5 Must-Read Zombie Books

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 5, 2010

Vampires, vampires, vampires. I’m getting sick of vampires. There are plenty of other cool undead out there. We don’t need to spend all of our time focusing on vampires. Take zombies, for example. This week the movie Zombieland was released on DVD. It’s a great movie that was lost in the shadow of all the vampire hype. Don’t get me wrong, I like vampires, but for monsters that shun bright lights they’re sure spending a lot of time hogging the spotlight. So move over vampires, and let the zombies have some attention for a while.

My first exposure to zombies in pop culture was through movies. It wasn’t until recently that I started reading zombie fiction. I was looking for something a little bit more engaging than just people being chased by the mindless undead. I’d had plenty of that on the big screen. I wanted my zombie story to have some kind of twist, something that sets it apart from the classic Dawn of the Dead, we’re coming to eat your flesh, zombies. I found exactly what I was looking for in the zombies stories below. Each combines a unique spin on the zombie genre with an excellent story.

  1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

  2. If you’ve read it you’ll agree that this is the best zombie novel written to date. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and pick it up immediately. Whether you’re a fan of zombie stories or not, this is a must read.

    The novel is a collection of “real life” accounts from a diverse cross-section of people on how they survived the zombie war. A UN worker interviews as many people as possible to get the most accurate account of what happened. The interview subjects are from various social and economic backgrounds, range in age from the very young to the very old, and live in areas spanning the entire globe.

    This is the most realistic zombie story I know of. The people in this book seem real. They act and behave as you’d expect. There are no heroes, just regular people doing whatever it takes to survive.

    Score: 10 on a d10

  3. The Rising by Brian Keene

  4. At its heart, The Rising is about a father trying to find his son as the world is overrun by zombies. In this reality zombies are not mindless. As people die, their corpses are possessed by entities from another dimension. They come to our reality to destroy every living creature, not just mankind. They are organized and they have a purpose. Their bodies may be dead, but their minds are active. The sequel is called City of the Dead. It picks up seconds after the events in The Rising. Both are really good.

    Score: 9 on a d10

  5. Monster Island: A Zombie Novel by David Wellington

  6. The book begins after the majority of the world’s population is already infected and are zombies. A UN arms inspector and his family were in Africa when the dead began walking. They were lucky enough to be protected by a ruthless warlord. However, the warlord is sick and the father agrees to lead an expedition to the UN building in Manhattan to get AIDS medicine in exchange for his daughter’s safety.

    In New York a terrified medical student knows his chances of survival are slim. He speculates that the reason zombies are mindless is because their minds and bodies are starved of oxygen between death and reanimation. He hooks himself up to a ventilator and causes his own death. When he reanimates he’s amazed and horrified to find out he was right. Although revolted by what he’s become, he gets over it when he realizes that he can exert his will over the mindless drones walking the streets of Manhattan.

    There are two sequels, Monster Nation and Monster Planet. I haven’t read either, but got them both for Christmas. If they’re half as good as the first book I’ll be happy.

    Score: 9 on a d10

  7. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

  8. Were you a member of the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts when you were younger? Do you remember the Cub Book or the Scout Book. The Zombie survival guide is written in exactly that style. It’s full of easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks, and it’s got simple illustrations of objects and people performing those tasks.

    As I read this I thought that it was a very tongue-and-cheek take on the zombie phenomena. But as I read more I realized that Brooks is taking his material very, very seriously. He’s not mocking or condescending. He genuinely believes that when the zombies come, these instructions will save your life. And you know what, I believe him. I used the tactics and instructions described in The Zombie Survival Guide to create the Zombie Survival Flowchart.

    Because of this book, my wife began researching survival techniques. She’s stocked the basement with non-perishable food and essential tools. For Christmas last year she got us “go bags” that we could pick up and run with, just in case. For our anniversary I bought her a crowbar, the most essential and versatile tool required to survive, according to Brooks. Yes, that’s the kind of power this book possesses.

    Score: 10 on a d10

  9. The Walking Dead (Image Comics) by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

  10. I’ve only read a few of the early issues of The Walking Dead but it still makes my list. Everyone who knows me and my love of comics and all things zombie insists that I go back and get caught up on this series. There are collected trades in hard cover and soft cover available if you’d rather not pick these up one issue at a time.

    The series begins with a small town sheriff who awakens from being in a coma unaware that the zombie apocalypse has occurred while he was unconscious. He fights to survive while searching for his family. It’s a great story with amazing art.

    Score: 9 on a d10

There is plenty of zombie fiction out there. These are just my top 5 recommendations. I’ve heard good things about Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but I don’t think it’s something that I can get in to. Keeping in mind that we’re looking for stories about zombies – not mummies, liches, vampires or any other undead, what zombie books have you read and enjoyed?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sniderman February 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

Don’t forget The Living Dead – an anthology of zombie tales in Romero’s universe written by big names like King, Ellison, Barker, Lansdale, etc. Great stuff!
http://tinyurl.com/ygszxbv

One note: Two of your books were written by Max Brooks, so another tome may have been appropriate.
.-= Sniderman´s last blog ..So Who’s The Newest Member Of The Order Of The D30? =-.

