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Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels

Updated on September 24, 2014

Some of The Top Post-Apocalyptic Books Of All Times

I love reading post apocalyptic books and I love discovering new authors who engage in this genre. Here I've put together some of the best post apocalyptic novels that great authors have written and people have voted for. It is my personal list, so as such it might contain a few books that you consider not making it in top 10. This is why at the end of the article you will be able to vote on your personal favorite, as well as add your own book - if it's not already here.

When it comes to post apocalyptic books and movies we all have a morbid fascination with it. Even if people usually not interested in general sci-fi novels will usually read end of the world books or watch end of the world movies. There is just something about only a few people left and their struggle to survive when the majority of the planet population is gone.

Whatever the reason, these books are extremely popular, so it's no wonder that there are so many books coming up every year talking about yet another post-apocalyptic world.

Enjoy browsing the list of post apocalyptic books of this year and maybe you pick up a book or two that you haven't read yet.

Zombie Survival

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z - My Favorite Post-Apocalyptic Novel

I bought World War Z when it first came out and it has been my favorite post-apocalyptic novel of all times ever since. In fact I think this book is a classic by now.

World War Z is a fictional documentary story of a world that has been overtaken by zombies who have almost eradicated the human race. Only very few survived and they are here to give testimonials and descriptions of the ways they survived.

The actual zombies are not really present in the book. There are no wars described, and the horror is mostly felt through the experience recounts.

Some people complained about the layout of the book which is more or less in the format of interviews. But if you ignore the layout and simply read the book for what it is, and let yourself get drawn into that world, you cannot not love it.

Of course, if you're picking up this book because it is about zombies, then you're on the right track as well!

Why The Fascination With The Post-Apocalyptic World?

I've been following the last few years the growth rate of books published (and movies made) about the post-apocalyptic world. If they weren't so popular, nobody would give them a second chance. But there is something about this end of the world days that captures our imagination, fears and dreams that we can't really put a finger on, but it is there, nevertheless.

Here are some of the reasons why people seem to be interested in this topic and love reading about best apocalyptic books.

Source

  1. We all like survival stories where the good prevails even though the bad and evil seems to be on top at all times.
  2. Post apocalyptic books are popular right now, period. And zombies too.
  3. The future is always a haze, something that we'd like to get a glimpse into, and these books can give a dire view of something that could actually happen - WWIII anyone?
  4. It has also to do with the our primal fear of survival. Afterall our ancient folk had to survive many horrific times in the past.
  5. Let's face it, we do like our doom and gloom stories - have you seen the crowd that automatically gathers when something bad (a crime?) happens? Scary, but human nature.
  6. Survival stories let us bring our fantasies into how we would act and react if our own survival was on the stake.
  7. What if scenarios can play out so many different ways, with bits from our own society mingled in with new futuristic elements that we actually don't get to see this lifetime (or who knows...)

The First Days: As the World Dies
The First Days: As the World Dies

The First Days: As the World Dies by Rhiannon Frater

The First Days is the first book in the post-apocalyptic trilogy As The World Dies by Rhiannon Frater. It is a new series published in 2011, and as I love zombie and end of the world books, I just had to buy it. And boy was in for a ride!

If World War Z doesn't really have zombies, this one has plenty to go around. What I found different here from other novels is that the main heroes are two women instead of the macho males. These are women who ran away from home to stay alive.

Both are great, real life characters whom one can easily identify with. They are not shallow characters, but real, full-fledged women with their troubles, fears and emotional scars that make this novel one of the top in the genre.

As somebody else before me so aptly put it:

"If you like fast-paced, action-packed, gore-filled, apocalyptic zombie stories, then this is one you don't want to miss."

Plague of the Dead - by Z.A. Recht

Plague of the Dead: The Morningstar Strain (Z.A. Recht's Morningstar Strain)
Plague of the Dead: The Morningstar Strain (Z.A. Recht's Morningstar Strain)

The second book in the Morningstar Strain series, this is just as good as the previous novel. But you have to start with the first one to understand it all. In this book the society is almost non-existent after the virus war that spread like fire in the first book. Here we can read about several split groups that are trying to survive after a few months where the first book ended. Really worth reading - I found the writing even better than that of the first in the series.

Note: Book 3 in this trilogy is available on preorder from Amazon. It is set to publish in June 2012.You can preorder it from herer.

 

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No Zombies In Sight

When it comes to the best post-apocalyptic novels, it doesn't always have to do with zombies. Sometimes there are other reasons for the world ending, such as a corrupt society, supplies ending, a third world war, and many others. So let's see what are some of the most popular books on the end of the world - not including zombies.

