Post-apocalyptic books are all the rage. I know this is not a complete list (and never will be), because new books are published every day. But like our complete list of of post-apocalyptic movies, I see the list as a work in progress, where new books are added over time. So, I am starting with a modest list of over 100 books that fit the apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, prepper, and dystopian genres.
If you know of other quality post-apocalyptic books not listed here, add them to the comments and I’ll review them for inclusion. By “quality” I mean well-written. If it’s a self-published book, I need to know it’s good, because I’ve seen plenty of self-published crap (being blunt). If I listed every book available, the list would get too diluted with garbage. It needs good reviews at a minimum.
Some preppers argue that you can learn lessons from reading post-apocalyptic, prepper, or dystopian fiction. While that might be true in some cases, the benefit of just the pleasure of reading. Reading is good for your brain, your intelligence, and your creativity. More than that, it’s fun!
More than even that, these post-apocalyptic books are a great way to introduce non-believers that prepping for the wasteland is not only necessary, but fun.
Now, in alphabetical order, we present our…
Complete List of Post-Apocalyptic Books
1984 by George Orwell – Everyone knows it, but if you’ve never read it, you’re missing out. Don’t be that person. George Orwell can write – and this is a classic. “Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever…”
A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier – The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller – A post-apocalyptic classic. In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.
A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren – Amid the collapse of civilization, Mary Hope and Rachel Morrow, two survivors of the devastation wreaked by natural disasters and nuclear war, create a cache of books in an attempt to preserve the past.
A Great State by Shelby Gallagher – A trilogy written as a spin of Glen Tate’s 299 Days series. The series tells the story of Julie Atwood, who struggles with the day-to-day challenges of being a single mother in Oregon as the state and federal government begin to collapse around her and everyone else. Julie needs to flee to the safety of her family cabin in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Can she get there, though? There is an exodus of people, and the conservative states—now called Great States—have established border checkpoints. Refugees are being turned away. Will she be one of them? Will Steve, her ex-husband, let her take their son far away? Will he demand to go with them? There is a wildfire at hand. Civilization is crumbling. And Julie is running out of time.
A Simple Man by Mark Bacci – The year is 2078. The former United States of America is a bleak and fading memory for the few citizens of New America. John Bradford, a single father, has no choice but to return to his secret past, the only place where he knows he has a chance – The Circuit, an underground fight-to-the-death competition run by a ruthless mobster. With The Circuit rigged against him, Secans chasing after him and danger at every turn, John fights his way across the country to save his children and fulfill the promise he made to his wife. This is John’s fight, and it is one he cannot afford to lose.
After London by Richard Jefferies – A catastrophe has descended upon England. London is now a pestilent swamp, dotted with the ghostly remains of ancient buildings. A giant lake dominates the center of the country, towns have collapsed and given way to forests, and the few scattered survivors have descended into barbarism. Amid the ruins of civilization and a countryside ravaged by warring tribes, a lone hero undertakes a quest to prove himself worthy of his beloved.
After the Crumble by Devon Porter – In the late 2020s, the grid finally flickered out for the last time, succumbing to attacks from a newly formed Resistance, fuel scarcity, and general entropy. It is now the year 2037 and many have died, with the few that managed to escape death solely concerned with their daily survival. Gavin Collier is one of those lucky few, but survival alone isn’t enough for him anymore. Recognizing that the meaning of life didn’t crumble along with the rest of the world, he embarks on a dangerous and personal journey for reasons that few can understand. After leaving his home for the first time in years, Gavin must commit murder in order to save his life, only surviving through good luck and sheer force of will.
After the Fall by David Nees – In a world without power, Jason must fight for survival as he heads to the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains. An electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States shuts down all power, communications and transportation. With no food deliveries, no vehicles working, society begins to unravel. Starvation and death begin to reign and panic leads to violence. Marauding gangs roam the countryside, stealing, killing or worse and cities begin to wall themselves off from the danger outside. As society breaks down, Jason heads to the Appalachian Mountains to avoid the growing anarchy, hoping to wait out the chaos. The gangs threaten but loneliness becomes his biggest enemy as the solitude envelopes him. In a secluded mountain valley he finds a woman, Anne, and her two daughters struggling to survive. They are near starvation when Jason shows up.
After the Flood by Kassandra Montag – a rare post-apocalyptic books where a woman becomes the hero. This is Montag’s debut novel, and in it she tells the story of Myra, who has a difficult decision to make. Rising sea levels have wreaked havoc on the United States. Myra must decide whether to risk her youngest daughter’s welfare to search for her oldest daughter, who may or may not be alive.
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – “Alas, Babylon.” Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.
All City by Alex DiFrancesco – Superstorm Bernice hits New York City. A young girl doesn’t want to leave, and wouldn’t know how even if she wanted to. The city becomes destroyed. The wealthy leave. The poor are left behind, to make a new life among the wreckage.
Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem. A young man living a movie theater in post-apocalyptic Wyoming soon discovers that his post-nuclear reality may have no connection to the truth. He takes to the road with a girl named Melinda in order to find answers. As they travel through the United States they find that none of the people they meet can fill in their incomplete memories or answer their questions. Gradually, figures from his past, including some who appear only under the influence of intravenously administered drugs, make him remember some of his forgotten life.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – The book that has influenced many, and the foundation of some political theory. Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy…to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction…to the philosopher who becomes a pirate…to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad…to the lowest track worker in her train tunnels.
