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Books to Read if You’re Obsessed with The Last of Us


image courtesy of HBO


As the finale of The Last of Us approacheth, and if you’re like most of its viewers, you’re already prepping for what to watch and read next (See what I did there? Prepping?). Even though at the surface, it could be another popular series about a zombie apocalypse, there’s something about this HBO show that hits different, right?

The thing that interests me about zombie novels are not really the zombies. There are really three things that grab my attention even after zombie apocalypse inundation.

The most interesting aspect of people you love turning into cannibals with no volition of their own is, first, the psychology of that phenomenon. We saw that crisis happen with Henry and Sam in episode five. You never truly know how you’d react until it happens. That’s why, in the event of reanimated corpses, just go ahead and let me die because I can’t make a good decision under pressure, period.

Second most interesting is how the world reacts when civilization falls. We saw that happen with Bill and Frank in episode three, particularly when prepper Bill’s post-apocalyptic dreams became realized and he builds an entire sustainable compound around his mother’s house (that episode, to me, is far and away the best writing in the series because the apocalypse is the catalyst… but it’s not the story itself).

Third most interesting is the answer to the question, “How did we get here?”. Basically, the origin story of the pandemic. I thought I was burnt out on zombies, what with all the early aughts trends, not to mention surviving a real-life pandemic of our own, but these ghouls, these Infected, show a different mechanism from the very opening credits of episode one: it’s a fungus. In episode two, we even get to see how it spreads. Learning the boundaries of the zombie conceit is one of the most interesting aspects of the genre. Think about it: these Infected are a totally different beast (literally) than the ones from Train to Busan or even The Walking Dead. I mean, the ones from The Last of Us have a whole underground communications system.

The books in this list check those boxes. Here’s a short list of what you might want to read after The Last of Us finale.









Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.