19 Best Zombie Books

Possibly the best monster invention of the past century, zombies, well, refuse to die.

Since most zombie stories give them non-magical origins, I’m stretching the definition of science fiction to put them in this list. But more importantly, they’re just fun stories.

 

19
Monster Island
by David Wellington – 2004

It’s one month after a global disaster.

The most “developed” nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive—in places rife with high-powered weaponry, such as Somalia.

In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. One amongst them is different; though he shares their appetites, he has retained his human intelligence. Alone among the mindless zombies, Gary Fleck is an eyewitness to the end of the world, and perhaps the evil genius behind it all.

From the other side of the planet, a small but heavily-armed group of schoolgirls-turned-soldiers has come in search of desperately needed medicine. Dekalb, a former United Nations weapons inspector, leads them as their local guide. Ayaan, a crack shot at the age of sixteen, will stop at nothing to complete her mission. They think they are prepared for anything.

On Monster Island they will find that there is something worse even than being undead, as Gary learns the true price of survival.

“[O]ffers some provocative thoughts about the purpose of life and death underlaid with some ultra-dark humor.”
—Publishers Weekly

18
Night of the Living Trekkies
by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall – 2010

Jim Pike was the world’s biggest Star Trek fan until a tour of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in the human race. Now he sleepwalks through his job as assistant manager of a small Houston hotel.

But when hundreds of fans descend upon his lobby for a Star Trek convention, Jim finds himself surrounded by Klingons, Vulcans, Ferengi…and savage, flesh-eating zombies!

As bloody corpses stumble to life, Jim must deliver a ragtag crew of Trekkies to safety. Dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers, their prime directive is to survive. But how long can they last in the ultimate Kobayashi Maru?

17
Handling the Undead
by John Ajvide Lindqvist – 2005

Something peculiar is happening. While the city is enduring a heat wave, people are finding that their electric appliances won’t stay switched off. And everyone has a blinding headache. Then the terrible news breaks; in the city morgue, the newly dead are waking.

David always knew his wife was far too good for him. But he never knew how lost he’d be without her until the night she died. Now she’s gone and he’s alone. But when he goes to identify her body, she opens her eye…

Across the city, grieving families find themselves able to see their loved ones one last time. But are these creatures really them? How long can this last? And what deadly price will they have to pay for the chance to see their spouses and children just one more time?

“A unique and humanistic take on the undead that has a place alongside thoughtful horror novels like World War Z.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

16
The End Games
by T. Michael Martin – 2013

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in the Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia—armed with only their rifle and their love for each other—the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good. But the Game is changing. The Bellows are evolving. The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules. And the brothers will never be the same.

“Martin’s debut is the best of the undead bunch, meshing relentless action, intelligence, and emotion…Very. Exciting. Book.”
—Booklist, starred review

15
This is Not a Test
by Courtney Summers – 2012

It’s the end of the world.

Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life―and death―inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

“Intriguing…. It takes some artistic guts to set a portrayal of a suicidal teenager amid attacking zombies, but Summers has a history of risky choices…. Unusual and absorbing.”
―Kirkus

14
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan – 2009

In Mary’s world there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now, she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

“A bleak but gripping story…Poignant and powerful.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

13
The Reapers Are the Angels
by Alden Bell – 2010

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption.

Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

“Bell (a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, author of Hummingbirds) has created an exquisitely bleak tale and an unforgettable heroine whose eye for beauty and aching need for redemption somehow bring wonder into a world full of violence and decay.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

12
Warm Bodies
by Isaac Marion – 2010

“R” is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

“Gruesome yet poetic…highly original.”
—The Seattle Times

11
Aftertime
by Sophie Littlefield – 2011

Awakening in a bleak landscape, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls enduring something terrible. Having no idea how many days—or weeks—have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: her daughter, Ruthie, has vanished. And with her, nearly all of civilization. Instead of winding through the once-lush hills, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters—people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.

