Lighthearted Post Apocalyptic Books to Brighten Up the End of the World

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Courtney Rodgers


Courtney has been reading and collecting books almost as long as she's been alive. She holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing. Courtney has been writing with Book Riot since 2019, and is a Bibliologist with TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. She's currently brainstorming for her next creative project. You can follow her on Instagram.

The apocalypse is nothing new. Dystopian novels are practically common place. The world is ending! Another fungus is eating people alive! The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Big whoop. Show me an lighthearted dystopian book with a landscape where we survive! Show me little pockets of joy and silliness. Living in the 21st century is difficult enough as it is — I want to know that people and community can survive and thrive.

Post-apocalyptic literature is typically bleak, fraught with existentialism, dread, and anxiety. There’s the possibility of zombies and war, illness, and disaster, but hidden in the grime, there’s a flicker of hope. It’s that flicker that keeps the hero going. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven was revolutionary for the post-apocalyptic sub-genre, because hope is its foundation. Of course, humanity would make theatre at the end of the world. In the dark, what is there to do but tell stories?

To imagine space for humor and happiness in stories set after the apocalypse is more than optimism, it’s hope. These books present wastelands and aftermaths that could be terrible, but aren’t because of silly little things like friendship, animals, loyalty, and chance. I’ve taken liberty with the idea of lightheartedness in choosing these books because I’ve found that not every literary apocalypse is as dystopian as the next. If you’re going to be battling it out against the end of world, why not have a laugh while you’re at it?

Hollow Kingdom Cover

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

View the apocalypse through the eyes of a pet crow, S.T., as he makes sense of his changing world. When S.T.’s owner, Big Jim, is suddenly not himself, S.T. and Dennis the dog, must face Seattle on their own. The city is abuzz with the same malady affecting Big Jim. S.T. must use his cable TV education to save what’s left of humanity. This warmhearted YA novel is an optimistic take on the end of the world.

Exit West Cover

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Set in an unnamed country at the verge of civil war, Exit West is a love story. Complete opposites, Saeed and Nadia meet and fall in love as their city is turned into a tangle of bombs and check points. When opportunity strikes, Nadia and Saeed decide to take the chance. They leave their apocalypse behind for a new beginning that feels like an ending of a different kind.

Doomsday with My Dog by Yu Ishihara cover

Doomsday With My Dog by Yu Ishihara

After all of humanity has been wiped out, a teenage girl and her dog, Haru, explore the city. Their exploration takes them to meet other friendly dogs, alien farmers, and mythological creatures coming alive from ancient tales. Haru is an intelligent Shiba Inu, who provides excellent commentary in this full color manga.

cover of A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen

Six years after a pandemic drastically decreased the global population, small communities are reforming as self-governing municipalities, communes, and wasteland rabble-rousers. Four lost souls desperate for fresh starts — Moira, Krista, Rob, and Sunny — find their way to each other. Together, the new friends learn to survive together and face their fears. Charming and bright, this novel is a hopeful interpretation of post apocalyptic life.

cover image of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher

A Boy And His Dog At The End of The World by C. A. Fletcher

Griz lives with his family and two dogs on an island that used to be Scotland. He grew up with his parents’ tales of the world before the plague and how crowded it was. After a stranger comes to their door and leaves in the morning with one of the dogs, Griz is willing to do anything to get her back. This novel is at once wild and vivid, with contemplative, emotional moments. Griz’s loyalty to his furry family members will be familiar to any dog lover.

Touring After The Apocalypse Cover

Touring After The Apocalypse by Sakae Saito

Two girls find themselves alone in post-apocalyptic Japan. No matter, it’s better that way. Civilization may have collapsed, but they have sights to see! Energetic and hopeful Youko has big plans, while Airi is quiet and contemplative. This lovely manga is hopeful and curious, with a touch of melancholy.

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada, image of a hand in a circle in the center of a rainbow-hued cover

Scattered All Over The Earth by Yōko Tawada, Translated by Margaret Mitsutani

Climate refugee Hiruko has been relocated to Denmark, where she’s desperate for friends from home. She begins traveling with others who seek “home.” Hiruko’s travels bring her to scraps of home in other people, in experiences, and stories. Tawada has created a gentle dystopia that allows for exploration and possibility.

Doomsday Cleaning Cover

Doomsday Cleaning by Zaki, Translated by Dan Luffey

At the end of the world, a robotic vacuum is tasked with clearing up the mess left behind. A bothersome and mysterious lifeform, called “pig,” keeps interrupting. As the robot and pig interact, a kind of friendship begins to form. This cozy, 44-page manga is equal parts funny and cute. It’s expected to release sometime this month.

Apparently, the post-apocalyptic era is going to be one for the animals and animal companions. I’d rather be taken over by a society of domesticated birds than be zombie chow any day. Visit our other Apocalyptic articles for more zombies, nuclear disaster tales, and dystopias.