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 by Ron Hubbard – In the year A.D. 3000, Earth is a dystopian wasteland, plundered of its natural resources by alien conquerors known as Psychlos. Fewer than thirty-five thousand humans survive in a handful of communities scattered across the face of a post-apocalyptic Earth. From the ashes of humanity rises a young hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Setting off on an initial quest to discover a hidden evil, Jonnie unlocks the mystery of humanity’s demise and unearths a crucial weakness in their oppressors. Spreading the seeds of revolt, Jonnie and a small band of survivors pit their quest for freedom in an all-out rebellion that erupts across the continents of Earth and the cosmic sprawl of the Psychlo empire.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman – Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster? Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motley group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?
Blindness by Jose Saramago – A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of man’s worst appetites and weaknesses—and man’s ultimately exhilarating spirit.
Blood Crazy by Simon Clark – It is a quiet, uneventful Saturday in Doncaster. Nick Aten, and his best friend Steve Price – troubled seventeen-year-olds – spend it as usual hanging around the sleepy town, eating fast food and planning their revenge on Tug Slatter, a local bully and their arch-enemy. But by Sunday, Tug Slatter becomes the last of their worries because somehow overnight civilization is in ruins. Adults have become murderously insane – literally. They’re infected with an uncontrollable urge to kill the young. Including their own children. As Nick and Steve try to escape the deadly town covered with the mutilated bodies of kids, a group of blood-thirsty adults ambushes them. Just a day before they were caring parents and concerned teachers, today they are savages destroying the future generation. Will Nick and Steve manage to escape? Is their hope that outside the Doncaster borders the world is ‘normal’ just a childish dream?
Blood Red Road by Moira Young – Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when four cloaked horsemen capture Lugh, Saba’s world is shattered, and she embarks on a quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the outside world, Saba discovers she is a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba’s unrelenting search for Lugh stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
Brushfire Plague by R.P. Ruggiero – This trilogy starts as a virulent plague erupts across the globe. Cooper Adams faces a daily battle for survival as society unravels at a dizzying pace. As he organizes his neighbors for self-defense and strives to save those around him, he soon discovers the first clues about the origin of the Brushfire Plague that is killing untold millions around the world. In his pursuit to learn the truth, Cooper must combat looters, organized gangs, and those protecting the secrets. When his son falls ill, his search to uncover the plague’s origin and a possible cure transforms into a race against time. Ultimately, Cooper faces a paralyzing choice between exposing what he has learned with potentially shattering consequences, or abetting a horrible secret and giving his nation a chance to recover and rebuild.
Calizona by Ralph Rotten – Best friends since kindergarten, survivalists Alex and Mickey take prepping to a new level when they win the biggest lottery in history. Sparing no expense, they build the ultimate subterranean bunker complex. With dreams of surviving the apocalypse in comfort and luxury, they stockpile their fortress with plenty of weed, women, and song. No expense is spared, no scenario is overlooked. But when a meteorite erases Mexico and covers Arizona with a massive debris field, Alex and Mickey soon discover that being kings of the apocalypse is not nearly as much fun as they had envisioned, and certainly a lot more work than they had signed up for.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – A Vonnegut classic! His satirical commentary on the madness of modern man. A midget and a singer are main characters in this apocalyptic tale. Vonnegut satirizes science and the Manhattan Project. Long-term readers of post-apocalyptic fiction will have inevitably read this renowned book. If you haven’t, give Vonnegut a try.
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke – Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends–and then the age of Mankind begins…
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.
Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather – The Internet and communication networks go down…a deadly viral epidemic rages across the country…then a monster snowstorm cuts New York off from the world. Days go by without contact to the outside world. Then weeks. Murder and vigilante justice replace law and order. Millions are trapped. In the chaos, conspiracy theories rage about a foreign cyberattack–that this might be the first shockwave of a colossal global shift in power–but even this becomes unimportant as Mike and his family struggle for survival in the wintry tomb of a doomed New York.
Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny – Hell Tanner isn’t the sort of guy you’d mistake for a hero: he’s a fast-driving car thief, a smuggler, and a stone-cold killer. He’s also expendable – at least in the eyes of the Secretary of Traffic for the Nation of California. Tanner doesn’t care much for those eyes. You’d also never mistake Hell Tanner for a humanitarian. Facing life in prison for his various crimes, he’s given a choice; rot away his remaining years in a tiny jail cell, or drive cross-country and deliver a case of antiserum to the plague-ridden people of Boston, Massachusetts…if anyone is still alive there to receive it, that is. The chance of a full pardon does wonders for getting his attention. And don’t mistake this mission of mercy for any kind of normal road trip – not when there are radioactive storms, hordes of carnivorous beasts, and giant, mutated scorpions to be found along every deadly mile between Los Angeles and the East Coast. But then, this is no normal part of America, you see. This is DAMNATION ALLEY…
Davy by Edgar Pangborn – 40th Anniversary edition. World Fantasy Award winner, and Hugo and Nebula Award nominee, this post-apocalyptic science fiction novel is Pangborn’s most acclaimed. Set in the Northeastern United States some centuries after an atomic war ended high-technology civilization. Davy comes of age in a pseudo-medieval society dominated by a Church that actively suppresses technology.
Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne – Sporadic news reports indicate chaos and violence spreading through U.S. cities. An unknown evil is sweeping the planet. The dead are rising to claim the Earth as the new dominant species in the food chain.This is the handwritten journal depicting one man’s struggle for survival. Trapped in the midst of global disaster, he must make decisions; choices that ultimately mean life, or the eternal curse to walk as one of them. Enter if you will into his world. The world of the undead.
Deathlands by James Axler – There’s well over 120 books in this series, so be careful before you start this one. After a nuclear holocaust changes the shape and geography of the earth, a group of American survivors must learn to cope in the new nuclear wasteland: the Deathlands.
Deep Winter by Thomas Sherry – From a relatively normal American life to a survival situation in moments, this story follows the Drummond family as they learn to adapt to a now, very different community…and world. Beginning on a bitter cold January night, the story begins with a series of earthquakes tearing through the Pacific Northwest….and in the following days the family–and the nation–face challenges from unexpected sources.