2 Sandman February 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

The Zombie Survival Guide is also available as an audiobook, I think it’s a good alternative if you have your MP3 player with you all day like I do. I’ve listened to it and it’s enjoyable too.

Good review by the way.

3 Anythinghorror February 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Great list although I go back and forth about just how important World War Z actually is. I did enjoy it, but it’s more of a “human” novel and less a “zombie” novel. Yes its a zombie apocalypse that is the engine behind the entire novel, but the zombies are very marginalized. There really aren’t many horrific scenes that will have a horror fan going back and re-reading it over and over again.

I also found the style having a positive and negative effect. The “real life accounts” approach was a really unique approach. BUT I found that by simply having a guy being interviewed and telling us (the reader) what happened, it kind of took me out of the story. I was very aware I was reading a book and never got swept up into the book (unlike another book on your list, The Rising. I was completely involved and blown away with that one!!!).

World War Z is definitely worth reading and I did enjoy it, but I don’t know if I’d agree that its “the best zombie novel written to date.” I love your page!! I haven’t played D&D in a long time but would love to get back into it!!!
.-= Anythinghorror´s last blog ..Blog Update: New Features =-.

4 by_the_sword February 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Just wait. Zombies are becoming the new vampires.

5 Mike Greene February 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I enjoyed the Max Brooks zombie books, but my favorite zombie fiction novel is The Final Infection by Charles Clemons. It isn’t cheezy like most I’ve read and even with some blood and gore it was done with taste. It’s long, but well worth the read!

6 Spam February 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I really enjoyed The Rising…great book, terrible ending….until I found there was a sequel…I’m looking forward to reading it!

7 Anythinghorror February 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Oh wow Spam …. you must have been PISSED before you found out there was a sequel to it!!! You read the entire book and get no payoff. I really liked City of the Dead too.
.-= Anythinghorror´s last blog ..Blog Update: New Features =-.

8 inkpenavenger February 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Here’s one that’s good for fun:
DEATH TROOPERS
It’s Star Wars zombie novel.

9 Ameron February 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm

@Sniderman
I’ll confess, part of my motivation for writing this article is to get some good recommendations. I’ve added The Living Dead anthology to the wish list. Thank you.

The reason I have two books from Max Brooks on the list is because I haven’t read a lot of other zombie fiction I’d recommend. Besides, I felt they both earned a place on my short-list.

@Sandman
You’re not the first one to recommend the Zombie Survival Guide (or World War Z) as an audio book. From what I’ve heard it lets you experience the stories in a whole new way.

@Anythinghorror
It was the human take that appealed to me so much when I read this. Knowing that these were all stories told after the fact didn’t bother me, but I can see how it could ruin any suspense.

@by_the_sword
I’d be ok with that.

@Mike Greene
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve added The Final Infection to my wish list.

@Spam
I think Anythinghorror said it better than I ever could.

@inkpenavenger
I got Death Troopers for Christmas but I haven’t read it yet. I’m looking forward to it.

10 Torsin February 25, 2010 at 8:26 am

Heya, thought I’d weigh in as Zombies are my passion also!
(Find me anything zombie related, good or bad, and I’ll give it a try!)

Firstly, I definitely agree with WWZ, Zombie Survival Guide (own both) and Monster Nation as excellent books. I understand the sentiment about WWZ being human focused, but I like that it focuses on quite a lot of small stories in the overarching apocalypse, whilst also maintaining the realism feel Brookes was after.

I have a couple of reading suggestions as well, firstly Day By Day Armageddon. Similar to WWZ, but a personal account and very well done, keeps you engrossed. I was disappointed with the ending (it basically just stops) but there is supposedly a sequel. If there is, that’ll probably improve it’s enjoyability! Still a good book though.
The other I would suggest is getting the Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics.
I got given it as a present for my last birthday (Zombie presents = win) and it’s pretty damn good. It’s got 18 comics, some long, some very short. About half are meh/average, about a third are good, the rest are very good and one is absolute GOLD! The longest comic in it is by far the most superior, incredibly beautiful artwork, great characters and development, fully engrossing and just overall very well put together.
I’d recommend the whole book just for that comic! (That comic is called “Dead Eyes Open” by Matthew Shepard (story) and Roy Boney Jr (artist))

Well that’s my input, definitely enjoy reading all the articles on here (I’m a lurker!)

