20 Gripping Post-Apocalyptic Books Like The Road

From the first page, Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road, captivates. Set in a grim portrait of post-apocalyptic America, the story follows a father and son as they trek across a ravaged, ash-ridden America. 

books like the road

Even though The Road is heart-wrenching and horrific at times, it carries a hopeful undercurrent in the father and son’s relationship, showcasing the best of humanity’s ability to survive and love. With its chilling conclusion, The Road will leave you craving more and more versions of what comes after the end. 

Look no further than these twenty gripping post-apocalyptic books with the same gritty yet moving nature as The Road. 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From

Pick up another book with a parent-child bond in the form of Megan Hunter’s impeccable debut, The End We Start From. 

A woman gives birth in flooded London, and mere days later she flees with the child to seek safety. As the baby grows and the woman adjusts to motherhood, they must endure hardships and find where they are meant to be.

Weaving together visions of the past and future, The End We Start From is a strange delight of a story.

Grab a copy for yourself here.

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith


Vicious storms and viruses blend in Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans, the story of a woman living in the Delta. A violent attack leaves her as a newborn’s protector, and alone with the baby, she is determined to seek a better life beyond the wall quarantining the Gulf Coast. On her journey, she meets a scientist who came to the Delta illegally, and they must rely on each other to remain alive. 

Daring and devastating, Orleans is a thrilling tale of what it means—and costs— to survive.

Be sure to grab your copy here.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Light Pirate: GMA Book Club Selection

Hurricane after hurricane batters Florida, and within the rapidly sinking state, an electrical line worker’s wife, Frida, gives birth alone in a storm. Frida names the baby Wanda, and as Wanda grows, she must situate herself in a rapidly changing world.

Uniquely structured and deeply rhythmic, The Light Pirate is an exploration and celebration of all the wilderness within Florida. 

Pick up your copy here.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning (1) (The Sixth World)

Dinétah monster hunter Maggie Hoskie is a gifted killer. As the waters climb higher in the climate apocalypse, Maggie finds herself in a small town plagued by a terrifying monster. To save the town and locate a missing girl, she must team up with an eccentric medicine man and unravel clues from a turbulent past.

An action-packed treat for fans of the CW’s Supernatural, Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning thrills and terrifies in the space of pages.

Check out the story here.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Wanderers: A Novel

People in America are sleepwalking. 

One morning, Shana woke to find her little sister catatonic but walking, unable to be woken. Now, she spends her days with other shepherds—those who follow their sleepwalking loved ones to protect them from harm. As the epidemic spreads, so does fear, and an unlikely crew is determined to figure out how to wake the wanderers before violence destroys them all. 

Sweeping and inventive, Wanderers will have you spellbound from start to finish.

Pick up your copy here.

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand

Good and evil clash in horror giant Stephen King’s The Stand, the story of an escaped experiment patient who unknowingly spreads a plague. When the virus wipes out large portions of the population, two potential leaders emerge: one who favors peace and another who promotes chaos and violence. Now, survivors must choose which to follow. 

Riveting and scarily plausible, you’ll want to check out The Stand here.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves

In The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline crafts a haunting tale about the preciousness of dreams and the cost of survival.

With a world on the brink of total climate collapse, all humans except the indigenous population have lost their capacity to dream. Now, the indigenous people of North America are the target of a vicious hunt. Hunters want to harvest their bone marrow, which holds the key to regaining dreams. Faced with this violence, a teenage boy and his companions fight to survive as they venture through the woods and to a promise of safety. 

Find The Marrow Thieves here.

Severance by Ling Ma

Severance: A Novel

Routine-devoted Candannce Chen hardly notices when a plague turns New York City into a ghost town. Her characteristic avoidance of all things social leaves her alone but healthy in NYC, and to pass the time, she photographs the abandoned city. But when a band of survivors finds her, she realizes they want to exploit what she has learned about the plague.

Deeply situated in modern-day commentary and conversations, Ling Ma illuminates the threads that connect us and the deep will for survival. 

You can grab Severance here.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower (Parable, 1)

For an eerily predictive masterpiece, look to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Butler crafts a possible apocalypse brought on by the climate crisis and economic spirals. As the number of desperate people ticks higher, fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina suffers from hyper-empathy and sees what society must do to survive. Now, Lauren must share her vision with others before disaster ruins her community for good.

With pointed social commentary and a powerful thesis, you don’t want to miss this one.

Check out Parable of the Sower here.

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

Swan Book

The Swan Book is an inventive, intimate glimpse into the difficult reality facing Aboriginal people, represented in the life of mute teenager Oblivia. As Oblivia’s situation complicates, black swans appear to provide her guidance. A sprawling cast, thought-provoking prose, and humor that colors even the bleakest moments make The Swan Book a memorable read.

You can find your copy here.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy


This quietly post-apocalyptic novel will satisfy any reader seeking emotionally impactful journeys through incredible landscapes. 

