The best books about quests through a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve clocked so many hours on Fallout 3 and New Vegas (and, less so, on Fallout 4) that it’s disgusting, but my real love of wastelands began with T.S. Eliot. His poem (The Waste Land), with its evocative imagery, fascinated me in university. While not about a literal wasteland, it inspired me to seek out stories of that vein. I even have a tattoo with a line from it! What Branches Grow was the focus of my grad certificate in creative writing and has won two awards. I am a book reviewer, writer at, and the author of the Burnt Ship space opera trilogy. 

I wrote...

What Branches Grow

By T.S. Beier,

Book cover of What Branches Grow

What is my book about?

Thirty-five years ago, the world was ravaged by war. Delia, driven from her home in Savannah by loss, travels north in search of a future. Gennero is tortured by his violent past and devotion to his hometown. Ordered to apprehend Delia, he follows her into the post-apocalyptic landscape. The wasteland is rife with dangers for those seeking to traverse it: homicidal raiders, dictatorial leaders, mutated humans, and increasingly violent and hungry wildlife.

An adventure with no-holds-barred action, strange towns, a slow-burn love story, moments of introspection, a Millennial in his 60s, and a survivalist pug, What Branches Grow is an unflinching depiction of life after civilization, where, above all else, trust is the hardest thing to achieve and give.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Road

T.S. Beier Why did I love this book?

The Road is the ultimate post-apocalyptic novel if you’re looking for grittiness, realism, and suspense. The entire novel follows a father searching for safety for his son; their entire life is a quest to survive. The Road is what I think every post-apocalyptic writer secretly wishes they could write—I know I do—and I like to think the quiet moments in my own book comes from this wish. The Road is raw, terrifying, and horrific but also filled with hope and the unyielding love a parent has for their child. It’s a masterpiece. The only thing it doesn’t have is humour, so as much as I am in awe of McCarthy’s prose, my own post-apocalyptic novel has a great deal more (dark) comedy and moments of levity. 

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

31 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…

Book cover of The Waste Lands

T.S. Beier Why did I love this book?

Another ultimate post-apocalyptic quest novel is The Stand, one of King’s most read (and longest) books, but I was more heavily influenced by (and love more) The Waste Lands (book 3 of The Dark Tower series). This is because the latter focuses less on the how of the collapse than the aftermath. King’s casual prose and quick, realistic dialogue have always been an inspiration in my writing. The found family connection between Roland, Eddie, Susanna, and Jake is at the heart of The Waste Lands. It is palpable and endearing, and something I strove to emulate with Delia, Gennero, Perth, and Mort in my own novel. There is an allusion to The Waste Lands in my book that big fans of The Dark Tower will catch.  

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Waste Lands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The third volume in the #1 nationally bestselling Dark Tower Series, involving the enigmatic Roland (the last gunfighter) and his ongoing quest for the Dark Tower, is “Stephen King at his best” (School Library Journal).

Several months have passed since The Drawing of the Three, and in The Waste Lands, Roland’s two new tet-mates have become trained gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But Roland altered ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s world—has already died. Now Roland…

Book cover of Primitives

T.S. Beier Why did I love this book?

This novel takes place thirty years after a disease has reduced most of the human population to a primitive state. A thriller with exceptional action scenes and tension, the novel features two converging plotlines that are quests through South America and the southern United States when it is almost devoid of uninfected humans. As with a lot of post-apocalyptic novels the real villains of the story are other humans—their greed and need for control. While this book came out two years after mine, it resonated with me. The themes of trust run strong in both our novels, as well as lengthy stretches of landscape without any humans. 

By Erich Krauss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Primitives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thirty years after The Great Fatigue infected the globe - and the treatment regressed most of the human race to a primitive state - Seth Keller makes a gruesome discovery in his adoptive father's makeshift lab. This revelation forces him to leave the safety of his desert home and the only other person left in the world... at least, as far as he knows. Three thousand miles away in the jungles of Costa Rica, Sera Peoples has made her own discovery - just as horrific, and just as life-changing. It will take her far from the fledgling colony of New…

Book cover of Sea of Rust

T.S. Beier Why did I love this book?

I love this novel. I read it well after my own came out, but the strong, badass, stoic female main character reminded me a lot of Delia from What Branches Grow (despite Brittle being a robot). The often dark and gritty scenes interspersed with moments of emotion and laugh-out-loud absurd humour turned a story that could have been depressing into one that was a helluva lot of fun. The raiders in this novel also fit the trope in the same homage to Mad Max/Fallout that mine do in What Branches Grow, albeit in a way I didn’t expect. The novel is also a quest through the wasteland with a ragtag group that culminates in a final battle, which is a similar trajectory to my novel (and a plotfline in this genre I very much enjoy).

By Robert C. Cargill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sea of Rust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018
One of Financial Times' Best Books of 2017

'SEA OF RUST is a 40-megaton cruise missile of a novel - it'll blow you away and lay waste to your heart . . . visceral, relentless, breathtaking' Joe Hill, Sunday Times bestselling author


An action-packed post-apocalyptic thriller from the screenwriter of Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE


Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by OWIs - vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not…

Book cover of Trail of Lightning

T.S. Beier Why did I love this book?

Love stories aren’t often a theme of post-apocalyptic literature. In my own book I wanted to highlight that you can find love in times of great hardship, as sometimes love is all we have to keep us going. Roanhorse’s urban fantasy is an exciting post-apocalyptic novel with a badass woman main character who is tough-as-nails but also conflicted. The love story subplot between her and another character was an element that stood out for its realism and depth. While her quest is more personal than a physical journey, the novel (and its sequel, Storm of Locusts) takes place in a fascinating world build: only Native American reserves have survived the cataclysm. My male main character is also of Indigenous descent, though without a real connection to his heritage. Roanhorse also has an engaging, easy-to-read style!  

By Rebecca Roanhorse,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Trail of Lightning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the Time 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time



Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

One of Bustle's Top 20 "landmark sci-fi and fantasy novels" of the decade

"Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass Indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick." -The New York Times

"An excitingly novel tale." -Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight Crossroads series

"Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant." -Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling…

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Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

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