Including a couple that bear an uncanny resemblance to our current pandemic

Living through a pandemic as we are now is distressing, and it can sometimes remind us of books that depict survival in a post-apocalyptic world. If life does indeed imitate art, here are the best dystopian novels that present all the horrors and thrills of another possible era. Don't worry, you won't find any YA-friendly titles like The Hunger Games and Divergent on this list.

1984 by George Orwell

English author George Orwell’s ninth and final book has long been used to draw parallels to our current society. Exploring the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance and a repressive regime, 1984’s many phrases and terms have also entered common usage, such as “big brother” and “doublethink”. Freakishly ahead of its time, this is one to read in your spare time at home.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Not many know this, but Fox’s The Passage that ran for a season was based on Justin Cronin’s dystopian trilogy of the same name. Considered one of the creepiest books when it first premiered, The Passage details an apocalyptic (and later post-apocalyptic) world that’s overrun by vampire-like beings due to a disastrous and accidental lab outbreak of a virus carried by a species of bat in South America. While we’re sure that Cronin probably took inspiration from research which show that bats are a key source of human viruses, it still doesn’t make it any less eerie.

The Stand by Stephen King

This list of suspenseful and disturbing reads would not be complete without a contribution from American novelist Stephen King, so here’s one by the king of horror himself. A post-apocalyptic dark fantasy piece, The Stand sees a world plagued by a pandemic of a weaponised strain of influenza that kills almost the entire population, with the last few survivors establishing a new social system that pits them against one another.

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

A post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel by Robert C. O'Brien, Z for Zachariah is set in the US, where a young, 16-year-old girl named Ann Burden believes she is the only remaining survivor of a nuclear war. However, after a stranger enters the teenager’s home and threatens to upend her life, she is compelled to seek out other survivors and provide help to them.

Bonus: The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz

Less of a dystopian novel and more of a thriller, Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness that was released in 1981 has recently regained popularity thanks to the fact that the book bears an uncanny resemblance to the current pandemic. Though the novel actually focuses on a mother’s quest to find her son, The Eyes of Darkness does spotlight a virus named Wuhan-400 which was developed in a lab outside the city of Wuhan. The origin city for the work of fiction is quite the coincidence, so if the book intrigues you, read it for yourself.