They’re perhaps the only monster that is more terrifying in swarms than individually. Zombies have been a staple of chilling stories about the dead rising from their graves to consume the flesh of the living. Sometimes they’re slow beings as they amble about the world with limp limbs and long groans of pining for the flesh to munch. Sometimes they’re speedy creatures who are so bound by instinct they race towards their prey with frightening speed. And sometimes they’re even sympathetic figures who are capable of romance in the more unorthodox of tales. While there’s no shortage of these monsters in such visual media, ranging from the quirks of Zombieland to the long-running drama of The Walking Dead, there are also plenty of books on the subject of zombies. Here are a few of the most notable titles for those who are willing to let the decaying dead invade our imaginations. Whether you want to get lost in the survival of a post-apocalyptic world or desire a genre novel with a bit of zombie peppering, there’s quite the variety present to please any reader seeking some undead horror.
The Girl With All the Gifts
written by M.R. Carey
Published in 2014
Melanie is a girl who grows up in a dystopian world she doesn’t quite understand. She is educated but under the strict guard of armed security who fears her. Though an exceptionally smart 10-year-old girl, her teacher fears she doesn’t have long in this world for being the host of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungal infection. This infection essentially turns humans into zombies, referred to as the hungries. Melanie does indeed eat flesh if given the chance but later comes to understand that she may not be the dangerous one in a world that has been turned upside down with paranoia and violence. Nominated for an Edgar Award, The Girl With All the Gifts was quickly adapted into a film in 2016, directed by Colm McCarthy and starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, and Sennia Nanua.
written by Isaac Marion
Published in 2010
If vampires could be transformed into young adult heartthrobs with romantic tension of twilight, the same effect was bound to transpire for other monsters. Warm Bodies is the story of a zombie boy and a human girl making a heartfelt connection amid a zombie apocalypse. The zombie goes by the name R, though he can’t remember his real name from a time when he wasn’t undead. He’s not like most zombies in that he’d rather cozy up with Sinatra than dine on the frightened and fleeing humans. But then he meets the human Julie and his outlook on undead life has changed forever. Could romance be in the air? Or is that just the smell of rotting flesh from the hordes of the undead? This bizarre and quirky story of zombie love was later adapted into a feature film in 2013 that was directed by Jonathan Levine and starred Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, and Dave Franco. Warm Bodies is not the only zombie romance novel out there but it’s certainly one of the most uproarious and weirdly romantic titles all things considered.
written by Stephen King
Published in 2006
Clay Riddell is a graphic artist in Boston, enjoying the autumn afternoon when he finds himself caught up at the end of the world. Starting with the ringing of his cell phone, Clay is horrified to discover that humans are reverting to the instincts of brutal savagery. Unexpected terror reigns down in New England with a mysterious signal that may be at the heart of the matter. And it doesn’t help that Clay is currently trying to reconnect with his son. The story was adapted into a film in 2006 starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
written by Colson Whitehead
Published in 2011
There are so many stories that begin at the start of a zombie apocalypse that it’s refreshing to have something like Zone One where it takes place towards the end of the zombie uprising. After Earth has been devastated by the dead, civilization begins to rebuild as the plague of flesh-eaters dies down. A provisional government is established in Buffalo and they plan to set their sights on expansion into Manhattan. In their first captured area of Zone One, civilian Mark Spitz goes about his restoration with duties with great mundanity. That is, until, something goes horribly wrong.
written by Zoraida Córdova
Published in 2018
As part of the Brooklyn Brujas fantasy novel series, Bruja Born follows the dark magical exploits of the witch Lula Mortiz. Though she has the power to heal, her recent bouts have left her feeling as though she is beyond repair. Saddened by the death of her boyfriend, Maks, she conjures a spell to bring him back from the dead. But her attempt to revive love has unearthed far more than she realizes with an army of the undead soon arise to threaten the entire planet.
