20 Of The Best Zombie Novels

Zombie novels – and the zombie fiction genre more broadly has shambled its way into the hearts and nightmares of audiences worldwide, offering a captivating blend of horror, survival, and social commentary. Stemming from the rich tapestry of folklore and cultural fears surrounding the undead, zombie fiction has evolved from its humble origins to encompass a diverse array of narratives, from apocalyptic epics to intimate character studies.

At its core, zombie fiction serves as a mirror to society, reflecting our deepest anxieties about mortality, societal collapse, and the fragility of human civilization. Through tales of desperate survival, moral ambiguity, and the resilience of the human spirit, the genre explores themes of identity, community, and the struggle to retain one’s humanity in the face of overwhelming darkness. Whether serving as a source of visceral thrills or provoking introspection, zombie fiction continues to endure, infecting new generations of readers and viewers with its potent blend of terror and fascination.

Here are twenty zombie novels that will raise the hairs on your neck:

“The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham, 1951

Kicking off a list of zombie novels with a book about killer plants may seem an odd choice, but The Day of the Triffids is included as the triffids behave like the undead and evokie  the same response from the living. A bizarre cosmic event blinds most of humanity, leaving them vulnerable to the deadly attacks of Triffids—venomous, mobile plants capable of killing and consuming humans. As society crumbles, a small group of survivors must navigate a world overrun by both the blind and the menacing Triffids. Wyndham’s narrative is a chilling exploration of humanity’s fragility and the unpredictable nature of biological threats, offering a cautionary tale about the consequences of tampering with nature.

“I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson, 1954

In this classic tale, Robert Neville appears to be the last living human in a world overrun by vampiric creatures. Neville spends his days scavenging for supplies and fortifying his home against the relentless hordes. As he grapples with loneliness and despair, Neville becomes a legend, both feared and revered by the new inhabitants of the world. Matheson’s exploration of isolation and survival in a post-apocalyptic landscape remains a cornerstone of the zombie genre, blending horror with profound philosophical themes.

“The Rising” by Brian Keene, 2003

When a government-created virus reanimates the dead, bringing about a zombie apocalypse, Jim Thurmond embarks on a dangerous journey to rescue his son from the clutches of the undead. Along the way, Jim encounters various survivors, both friend and foe, as he battles not only the zombies but also his own inner demons. Keene’s novel is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled ride through a world turned upside down, filled with visceral horror and heart-pounding action.

“The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks, 2003

Presented as a comprehensive guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse, Max Brooks offers detailed strategies for everything from fortifying your home to navigating urban environments. Filled with practical advice and theoretical scenarios, this book serves as both an entertaining read and a practical handbook for those preparing for the undead uprising.

“Handling the Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist, 2005

Following a mysterious electrical surge in Stockholm, the deceased begin to reanimate, returning to their loved ones in a bizarre state of existence. As society grapples with the implications of the undead’s return, families must confront difficult choices about how to care for their resurrected relatives. Lindqvist’s novel delves into themes of grief, love, and the blurred lines between life and death, offering a thought-provoking exploration of human nature in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

“World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks, 2006

Through a series of interviews, Brooks paints a global picture of a world ravaged by a zombie pandemic. From the initial outbreak to the desperate attempts at containment and eventual resurgence, the narrative spans continents and cultures, offering diverse perspectives on survival and loss. Brooks’s meticulous attention to detail and his innovative storytelling approach make “World War Z” a gripping and immersive read, blending horror with social commentary to create a compelling examination of human resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.

“The First Days” by Rhiannon Frater, 2008

In the chaotic aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, Jenni and Katie form an unlikely alliance as they navigate the perilous streets of Texas in search of safety. As they encounter other survivors, face off against hordes of the undead, and grapple with their own fears and traumas, Jenni and Katie must rely on each other to survive. Frater’s novel is a thrilling and emotional journey of friendship, resilience, and hope amidst the ruins of civilization.

“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan, 2009

In a world surrounded by a forest filled with ravenous undead, Mary has grown up within the safety of her village’s walls, dreaming of the ocean beyond. But when the barrier is breached, Mary and a small group of survivors must navigate the treacherous forest in search of sanctuary. Ryan’s novel is a captivating blend of horror and coming-of-age drama, exploring themes of resilience, sacrifice, and the pursuit of hope in a world overrun by darkness.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith, 2009

A reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic novel, this book infuses the story of the Bennet sisters with a zombie apocalypse. As the sisters navigate the complexities of courtship and society, they also contend with the undead menace lurking in the English countryside. Grahame-Smith’s blend of Regency romance and zombie horror offers a fresh and entertaining take on a beloved literary classic.

“Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament” by S.G. Browne, 2009

In a world where zombies are struggling for acceptance and rights, Andy Warner finds himself navigating the challenges of unlife, from prejudice to dating. As Andy forms connections with other undead individuals, he begins to question society’s perceptions of what it means to be alive. Browne’s novel offers a humorous and thought-provoking exploration of identity and belonging in a world where the lines between life and death are blurred.