Deluge by S. Fowler Wright – A 1928 novel about a series of tremors that create a global flood which destroys civilization with the exception of a few areas of the English Midlands that were above water.
Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling – An electrical storm destroys the grid. Some take refuge and make plans to create a farming community for survival. Others are building armies instead. The dark age of humanity is upon the world. The first book in a series.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by – Philip K. Dick – The book that spawned one of A-Poc’s favorite movies, BladeRunner. By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force.
Down to a Sunless Sea by David Graham – The six hundred passengers and crew members aboard a jumbo jetliner are left without a destination and a country when nuclear war breaks out and spreads devastation around the world.
Dream Caster by Najeev Raj Nadarajah – Haunted by memories of his massacred settlement, sixteen-year-old Weaver seeks cover in a hidden refuge among the remains of a ruined city. In the midst of building a new life, Weaver discovers that he has the amazing power to cast his dreams into reality. Convinced it s just an anomaly, Weaver ignores it. That is until he learns of a mysterious man who shares the ability, and uses his power to bring nightmares into existence and wage war on the world. The peaceful life Weaver hoped for begins to unravel as waves of chaos begin to break loose about him. In a race against time, Weaver must learn to accept his role as a dream caster and master his new power, before his new home is destroyed and humanity is pushed to the brink of extinction.
Dust by Hugh Howey – Juliette, now mayor of Silo 18, doesn’t trust Silo 1, especially its leader, Donald. But in the world of the Silos, there is no black and white — everything is shades of gray. Donald may not be the monster Juliette thinks he is, and may in fact be key to humanity’s continued survival. But can they work together long enough to succeed? Book three in the Wool series.
Earth Abides by George Stewart – 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.
Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall – As world events begin setting the stage for the “end of days” foretold in Revelation, Joshua Jordan must weigh the personal price he must pay to save the nation he loves. In this adrenaline-fueled political thriller laced with End Times prophecy, Joshua Jordan, former U.S. spy-plane hero turned weapons designer, creates the world’s most sophisticated missile defense system. But global forces conspire to steal the defense weapon, and U.S. government leaders will do anything to stop the nation’s impending economic catastrophe—including selling-out Jordan and his weapon. As world events begin setting the stage for the “end of days” foretold in Revelation, Jordan must consider not only the biblical prophecies preached by his wife’s pastor, but the personal price he must pay if he is to save the nation he loves.
Empty World by John Christopher – When Neil survives a deadly plague and plunges into solitude, he must question everything in this gripping adventure from critically acclaimed Tripods author John Christopher. Neil’s world is shattered when he and his family are involved in a horrible car accident that leaves him an orphan. He is sent to live in a small village with his grandparents, whom he loves but doesn’t really know. Soon, a devastating illness, the Calcutta Plague, begins making the headlines. After killing thousands of people in India in just a few months, the disease begins to spread much farther, quickly sweeping across the world and eventually settling in the same village where Neil resides. The sickness is a strange one, affecting only the adults and none of the children, and soon Neil finds himself an orphan once more. Alone, Neil travels to London in search of other survivors of the plague. There he finds a strange world of fear and suspicion, where friends can be enemies and people will do anything to survive. In this time of strife, amid the excitement and loneliness of his solitude, can Neil find a way to focus on what matters most?
Enclave by Ann Aguirre – New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters–or Freaks–who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight–guided by Fade’s long-ago memories–in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.
Enemies Foreign and Domestic by Matthew Bracken. The novel begins on opening day of the NFL season, when bullets begin to rain down upon the upper deck of a packed football stadium. A panic stampede ensues, leading to mass casualties. The alleged sniper is found holding a smoking assault rifle, and is killed by a police marksman. Congress bans the private possession of all semi-automatic assault rifles. Gun owners are given one week to turn in their semi-automatic rifles, or face a five year mandatory sentence. Americans refuse to turn in their banned weapons, leading to a civil crisis in the nation.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – One of the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2017! In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through… Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – Remember reading this in middle school? I do. Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
Fail Safe by Eugene Burdick – First published in 1962, when America was still reeling from the Cuban missle crisis, Fail-Safe reflects the apocalyptic attitude that pervaded society during the height of the Cold War, when disaster could have struck at any moment. As more countries develop nuclear capabilities and the potential for new enemies lurks on the horizon, Fail-Safe and its powerful issues continue to respond.
Far North by Marcel Theroux – On the frontier of a failed state in a post-apocalyptic world, a sheriff patrols a ruined city, salvaging books and keeping firearms in working order. Then there is a sign of life elsewhere, and now the sheriff seeks to reconnect with society and make a perilous journey.
Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein. After barely surviving a thermonuclear war, Hugh Farnham and a small group of survivors find themselves in a post-apocalyptic world in which Africans rule and whites are slaves.
Flood by Stephen Baxter. Four hostages are rescued from a group of religious extremists in Barcelona. After five years of being held captive together, they make a vow to always watch out for one another. But they never expected this. The world they have returned to has been transformed-by water. And the water is rising.
Galapagos: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut – Vonneguttakes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986, when a vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. After the apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the a new and totally different human race.
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler – Mortimer Tate was a recently divorced insurance salesman when he holed up in a cave on top of a mountain in Tennessee and rode out the end of the world. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse begins nine years later, when he emerges into a bizarre landscape filled with hollow reminders of an America that no longer exists. The highways are lined with abandoned automobiles; electricity is generated by indentured servants pedaling stationary bicycles. What little civilization remains revolves around Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go strip clubs, where the beer is cold, the lap dancers are hot, and the bouncers are armed with M16s.