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

This is a great post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive in a world that has just ended. The book was so great that it has been made into a major movie as well.

The book is not full of action, it is rather repetitive, but beautiful. It is a sad story that might leave you with a tear or two in your eyes. It is one that keeps your mind on it long after you've finished reading it. As somebody else so aptly put it:

it left me feeling like an incubus was on my chest, paralyzing my brain and limiting my mobility

For example only after I've read it, I realized that the the father and son have no names. Places have no names. Everything is bland, covered in a layer of ashes. Everything is bleak and reeking of desperation, yet the book is not boring. Far from it. Once you start, you simply can't put it down.

The Stand - by Stephen King

The Stand
The Stand

When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks.

The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

A wonderful post-apocalyptic novel written by one of the best horror novelists of all times, Stephen King.

It was first published in 1978, so it's one of his older novels. However if you like his writing, you should pick up this book. This has no zombies in it, but a virus outbreak (the flu) which practically decimates the world population.

I don't want to give the plot away, but if you haven't read it yet - you're in for a treat!

 

Watch The Stand Trailer

I Am Legend
I Am Legend

I Am Legend

by Richard Matheson

I've just managed to read I Am Legend, and I found it to be really good. You know know this in the form of a movie with Will Smith, and like me, you might not know that it's in fact based on a great book by Richard Matheson - now brace yourself - back in 1954!. It was the third book ever written by this author and while I did several other novels by him, somehow I missed this. And I'm glad I picked it up now, way after I've seen the awesome movie.

Without giving away the plot, it's basically about Neville who finds himself literally alone in a sea of undead - not zombies, but vampires. He's practically the only human remaining, with every other vampire on his trail.

If you like the modern style vampire books, brace yourself before this is different, going back to times when writing a book about vampired included horror elements. The vampires were nothing like the Twilight variety or the Vampire Diaries, but they were real monsters lusting after real blood.

So if you like a good post-apocalyptic novel with a grim story flooded with vampires and lots of horror elements, this will definitely keep you awake at night!

Earth Abides - The Book That Inspired The Stand - George R. Stewart

Earth Abides
Earth Abides

This is the only sci-fi book written by the novelist George R. Stewart. It is a strong post-apocalyptic novel, and this is the very book that apparently inspired The Stand by Stephen King.

A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.

 
swan song
swan song

Swan Song

by Robert McCammon

Let me first tell you that this book is big. At over 900 pages, if you like to read, you'll be enjoying your time a lot. If you like rather short novels, well, maybe not so much. But nevertheless, it's really worth reading it, it's that good.

The Swan Song has been likened to The Stand by Stephen King. There are many parallels running through the two books, and although the reason for the end of the world are different in each, if you've read The Stand, you can't escape from remembering it a couple of times while reading this.

In fact some people said that this book is much better than The Stand. While most post-apocalyptic books are written in these last few days, this tome has been written in the 80s when the Cold War thoughts and ideas were still in the minds of many people.

This book is in fact a World War III subgenre within the post-apocalyptic topic.

On the Beach - by Nevil Shute

On the Beach
On the Beach

A classic post-apocalyptic novel, this is a book that focuses on World War III, a recurring theme in end of the world novels.

After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path.

If you've been wondering what a nuke could do to our world, read this book to find out. It's written quite realistically and in a way that you can actually believe that it could happen. All it needs is the stupidity of some politicians to take the world down.

As it has been written right at the end of the Cold War, it is strongly influenced by it. However it is, at the same time, very modern in thought and execution. A book that I can only recommend.

 
the day of the triffids
the day of the triffids

The Day of the Triffids

by John Wyndham

This is one of the best sci-fi books overall that I've read. Years ago when I first read it, I had no idea about post-apocalyptic novels as a genre. For me it was sci-fi and this one was a book that stayed with me for all these years.

Often while closing my eyes I had this vision of the triffids that gave me goose-bumps on my arms. I guess it's just one of those books...

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city.

But to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, one must survive the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world.

The Postman

by David Brin

If you haven't read the Postman, you most probably know this title from the movie dramatization of it made with Kevin Costner. And if you liked the movie, then the book will be so much better!

The world has almost ended due to a devastating nuclear war. This is the story of a guy, Gordon, who takes on the role of a postman to deliver letters from small settlement to small settlement. He wants to establish a postal route to Oregon, and tells everyone that the world is on the mend, by this giving them all hope.

Personally I liked the book better than the movie, it has more details and it explains the reasons behind what the Postman is doing more indepth. Also it deals with his guilt of putting false hopes into the minds of people. All in all a very enjoyable end of the world book.

