29 Best Books about the Apocalypse to Prepare You for the Worst

When end-of-the-world zombie movies on Netflix are just too visually intense to your liking, then perhaps you would instead appreciate this non-exhaustive list of the best books about the apocalypse to prepare you for the worst.

1. The Stand by Stephen King

Books about the Apocalypse: the stand

Let us start with the obvious entry: Stephen King’s The Stand. An outbreak of lethal influenza from a government-run laboratory leads to an ultimate battle between the best and worst of humanity. All around the planet, life itself is plunging to a rapid breakdown. 

2. 100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin

Books about the Apocalypse:

An apocalypse can start from anything, including an otherwise mundane routine like a dinner party or a seemingly farfetched – but still plausible – infanticide. Lucy Corin gives a collection of imaginary scenario that can possibly trigger a series of global-scale devastating effects.

3. The Children of Men by P. D. James

Books about the Apocalypse: the children of men

The future of the world is bleak now that every woman is infertile. In the face of a population doomed to vanish, the British government makes decisions and enforces rules that only seem to bring the U.K. closer to an all-out apocalypse. 

4. Tenth of December by George Saunders

Books about the Apocalypse:

In The Semplica Girl Diaries, an unbound love for technology puts humanity at a serious state of vulnerability. In My Chivalric Fiasco, the witness of a rape accepts hush money in the form of a promotion in return for his silence. George Saunders has more of those realistic societal horrors in Tenth of December.

5. What Becomes Us by Micah Perks

Books about the Apocalypse: what becomes us

A schoolteacher named Evie is pregnant and on the run from an abusive husband. She is possessed by the ghost of Mary, a white colonist who fell into the hands of Native Americans during the time of King Philip’s war. It turns out that Evie is not the only person trapped in that moment of historical apocalypse.

6. Zazen by Vanessa Veselka

A war-consumed America is on the brink of a collapse, triggering the birth of a counterculture insurgence. When a bomb explodes in an industrial wasteland, a desperate upheaval rises. The whole premise of Zazen happens in a place that sounds familiar to many: a polarized America.

7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Books about the Apocalypse: the handmaid's tale

Set in a future America ruled by totalitarian men-only government, women become second-class citizens whose roles in the society are restricted to being wives, handmaids, and servants. The sole purpose of a handmaid’s life and existence is to provide babies for the infertile wives of the rulers. 

8. Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Books about the Apocalypse: zone one

Some dark humor here and there cannot take away the horror from this post-apocalyptic tale of a future New York City. In an urban jungle still recovering from a catastrophic invasion of the undead, a good portion of the surviving population suffer from a serious stress disorder. 

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Unlike most books in the list, The Sixth Extinction is a documentary. It talks about the Earth’s history of mass extinctions and how humanity continues to inflict irreversible damages to the planet. Another apocalypse lurks around every corner.

10. On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Life on Earth has no hope after a nuclear disaster. The subsequent radiation sickness slowly kills the survivors of the initial blast. They can either wait for the incurable maladies to take their lives in a painful way or commit suicide.

11. The Postman by David Brin

The film adaptation of The Postman, starring Kevin Costner, is a far cry from the novel of the same title. In a world after an apocalypse, a postman becomes an undeniable symbol of connection between order of the past world and present-day chaos. 

12. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A nuclear war of the 20th century leads to the emergence of “Simplifications,” in which proud Simpletons take violent measures to promote illiteracy. Anyone who knows something about anything is a target. Leibowitz is an engineer determined to keep records of everything he knows for future generations.

13. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Triffids are carnivorous plants developed by humans. Genetic engineering gives the plants the ability to communicate and walk. When a natural phenomenon renders humans blind, they become easy prey for the triffids. It is an unlikely event that shows how vulnerable humanity is in the event of a disaster. 

14. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Books about the Apocalypse: the road

No one knows what exactly happened, but the world is now nothing but rubble. Living plants are nowhere to be found, and the sky is as dreary as all the unnamed characters. Despite the impossible predicament, humanity never loses hope for a better tomorrow in a better place. 

15. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Books about the Apocalypse: oryx and crake

A mad scientist tries to reshape the world by replacing humans with androids. He dreams of a home where there is no God and no fear. The only problem is that not all humans have perished following the destruction of the planet. 

16. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Books about the Apocalypse: earth abides

Racism is no more when the civilization enforcing it has ceased to exist. The post-apocalyptic world does not bring desperation to a young white man and an older black woman. Instead, they find hope to start everything all over again.

17. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A nuclear catastrophe has changed not only the landscape of the world, but also the society of survivors. In the post-apocalyptic world of Riddley Walker, everyone speaks a language that sounds familiar to no reader. The church and state make up some rules inspired by some misinterpreted wartime documents. 