Going Home by A. American – When Morgan Carter’s car breaks down 250 miles from his home, he figures his weekend plans are ruined. But things are about to get much, much worse: the country’s power grid has collapsed. There is no electricity, no running water, no Internet, and no way to know when normalcy will be restored—if it ever will be. An avid survivalist, Morgan takes to the road with his prepper pack on his back. During the grueling trek from Tallahassee to his home in Lake County, chaos threatens his every step but Morgan is hell-bent on getting home to his wife and daughters—and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Haven by J.D.G. Perldeiner – The great fires have gone out. The heavens are stalked by storm and darkness. The holdings of men are scattered, broken, disparate. The wilderness has reclaimed the land. This is the world in 198 Anno Cataclysmos, since the monks of Haven began their count. Now, in this dark and dying age, the survivors of the Burners and thrax turn upon each other. For the monks of Haven, the chiefest good is knowledge, and the written word. For the folk of Groton there can be nothing that gainsays their holy writ-including the sacred library that informs the Province of all things past. This is a little-known, yet great addition to any collection of post-apocalyptic books.
Hiero’s Journey by Sterling E. Lanier – Per Hiero Desteen was a priest, a telepath — and a highly trained killer. Together with his great riding moose and the young bear who was his friend, he was on an extraordinary mission. For this was five thousand years after the holocaust known as The Death. Now the evil Brotherhood of the Unclean was waging all-out war against the few remnants of normal humanity, determined to wipe out all traces of its emerging civilization. Hiero’s task was to bring back a lost secret of the ancients that might save the humans. But his path lay through the very heart of the territory ruled by the Unclean and their hordes of mutated, intelligent, savage beast followers. And the Unclean were waiting for him!
High Couch of Silistra by Janet E. Morris – Silistra is a post-apocalyptic planet devastated by a war that forced its populace to go into underground shelters for centuries and, even many centuries later, the planet has not recovered. Infertility is one of the worst problems facing the planet’s populace—thanks to the fallout of that deadly war. Silistra is ruled by a theocratic caste named the Day-Keepers who control the planet by monopoly on technical and divine knowledge and through a brutal police force named the Slayers. The planet is administratively divided into city-states founded around procreation centers named Wells that were originally introduced by the Day-Keepers as a solution to Silistra’s infertility problem. In time, the Wells attracted men from various planets and virtually turned into brothels, while women who manage the Wells founded aristocratic lineages named Well-Keepresses that form a peculiar matriarchy.
Holding Their Own by Joe Nobody – The United States, already weakened by internal strife, becomes the target of an international terror plot. A series of attacks results in thousands of casualties and disables the country’s core infrastructure. The combination of economic hardship and the staggering blow of the terror attacks results in a collapse of the government. This is a realistic story of how an average, middle class couple survives the cascading events brought on by international politics, high tech military actions and the eventual downfall of society. All of their survival skills are tested during the action packed expedition in a world that resembles the American West of 200 years past.
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton – a rare apocalyptic humor piece set in Seattle when everything starts to fall apart. It’s a zombie-style story where a crow and a carpenter find connection and affection. From the view of a bird, the author takes a look at humanity’s decisions.
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss – Set in a far future, the earth has locked rotation with the Sun, and is attached to the now-more-distant Moon, which resides at a Trojan point, with cobwebs spun by enormous spider-like plants. The Sun has swollen to fill half the sky and, with the increased light and heat, the plants are engaged in a constant frenzy of growth and decay, like a tropical forest enhanced a thousandfold. The plants – many now omnivores – have filled all the ecological niches on the land and in the air, many evolving primitive nervous systems and, in some cases, eyes; of the animals in the forest only the descendants of four species of social insects remain – tigerflies (evolved from wasps), tree-bees, plant-ants and termights (from termites) – along with small groups of humans (a fifth of the size they are now); all other land and air animals have been driven to extinction by the vegetable kingdom, apart from a few shore dwellers. The humans live on the edge of extinction, within the canopy layer of a giant banyan tree that covers the continent on the day side of the earth.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – You saw the Will Smith movie – maybe even the The Omega Man by Charlton Heston. Both are based on this classic. Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth, but he is not alone. An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him. By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn…
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster – In a distant and unsettling future, Anna Blume is on a mission in an unnamed city of chaos and disaster. Its destitute inhabitants scavenge garbage for food and shelter, no industry exists, and an elusive government provides nothing but corruption. Anna wades through the filth to find her long-lost brother, a one-time journalist who may or may not be alive.
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland – Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer – High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, like “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.
Lights Out by David Crawford. Lights Out chronicles the challenges of Mark “Karate Man” Turner when the lights go out over most of the free world. He must find in himself the ability to unite his family, friends, and neighbors if any of them are to survive the harsh reality that everyday life becomes when the veneer of civilization is stripped away.
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block. After the Earth Shaker, which all but destroyed Los Angeles, seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) sets out into the wasteland in search of her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey.
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – The 1970s classic. The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival–a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known…
Malevil by Robert Merle – The story’s events take place in rural France in the late twentieth century. The protagonist is Emanuel Comte, former school director, now turned farmer and landowner. He is also an owner of a tourist attraction – an old castle called Malevil after the nearby village. Comte is a highly motivated, well-respected person with a talent for diplomacy and leadership. By chance, Emanuel and several of his friends find themselves in the wine cellar of the castle during the unexpected outbreak of nuclear war. The survivors find their surroundings reduced to ashes and rubble. Together under the leadership of Emanuel they start to rebuild. They later discover that other people and animals have survived in nearby farmsteads and villages. Nature begins anew and an agrarian society starts to reform. From time to time more survivors show up, some bringing death and destruction with them. One of the main challenges of the slowly emerging society is to fend off the threat of a new theocratic dictatorship that has taken over a neighboring village with the assistance of a marauding gang.
