gifts” shares with “The Last of Us” a post-apocalyptic setting ravaged by a pandemic, but with a unique twist on the cause and nature of the infection. Both stories feature complex young female protagonists who are central to the survival of humanity. 

The themes of moral ambiguity, the nature of humanity, and the lengths to which individuals will go to protect those they care about are central to both narratives.

4. The Passage by Justin Cronin

“The Passage” is the first book in a trilogy that begins with a government experiment gone wrong, unleashing a devastating virus that transforms people into vampire-like creatures, leading to the collapse of civilization. 

The story spans over a century, focusing on a diverse set of characters, including a six-year-old girl named Amy who is central to the plot. Cronin’s epic narrative combines elements of horror, adventure, and drama to explore themes of survival, the bonds of family and friendship, and the fight against darkness.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “The Last of Us,” “The Passage” features a post-apocalyptic world overrun by infected creatures and the journey of a special child who may hold the key to humanity’s survival. 

The sprawling narrative explores the impact of the apocalypse on society and the resilience of characters facing unimaginable horrors. The themes of hope, redemption, and the complex nature of human relationships are prominently featured in both stories.

5. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

In “Bird Box,” an unseen terror has decimated society, leading survivors to take extreme measures to protect themselves from a force that drives anyone who sees it to deadly violence. 

The story follows Malorie and her two young children, born into this new world, as they embark on a dangerous journey blindfolded, seeking safety. Malerman crafts a tense, psychological thriller that explores the fear of the unknown and the lengths to which a mother will go to ensure her children’s survival.

Major Similarities: 

“Bird Box” shares with “The Last of Us” a sense of constant threat from an unseen enemy and the challenges of navigating a world where the rules of survival have dramatically changed. Both stories focus on the protective relationship between a parent and their children in the face of unimaginable horrors. 

The emphasis on psychological tension, the survival instinct, and the exploration of the human condition in extreme circumstances are key similarities.

6. California by Edan Lepucki

Set in the near future, “California” explores the lives of a young couple, Cal and Frida, who live in a post-apocalyptic wilderness, seeking isolation from the crumbling societal structures of the cities. 

As they navigate the challenges of survival in a world where resources are scarce, and human connections can be both a source of danger and salvation, they encounter a mysterious community that forces them to confront the complexities of human nature, trust, and the sacrifices necessary for survival.

Major Similarities: 

Like “The Last of Us,” “California” delves into the intricacies of human relationships and the struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic setting. Both stories emphasize the significance of trust, love, and moral decisions in a world where societal norms have disintegrated. 

The exploration of isolated communities and the tension between survival and the maintenance of humanity’s ethical compass are central themes in both narratives.

7. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

“The Dog Stars” follows Hig, one of the few survivors of a flu pandemic that has decimated the population. Living in an airstrip community with his dog and a misanthropic gun-toting neighbor, Hig takes to the skies in a 1956 Cessna, scouting the landscape and searching for signs of life. 

The novel is a beautifully rendered tale of loss, survival, and the search for meaning in a ravaged world, blending poetic introspection with gripping action and the deep bonds formed in the aftermath of catastrophe.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Last of Us” and “The Dog Stars” explore the profound effects of a pandemic on society and the personal journeys of the survivors. The themes of loneliness, the search for other survivors, and the significance of non-human companionship mirror the emotional and narrative depth of “The Last of Us.” 

The focus on the natural world and the quest for hope and connection in the face of despair are shared elements between the two stories.

8. The Fireman by Joe Hill

In “The Fireman,” a terrifying pandemic known as Dragonscale is infecting humanity, causing its victims to burst into flames. Amidst the chaos, a pregnant nurse named Harper Grayson discovers she is infected but finds hope through a mysterious man known as The Fireman, who has learned to control the fire within him. Together, they seek safety and answers, navigating a society crumbling under fear and the threat of combustion. Joe Hill weaves a tale of survival, love, and the power of hope in the darkest of times.

Major Similarities: 

“The Fireman” and “The Last of Us” share a narrative centered around a pandemic that drastically alters the fabric of society and the human condition. The stories highlight the resilience of individuals in the face of widespread disaster and the emergence of unique abilities that challenge the understanding of what it means to be human. 

The themes of protection, especially around the vulnerable (in this case, Harper’s unborn child), and the fight against a transformed world resonate strongly with the narrative and emotional landscape of “The Last of Us.”

9. The Stand by Stephen King

This epic novel by Stephen King begins with a superflu virus that escapes from a government lab, killing most of the world’s population. The survivors are drawn into a fundamental battle between good and evil, led by the 108-year-old Mother Abagail and the demonic Randall Flagg. 

The sprawling narrative spans across America, exploring the rebuilding of society, the nature of power, and the capacity for both goodness and cruelty within the human heart.

Major Similarities: 

“The Stand” and “The Last of Us” are both epic tales of survival in the aftermath of a global pandemic. The battle between good and evil, the moral dilemmas faced by the characters, and the reconstruction of society in the face of its near-total collapse are central themes. 

