25 Best Modern Post-apocalyptic Books

From nuclear Armageddon to bio-engineered super plague, humankind has a timeless fascination with the end of the world. Humans have depressed about the end of the world ever since we made up the word “world,” and in the past twenty years or so, we’ve been genuinely concerned about it, based on how many post-apocalyptic books we’ve written. We’re stressed about war, viruses, natural global tragedies, genetically transformed humans, multiple flavors of zombies, computers run amok, you call it.

To help you pick between a massive choice of post-apocalyptic books, I’ve searched the web, my own bookshelves, and even something named a library, in order to bring you a collection of the 25 best post-apocalyptic books ever written.

This list focuses on books published in the 21st century, with a number of exceptions because those books were amazing and I felt like it.

Book CoverBook Name AuthorCheck Price
Eternity RoadJack McDevittCheck price
Things We Didn't See ComingSteven AmsterdamCheck price
BlindnessJose SaramagoCheck price
Bird BoxJosh MalermanCheck price
The Dog StarsPeter Heller
Into the ForestJean Hegland
The PassageJustin Cronin
The Zombie Survival GuideMax Brooks
Metro 2033Dmitry Glukhovsky
The SlynxTatyana Tolstaya
Swan SongRobert McCammon
The Children of MenP. D. James
Roadside PicnicArkady and Boris Strugatsky
WoolHugh Howey
The Atlantis GeneA.G. Riddle

1. Eternity Road

Eternity Road
Eternity Road

The Roadmakers left only ruins behind — but what magnificent ruins! Their concrete highways still cross the continent. Their cups, combs, and jewelry are found in every Illyrian home. They left behind a legend, too — a hidden sanctuary called Haven, where even now the secrets of their civilization might still be found.

Chaka’s brother was one of those who sought to find Haven and never returned. But now Chaka has inherited a rare Roadmaker artifact — a book called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court — which has inspired her to follow in his footsteps. Gathering an unlikely band of companions around her, Chaka embarks upon a journey where she will encounter bloodthirsty river pirates, electronic ghosts who mourn their lost civilization, and machines that skim over the ground and air. Ultimately, the group will learn the truth about their own mysterious past.

2.Things We Didn’t See Coming

Things We Didn’t See Coming
Things We Didn’t See Coming

Nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and winner of the Age Book of the Year, Things We Didn’t See Coming follows its narrator over three decades as he tries to survive in a world that becomes increasingly savage as cataclysmic events unfold. In the first story, “What We Know Now”, set on the eve of the millennium when the world as we know it is still recognizable, we reach the then nine-year-old narrator fleeing the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown.

The remaining stories capture the strange, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny, circumstances he encounters in the no-longer-simple act of survival: trying to protect squatters against floods in a place where the rain never stops, being harassed (and possibly infected) by a man sick with virulent flu, enduring a job interview with an unstable assessor, taking the gravely ill on adventure tours. But we see in each story that despite the violence and brutality of his days the narrator retains a hold on his essential humanity and humor.

Dark and darkly comic, Things We Didn’t See Coming is haunting, restrained, and gorgeously crafted, a stunning debut.

3. Blindness

Blindness
Blindness

A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers—among them, a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of our worst appetites and weaknesses—and humanity’s ultimately exhilarating spirit.

4. Bird Box

Bird Box
Bird Box

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

5. Into the Forest

Into the Forest
Into the Forest

Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.

Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, Into the Forest is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking novel of hope and despair set in a frighteningly plausible near-future America.

6. The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars
The Dog Stars

Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.

But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.

7. The Passage

The Passage
The Passage

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—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.

8. The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide
The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

1. Organize before they rise!
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer.
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

Don’t be carefree and foolish with your most precious asset—life. This book is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now without your even knowing it. The Zombie Survival Guide offers complete protection through trusted, proven tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones against the living dead. It is a book that can save your life.

9. Metro 2033

Metro 2033
Metro 2033

Artyom was born in the last days before the fire. Having never ventured beyond his Metro Station-City limits, one fateful event sparks a desperate mission to the heart of the Metro system, to warn the remnants of mankind of a terrible impending threat.