World War Z
written by Max Brooks
Published in 2006
Also known as An Oral History of the Zombie War, this zombie anthology novel tells the story of a zombie apocalypse from the perspective of multiple characters. If this format sounds familiar it’s because it’s essentially a continuation of Brooks’s more analytical zombie book, The Zombie Survival Guide. This book covers the grander human angle of when society crumbles amid zombies, taking place in China, the United States, Greece, Brazil, Barbados, Israel, Finland, Antarctica, and outer space. The novel was so popular it garnered a big-screen adaptation in 2013 starring Brad Pitt and even a video game in 2019.
written by David Moody
Published in 2001
In this first book of the survival horror series, a band of survivors joining forces to live on another die in the wake of a disease that has claimed 99% of humanity. And all of that went down in just a day. With the infected dead just starting to rise, the few humans remaining find themselves outnumbered by hordes of zombies. A bit of writing twist in this department, Autumn doesn’t feature the familiar tropes of this genre by never once mentioning the word zombie or grotesque violence. Think of the tone of Night of the Living Dead but with a level of fear more comparable to that of War of the Worlds.
written by Jonathan Maberry
Published in 2009
Baltimore detective Joe Ledger finds himself on a Homeland Security task force where he must assassinate a terrorist…twice. He soon discovers a plot by terrorists to unleash a bio-weapon that could unleash a zombie apocalypse upon the world. Less of a zombie horror story and more of a Tom Clancy thriller, Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero plays like a zombie prequel with the more brilliant building than gruesome zombie gore.
Handling the Undead
written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Published in 2005
A heatwave sweeping through Stockholm is experiencing some strange events. The problem lies in the power where it turns out that the people can’t switch off their lights or turn off their appliances. At the same time, the dead start awakening in the city morgue and start bringing terror to the community. The book is less about the zombie violence and more about the connections between parents and children, the chaos of disorder, and dealing with grief.
written by Brian Keene
Published in 2003
As the dead now walk among the living, Jim Thurmond seeks to survive in a world where the clever zombies consume the fleshy populace. But Jim also wants to be reunited with his son who is hundred of miles away with a fate that is uncertain. To navigate such a rocky road, he teams up with a preacher, prostitute, and scientist to stage this rescue operation. But they may not be prepared for the road ahead of them or their final destination.
written by Mira Grant
Published in 2010
Mira Grant’s Feed is set in the speculative future of 2014 where this good and bad news. The good news is that cancer and the common cold are now medical issues of the past. The bad news is that this scientific development has led to a zombie outbreak. Skip ahead 20 years to where the bloggers duo Georgia and Shaun Mason seek to uncover the truth to what to virus of zombies and how it began. The hunt for the truth, however, may be more dangerous than they thought.
The Reapers Are the Angels
written by Alden Bell
Published in 2010
It’s been 25 years since America has collapsed under the weight of a zombie outbreak that has reduced humanity to a few. The remaining survivors struggle to hold themselves up in collectives that defend themselves against the undead. The wandering woman Temple seeks to find a place to lay her head in a chaotic world where she can’t remember an Earth without zombies. But there may be a dark past she’ll have to confront in this brutal tale of adventure and survival in a world of hopelessness.
written by Mark Tufo
Published in 2010
What started as the H1N1 virus soon transformed into a full-blown outbreak caused by the vaccine for the virus. Soon, fevers turned to flesh-eating as the patients soon died and came back to life with violent instincts. It’s now up to survivalist Michael Talbot to lead his friends and family through a zombie apocalypse, trying to maintain safety and order in this first entry of the Zombie Fallout trilogy. As Mike struggles to maintain control of the tattered community of Little Turtle, he must find himself contending with the evil Zombie Queen with powers he may not be ready to combat.
Written by D.J. Molles
Published in 2012
Captain Lee Harden of the United States Army has been preparing for the day when humanity falls. With his bunker all stocked up and ready for the end of the world, his preparation pays off when a deadly plague sweeps around the globe, wiping out 90% of the planet’s people with a bacteria-based virus that eats away at the brain. When civilization finally falls and humans no longer walk the streets, Lee ventures out of his bunker into a deadly wasteland, filled with undead creatures who crave his blood. This is the first novel in The Remaining book series.
This is Not a Test
written by Courtney Summers
Published in 2012
Six students of Cortege High find themselves seeking shelter in their own school as the world crumbles amid the dead coming back to life. They need to keep the zombies at bay as merely one bite can transform them into mindless beasts of bloodthirsty intentions. But this may be good news for Sloane Price, considering she has felt her world was going down even before this zombie outbreak. Though she wants to die, she may reconsider with the five other students she is paired with when they fight so hard to survive, even if it seems like there’s nothing left to live for in a world so grim. This is the first novel in the This is Not a Test book series.