49 Of The Best Post Apocalyptic and EMP Books to Immerse Yourself In

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.

So, if you’ve already checked out these non-fiction survival books and enjoyed these top doomsday movies, you might want to give these post-apocalyptic books a read.

*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!

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These dystopic end-of-the-world books might be older, but the themes still ring true!

Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke (1952)

book coverAlien’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.

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Engine Summer – John Crowley (1979)

book coverThis 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.

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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)

book coverThe 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.

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Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven (1985)

book coverUnlike 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?

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The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner (1972)

book coverThe world has been destroyed by corruption and pollution.  Now, humans struggle through turmoil, military rule, birth defects, and lack of resources.

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The Postman – David Brin (1985)

book coverYou 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.

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On the Beach – Nevil Shute (1957)

book coverWritten in the peak of thecold war, this book deals with a world that has been destroyed by fallout.  It is very emotional and shows how everyday people would react during a disaster.

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Empty World – John Christopher (1977)

book coverA plague has destroyed almost all of the earth’s population.  A young boy struggles to survive in this brutal world.

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The Last Ship – William Brinkley (1988)

book coverThis 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.

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Emergence – David R. Palmer (1984)

book coverAlso 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.

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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

book coverThis 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.

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The Girl with all the Gifts – M.R. Carey

book coverA 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.

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One Second After – William Forstchen

book coverThis 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.

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World War Z – Max Brooks

book coverI’m not the biggest fan of zombie apocalypse stories, but this one is great.  It is very raw and emotional, as well as getting deep into the sci-fi of what could happen from a single patient zero.

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The Road – Cormac McCarthy

book coverWinner 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.

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Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

book coverNot 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.

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The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

book coverLethal plants stalk the world following a freak cosmic event. This is one of the most famous catastrophe novels of recent times and well worth a look.

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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

book coverNeed 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.

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The Passage – Justin Cronin

book coverWithout 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.

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Metro Series – Dmitry Glukhovsky

book coverRegardless of what you think about Russian politics, you’ve got to admit that they have some amazing literature.  This story takes you on a twisted tale of survivors living in the Moscow underground.

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Maze Runner Series – James Dashner

book coverThese books are insanely popular and have been turned into a TV series and a movie due this year.  It doesn’t deal much with end-of-the-world themes, but it does get deep into the survival mentality.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Philip K. Dick

book coverIn this story, civilization has been destroyed by war. Robots have taken over and one man’s mission is to destroy them before they destroy the rest of humanity.

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Silo Series – Hugh Howley

book coverI 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.

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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

book coverSet in New York, this book gives a realistic take on the consequences of a massive cyber attack. One man and his family struggle to survive in the ruined city.

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Swan Song – Robert McCammon

book cover

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.
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Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank

book coverOne small town in Florida is miraculously spared following a nuclear holocaust. This is the tale of how a group of ordinary people fight to stay alive.

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The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

book coverStrange mix of horror, suspense and comedy. This is a teen novel that touches on some diverse subjects; alien invasion, EMP attack, plagues.

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Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

book coverA science fueled saga that spans millennia. This is an epic book covering 5000 years of humanity’s future following a catastrophic meteor shower.

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The Dog Stars – Peter Heller

book coverA tale of global disaster and survival which was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke award in 2013. Explores the aftermath of a global flu pandemic.

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California – Edan Lepucki

book coverThe usual stuff about the breakdown of modern society. This one takes an interesting angle and looks at it through the eyes of a married couple.

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Dies the Fire – S.M. Stirling

book coverFollows various characters as they try to come to terms with an EMP style attack where all modern technology is rendered useless.

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Blindness – Jose Saramago

book coverAn epidemic of blindness hits a city, only one person is spared and the story is told from her perspective as mankind descends into chaos.

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The Death of Grass – John Christopher

book coverA vision of the world following a mass famine. One man and his family attempt to survive as the world plunges into barbarity.

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Fallocaust – Quil Carter

book coverAn event 230 years ago kills almost every living thing. The only people left,  live in the grey wastelands and fight for survival in the savage new world.

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Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse – James Wesley Rawles

book coverBestseller about survival following a total collapse in the economy. Hyperinflation cripples all commerce  and infrastructure fails indiscriminately.

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The Core of the Sun – Johanna Sinisalo

book coverUnique 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.

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Zazen – Vanessa Veselka

book coverSet in a dystopian world with America on the decline. This is an entertaining story about staying alive in a war torn land.

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Lights Out – David Crawford

book coverAction packed, survival story, follows the main character as he tries to survive following a lights out event across the free world.

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Eternity Road – Jack McDevitt

book coverSet 1000 years from now, the original world having been destroyed by plague, we follow an expedition that sets out to find the technological wonders of the old world.

