21 Top-Selling Books about the Apocalypse

Some say reading is an escape, but you might instead feel uncomfortably trapped when reading these top-selling books about the apocalypse. Whether the world’s end is bought on by disease, zombies, earthquakes, tsunamis, robots, drought, war, alien invasion, or some other yet-to-be thought out possibility, it always seems there will be somebody human left on the planet who is resilient and smart enough to get through it. We would all like to believe that person is us, but who would want to be the last person alive on Earth? Talk about a lonely end.

1.    The Stand by Stephen King

Indispensable in every list of apocalyptic books, The Stand by Stephen King is a behemoth of reading material with numerous threads and slews of characters. In a world ravaged by an aggressive strain of influenza that kills more than 99% of the population, the final encounter between good and evil will happen sooner than later. 

2.    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Despite the looming apocalypse, Station Eleven is able to make the dire circumstance seem hopeful. Much like in The Stand, the culprit of the vanishing civilization is a deadly flu pandemic. It doesn’t stop a group of entertainers from putting on one show after another in a wasteland. 

3.    World War Z by Max Brooks

The film, even with Brad Pitt in it, doesn’t do the book justice. In Max Brook’s original version of World War Z, an agent of the United Nations is compiling a guide to stay alive during a zombie apocalypse based on interviews with actual survivors. It is an outright fictional guide, but the documentary-style writing makes it feel realistic as the zombies close in around us.

4.    I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Again, the film (of the same title) based on the book takes too much liberty on the storyline and fails to deliver the same level of tension and urgency as Richard Matheson would have wanted. One of the likely reasons is an overflow of ideas that couldn’t be possibly cramped into a full-length feature. In the book, vampirism might be indeed the future of humanity. And vampires must feed!

5.    Severance by Ling Ma

The influenza in Ling Ma’s Severance does kill you in an instant. None of the infected display notable symptoms to prompt an immediate quarantine until it’s much too late. Instead, the disease lets everyone do their day-to-day activities until the very end when they rot away. The only person in New York City, perhaps the entire world, immune to the disease is Candace. 

6.    The Long Loud Silence by Wilson Tucker

A nuclear attack has destroyed everything and decimated the population east of the Mississippi River. The remaining few survivors are injected with some strain of a plague just to keep them alive. Gary doesn’t like the government’s decision to set up a militarized border, separating the sick east from the healthy west, and he wants to cross it.

7.    Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon

When a nuclear holocaust occurs, the world is suddenly on the brink of an all-out apocalypse. As if a devastated planet is not enough of a problem, Swan Song brings a demonic entity into the scene. It is an end-of-the-word moment intensified by the presence of pure evil.

8.    The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

Max Brooks lends some useful advice in the event of a zombie outbreak. The survival guide also offers an explanation about the possibility of acquiring remote land and turning it into a hospitable refuge until the undead decompose on their own. The most notable suggestion is that despite the eventual disappearance of zombies, the threat still lingers all around. 

9. The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya

About two centuries after an apocalyptic blast, Moscow endures constant winter. Most people suffer from genetic mutations and can barely do anything to sustain life. Benedikt is among the few exceptions. He is healthy and employed. His job is to transcribe speeches delivered by the leader of the decimated nation. But while on a routine research mission to the Oldeners’ library, everything takes a drastic and unexpected turn. 

10. Zone One by Colson Whitehead

New York City is not the vibrant dynamic city it used to be. It is now a wasteland inhabited by zombies and helpless survivors. Now that the actual zombies have been almost completely wiped out, the government organizes sweeper teams to clear the streets from the still hungry stragglers. Manhattan is going to be the first reclaimed area, dubbed Zone One. 

11. Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

Something must have happened earlier before the story starts because the narrator claims to be the last woman alive. She keeps on typing whatever thought she has just to keep her mind occupied. But if there are, in fact, no other women, then humanity is in for a real treat. 

12. Blindness by José Saramago, tr. Giovanni Pontiero

It doesn’t take tons of space debris plunging to the ground, irreversible climate change, or nuclear war for the world to end. A sudden epidemic of an incurable condition, say like blindness, will do just fine. José Saramago’s experimental prose gives a stark warning of humanity’s unbound capability to destroy the planet when they can only see darkness. 

13. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hig lives in a hanger with his dog and the unfriendly gunman named Bangley. There is not much of a hope left after “the Blood,” a contagious disease, has claimed the lives of billions of people all around the world. Most of those who survive are not very nice people, anyway. His determination to look for a better place to live in more preferable conditions is sparked by a strange radio transmission.

14. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: alas babylon

A small town in Florida is the only surviving part of the United States following a destructive war against the Soviet Union. The tiny community is hopeful about starting a new life in the nuclear-devastated radioactive nation. 

15. The Last Man by Mary Shelley

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: the last man

When the book was first published in 1826, it received startlingly negative reviews from critics, citing the content as sickening and that the author had a polluted taste. By modern standard, however, the premise of The Last Man is similar to I Am Legend where a virus outbreak has decimated the population to only one man.

16. Afterland by Lauren Beukes

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: afterland

The year 2023 marks a time when a pandemic kills 99% of men (not women). A member of the remaining 1% is a preteen Miles. In such a precarious time for any boy and man out there, his mother Cole will do everything in her power to keep her son safe from evil women whose only desire is to make Miles a sex object or reproductive resource. 

17. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: into the forest

Nell and Eva are trapped in a remote woods in northern California after the collapse of the civilization. They know there are people out there but are unsure whether they should contact other survivors. Should they leave the safety of the woods to look for a better place that may not exist?

18. Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: things we didn't see coming

All the gloomy predictions and paranoia around Y2K have materialized. The narrator in the book describes his life from childhood to adulthood living in an increasingly dangerous world where society loses its positive aspects.

19. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: book of m

A weird form of apocalypse known as the “Forgetting,” has made people unable to have memories and shadows. Another side effect is the tendency to display erratic and violent behavior. Ory and Max are trying to navigate the new reality while they struggle to stay alive. 

20. Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: eternity road

Set in the future world, 1700 years after a devastating plague that killed nearly everyone in North America, a new civilization arises in the wasteland. However, they have no idea how the previous civilization was able to build roads and cities. 

21. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

top-selling Books about the Apocalypse: robopocalypse

A brilliant scientist creates a sentient artificial intelligence named Archos, which apparently is too smart for its own good. Archos kills the scientist and devises a plan to save the world from humanity. 

There are SO MANY ways for the world to end! What if they all happened at the same time? That would be fun, eh? What are your thoughts on the apocalypse? Think it will happen in your lifetime? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know about. 

1. Is the Walking Dead apocalyptic?

Yes, but it’s also dystopian, as the people who are still alive often turn out to be more dangerous than the zombies.

2. Is there a new Walking Dead? 

The eleventh and final season of The Walking Dead, an American post-apocalyptic horror television series on AMC, premiered on August 22, 2021, and will consist of 24 episodes.


The Walking Dead (season 11) – Wikipedia

3. Are zombies always a part of apocalyptic literature?

Not always, though they are a popular problem to deal with. Other problems revolve around getting/keeping food or water, finding a safe place to live, dealing with the new world leaders, and more.