Metro 2035 by Dmitry Glukhovsky – World War Three wiped out the humankind. The planet is empty now. Huge cities became dust and ashes. Railroads are being eaten by rust. Abandoned satellites hang lonely on the orbit. Radio is mute on all the frequencies. The only survivors of the last war were those who made it into the gates of the Metro, the subway system of Moscow city. It’s there, hundreds of feet below the ground, in the vaults of what was constructed as the world’s largest air-raids shelter that people try to outlive the end of the days. It’s there that they created a new world for themselves.
Music City Macabre by Bob Williams – His name is Prescott. He is a survivor. Two years ago an event known as The Descent swept the nation and transformed the majority of the population into raging, destructive beings, known as FREAKS. During that time Prescott has been searching for his sister Emily, who went missing in the early days of the catastrophic event. Prescott enters The 88, a bar which all his gathered intelligence has led him to believe, he will finally find his missing sister. What he discovers will shock him to his very core. Choosing to run instead of facing his emotions Prescott lands in Nashville, TN, where a vicious war lord named Kade, rules the destroyed city with his congregation of Freaks. It is here where Prescott will learn that family can grow from the ashes of devastation, love is still possible, and hope is eternal.
No Easy Hope by James N Cook – Eric Riordan was once a wealthy man leading a comfortable, easy life. Until one day Gabriel–his oldest friend, a Marine Corps veteran, and a former mercenary–told him how the world was going to end. He did his best to prepare. He thought he was ready for anything. He was wrong. As the dead rise up to devour the living, one man finds himself struggling to survive in the ruins of a shattered world. Alone, isolated, and facing starvation, his only chance is to flee to the Appalachians and join forces with Gabriel. But the journey will not be easy, and along the way his humanity, his will to live, and his very soul will be tested. This is the beginning. This is his story.
On the Beach by Nevil Shute – 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.
One Second After by William Forstchen – Months before publication, One Second After was cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read. It has been discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warned could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future . . . and our end.
One Year After by William Forstchen – This thrilling follow-up to that smash hit begins one year after One Second After ends, two years since nuclear weapons were detonated above the United States and brought America to its knees. After months of suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to recover technology and supplies they had once taken for granted. When a “federal administrator” arrives in a nearby city, they dare to hope that a new national government is finally emerging.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death, Lauren Olamina, an empath and the daughter of a minister, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny…and the birth of a new faith, as Lauren becomes a prophet carrying the hope of a new world and a revolutionary idea christened “Earthseed.”
Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Apocalypse by James Wesley Rawles. Patriots is a thrilling narrative depicting fictional characters using authentic survivalist techniques to endure the collapse of the American civilization. Reading this compelling, fast-paced novel could one day mean the difference between life and death.
Pilgrimage to Hell (Deathlands) by James Axler and Jack Adrian – On a crisp January day, a Presidential inauguration day, a one-megaton blast ripped through the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. Subsequent explosions around the globe changed the face and the shape of the earth forever. Out of the ruins emerged Deathlands, a world that conspired against survival. In the blasted heart of the new America, a group of men and women plan desperately to escape the eerie wastes and mutated life forms of their nuclear hell.Three warriors the tough, intelligent Ryan Cawdor, an enigmatic beauty called Krysty Wroth, and the armorer J. B. Dix set out on a harrowing journey to find a rumored enclave high in the mountains.
Plague Year by Jeff Carlson. The nanotech was intended to save lives. Instead, it killed five billion people, devouring all warm-blooded lifeforms except on the highest mountain peaks. The safe line is 10,000 feet. Below, there is only death. Above, there is famine and war. Humankind’s final hope rests with a scientist aboard the International Space Station… and with one man in California who gambles everything on a desperate mission into the ruins of the old world…
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban – Set about two thousand years after a nuclear war has devastated world civilizations. The main action of the story begins when the young narrator, Riddley, stumbles upon efforts to recreate a weapon of the ancient world. The novel’s characters live a harsh life in a small area which is presently the English county of Kent, and know nothing of the world outside of “Inland” (England). Their level of civilization is similar to England’s prehistoric Iron Age, although they do not produce their own iron but salvage it from ancient machinery. Church and state have combined into one secretive institution, whose mythology, based on misinterpreted stories of the war and an old Catholic saint (Eustace), is enacted in puppet shows.
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry – In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.
Shift by Hugh Howey – In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platforms that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the second volume in the New York Times best-selling Wool series.
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh – Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman. In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. When his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, he must navigate between these two worlds—the wasteland reality and the slick fantasy—to finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.
Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh. What happens when resources become scarce and society starts to crumble? As the competition for resources pulls America’s previously stable society apart, the “New Normal” is a Soft Apocalypse. This is how our world ends; with a whimper instead of a bang. New social structures and tribal connections spring up across America, as the previous social structures begin to dissolve.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – A more modern work. Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians.
Summer of the Apocalypse by James Van Pelt – When a plague wipes out most of humanity, fifteen-year-old Eric sets out to find his father. Sixty years later, Eric starts another long journey in an America that has long since quit resembling our own, but there are shadows everywhere. Shadows of what the world once was, and shadows from Eric’s past. Blood bandits, wolves, fire, feral children, and an insane militia are only a few of the problems Eric faces. Set in Denver, Colorado and the western foothills, Van Pelt’s first novel is both a coming-of-age tale, and a story of an old man’s search for hope in the midst of disaster. Eric’s two adventures lead him through a slice of modern America and into the depths of one man’s heart.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon – In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, Earth’s last survivors have been drawn into a final battle between good and evil that will decide the fate of humanity. There’s Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets…Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station…and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with her gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army…beginning with Swan herself.