Welcome To The Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels Guestbook

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    • profile image

      WinstonEmerson 5 years ago

      The Road is excellent. I'm a huge McCarthy fan. I've read a few of these recommendations, but I'll definitely check out some more (and when I buy them I'll be sure to click through your lens). In fact, I have a few bucks in my Amazon Payments account . . .

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I do enjoy good post-apocalypse stories. Thanks for a great guide - I'm going to definitely check out a few titles soon!

    • DonaldF profile image

      DonaldF 5 years ago from South Africa

      That World War Z movie looks like type of movie. Will have to check it out when they release it. Nice lens, very thorough.

    • kimark421 profile image

      kimark421 5 years ago

      I have read most of these, but haven't read World War Z. I'm going to have to get a copy. "The Stand" is my personal favorite (and one of my favorites across all genres).There are rumors that "The Stand" will be remade, which excites me although it would have to be a multi-part movie ala Lord of the Rings. ( I STILL can't get into Molly Ringwald as Frannie)

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thr first post apocalyptic book I ever read was Alas Babylon. I was fascinated about the story of one town's survival following a nuclear holocaust. The Stand is my favorite Stephen King novel and I enjoyed the brief history of the dead. But of all the books listed here, I have to go with The Road as my favorite. As a parent I can't imagine the horror of the daily struggle to keep your child alive.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      I've read a lot of lists like this, but this one is the best. Detailed, thorough, and personal. Thanks for the excellent write-up!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Really love this lens! I thoroughly enjoyed The Road, the novel. The movie, I felt, fell short of the literature, but that usually is the case. :-) I quoted The Road in my book quotes lens, because it had such a standing impression on me. I'm a huge fan of postmodernism and am a postmodern writer myself. Great job with this lens!

    • youthministry profile image

      Paul Turner 5 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

      Love it! Learned about some new books. Great job.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Good list, but I'm really surprised you didn't add these awesome books, Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven; Our End Of The Lake by Ron Foster; 77 Days in September by Ray Gorham and most definitely One Second After by William R. Forstchen. Add more EMP strike books, people have no clue what it is, what it can do and how real of a threat it is.

    • profile image

      Shain73 4 years ago

      Good stuff. I think The Stand is the best.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      For a different spin Anne McCaffrey wrote the freedom series, one of my personal favorites.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Please check out "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller, 2012. read it twice now, and can't stop thinking about it, beautifully realized tale!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'd have THE LAST SHIP by William Brinkley on my list. Very much captures the mood of a ruined world. Also THE LONG AFTERNOON OF EARTH by Brian Aldiss if you can get your hands on it. Love the list, will have to check the ones I haven't read yet.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      Lots of great reading ideas here - and I'm really glad you separated out the zombie books for me. I enjoy post-apocalyptic novels that are the more realistic types.

    • KenMagee profile image

      KenMagee 4 years ago

      @Camden1: I agree. I love the more believable ones.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Camden1: I always thought zombies were a bit stupid. now i know what has disaster without the undead!

    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 4 years ago

      I liked Nevil Shutes "So Disdained"

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      I'm for the more lighthearted type of literature, still this is a very good resource for people who like that type too:)

    • profile image

      deanna-balestra 4 years ago

      The Stand and The Road are my all time favorite post-apocalyptic novels, great lens!

    • Fiorenza profile image

      Fiorenza 4 years ago from UK

      You might like to add 'The Drowned World' by J G Ballard, quite prophetic as it was written in 1962 but set in London (England) after sea levels have risen worldwide. Years before any hint of climate change of course.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You might want to try the "Ashes" series by William Johnston. Quite an entertaining look at the post apocalyptic world.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I gotta agree, the series is great and I believe there was a continuing series afterwards that was short lived and written by his son?

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 4 years ago

      Obligatory nerd outrage: the movie version of I Am Legend got the message of the book EXACTLY backwards! Aaargh!

    • Scott A Butler profile image

      Scott A. Butler 3 years ago from England

      A good collection of book suggestions here to add to my reading list. Thanks. :)

    • UndercoverAgent19 profile image

      Jen Corrigan 2 years ago

      This is a quite an intriguing and detailed list! Growing up, I was not much into science fiction or post-apocalyptic literature, so I'm pretty behind on the times. Your hub has given me several new books to put on my to-read list.

    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great list, I have to say that I think of all of these the Road was the most unnerving for me to read. Mostly because it seemed so real. There weren't any zombies or crazy disease, rather it was just humanity crumbling under the apocalypse.

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