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The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett

book coverA novel of post nuclear America. All technology is now considered evil and large cities are banned. Follows the two main characters as they search for more meaning in their shattered lives.

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Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang – Kate Wilhelm

book coverStory of an isolated community trying to save itself post holocaust. Deals with the subject of cloning as the community becomes desperate to survive.

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Readers Picks

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.

Don’t forget about our Disaster Prep Guides. You can get them here and be prepared for the apocalypse. 🙂

Deathlands – James Axler

book coverFrom 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.

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Earth Abides – George R Stewart

book coverFrom Evets, Alex and Bob: The first post-apocalyptic book I read, probably when I was about 12 years old. That’s the book that hot the whole ball rolling for me to always be prepared. Omnia Paratus!

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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.
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Battlefield Earth – L Ron Hubbard

book coverFrom 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.

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The Jakarta Pandemic – Steven Konkoly

book coverFrom 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.

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What are your favorite post-apocalyptic books? Any that I missed? Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below!

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  1. Lights Out.. I believe it’s written by Ted Kopple. He talks about the VERY REAL preparations undertaken by the Mormon community. Very interesting

  2. Parable of the sower and it’s sequel parable of the talents (by octavia butler) are perhaps I think some of the best books of all time and certainly some of the apocalyptic books I’ve ever read they are also shockingly relevant to todays world
    Also Octavia butler has another series called the Lilith’s brood trilogy that while perhaps not as good it is still very interesting read

  3. Trying to find a book about a post apocalyptic or dystopian world where people gain magic powers. One of the main characters finds a sword in some rubble that helps him fight his boss who gets turned into a dragon. Another guy can play music and hide people like themselves in some sort of underground oasis. They’re attempting to kill a big bad guy who is trying to harvest the world for evil. I know its vague but any hints would be helpful.

  4. Looking for a book series written by a woman that I read years ago. Story woman is a prepper. US suffers an earthquake. Book has real life prepper information within the storyline. Anyone??

  5. Last Stand
    By William Weber
    The 1st book is awesome and great for preppers.
    The 2nd to the 4th are more patriot type books.
    Overall a great series.

  6. Unbelievable that you rank One Second After as a classic, while it’s source, Alas, Babaloon is considered an also-ran. The latter is literature, the first a hack job plaigerism.

  7. Malevil by Robert Merl. Published in 1972 in French, It has been printed and issued in hard back by Reader’s Digest volume five of 1974 In English, and I am still trying to find a copy in electronica format but it deals with the aftermath in France of a nuclear air burst from a small village that deals with survival of a farming community but written back before cell phones have yet been invented

  8. The Deep Winter series by Thomas Sherry featuring a volcanic eruption, pandemic, economic collapse, war with China and civil war.

    Here’s what I posted on Goodreads:
    Post nuclear attack survival

    At the beginning of the novel, a little girl survives a nuclear attack because she’s wandered down to the cellar of a gas station convenience store while her mom is gassing up the store. In the now buried cellar is the owner /old man. They survive on the supplies in the cellar
    The might try digging out, but he’s afraid of the radiation. They survive there for months. He gets sick and is dying, so he has her dig out.
    The main character is a woman 20s? 30s?
    There is a search of some kind, lots of traveling & encounters with gangs of bad guys.
    The sun is obscured for many years until the end in a heart breaking finale.
    What is the title of this book!

    • Dark. Tide Rising Series by John Ringo. The zombie like plague is well thought out and isn’t beyond comprehension. Heroes, villains, cowards, brave, lazy and focused, in other words people in trouble.

  10. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. It focus on a contestant on a reality survival show that doesn’t realize a pandemic has broken out in the world. The story follows her as she tries to win the game as the “challages” get harder and harder. I liked the aspect of the character not knowing what was actually happening in the world yet focusing on what it mentality takes to win and survive.

  11. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is a landmark piece of post apocalyptic fiction.
    I have always found Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett to have a very strong PAF feel to it if you’re interested in the psychology of a bleak and lonely future.

  12. I noticed someone mentioned the out of the ashes series above. I have to say that is my favorite, though a little political. “Out of the Ashes” series by William Johnstone.

    Though they got a little weird later on dealing with “night people” cannibals. The initial ones were awesome,,,a dealing with a lot of the issues that our government tries to control right now. But a very good read.

  13. The DEATHLANDS collection is fantastic!! I read it years ago. Is it available in hardback?
    The out of the ashes collection is very good.

