12 best zombie books of all time (2021 edition)

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Zombies aren’t everyone’s favorite horror monster, but people who love zombies really love them. There are tons of zombie stories that could have made a list of the best zombie books, but we’ve chosen to focus on novels that offer a wide variety of zombie takes. There is something for everyone, whether you think you like zombies or not. And if you like any of these best zombie books, be sure to check out what else their authors have written; many of them are true masters of the horror genre.

The best zombie books

1. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament – SG Browne

Breathers

Breathers isn’t your usual zombie tale, of course, and that uniqueness earns it a spot on the list of best zombie books. It’s a funny and rather touching story about the afterlife – and the reality of living like a zombie in a world that isn’t ready for you.

Andy Warner recently died and is a brand new zombie. He’s been rejected by his friends and by society, but when he goes to an anonymous undead reunion he meets new friends – Rita and Jerry – who make him feel a little more normal. But then, a rogue zombie introduces them to the taste of human flesh, and Andy finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit on behalf of the zombie genre. This book is a riot.

2. Cell – Stephen King

Cell
Cell

Clay, a struggling artist, just landed a graphic novel contract when a signal called The Pulse was sent over the global mobile phone network. The signal turns anyone who uses a cell phone into a vicious, animal zombie. Clay must return to Maine to find his young son, traveling through zombie-infested New England.

Stephen King is, of course, a horror institution, and his take on zombies is just as quirky and interesting as any of his best novels. Cell is a bit technophobic and deeply pessimistic, but sometimes the best horror stories are.

3. Devil’s Wake – Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

Devil awakening
Devil awakening

Devil’s Wake is the first in a series of these two established horror writers, following what happens when an alien race almost brings Earth to its knees. Barnes and Due both have true horror chops, and their collaborative effort is a great read – and sure to be one of the best books on zombies.

An alien invasion brings widespread infection to Earth, an infection that turns people into not just zombies. They are becoming more deadly than anyone could imagine. In the midst of these hungry hordes and human enemies too, Terry and Kendra must cross the lonely desert that has become the United States.

4. Dread Nation – Justina Ireland

Dread nation
Dread nation

With Dread Nation, Justina Ireland has combined two things readers love; zombies and alternate stories. Dread Nation is a YA novel, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a really interesting and unique take on zombie stories and alternate history.

The Civil War ended the day dead soldiers began roaming the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. In the resulting New United States, some children (Native American children and black children) must attend combat schools to learn how to fight the dead and protect the majority. Dread Nation is so creative and unique that it more than deserves a spot on the list of best zombie books.

5. Everything I Know About Zombies I Learned In Kindergarten – Kevin Wayne Williams

Everything I know about zombies I learned in kindergarten
Everything I know about zombies I learned in kindergarten

This is one of those indie novels that risks falling under the radar, which would be a real shame as it is certainly one of the most unique novels of the ‘brave bunch of survivors against the world’. And that’s because the main actors in the book are all under ten years old.

Letitia Johnson has had a difficult life moving from foster home to foster home. When the apocalypse arrives, Letitia locks her little sister’s kindergarten class in a bathroom at the school to try to protect them. When they emerge five days later, Letitia and the twelve younger ones are alone. And the zombies haven’t left.

6. Feed – Mira Grant

Food
Food

Feed is a zombie book for people who don’t necessarily want to read a lot about zombies. There are zombies in it, and zombies are mentioned a lot, but there aren’t any of the usual gory and gory tropes that define many books in the genre.

Instead, Feed is a novel about young investigative bloggers in 2039, living in a world decimated by the Kellis-Amberlee virus that turned people into zombies. Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy cover a presidential campaign in this new world, but soon find themselves embroiled in a plot that could threaten their lives.

7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan

The forest of hands and teeth
The forest of hands and teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth again earns a spot on the list of best zombie books for its unique perspective; while most zombie stories follow a protagonist who often seems to be the only sane person in a world gone mad, The Forest of Hands and Teeth gives us someone who looks like everything they think they know. is taken away from them.

Mary lives in a village with a fence, outside which the Relentless always congregate, and inside which the Sisterhood and Guardians protect everyone from the outside. But as Mary begins to learn things she doesn’t want to know about the Sisterhood and the Guardians, she must choose between her village and her future – and the Unrelentless are about to cross the fence.

8. The Girl with All the Gifts – MR Carey

The girl with all the presents
The girl with all the presents

The Girl With All The Gifts is a deeply philosophical zombie story, centered on the nature of humanity and written with a very strong worldview that allows readers to immerse themselves in this truly very frightening dystopia.

Melanie is a ten-year-old girl who is strapped into a wheelchair every morning and taken to class with other children who are also strapped to chairs. Mélanie is bright and intelligent and she loves her teacher, Miss Justineau. But then two of Melanie’s classmates disappear, never to return, and the true nature of this world begins to unfold before us.

9. The Reapers Are Angels – Alden Bell

The reapers are the angels
The reapers are the angels

The Reapers Are The Angels is a bit more traditional in terms of zombie novels, but the fact that it reads much like a zombie apocalypse western sets it apart and puts it on the list of best zombie books.

Temple is fifteen, he was born into a world that had collapsed twenty-five years ago under the weight of a zombie invasion. She’s never known anything different from the life she leads, wandering the crumbling United States and trying to find where she belongs. Temple is a character of devastating realism, and she is certainly the best part of this book.

10. Wanted: Dead or Undead – Angela Scott

Wanted - Dead or Undead
Wanted – Dead or Undead

Speaking of zombie westerns, Angela Scott’s Wanted: Dead Or Undead is a much more explicit example of the genre. There are saloons and stetsons all over this story, and the wild and wild west is alive with hordes of zombies.

Red is the woman who can shoot with precision and has a knack for taking down the zombies that plague the west. Trace Monroe is the guy who wants to join his band, but Red has some rules; no names, no questions and if Trace gets bitten she will kill him. Trace agrees, because Red is amazing and she’s also beautiful – and all he wants is to try and survive the undead by his side.

11. World War Z: An Oral History of Zombie Wars – Max Brooks

World War Z
World War Z

We can’t have a list of the best zombie books without including Max Brooks and his modern zombie classic World War Z. If your only exposure to this story so far has been the aggressively average film from a few years ago , favor and check the original. Zombie fans really love Brooks for a reason.

World War Z is billed as a non-fiction book, a collection of interviews and testimonials from people who survived the zombie apocalypse that ravaged the world and brought about the virtual eradication of humanity. What makes World War Z so clever and so compelling is the way Brooks covers this extinction event from all angles; it is not a west-centric story. Survivor counts come from all over the world, and the one thing they have in common is that everyone is human – and everyone, in one way or another, has made it through.

12. Zone 1 – Colson Whitehead

Zone 1
Zone 1

Much like World War Z, Colson Whitehead covers the zombie apocalypse from a “what’s next” perspective. The scourge that turned people into living dead is gradually receding and the US government is rebuilding itself. Their first mission; cleanse Manhattan – Zone One – of the remaining undead.

Zone One manages to make killing zombies seem a bit mundane; Mark Spitz is just a regular guy who works for the Manhattan Mission. But behind it all, Mark is a man who finds it hard to come to terms with everything he has seen and done. Whitehead focuses on the cost to humanity of one man living through the end times and examines what is coming out on the other side.

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