In a world where more animal life vanishes with every passing day, Franny Stone is determined to follow the remaining Arctic terns on what could be their last migration to Antarctica. She pleads her way onto a fishing vessel, but as the voyage stretches on and the crew’s questions mount, Franny’s secrets aren’t as safe as she believed. Besides the birds, what else is she chasing?

Discover the answer when you check out Migrations here.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars (Inkyard Press / Harlequin Teen)

Pop culture lovers, Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars was practically written just for you.

After an alien invasion caused a massive death toll on Earth, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker lives under strict supervision. Even though creativity is illegal, she keeps a library. And when that library is discovered, Ellie must flee with an alien commander who’s also looking to shake up the status quo.

Deeply reverent toward books, music, and other comforts, The Sound of Stars is a love letter to all that makes us human.

Pick up your copy here.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven: A Novel (National Book Award Finalist)

Like The Sound of Stars, Station Eleven celebrates the creativity that can carry us through the very worst of times.

In the wake of a flu pandemic bringing the world to a screeching halt, Kirsten Raymond travels with a troupe of actors and musicians who strive to keep the arts alive. But when a prophet threatens their show, they must unravel what brought them to this point in the first place.

Gorgeously lyrical and gently melancholy, Station Eleven is meant to be devoured in one go.

Find it here.

Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin: Always Coming Home (LOA #315): Author's Expanded Edition (Library of America Ursula K. Le Guin Edition)

Ursula Le Guin’s wildly inventive Always Coming Home tells the tale of post-apocalyptic California and defies genre boundaries. The ambitious novel is framed through an anthropologist’s assessment of those who survived climate collapse. Told through poetry, oral legend, song, and myth, Le Guin creates a stunning vision of what may remain once the world as we know it vanishes,

Immerse yourself when you pick up Always Coming Home here.

All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown

All That’s Left in the World

For a queer love story set at the end of the world, check out Erik J. Brown’s All That’s Left in the World.

Following a deadly outbreak, Jamie is stunned when an injured stranger staggers to his doorstep. His name is Andrew, and like Jamie, he has lost everyone. A tentative trust forms between them. Yet as danger threatens their shelter and they flee south, Jamie finds that Andrew might be less than trustworthy. To survive the treacherous road, their secrets must come to light.

You can find All That’s Left in the World here.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring

Within a barricaded city that has returned to gentler traditions, the poor are better off without the greedy rich and privileged. Yet when these monied elite decide they need bodies, they venture within the city to kidnap people from the streets. It’s up to a young woman to commune with eternal figures and channel the gods to save them all.

Vivid and creative, Brown Girl in the Rings stands out as a contemplative consideration of what it means to be human.

Find your copy here.

Panther in the Hive by Olivia A. Cole

Panther in the Hive (The Tasha Trilogy)

Turn to Olivia A. Cole’s electric vision of a post-apocalyptic Chicago overrun with people who have become weapons. 

When Tasha’s sister sends her a warning of an impending crisis, Tasha must flee the city, armed only with her designer backpack and a trusty kitchen knife. As she ventures through the wasteland, Tasha must rely upon others and finds that while the world may have descended into chaos, matters may not be as broken as they seemed.

Follow Tasha’s story when you grab Panther in the Hive here.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany


From prolific author Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren is an enduring sci-fi tale of a city at the United States epicenter. In Bellona, the insane and ill-intentioned wander disaster zones. Few outsiders enter until a young man known as the Kid comes bearing ideas of poetry, adventure, and love.

A groundbreaking story, Dhalgren is an inquisitive, mind-bending work that challenges the reader to look beyond the known.

Pick up your copy here.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Ones We're Meant to Find

Another reality-breaking tale, Joan He’s The Ones We’re Meant to Find is the story of two sisters whose profound bond persists even after one, Celia, vanishes into the sea on a boat. 

Even though Kasey knows Celia must be dead after three months, she still seeks out what may have happened to her sister. With their shared love for the ocean, Kasey knows the tide could have carried Celia and her secrets anywhere. Yet Kasey also has secrets that, if she isn’t careful, could disrupt her search.

Dive into The Ones We’re Meant to Find here.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (The MaddAddam Trilogy)

In the near future, Snowman mourns his closest friend, Crake, and the woman they both loved, Oryx. Seeking clues to what brought their demise, Snowman ventures to a once-magnificent city and seeks answers from the Children of Crake. 

Imaginative and grounded in the same breath, Margaret Atwood’s voice shines in the first installment of The MaddAddam Trilogy.

Find Oryx and Crake here.

Present and Future Collide

These twenty books are the perfect lens through which to consider what fate may meet humanity when all seems lost, and in the face of crisis, how to continue to treat people with kindness. Happy reading!


What caused the apocalypse in The Road?

We learn early on that a meteor strike set Earth on this apocalyptic path. 

What are the main themes in The Road?

Conflict, survival, and creativity feature heavily in this story.

Is there a movie associated with The Road?

Yes! The 2009 movie of the same name is based on the book and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Charlize Theron. 

Does The Road have a happy ending?

No spoilers here! But the ending fits the genre and blends satisfying answers with any remaining questions.

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Morgan Spraker