Post-apocalyptic books give readers a rare opportunity—the opportunity to see what horrors might exist after civilization has crumbled, and only remnants of humanity remain. They give the reader a look into human nature that we truly hope most of our readers won’t get to see in real life. This makes this form of fiction not only entertaining but also insightful, and it’s the reason why we’ve decided to review some of the best post-apocalyptic books that are currently available. Although it’s impossible to cover the hundreds of great novels that can be found in this genre, we feel that we can offer our readership a glimpse at the very cream of the crop.
Quick Summary of the Best Post Apocalyptic Books
- Editor’s Choice
The Stand By Stephen King (Amazon) – Review
- Also Recommended
The Road By Cormac McCarthy (Amazon) – Review
- Also Consider
I Am Legend By Richard Matheson (Amazon) – Review
Editor’s Choice: The Stand By Stephen King
There is no other author that’s better suited to writing a dystopian, post-apocalyptic book than Stephen King. He is the author of more than 97 books, many of which illustrate the horror of common everyday things such as home, family, and religion, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his take on the end of the world is one of the best books of fiction to cover this genre. It’s a book that is most certainly going to not only make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, but also give the reader a fresh perspective on what life might be like at the end of civilization.
In this book, a virus escapes from a Department of Defense laboratory and turns into the virus that would take down all of human civilization. But this book isn’t just about a plague that kills 99% of the world’s population, but it’s also about the community that rises from the ashes and tries to start again. A community that eventually has to face the evil that has also arisen in a post-societal world—an evil that they must eventually face down and defeat if the human race has even the slightest hope of survival in this brutal new world.
This book was originally published in 1978 and quickly became one of the most loved Stephen King books ever written. An apocalyptic story of good versus evil that will keep the reader entertained while scaring them silly at the same time. Although this is a gigantic book that’s 1152-pages long and has been updated in 1990 from its original 1978 incarnation, it’s a book that has more content than the original and is likely to keep the reader engaged at every single turn of the page. For anyone looking for a book that provides a real post-apocalyptic experience and is told by a master storyteller, then they’re probably going to want to read this book.
Also Recommended: The Road By Cormac McCarthy
Even though most people are probably more familiar with the movie The Road–a movie starring Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, and Kodi Smit-McPhee—the book is a whole lot better. It tells the story of a father who tries to protect his son after an unnamed event is causing plant and animal life to die off. It’s on this planet that is in the process that the father has to not only protect his son from this dangerous new world but also has to protect himself from the bleakness of the situation they find themselves in.
Although this book is written in searing prose that some readers might find difficult to read, it’s a writing style that seems well suited to this dark story. The writing style allows the characters’ emotions to ebb through, all while giving it somewhat of a detached and mystical connotation. The reader is capable of feeling the fear, the hunger, and the loss suffered by these characters in a way that seems almost personal. Few books are capable of resonating with the reader as well as this one. In our opinion, it’s a book that everyone should take the time to read.
For some of our readers who aren’t familiar with the author of this book, Cormac McCarthy, let us give you a brief biography of him. He was born Charles McCarthy, Jr., on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and served in the U.S Air Force from 1953 to 1956. Some of the books he’s written include Blood Meridian, Outer Dark, No Country For Old Men, and All The Pretty Horses. He is known as a southern gothic writer who is a master storyteller and writes in a sparse and extremely unique writing style that’s free of all but the most basic of punctuation.
Also Consider: I Am Legend By Richard Matheson
I Am Legend is a book by Richard Matheson that centers around the main protagonist,one Robert Neville, who is the last person on earth. But that’s not the horrifying part of the book. What’s terrifying is that this character has to slog through the destroyed ruins of civilization to seek out the sleeping undead during the day, all while protecting himself at night.
As you might have guessed, the evil in this book is vampire-like creatures that have replaced the human race. Although it might seem like a very straightforward book, its’ twist and turns keep the reader engaged and the ending is a revelation that many people won’t see coming from a mile away. Do you think you can survive as the lone man against a world of vampires? Well, read this book and find out.
For some of our readers, the name of the author might not be familiar, so let’s give you some information on him, so you have an understanding of his writing qualifications. Richard Matheson was born on February 20, 1926, and died on June 23, 2013. During his time as a writer, he wrote several important works, and many of them would eventually become movies. Some of the books her wrote include: The Shrinking Man, A Stir Of Echoes, What Dreams May Come, and Hell House. He also wrote several Twilight Zone episodes.