In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider—much less one who bears the telltale scars of a Beater attack—but she finds safety with an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. And she’ll need him more than ever when his ragged band of survivors learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, weapons in a brave new world…

“Littlefield has a gift for pacing, her adroit and detailed world-building going down easy amid page-turning action and evocative, sensual, harrowing descriptions that bring every paragraph of this thriller to life.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

10
Breathers
by S.G. Browne – 2009

Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence.

But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography.

When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket to the SPCA to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.

“Browne’s black comedy debut brilliantly reinvents zombie culture for the 21st century.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

9
My Life as a White Trash Zombie
by Diana Rowland – 2011

Angel Crawford is a Loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in a horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the county morgue—and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she’s hungriest!

Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.

“An intriguing mystery and a hilarious mix of the horrific and mundane aspects of zombie life open a promising new series from Rowland…. Humor and gore are balanced by surprisingly touching moments as Angel tries to turn her (un)life around.”
—Publishers Weekly

8
The Walking Dead
by Robert Kirkman – 2003

This is a strong collection for any fan of the Emmy Award-winning television series on AMC: over one thousand pages chronicling the beginning of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning continuing story of survival horror—from Rick Grimes’ waking up alone in a hospital, to him and his family seeking solace on Hershel’s farm, and the controversial introduction of Woodbury’s despot, the Governor. In a world ruled by the dead, we are finally forced to finally start living.

7
The Passage
by Justin Cronin – 2010

Amy was abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued, and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her.

As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

“The type of big, engrossing read that will have you leaving the lights on late into the night.”
—The Dallas Morning News

6
Rot & Ruin
by Jonathan Maberry – 2010

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

“The delineation between man and monster, survivor and victim is fiercely debated in Maberry’s thoughtful, postapocalyptic coming-of-age tale…In turns mythic and down-to-earth, this intense novel combines adventure and philosophy to tell a truly memorable zombie story.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

5
Feed
by Mira Grant – 2010

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives: the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

“Shunning misogynistic horror tropes in favor of genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

4
Zombie Fallout
by Mark Tufo – 2010

It was a flu season like no other. With fears of contracting the H1N1 virus running rampant throughout the country, people lined up in droves to try an attain one of the coveted vaccines.

What was not known was the effect this largely untested, rushed to market, inoculation was to have on the unsuspecting throngs. Within days, feverish folk throughout the country, convulsed, collapsed and died, only to be re-born.

With a taste for brains, blood and bodies, these modern day zombies scoured the lands for their next meal. Overnight the country became a killing ground for the hordes of zombies that ravaged the land.

When disaster strikes, Mike a self-proclaimed survivalist, does his best to ensure the safety and security of those he cares for.

Encircled in a seemingly safe haven called Little Turtle, Mike and his family together with the remnants of a tattered community while not fighting each other, fight against a relentless, ruthless, unstoppable force. This last bastion of civilization has made its final stand. God help them all.

3
Zone One
by Colson Whitehead – 2011

A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown’s Fort Wonton have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One.

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the three-person civilian sweeper units tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Zone One unfolds over three surreal days in which Spitz is occupied with the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD), and the impossible task of coming to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go terribly wrong…

“Uniquely affecting… A rich mix of wartime satire and darkly funny social commentary… Whether charged with bleak sadness or bone-dry humor, sentences worth savoring pile up faster than the body count.”
—The Los Angeles Times

2
The Girl With All the Gifts
by M. R. Carey – 2014

The Girl With All the Gifts is a wonderful book, which is odd praise for a story about zombies. But it’s surprisingly thoughtful, and at times, even tender, all while managing to be a fast-paced thriller. Every day I looked forward to reading it.

In a post-apocalyptic England, Melanie, along with other children, is imprisoned in a windowless bunker. They are all strapped down and muzzled whenever they leave their cells. No adult is allowed to touch them under any circumstances. Given who these children are, these are reasonable precautions. Then the installation is attacked, and Melanie is freed along with several adults, some who want her alive, some who want her dead, and others who want her dissected.

“Unique and terrifying.”
―Booklist

1
World War Z
by Max Brooks – 2006

This book is nothing like (and significantly better than) the movie.

We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the pandemic.

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

“Will spook you for real.”
—The New York Times Book Review

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