The Ark by Stephen Baxter – It’s the year 2030. The oceans have risen rapidly, and soon the entire planet will be submerged. But the discovery of another life-sustaining planet light years away gives those who remain alive hope. Only a few will be able to make the journey-Holle Groundwater is one of the candidates. If she makes the cut, she will live. If not, she will be left to face a watery death…
The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle – The Immari are good at keeping secrets. For 2,000 years, they have hidden the truth about human evolution. They have also searched for an ancient enemy – a threat that could wipe out the human race. Now the search is over. Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel discovers a mysterious structure buried deep in an iceberg. It has been there for thousands of years, and something is guarding it. As the Immari rush to execute their plan, a brilliant geneticist makes a discovery that could change everything.
The Borrowed World: A Novel of Post-Apocalyptic Collapse by Franklin Horton. If society fell apart, could your family survive? Jim Powell thought he was ready but when ISIS operatives unleashed a coordinated attack on America’s infrastructure, he found himself in a terrifying predicament. Trapped hundreds of miles from his family, with thousands of stranded travelers and scarce law enforcement across the country, the miles between Jim and his family become a brutal gauntlet where the rules of a civilized society no longer apply.
The Breaking of Northwall: The Pelbar Cycle by Paul O. Williams – One thousand years after a devastating and chaotic series of nuclear exchanges, all that is left of the United States of America are scattered, warring tribes and small city-states. One of the latter is Pelbar—proud, civilized, and intolerant of change and new ideas. Rebels and troublemakers are sentenced to a year of exile at the massive midwestern fortress of Northwall, defending Pelbar against the fierce Shumai and Sentani tribes. Restless and brilliant Jestak is a visionary who has seen and learned too much in his distant travels to be content with life in Pelbarigan. During his exile at Northwall, he makes contact with Pelbar’s age-old enemies and risks all to rescue his beloved Tia from nomads armed with long-lost weapons from before the atomic holocaust. Jestak’s daring quest for love brings profound changes to his world.
The Children of Men by P.D. James – So good it was made into a movie. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
The Circle by Dave Eggers – When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – More Science Fiction than “prepper” but outrageously awesome. 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. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere twenty-four hours before is gone forever. 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 Death of Grass by John Christopher – The Chung-Li virus has devastated Asia, wiping out the rice crop and leaving riots and mass starvation in its wake. Then Chung-Li mutates and spreads. Wheat, barley, oats, rye: no grass crop is safe, and global famine threatens. In Britain, John Custance and his family decide they must abandon their London home to head for the sanctuary of his brother’s farm. And so they begin the long trek across a country fast descending into barbarism, where the law of the gun prevails, and the civilized values they once took for granted become the price they must pay if they are to survive.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller – Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley. But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.
The Doomsday Series by Bobby Akart. With a nation on edge, the war of words escalated, and a political war erupted. Americans were caught in the cross hairs of societal unrest and a shadowy group stoking the fires of discontent burning in America. Words were replaced by weapons as neighbor turned on neighbor, and powerful forces stopped at nothing to reshape a nation in turmoil.
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard – This post-apocalyptic novel imagines a terrifying future in which solar radiation and global warming has melted the ice caps, and Triassic-era jungles have overrun a submerged and tropical London. Set during the year 2145, the novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kerans and his team of scientists as they confront a surreal cityscape populated by giant iguanas, albino alligators, and endless swarms of malarial insects. Nature has swallowed all but a few remnants of human civilization, and slowly, Kearns and his companions are transformed―both physically and psychologically―by this prehistoric environment. The Drowned World is both a thrilling adventure and haunting examination of the effects of environmental collapse on the human mind.
The Economic Collapse Chronicles (Trilogy) by Mark Goodwin – They were prepared for anything – or so they thought. Then there was a total and complete economic collapse. The entire system broke. The law of the land changed. If you hesitate in this new world, you pay with your life.
The End by G. Michael Hopf – Young Gordon Van Zandt valued duty and loyalty to country above all, so after 9/11, he dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. This idealism vanished one fateful day in a war-torn city in Iraq. Ten years later, he is still struggling with the ghosts of his past when a new reality is thrust upon him and his family: North America, Europe and the Far East have all suffered a devastating Super-EMP attack, which causes catastrophic damage to the nation’s power grid and essential infrastructures. Everything from cell phones to cars to computers cease to function, putting society at a standstill. With civilization in chaos, Gordon must fight for the limited and fast dwindling resources. He knows survival requires action and cooperation with his neighbors, but as the days wear on, so does all sense of civility within his community—and so he must make some of the most difficult decisions of his life in order to ensure his family’s safety.
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper – Women rule in Women’s Country. Women live apart from men, sheltering the remains of civilization. They have cut themselves off with walls and by ordinance from marauding males. Waging war is all men are good for. Men are allowed to fight their barbaric battles amongst themselves, garrison against garrison. For the sake of his pride, each boy child ritualistically rejects his mother when he comes of age to be a warrior. But all the secrets of civilization are strictly the possession of women. Naturally, there are men who want to know what the women know! And when Stavia meets Chernon, the battle of the sexes begins all over again. Foolishly, she provides books for Chernon to read. Before long, Chernon is hatching a plan of revenge against women!
The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson – A deadly plague has devastated Earth, killing all the adults. Lisa and her younger brother Todd are struggling to stay alive in a world where no one is safe. Other children along Grand Avenue need help as well. They band together to find food, shelter, and protection from dangerous gangs invading their neighborhood. When Tom Logan and his army start making threats, Lisa comes up with a plan and leads her group to a safer place. But how far is she willing to go to protect what’s hers?
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
The Giver by Lois Lowry – The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Yes, the Hulu series was good. The book is great. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population. The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer – Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.