  14. I can’t believe no one has mentioned Commune!! Four books in the series and really awesome for both the story line and information. First three are on audible now and fourth coming soon oh, and amazon has all four in print

  15. Greetings everyone.

    Every single one of the books mentioned here are fantastic, fun reads. I noticed someone included The Stand by Stephen King. Might I suggest a few of my own picks? My favorite author by far is hands down, the King of Horror, Stephen King. With that, I posit he did not write just one post apocalyptic book or movie. My favorite is Cell, with the King asking in his typical style What would happen if… not that an EMP was set off, but worse, our cell phones were used as a terrifying new weapon? Ha ha. Ok, so with that fav out of the way, I can not say enough about the seven Gunslinger books he wrote about a gunslinger hunting the dark man. Great survival mentality and sideways looking examples of survival “tricks”. The other ones I will mention are not exactly my faves but get a nod because they are at the very least great books by the King and entertaining. Under the Dome (the book not the series); The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a little girl versus a grizzly in the woods and how she survives…or not; Rose Madder, the King addresses mental illness and survival; Gerald’s Game, ok so it is not an end of the world book, but when I read it I definitely could see that in her eyes it was the end of her world and she is tasked with survival, this was one I did not like, but made it through. My favorite is Lizzy’s Story, and is the story of a middle aged widow’s survival, if I say anymore than that it will be ruined and everyone needs a surprise (not necessarily a good one), and who among us can fondly remember Stephen King’s first dip into the film industry? What, do I hear small voices whispering “Maximum Overdrive” from 1986. Many more including “The Running Man” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in a futuristic world being run by game shows, Dreamcatcher starring Timothy Olyphant and Morgan Freeman in a pre-apocalyptic and start of the end due to an invasion?

    I could go on about more of his books, movies, and tv shows. It is getting late and I need to be able to drop off to sleep. Most of his work disturbs me enough to cause a restless sleep or is it “Insomnia” in the land of “Hearts in Atlantis” (with Sir Anthony Hopkins starring in the movie btw). Lol. Sleep sweet my fellow preppers. I will hopefully see you in Middle Earth somewhere in between Gondor, Rivendale, and the Kingdom of Rohan with some wonderful suggestions on how to survive the night in the Fanghorn forest in the midst of my travels.

    Janette from Oregon

  16. Best i have read is “The Jakarta Pandemic” by Steven Konkoly. 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.

  17. Wow, great list! Noted!

    about the book “Childhood’s End”…

    I read this story and after about 10 minutes I was able to figure out who the aliens were what was really happening. Unlike 2001 a Space Odyssey which keeps you guessing this one didn’t. To me, this was a book about holding kids back until their ready for something they will never be ready for unless your stop holding them back. The storyline is easy to follow and reminds me of how easy it is to follow the storylines the press tries to feed us every day.


  18. I must honestly say that the story in One Second After read like a Walking Dead episode and the writing is pretty bad. On that note, The Walking Dead graphic novels deserves place on the list.

    On a way-out-there book idea-L Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth is 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.

    • What? I have read probably a hundred post-apocalyptic books, and so far, One Second After is one of the most well written, well researched, and realistic of them all. I just read it for the first time about a year ago and I loved it. The second one is just as good.

  19. These books are Juvenile Fiction but I have found them enjoyable.(I have teens) The Stranded Series by Theresa Shavers are 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 and then their journey to get back to Canada. Their main teacher is a prepper, and her advice and skills help all three groups. Another book in the series is when they make it back to their town, and their story to rescue their town that has been taken over by a gang of violent, armed men. The series is fairly plausible in it’s descriptions of society after an EMP attack and main characters do die, so there is some realism to the stories.

  20. The Survivalist series by A. American, and the One Second After/One Year After are all very good books. Enjoyed reading all except the last 2 of The Survivalist Series which I’m getting ready to buy.

      • Under classics, where the blankitty-heck is Davy, by Edgar Pangborn? Pangborn’s Tales of a Darkening World stories also include novels The Judgement of Eve and The Company of Glory and the short fiction collection Still I Persist in Wondering. Davy and the John Crowley’s unforgettable Engine Summer remain my personal faves in the subgenre. I don’t really think of Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun part of this list, but it’s my all-time favorite book of fiction, period; if it’s inclusion gets more folks to check it out, great. There’s a handful on this list I’m unfamiliar with; thanks for that.

  21. Once again, a Great article!

    I have read almost all these books, and I have noted the ones I haven’t and are going to go to Amazon and buy them.

    I must say (IMHO), that for a person new to the survival genre, he/she should read “One Second After – William Forstchen”!!! It is Amazing. Oh, he now has the sequel out to this book called “One Year After”.

      • Absolutely! The first post-apocalyptic book I read, probably when I was about 12 years old. That’s the book that hot the whole ball rolling for me to always be prepared. Omnia Paratus!

  22. My favorite series is called “Deathlands” and it’s sequel “Outlanders” by James Axler
    The first series is 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 Second is set about 100 years after Deathlands. It is similar to Deathlands.
    The are published in book and (my favorite) Graphic audio… a movie in your mind… as they put it.


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