Post-apocalyptic fiction books aren’t just good entertainment. You can sometimes learn a lot of important survival skills from them, and improve your mental preparedness while enjoying them.
*I realize that everyone has different tastes when it comes to books. I wanted to make sure this list went beyond my personal preferences (I tend to prefer stories about natural disasters and plagues over sci-fi heavy alien and zombie books).
So, I compiled the list based on my favorites plus top recommended books found in forums online.
Feel free to add your favorite titles and a small description in the comments!
These dystopic end-of-the-world books might be older, but the themes still ring true!
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke (1952)
Alien’s invade the earth. At first, they seem to help humanity by eliminating disease and bringing about a Golden Age. But at what cost when the alien overlords do away with human culture and identity.
Engine Summer – John Crowley (1979)
This book takes place long after the apocalyptic event has occurred. The main character explores how the world has been reduced to tribal communities. It won the 1980 National Book Award for Science Fiction.
The Book of the New Sun Series – Gene Wolfe (1980-1983)
This is a very heavy series, but incredibly engrossing. Through the four books, it tells the story of how society emerges after an apocalyptic disaster. (vols 1&2 pictured)
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller Jr. (1960)
The story takes place 600 years after nuclear disaster has destroyed civilization. All educated people have been killed as part of a “Simplification.” It centers around an engineer who strives to save books which could save mankind.
Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven (1985)
Unlike many other post-apoc books, this one takes you through the entire cycle of pre, during, and post-disaster. It is very realistic and deals with a lot of tough questions, like how would you distribute your supplies? Would you keep someone in your group alive?
The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner (1972)
The Postman – David Brin (1985)
You might have seen the movie version of this book. It shows a post-war America trying to rebuild civilization. There is a lot of symbolism and sci-fi in the book, if you like that kind of thing. The book won loads of awards.
On the Beach – Nevil Shute (1957)
Empty World – John Christopher (1977)
The Last Ship – William Brinkley (1988)
This book is a lot different than the TV series loosely based on it. It revolves around soldiers who launch a nuclear attack. After the attack, they find the world a very different place. The character development is great in this book.
Emergence – David R. Palmer (1984)
Also winner of many awards, Emergence revolves around the effects of bio plague. A girl name Candy, who is a type of superhuman called hominem (humanity’s next evolutionary step) attempts to stop survivors from killing off the hominems.
Must-Read Post-Apocalyptic Books
These books made the list because they are either incredibly popular or influential. You’ll want to have them under your belt to be versed on the genre.
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
This one always gets listed as one of the best post-apocalyptic fiction books. It is the love story of two young people who might be the last humans. You will also want to check out The Year of the Flood and Madd Addam by Atwood.
The Girl with all the Gifts – M.R. Carey
A fungus has invaded the world and caused humans to lose their mental capacities. A 10-year old girl and a group of others somehow manage to retain their IQs. She must protect herself from being dissected by scientists looking for a cure. It has been made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it yet.
One Second After – William Forstchen
This book blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction. It goes into surprising detail about what could happen if an EMP weapon wiped out the grid and took us back into the dark ages.
World War Z – Max Brooks
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, even people who don’t like post-apocalyptic stories will enjoy this book. It is a highly-emotional story of what happens when a father and son journey across a devastated land with just a gun to protect them.
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Not your usual dystopian novel! It starts out with an actress witnessing the effects of a plague. Years later, the actress and her theater troop are traveling around the raged country making plays about life before the pandemic.
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Popular Post-Apocalyptic Books
These are some of the top names and best-selling books in the post-apocalyptic genre. They might not be classics (yet), but they are great reads and highly recommended.
Calizona – Ralph Rotten
Need something lighter? This is actually a funny book. It tells what happens when two survivalist/preppers build an underground bunker and fully stock it. When a meteorite hits, the guys discover that being kings of the apocalypse isn’t as great as they thought it would be.
The Passage – Justin Cronin
Without giving away too much of the plot, I can tell you that this book deals with a girl who grew up in a government facility. She knows all about the experiment that they are up to which will wipe out civilization – and only she can stop the end from coming.
Metro Series – Dmitry Glukhovsky
Maze Runner Series – James Dashner
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Philip K. Dick
Silo Series – Hugh Howley
I might as well just say “any book by Hugh Howley” because he is one of the best-known post-apocalyptic authors out there. The level of suspense in his books is great, as well as the imagination which goes into his end-of-the-world scenarios.
Lesser-Known and Other Worthy Mentions
In case the list above isn’t enough dystopian fiction for you, here is a list of some more great post-apocalyptic books. Some of them you probably haven’t heard of yet.
CyberStorm – Matthew Mather
Swan Song – Robert McCammon
Classic good vs evil story somewhat reminiscent of a Stephen King novel. Follows various characters across the US as they try to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Check On Amazon
Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
The Dog Stars – Peter Heller
California – Edan Lepucki
Dies the Fire – S.M. Stirling
Blindness – Jose Saramago
The Death of Grass – John Christopher
Fallocaust – Quil Carter
Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse – James Wesley Rawles
The Core of the Sun – Johanna Sinisalo
Unique book from a Finnish author reminiscent of some of Margaret Atwood’s work. Set in an alternative present it explores what makes a society and how it can be manipulated by an all powerful government.
Zazen – Vanessa Veselka
Lights Out – David Crawford
Eternity Road – Jack McDevitt
The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang – Kate Wilhelm
Finally here are some of the books our readers have recommended. Leave your pick and a short review in the comments to be featured here.
Deathlands – James Axler
From Michael: Set about 100 years after the nuclear holocaust a band of people roam about what’s left of the USA and deal with evil along the way. The are published in book and (my favorite) Graphic audio… a movie in your mind… as they put it.
Earth Abides – James Axler
The Stranded Series – Theresa Shavers
From Jeff Jamison: These books are Juvenile Fiction but I have found them enjoyable.(I have teens). About when Canadian high school students on a trip to Disney are stranded by an EMP. Each book is about a different group and how they get back to their province in Canada. One group goes by Land, one group goes by boat, and one group stays at Disney. Their main teacher is a prepper, and her advice and skills help all three groups.
Check On Amazon
Battlefield Earth – L Ron Hubbard
From AA: Set in a post apocalyptic world- millennia in the future. The apocalypse event was invasion by a species from another planet. No matter what you think the man, and science fiction, this was an entertaining book.
The Jakarta Pandemic – Steven Konkoly
From AA: Best i have read. While the earth is not destroyed and there are no zombies or aliens, it is about survival of a neighborhood where some are prepared and some are not. great read for suburban survival.
What are your favorite post-apocalyptic books? Any that I missed? Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below!
Diane Vukovic spent her childhood roaming the woods of upstate NY, making brush shelters, backpacking and orienteering.
Now she is the proud mother of two adventurous girls whom she takes wild camping and teaches survival skills and self-defense. Learn more about Diane here.