Both stories examine the resilience of the human spirit and the complexity of human nature when confronted with the end of the world as we know it.

10. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner” begins with a group of teenagers, including the protagonist Thomas, waking up in a mysterious and ever-changing maze with no memory of the outside world. 

Together, they must work to understand their environment and find a way to escape. The novel combines elements of mystery, science fiction, and survival as the characters face both the dangers of the maze and the complexities of their own identities and relationships.

Major Similarities: 

While “The Maze Runner” is more of a dystopian science fiction tale compared to the post-apocalyptic setting of “The Last of Us,” both stories feature young protagonists navigating dangerous, changed worlds. 

The themes of survival, the search for answers in a mysterious environment, and the development of camaraderie and trust among the characters align with the experiences of Joel and Ellie in “The Last of Us.” The exploration of a sinister overarching authority and the fight for freedom and truth are common elements that drive the narratives of both stories.

11. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

“I Am Legend” tells the story of Robert Neville, the last known survivor of a pandemic that has turned the human population into nocturnal vampires. By day, he fortifies his home and scavenges for supplies and food; by night, he hides from the creatures that seek to kill him. 

This novel explores themes of isolation, survival, and the psychological toll of being the last human in a world dominated by monsters. Matheson combines horror, science fiction, and psychological drama to examine the nature of humanity and loneliness.

Major Similarities: 

Like “The Last of Us,” “I Am Legend” explores the aftermath of a global pandemic that fundamentally alters humanity and the planet. Both stories delve into the emotional and psychological impact of isolation and the struggle for survival in a hostile environment. 

The concept of a lone protagonist navigating a world overrun by infected beings presents a thematic parallel, focusing on the resilience of the human spirit and the quest for hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

12. World War Z by Max Brooks

“World War Z” presents an oral history of the global war against the zombie pandemic, offering personal accounts from various perspectives around the world. 

Through interviews with soldiers, doctors, survivors, and others, Brooks constructs a comprehensive and chilling account of the societal, political, and environmental changes wrought by the zombie outbreak. The novel examines the global response to the crisis, the failure of institutions to protect the populace, and the ways in which humanity adapts to a new world order.

Major Similarities: 

Both “World War Z” and “The Last of Us” share a global perspective on the aftermath of a pandemic, focusing on the human stories within the larger catastrophe. 

The detailed exploration of the societal collapse and the varied human responses to the crisis parallels the narrative depth and emotional resonance of “The Last of Us.” Themes of survival, resilience, and the human capacity for both destruction and rebuilding are central to both stories.

13. The Road to Nowhere Series by Meg Elison

Starting with “The Book of the Unnamed Midwife,” this series explores a world decimated by a pandemic that kills most of the female population, leading to a drastic imbalance in the surviving human society. 

The story follows the journey of a woman who disguises herself as a man for safety as she navigates a world fraught with danger and brutality, but also encounters pockets of humanity and hope. Elison’s narrative examines themes of gender, survival, and the resilience of human connections in the face of societal collapse.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “The Last of Us,” The Road to Nowhere series delves into the impact of a pandemic on society, focusing on the journey of a protagonist through dangerous and transformed landscapes. 

Both stories feature strong, complex characters who face moral dilemmas and the challenge of maintaining their humanity in a world that has lost its moral compass. The emphasis on survival, the exploration of human nature, and the quest for hope in a post-apocalyptic setting are key similarities.

14. The Silo Series by Hugh Howey

Beginning with “Wool,” the Silo series is set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity lives in a giant underground silo, outside of which is a toxic wasteland. 

The inhabitants of the silo live under strict regulations designed to protect the community, but curiosity about the outside world and the true nature of their existence leads some to question the rules and uncover hidden truths. 

Howey crafts a gripping narrative about survival, governance, and the human desire for freedom and truth.

Major Similarities: 

While “The Silo Series” presents a different kind of post-apocalyptic setting compared to “The Last of Us,” both stories explore themes of survival in a drastically changed world and the quest for truth in a society built on secrets and lies. 

The focus on the resilience of the human spirit, the complexities of leadership and community in times of crisis, and the moral dilemmas faced by characters striving for a better future resonate with the narrative and thematic elements of “The Last of Us.”

15. The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in a future America where climate change and war have ravaged the land, “The Drowned Cities” follows the story of Mahlia and Mouse, two young orphans trying to survive in the hostile environment of the Drowned Cities. 

They find themselves caught between warring factions and face brutal decisions that test their friendship and their will to live. Bacigalupi’s world is one of constant danger, where loyalty and the fight for survival come at a high cost.

Major Similarities: 

“The Drowned Cities” shares with “The Last of Us” a post-apocalyptic setting marked by the remnants of a society destroyed by human actions. The focus on young protagonists navigating a perilous world, the exploration of the bonds formed in extreme circumstances, and the themes of survival, loyalty, and the loss of innocence echo the experiences of Joel and Ellie. 

Both stories highlight the resilience of individuals in the face of societal collapse and the moral complexities of a world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred.

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