The Iron Heel by Jack London – A dystopian novel first published in 1908, anticipated many features of the past century, including the rise of fascism, the emergence of domestic terrorism, and the growth of centralized government surveillance and authority. Generally considered to be “the earliest of the modern Dystopian”, it chronicles the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. Part science fiction, part dystopian fantasy, part radical socialist tract, The Iron Heel offers a grim depiction of warfare between the classes in America and around the globe. What begins as a war of words ends in scenes of harrowing violence as the state oligarchy, known as “the Iron Heel,” moves to crush all opposition to its power.
The Jakarta Pandemic by Steven Konkoly. Alex Fletcher, Iraq War veteran, has read the signs for years. With his family and home prepared to endure an extended period of seclusion, Alex thinks he’s ready for the pandemic. He’s not even close. The unstoppable H16N1 virus rapidly spreads across the United States, stretching the fragile bonds of society to the breaking point. Schools close, grocery stores empty, fuel deliveries stop, hospitals start turning away the sick…riots engulf the cities.
The Last Canadian by William C. Heine – A 1970s Cold War apocalyptic story where Eugene Arnprior, an engineer living in Montreal, who after learning of a fast spreading airborne virus (released by the Soviets) in the American Rockies moves his wife and two sons to an isolated cabin in Northern Quebec. Arnipoor’s family is wiped out when a virus carrier nears their camp – Arnipoor is immune but also carries the virus now. The story continues as he travels the dead cities and meets various groups of survivors on the east coast of America and makes contact with a US destroyer off the coast of Florida which is being followed by an eavesdropping Soviet submarine.
The Last Man by Mary Shelley – Let’s start with what’s considered the first post-apocalyptic book ever published. The Last Man is Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic fantasy of the end of human civilization. Set in the late twenty-first century, the novel unfolds a somber and pessimistic vision of mankind confronting inevitable destruction. Interwoven with her futuristic theme, Mary Shelley incorporates idealized portraits of Shelley and Byron, yet rejects Romanticism and its faith in art and nature.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters – The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.
The Last Ship by William Brinkley – The unimaginable has happened. The world has been plunged into all-out nuclear war. Sailing near the Arctic Circle, the U.S.S. Nathan James is relatively unscathed, but the future is grim and Captain Thomas is facing mutiny from the tattered remnants of his crew. With civilization in ruins, he urges those that remain—one-hundred-and-fifty-two men and twenty-six women—to pull together in search of land. Once they reach safety, however, the men and women on board realize that they are earth’s last remaining survivors—and they’ve all been exposed to radiation. When none of the women seems able to conceive, fear sets in. Will this be the end of humankind?
The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele – a unique story in that it offers glimmers of hope in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s a love story between two people who met online. The grid goes down and the two attempt to find each other without the internet.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss – A Dr. Seuss book!? You bet! The Lorax is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape where the Truffula trees grow no more. Consumed by greed, the Once-ler made so many thneeds that everyone “needs,” resulting in a desolate landscape without trees or animals. It is a wasteland.
The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster – The Machine Stops is a short science fiction story. It describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual lives in isolation in a ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Most humans welcome this development, as they are skeptical and fearful of first-hand experience. People forget that humans created the Machine, and treat it as a mystical entity whose needs supersede their own. Those who do not accept the deity of the Machine are viewed as ‘unmechanical’ and are threatened with “Homelessness”. Eventually, the Machine apocalyptically collapses, and the civilization of the Machine comes to an end.
The McClaine Apocalypse by Kate Morris. The end of the world doesn’t happen with a bang. It takes slightly longer than that but not by much. Research projects, Gross Anatomy class, tests and fancy coffee drinks will cease to be important. The fight for her life will become the only thing that matters.
The Passage by Justin Cronin – This is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.
The Pesthouse by Jim Crace – Once the safest, most prosperous place on earth, the United States has become sparsely populated and chaotically unstable. Across the country, families have traveled toward the one hope left: passage on a ship to Europe. As Franklin Lopez makes his way towards the ocean, he finds Margaret, a sick woman shunned to die in isolation. Tentatively, the two join forces, heading towards their future. With striking prose and a deep understanding of the American ethos, Jim Crace, one of our most consistently ambitious writers, creates in The Pesthouse a masterful tale of the human drive to endure.
The Postman by David Brin – He was a survivor–a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war. Fate touches him one chill winter’s day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold. The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.
The Power by Naomi Alderman – The world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets. From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, The Power is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.
The Preparation (299 Days) by Glen Tate – Meet Grant Matson: lawyer, father, suburbanite husband who awakens to the fragility of modern society and embarks on a personal journey that introduces him to a world of self-reliance and liberation. 299 Days: The Preparation, the first book in the 299 Days series, depicts the inner struggles Grant must face as he exists in a social system he recognizes as unsustainable and on the verge of collapse, but one in which he has built his life around. What begins as a return to his roots, self-sufficiency and independence, becomes a full blown move to prepare for what may come. Engaging, insightful and a bit suspenseful, follow Grant’s transition from a self-perceived “sheeple” to a full-blown “prepper.” Will his fears come true? Is he an extremist? What if nothing happens? What if something does?
