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We’ve all got books on the bedside table we’ve been meaning to read for months — but what if the apocalypse were tomorrow? Luckily for those who’d need some quick survival tips, we have compiled a list of the 10 best post-apocalyptic books to read before the world ends: so that if it does, you’ll find yourself prepared.
We’ve also put them in order of publication, so you can see how the post-apocalyptic genre has evolved over the past seventy years. But don’t worry if you haven’t read most, or indeed any, of the books listed here. There’s still time for you to catch up… for now.
The 1940s were an extremely popular time for dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, after World War II caused people to start thinking about widespread destruction and societal downfall. One of the gems of this “doomsday renaissance” was George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides, which begins with a rampant disease killing off most people in America. A young grad student, the wonderfully named Isherwood Williams, has managed to survive in the mountains — but after he emerges from his “temporary” sabbatical, he finds civilization entirely collapsed.
After a mostly fruitless cross-country road trip searching for fellow human life, Ish agrees to have children with another survivor, Emma. They form a new society of sorts, but without electricity or other modern advantages, they must revert to a semi-primitive lifestyle: hunting and gathering for food and eschewing literacy in favor of survival skills.
As a result, Earth Abides is a frightening yet fascinating glimpse into a world without many resources, and a grippingly realistic portrayal of how society would adapt following such a destructive event. Read More.
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Though most think of Will Smith’s charismatic turn in the 2007 blockbuster, the original post-apocalyptic novel was, well, legend for its time. Like Earth Abides, it also begins with a pandemic. But there’s a twist: the disease doesn’t just decimate the population, it also turns them into vampire-like mutants who want to infect all other humans.
The only remaining hope for civilization appears to be Robert Neville, a lone man driven to discover the scientific cause of the disease and find a cure, before he himself is affected. His wife and daughter have already perished from the disease; even the dog he takes in as a last-ditch companion ends up becoming infected. Neville finds hope in the existence of another survivor, Ruth… but she seems to have her own agenda that doesn’t necessarily align with his.
We won’t spoil the ending for you, especially since it diverges quite a bit from the film. Let’s just say that in a vampire-zombie apocalypse, things are never as they seem. Read More.
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