11 floppinfish September 5, 2010 at 3:34 am

I have read WWZ, its a great book. But there are other great zombie books too. Like Brains a zombie memoir. Thats a good book. Also Patient Zero. Thats a awesome book and I cant believe it hardly gets mentioned. Both day by day armageddon books are great. The rising and city of the dead by brian keene are on my list of favs. Both plague of the dead books are good reads. Its a shame the author died. I believe he was 26. rip. I hear they are still going to finish his 3rd book by going from his notes he left behind.

12 Pithyoneliner January 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

I think overall there are two kinds of Zombie book, ‘the epic’ such as ‘World War Z’ or ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ which cover the global scale of the pandemic. And the other type which is the ‘lone band of survivors get picked off one by one’. I’d recommend ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ (by JL Bourne) as a good example of the latter.

Although with ‘the walking dead’ Zombies finally have a TV show (and excellent it is too) so I can see where ‘by_the_sword’s coming from, but I don’t agree that Zombies will become the new Vampires, Zombies are just way cooler:

1) No teenage girl wants a zombie boyfriend (Twilight has a lot to answer for…)
2) Zombies don’t putz around, any zombie scenario involves them wiping out the human race not living peacefully amongst us drinking synthetic blood. Zombies do not negotiate, compromise or retreat, they just eat your head.
3) Extreme killability. Think about the average body count of any Zombie movie, and compare to any vampire movie… Zombies individually are pretty crap and you can easily make the die (I’m talking about good old fashioned ‘lurchers’ here, not Dawn of the Dead remake ‘sprinters’). So the zombie genre gets to have fun with killing 100s with a lawnmower (Braindead) before the human race finally succumbs…

I think we will see an increase in zombie books, movies and shows, but I hope there will NEVER be a Twilight with Zombies

13 Left4Dead March 21, 2011 at 8:51 am

You all forgot:

  • Day by day by j.l bourne
  • Beyond exhile by j.l bourne
  • Rot and ruin by jonathan maberry
14 Baxter July 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

So, I was looking for a good zombie books I haven’t read yet, and I stumbled on this page, and I’ve read (and liked) three of the five books on the list that I’ve already read and were good, so I picked up a copy of The Rising.
I’ve seen the comments and (with all due respect) I don’t understand the appeal. It’s corny and I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be a comedy or if it’s just really really awful dialogue (it’s like a cross between Power Rangers and Hercules The Legendary Journeys).

15 Danielle May 1, 2012 at 2:15 am

Hello All,

I must say I’m a fan of Max Brooks, especially his survival guide. WWZ was innovative and a fun read but seemed to lack characters for me to care about but I enjoyed the whole atmosphere of it. Clearly a must have for zombie fans. Can’t wait for the movie!!!

I read an indie zombie book that is a very unusual twist on the zombie genre and was really amazing. It kept me guessing and I highly recommend it to everyone I talk to that loves zombies so I thought I would pass this thought on. Z Strain by Rutger Klamor is a well crafted story that keeps one guessing and was just amazing fun. I can’t recommend it higher to those willing to try something new. Please, check it out and I’d love to hear what you think about it.

Yours in zombie mayham spirit!

Danielle

16 Hammerogod August 31, 2012 at 1:53 am

Mark Tufo’s “Zombie Fallout” and Ben Tripp’s “Rise Again” are the best Zombie (Apocalypse) Fiction available.

Tufo’s 6 Book series (with book 7 due out in a few days) has some of the most devastating horror I have ever read and the characters jump off the page.
Horror AND Humor the way nobody else has done it.
People you care about as you read, situations that you can put yourself into.
Tufo has put together a masterpiece of Zombie thrills.
10/10 Zombie fiction.

Tripp’s RA is also about as good as it gets
10/10

Another extremely well written and engrossing series is Z.A. Recht’s 2 part “Plague of the Dead” and “Thunder and Ashes”.
It will leave you panting.

I cannot say enough good things about these books.

17 Avril McCormack November 4, 2012 at 3:44 am

A great zombie book is the Zombie Fallout series.

Could not put it down.

Read more: http://www.istumbledupon.com/zombie-fallout-6-til-death-do-us-part-volume-6/

18 Can'tWaitToKillTheDead December 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I started reading zombie books and pretty much anything related about 5 years ago and I personally think WWZ was pretty lame. It had it’s moments but for the most part like another reviewer said I was well aware I was reading. Some books I get so sucked into it I jump when I hear the stairs squeak. My favorite book to date is Day By Day Armageddon I love the way this book is put together. The second book is okay but still worth reading. The third book is coming out after Christmas so I am pretty pumped about it.

19 mile137 January 28, 2013 at 1:02 am

I loved this brand new zombie novel on amazon kindle called ” The Nanobot Conspiracy: Fear The Dead”. Great story lines,subplots,characters and the zombie virus just went super high tech in this gem. Don’t want to ruin it for the rest in this must read zombie apocalypse. I hope Hollywood makes a movie out of this one. wow… I left a link for this 1st book in a series. Enjoy :)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AWZ2V0K

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