The Purge of Babylon by Sam Sisavath – One night. That was all it took. Creatures that once lived in the shadows, hidden from humankind, have risen, spreading like a plague across the globe over the course of a single night. Their numbers growing exponentially through infection, these seemingly unkillable creatures have swallowed up whole cities and collapsed unprepared governments. Survivors call it The Purge. Against all odds, a disparate group of survivors has emerged from that blood-soaked night that devastated the planet and reduced humanity to an endangered species. Among the survivors are two ex-Army Rangers, a businesswoman, and a third-year medical student. But surviving The Purge was one thing – staying alive is another matter entirely. Hope exists in the countryside, in the form of a self-sustaining underground facility designed to withstand any calamity. But in order to reach its safety, the survivors must travel hundreds of treacherous miles, with the night – and the creatures that dwell within it – always at their backs. The rules are simple: stay out of the dark, load up on silver bullets, and whatever you do, stay alive. The road to salvation has begun…
The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel – Described by Penguin as “a landmark work that heralded the genre of apocalyptic fiction.” Adam Jeffson is the first man to reach the North Pole and the last man left alive on earth. A sweet-smelling cloud of poisonous gas has devastated the world, and as Jeffson travels the stricken globe in search of human life, he slowly succumbs to madness.
The Remaining by D.J. Molles – In a steel-and-lead encased bunker a Special Forces soldier waits on his final orders. On the surface a bacterium has turned 90% of the population into hyper-aggressive predators. Now Captain Lee Harden must leave the bunker and venture into the wasteland to rekindle a shattered America.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – You’ve seen the movie. It was good. The book is much better. 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 anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.
The Stand by Stephen King – A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
The Survivalist by Arthur Bradley. U.S. Deputy Marshal Mason Raines must forage for food, water, and gasoline while outgunning those who seek to take advantage of the apocalyptic anarchy. He aligns with survivors of the town of Boone in a life and death struggle against a gang of violent criminals. Mason is forced to accept his place as one of the nation’s few remaining lawmen. In a world now populated by escaped convicts, paranoid mutants, and government hit squads, his only hope to save the townspeople is to enforce his own brand of frontier justice.
The Unknown World by Chris Pike. EMP survivor Chris Chandler wasn’t one to back away from overwhelming odds, and as of now, the odds weren’t stacked in his favor. One way or the other, people were going to get hurt here or killed. Amanda Hardy and Chris Chandler have been living comfortably at the Double H Ranch where they took sanctuary after the EMP. Deciding it was time to head to Austin, where they both have relatives, they leave the safety of the ranch to embark on a journey filled with unknown perils.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – This book takes place in Thailand a few hundred years from now. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables are the only kind available. “Natural” has lost all meaning, companies control the global food market, gas-fueled vehicles are rare. Thailand is one of the last places of independence.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – Atwood is a master of post-apocalyptic books. Set in the visionary future of her acclaimed Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is at once a moving tale of lasting friendship and a landmark work of speculative fiction. The long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life. Among the survivors are Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Amid shadowy, corrupt ruling powers and new, gene-spliced life forms, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can’t stay locked away.
This is the Way the World Ends by Keith Taylor – The global population now stands at an estimated 400 million, and every survivor bears the scars of humanity’s decade-long struggle to defeat an enemy few believed could exist. Some nations have emerged from the war stronger than ever. Others still struggle to survive. Some no longer exist at all. In the aftermath of the zombie pandemic Keith Taylor, noted pre-war author of apocalyptic fiction, traveled the world to gather the first hand accounts of survivors from every walk of life, culture and strata of society, ranging from American political leaders to British journalists to Mongolian miners to members of India’s homeless underclass. Together these chilling interviews describe the course of humanity’s most brutal war, leading from the initial emergence of the virus in the Siberian wilderness to the visceral, heart-rending Shibuya footage, through the confusion of the US President’s impeachment to the unintended and disastrous consequences of the UN’s sweeping refugee amendment, and ending with us battered and broken, diminished but not defeated, in the fragile peace we now enjoy. Together these accounts represent the most illuminating and complete commentary to date of humanity’s loss.
Triumph by Philip Wylie – In the world’s upper hemisphere, only one small group has survived World War III: fourteen people, sheltered deep within a limestone mountain in Connecticut and with enough supplies and equipment to maintain their subsistence for upwards of two years. The group includes a forward-thinking millionaire and his family, a levelheaded Jewish scientist, a playboy, an aging African American servant and his daughter, a gigolo and the glamorous woman who has been his mistress, a beautiful Chinese girl, a young meter reader, two children, and a Japanese engineer. Fully aware of the outcome of the war that had raged briefly above them, the survivors seethe with hatred, fall into depression over their losses, rise to moments of superhuman bravery, and lapse into behavior that reflects their human weaknesses. Philip Wylie mercilessly predicts the inevitable end of a world that continues to function as selfishly and as barbarously as our own.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams – Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon — these are our guides through the Wastelands… From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity. Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today’s most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon. Think of this book as a mini collection of post-apocalyptic books.
White Horse by Alex Adams – Thirty-year-old Zoe wants to go back to college. That’s why she cleans cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals. If she can keep her head down, do her job, and avoid naming the mice, she’ll be fine. Her life is calm, maybe even boring — until the end of the world, that is, when the president of the United States announces that humans are no longer a viable species. Zoe starts running the moment she realizes everyone she loves is gone. Her boyfriend Nick, fearing he’s contracted the virus, leaves for Greece. When Zoe discovers she’s pregnant — and entirely alone– she treks across the world to find Nick and reunite her growing family. On the way she encounters characters both needy and nefarious — some human, some monster, and some uncertain beings altered by genetic mutation — and comes to see that humanity is defined not by genetic code but by soulful actions and choices.
Wool by Hugh Howey – In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.
World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler – An astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler brings to life what America might be, a few decades hence, after these catastrophes converge. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is nothing like they thought it would be. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy, and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president, and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. Their challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers, no longer polluted, and replenished with fish.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks – Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien – Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors. But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann’s solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead – A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown’s Fort Wonton have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the three-person civilian sweeper units tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Zone One unfolds over three surreal days in which Spitz is occupied with the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD), and the impossible task of coming to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go terribly wrong…
There you have it! Our nearly complete list of post-apocalyptic books.