“Patient Zero” by Jonathan Maberry, 2009

When a terrorist group unleashes a bioengineered virus that turns its victims into homicidal maniacs, Joe Ledger, a Baltimore detective, is recruited into a covert government agency to combat the threat. As Ledger races against time to stop the spread of the virus, he uncovers a conspiracy that could lead to global devastation. Maberry’s novel is a pulse-pounding thriller that combines elements of horror, science fiction, and espionage, offering a compelling exploration of the human capacity for both heroism and villainy in the face of an existential threat.

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin, 2010

In a post-apocalyptic America, a government experiment gone wrong unleashes a viral outbreak that turns humans into vampiric creatures known as “virals.” As the world collapses, a young girl named Amy becomes humanity’s last hope for survival. Spanning centuries and multiple perspectives, Cronin’s epic novel blends elements of horror, science fiction, and fantasy to create a gripping tale of courage, sacrifice, and the enduring power of hope in the face of extinction.

“Zombie Fallout” by Mark Tufo, 2010

When a zombie outbreak sweeps across America, ex-Marine Michael Talbot must lead his family and a ragtag group of survivors in a desperate bid for survival. As they navigate a world overrun by the undead, facing both human and zombie threats, Talbot must confront his own fears and flaws to protect those he loves. Tufo’s novel blends dark humour with intense action, delivering a gripping tale of resilience and camaraderie in the face of apocalyptic horror.

“The Dead” by Charlie Higson, 2010

Set in a world where a mysterious illness has turned adults into flesh-craving monsters, a group of children must fend for themselves in the ruins of London. As they struggle to survive amidst the chaos and violence, they uncover dark secrets about the origins of the outbreak and the sinister forces at play. Higson’s novel masterfully blends horror with elements of adventure and coming-of-age, offering a thrilling and often harrowing tale of resilience and friendship in the face of unimaginable horror.

“Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion, 2010

In a world overrun by zombies, R is a young corpse who experiences an unexpected spark of life when he encounters Julie, a living human. As their unlikely relationship blossoms, R begins to regain his humanity, leading him on a journey of self-discovery and redemption. Marion’s novel offers a fresh twist on the zombie genre, blending romance with dark comedy and existential themes to create a poignant exploration of love, identity, and the power of connection in a world gone mad.

“The Reapers are the Angels” by Alden Bell, 2010

In a world overrun by the living dead, a young girl named Temple wanders the American South, seeking refuge and purpose amidst the chaos. As she navigates abandoned cities and treacherous landscapes, Temple confronts both the undead and the remnants of human cruelty. Bell’s lyrical prose and haunting imagery elevate this tale beyond typical zombie fiction, offering a poignant meditation on survival, redemption, and the enduring power of hope in a world consumed by darkness.

“The Dead-Tossed Waves” by Carrie Ryan, 2010

Set in the same world as “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” this novel follows Gabry, a girl living in a seaside town surrounded by the Forest of Hands and Teeth, where the undead roam. When Gabry’s world is shattered by a breach in the town’s barriers, she must venture into the forest on a dangerous journey to save the ones she loves. Ryan’s haunting prose and vivid world-building make this a compelling addition to the zombie genre, exploring themes of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

“The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor” by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, 2011

Delving into the backstory of one of the most iconic villains from “The Walking Dead” series, this novel follows the rise of Philip Blake as he transforms from a grieving father into the ruthless Governor. As society crumbles in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, Philip navigates a world filled with danger and despair, driven by a singular desire for power and control. Kirkman and Bonansinga deliver a compelling exploration of morality and the descent into darkness in a world where survival comes at a brutal cost.

“Zone One” by Colson Whitehead, 2011

Set in the aftermath of a devastating zombie apocalypse, “Zone One” follows Mark Spitz, a survivor tasked with clearing the undead from lower Manhattan. As he navigates the desolate streets, haunted by memories of loss and trauma, Mark grapples with the existential question of what it means to rebuild in a world teetering on the brink of collapse. Whitehead’s prose is both poetic and visceral, crafting a narrative that transcends the confines of the zombie genre to explore themes of identity, community, and the resilience of the human spirit.

“The Girl with All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey, 2014

In a dystopian future, humanity is on the brink of extinction due to a fungal infection that turns people into flesh-eating “hungries.” Among them is Melanie, a young girl with a remarkable intellect and a craving for human flesh. When the military base where she’s kept falls under siege, Melanie, along with a small group of survivors, embarks on a perilous journey to find safety and answers. Carey’s gripping narrative delves into themes of humanity, sacrifice, and the moral complexities of survival, delivering a thought-provoking twist on the traditional zombie narrative.


And that’s our list of the twenty best zombie novels. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any zombie fiction not on this list that you feel should make the list?

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