His journey takes him from the forgotten catacombs beneath the subway to the desolate wastelands above, where his actions will determine the fate of mankind. BURIED. ALIVE. It is now two decades since the planet was convulsed by the Final War, which flashed across the continents, engulfing all of them in an instant, to close the final chapter in our history. Deployed in this war, the most advanced inventions and greatest discoveries of the human genius drove the human race back into caves, submerging civilization forever in the impenetrable gloom of a final Dark Age.

Nowadays, in the year 2033, no one can recall any longer what triggered the hostilities. Absurd. But if you think for a moment, what does it matter who started it? Those who unleashed the war were the first to die… And the inheritance they left to us was a smoldering ember that used to be called the Earth. The entire world lies in ruins. The human race has been almost completely exterminated. Even cities that were not totally demolished were rendered unfit to live in by the radiation. And the rumors say that beyond the city limits lie boundless expanses of scorched desert and dense thickets of mutated forest.

10. The Slynx

The Slynx
The Slynx

Two hundred years after civilization ended in an event known as the Blast, Benedikt isn’t one to complain. He’s got a job—transcribing old books and presenting them as the words of the great new leader, Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe—and though he doesn’t enjoy the privileged status of a Murza, at least he’s not a serf or a half-human four-legged Degenerator harnessed to a troika. He has a house, too, with enough mice to cook up a tasty meal, and he’s happily free of mutations: no extra fingers, no gills, no cockscombs sprouting from his eyelids. And he’s managed—at least so far—to steer clear of the ever-vigilant Saniturions, who track down anyone who manifests the slightest sign of Freethinking, and the legendary screeching Slynx that waits in the wilderness beyond.

Tatyana Tolstaya’s The Slynx reimagines dystopian fantasy as a wild, horripilating amusement park ride. Poised between Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Burgess’s A Clockwork OrangeThe Slynx is a brilliantly inventive and shimmeringly ambiguous work of art: an account of a degraded world that is full of echoes of the sublime literature of Russia’s past; a grinning portrait of human inhumanity; a tribute to art in both its sovereignty and its helplessness; a vision of the past as the future in which the future is now.

11. Swan Song

Swan Song
Swan Song

In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, Earth’s last survivors have been drawn into a final battle between good and evil that will decide the fate of humanity. There’s Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets…Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station…and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with her gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army…beginning with Swan herself.

12. The Children of Men

The Children of Men
The Children of Men

The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.

Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future.

13. Roadside Picnic

Roadside Picnic
Roadside Picnic

Amazing. . . . The Strugatskys’ deft and supple handling of loyalty and greed, of friendship and love, of despair and frustration and loneliness [produces] a truly superb tale. . . . You won’t forget it -Theodore Sturgeon Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of the extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a “full empty” something goes terribly wrong. . . . First published in 1972 and immediately acclaimed as a science-fiction classic, Roadside Picnic is included on almost every list of the hundred greatest science-fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years. It was the basis for Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmic masterpiece Stalker and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games that have proven immensely popular. This brand new translation corrects many of the errors and omissions of the previous one. Finally, one of the greatest science fiction novels-and one of the most popular pieces of Russian fiction-is back in print in an authoritative version. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are the most famous and popular Russian writers of science fiction. Their books have been widely translated and have been made into a number of films. Arkady died in 1991; Boris lives in St. Petersburg.

14. Wool

Wool
Wool

In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

15. The Atlantis Gene

The Atlantis Gene
The Atlantis Gene

The first book of this trilogy isn’t technically post-apocalyptic, but the other books get there, so feel free to start with this one.

Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel discovers a mysterious structure buried deep within an iceberg. It has been there for thousands of years, and something is guarding it. Could it be the fabled city of Atlantis? Or is it something more dangerous?

At the same moment, in Jakarta, Indonesia, a brilliant geneticist named Kate Warner has just discovered a breakthrough treatment for autism. Or so she thinks. What she has found is far more deadly—for her and for the entire human race. Her work could unleash the next stage of human evolution. It might also hold the key to unlocking the mysterious structure off the coast of Antarctica.

On the other side of Jakarta, Agent David Vale is racing to uncover a conspiracy with far-reaching implications. But he’s out of time. His informant inside the conspiracy is dead. His own organization has been infiltrated, and his enemy has turned the hunt on him. Now he’s on the run. But when he receives a coded message related to an imminent attack, he risks everything to save the one person that can help him stop it: Dr. Kate Warner.