18. The Book of Dave by Will Self

Books about the Apocalypse: book of dave

Dave, a taxi driver, writes his rants on a metal plate so that it may survive intact in the event of an apocalypse. A devastating flood due to climate change eventually comes. Dave’s indestructible rants are found and treated as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

19. Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra

Books about the Apocalypse: judge dredd

Another unusual pick here is Judge Dredd comic. A nuclear war has turned much of the world into a desolate place. Survivors are now concentrated in megacities, where the population in each city has grown to hundreds of millions. Dredd is one of the powerful judges who have been given the power to execute criminals on the spot. 

20. The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling

The population of the British Isles is on the verge of disappearing. The Prime Minister orders an exodus of influential people, technology, and knowledge to India. Meanwhile, in the Eastern hemisphere, Japan and China have combined into a new global power. Russia has become a nation of Satan worshippers. 

21. The Third World War by Humphrey Hawksley

Books about the Apocalypse: the third world war

Before a North Korean missile strikes a U.S. military base located in Japan, an attack on the Indian parliament has taken the lives of hundreds. What follows is a series of international political turmoil, turning allies into enemies. As powers collide, the world’s societies are about to collapse into madness.

22. Clade by Mark Budz

Rising sea levels bring about the gradual disappearance of human resources. Giant corporations and governments resort to genetic engineering as an effort to maintain order. Some people are biologically modified, so they prefer certain communities to others. Breaking the rules comes with severe punishments. 

23. A Planet for the President by Alistair Beaton

Fletcher J. Fletcher is the President of the United States. As a leader of the most powerful country in a world threatened by climate change, he decides to wipe out all non-Americans to slow down ecological devastation.

24. How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson

Books about the Apocalypse: how to survive a robot uprising

An artificial intelligence could be a real threat to humanity. Given enough resources and computing power, a robot can build more robots to start an open rebellion against humans. Daniel H. Wilson gives some ideas on how to evade and survive a robotic insurrection. 

25. Cell by Stephen King

Books about the Apocalypse: cell

The “Pulse” is a signal broadcast over the global communication network that turns anyone using a phone into a mindless killer. Clayton Riddell is about to come back to his wife and son when the “Pulse” happens. He may have to dial 911 to report some of the incidents he comes across on the road. 

26. Flood by Stephen Baxter

Helen, Lily, Gary, and Piers come out of a basement to a much changed world. Terrible storms are almost a daily routine, and floods are now constant parts of the new reality. Human civilization is drowning at a faster rate than predicted. 

27. World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler

A pandemic of lethal influenza has killed nearly a third of the world’s population. The global economy becomes wreckage as access to fossil fuel disappears. Resources are scarce, forcing humans to quickly adapt to life without all the modern comforts. 

28. The Passage by Justin Cronin

A state-sanctioned experiment creates a virus that gives human eternal life and super strength. The side effects include orange skin, severe photophobia, a taste for human flesh, and sudden growth of claws and fangs.

29. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Books about the Apocalypse: do androids dream of electric sheep

Most of human population now lives on Mars and other planets in the aftermath of the third world war. Only those considered too stupid to emigrate are left to stay on the disintegrating Earth. One of them is John Isidore, who provides safety for a few hunted androids.

The idea of a worldwide apocalypse is mind boggling and scary. Would you be prepared if the world ended right now? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you liked this, then check out 31 Best Dystopian Novels for a Thought-Provoking Read!

Other things you might want to know about. 

1. What is apocalyptic fantasy?

Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction are subgenres of science fiction, science fantasy, dystopia or horror in which the Earth’s (or another planet’s) civilization is collapsing or has collapsed.

Curtesy of Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction – Wikipedia

2. How do you write a post-apocalyptic fantasy?

Tip 1: There are many different types of apocalypse, so you must choose your apocalypse.

Tip 2: Create a logical connection between the type/strength/timeline of apocalypse and the type of world it creates.

And Tip 3: The flavor of your world should be determined by the types of people who survived the apocalypse.

Tip 4: Mix up the type of heroes/antiheroes in your story.

Tip 5: Keep your characters consistent with the time period that they are originally from.

And Tip 6: There will be smart and literate people after the apocalypse.

Tip 7: Know that your post-apocalyptic story is an embodiment of how you perceive human nature.

3. Is Game of Thrones post-apocalyptic?

Game of Thrones is not fantasy—it’s post-apocalyptic science fiction. You could argue the differences and similarities of fantasy and sci-fi until the world ends or Daenerys makes it to Westeros, whichever comes first. Apr 23, 2016

Curtesy of 4 Compelling ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Theories You Should Know