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Apocalyptic Stuff to Read Now That 'The Leftovers' Is Finished

From bubonic plagues to a world without men, here are some of the best books about the end of times.
Photo courtesy of HBO

The Leftovers wrapped up its third and final season on Sunday, bringing an end to one of the most beautiful and strangest shows on television. The HBO show's first season—adapted from Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name—follows characters struggling with the trauma of the "Sudden Departure," a rapture-like event where 2 percent of the world's population mysteriously disappeared. The show became something bizarre as it moved beyond the scope of the novel and grew to encompass mysterious cults, possible parallel universes, and much more. Here are eight strange apocalyptic tales to read now that the show has wrapped up.


Blindness by José Saramago

What happens when a plague turns everyone blind? Saramago's brilliant and terrifying novel Blindness looks at the breakdown of society and humanity as a city tries to contain the "white blindness." One character retains her vision, but pretends to be blind as she and her husband are quarantined by the army in an asylum. She allows us to witness the horrors as order breaks down. The Portuguese author won the Nobel prize a few years after publishing Blindness.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

Like The Leftovers, Vaughan's epic comic takes place in a world where much of the population has mysteriously departed. In this case, it is more than 2 percent: Every mammal with a Y chromosome has died off, save for Yorick—the titular last man—and his pet monkey. As Yorick searches for the mystery of the male plague, the reader tours a world grappling with the death of half the population. From the radical leftist Daughters of the Amazon to the gun-toting widows of Republican congressman, Vaughan creates a complicated and fascinating post-apocalyptic world.

The Last Man by Mary Shelley

If you're going to read apocalyptic fiction, you might as well start at the beginning. While most readers only remember Shelley for Frankenstein, her apocalyptic novel The Last Man about a plague that destroys most of mankind is well worth the read. Many scholars consider it the first apocalyptic novel ever written. In the book, Shelley confronts the failures of the ideals of her age, which makes it a good fit for a 2017 in which the global order of recent decades seems on the brink of collapse.

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

If you love The Leftovers the most when it gets weird, then Borne might be the book for you. VanderMeer's new novel, published this April, takes place in a future where humanity's systems have broken down and new creatures—often discarded biotech experiments from a mysterious organization called the Company—inhabit the land. One of them is an enormous flying bear called Mord. The main character, a scavenger living in the cliffs, finds the mysterious organism Borne and raises it as a son. Beautifully written and surprisingly moving, Borne is a must-read for anyone looking for a weird apocalypse.


Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Schweblin's appropriately titled book is a hallucinatory short novel about dying woman who is trying to piece together memories of her family and a possible plague with the help of a young boy who may or may not have magical powers. It's as nightmarish and mysterious as anything in The Leftovers while retaining a similar sense of beauty and loss.

Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe

In The Leftovers, characters deal with their loved ones mysterious disappearing. In Abe's bizarre Secret Rendezvous, a man's wife is taken away to a hospital despite being perfectly healthy. The husband tries to find her, but can't, and soon gets lost in a labyrinthine hospital that seems to exist in a parallel universe designed by Franz Kafka.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

In van den Berg's Find Me, a disease begins stripping people of their memories and leading them to their deaths. The book's narrator, Joy, is somehow immune. She's taken to a hospital and examined in hopes of finding a cure. Written in gorgeous prose, van den Berg's novel explores loneliness, memory, and grief in a fresh way.

The Plague by Albert Camus

Much of The Leftovers takes place in contained cities—first Mapleton, New York, and then Jarden, Texas—and looks at the different ways communities deal with death, trauma, and the unknown. Camus's classic The Plague doesn't take place during a global apocalypse, but a local one. In the French town of Oran, an army of rats spreads the bubonic plague, creating panic and a setting for Camus to explore his philosophical notions of the existential and the absurd.

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