Before we end this review, we should probably state that many people will remember the name of this book from one of the many movies based upon it, but most recently, the I Am Legend movie starring Will Smith. If you’ve seen this movie, then you can rest assured that the book is a whole other animal and the two have little in common. If you haven’t seen the movie, then be sure to read the book first. That will give you a better appreciation for the movie once you do see it.
A Guide To Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
If we’ve done our job properly, then just about everyone will find a post-apocalyptic book on our list to choose the one that’s right for them. However, we also happen to understand that not all of us want the same things, so some people may want something a little different from the smorgasbord that we’ve selected. That is why we’ve decided to write this guide. Hopefully, it will help all of our readers find the book that’s right for them.
The Types of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
When it comes to this genre, there are several different sub-genres that the reader might want to consider. Some of the more common sub-genres include Alien Invasion, Astronomical Disaster, Environmental Disaster, Modern Technology Failures, Pandemics, and War. Let’s take a closer look at these sub-genres, so we can give examples of some of the works that we like in each one.
This sub-genre includes novels in which aliens attack earth and destroy civilization, or by the mere interaction with an alien culture, humanity is destroyed. For example, in the 1953 science fiction classic Childhood’s End, contact with alien cultures causes humans to develop power that eventually ends up destroying the planet. Other alien post-apocalyptic books include:
- The Screwfly Solution By Alice Sheldon
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy By Douglas Adams
The stories in this sub-genre all center around astronomical disasters that end up destroying human civilization. This can include meteor or asteroid strikes, cosmic rays, or some other extraterrestrial event that destroys humanity. Some of the examples of this sub-genre include:
- When Worlds Collide By Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer
- One In Three Hundred By J.T McIntosh
- Lucifer’s Hammer By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
- The Remnants Book Series By K.A. Applegate
Failures Of Modern Technology
In this sub-genre, it’s not an extraterrestrial threat that destroys humanity but is a disaster that results from the failure of mankind’s technology. This can be a sudden failure of power, physics yielding way to magic, or sometimes even the literal failure of life-sustaining systems. Some of the best examples of this sub-genre include:
- The Machine Stops By E.M. Forster
- Ravage By Rene Barjavel
- Ariel by Steve Boyette
Although sometimes this genre can feel too real for some people, it’s a rich fiction sub-genre that gives the writer a great vehicle for writing some of the best post-apocalyptic fiction around. Some of the books that can be found in this genre include:
- Albert Camus The Plague
- The Masque Of The Red Death By Edgar Allan Poe
- The Andromeda Strain By Michael Crichton
Post Apocalyptic War Stories
The last sub-genre of post-apocalyptic stories includes the scenario where war destroys human civilization that basically changes it for the worst. Giving an overview of this genre is almost impossible because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of novels in this genre. Some of the most notable ones, however, include:
- World War Z By Mel Brooks
- After By John Prescott
- Uprising By Chris Harris
Post Apocalyptic Movies
Okay, now that we’ve discussed all we possibly can about post-apocalyptic books, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the post-apocalyptic movies that we like. Although most of the movies on the following list are based on books, some of them aren’t. Let’s take a quick look at some of these movies before we begin to wrap up our little guide.
- Bird Box
- Zombieland Double Tap
- Escape From New York
- The Book Of Eli
- After Earth
- Mortal Engines
- 12 Monkeys
- Night Of The Living Dead
- Dawn Of The Dead
- Day Of The Dead
- 28 Days Later
- 28 Weeks Later
- Mad Max
- Independence Day
- I Am Legend
- Steel Dawn
As anyone can see by going over our guide and looking at our list of the best post-apocalyptic books, there’s is something for everyone in this genre. And this genre is not only exciting, but it can also help the reader improve their understanding of real-life disasters.
If there’s one thing that can be said about this genre, it’s that they really get people thinking about how they might prepare themselves for a crisis of some time. It also helps people think about how frail some of their human institutions might actually be. It’s this thought-provoking inflection that can help the reader better understand not only how human emotion works but how it relates to the rest of society. And that can be beneficial to all of us who take the time to reflect upon ourselves.