You love zombies. You’ve seen 28 Days Later, like, one hundred times, and you have really strong feelings about The Walking Dead (both the show and the comic books). Even so, there’s so much zombie stuff out there that you’ve probably missed a few of the 25 best zombie books. Until you’ve consumed them all, can you even claim to be a true zombie fan?
zone one by colson whitehead
In this post-apocalyptic world, citizens have been divided into two categories: the infected and the uninfected. The uninfected try to build back the civilization that existed before the plague in Zone One (located in Manhattan), but groups of infected still lurk around their island. Teams of civilians, including our protagonist Mark Spitz, are tasked with getting rid of these infected squatters, but of course things don’t end up going according to plan. All of this might sound like traditional zombie fodder, but it Colson Whitehead’s capable hands, the typical zombie story is taken in new and thought-provoking directions.
handling the undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
I mentioned this book as a great option for a genre book in translation, if you’re doing the Read Harder Challenge, but I’m mentioning it again here because I just really enjoyed this one. It would be a crime to leave it off this list. What happens when people’s loved ones come back to life, rise from their graves, and then return home? Read this book if you feel like what your zombie books are missing is a thoughtful examination of grief and loss. Or read this if you really enjoyed Let the Right One In and want to see the author’s take on the zombie genre after (successfully and awesomely) attacking the vampire genre. Or just read this if you like good books.
feed by mira grant
Have you heard of The Nocturnal Reader’s Box? If not, as a zombie lover, you should definitely check it out as they often include horror books that you might not know about otherwise. I hadn’t heard of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy until Feed (the first novel in the series) showed up in my subscription box. In this trilogy, cancer has been cured, but in its place has risen a new disease, one that infects the mind and creates a bloodthirsty hunger in its hosts. But where did this disease come from? Twenty years after the spread of this virus, two bloggers are on a mission to discover the truth.
the forest of hands and teeth by carrie ryan
This is the first zombie book in a series. A fence is all that stands between the village and the “unconsecrated” who lurk on the other side. As far at the villagers know, there is no life outside of the village, and yet Mary longs to escape her humdrum life and see what lies beyond the fence. She longs to see the ocean. When Mary starts to suspect corruption in the village, her desire to leave intensifies. But what to do about all of the zombie-like beings waiting for her on the other side of the fence?
the girl with all the gifts by m.r. carey
If you’ve seen the film adaptation of M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts, perhaps you were just as underwhelmed as I was with that completely forgettable movie. Thankfully, I read the book first, because the book is much, much better, and I likely never would have picked it up if I’d seen the movie first. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, let me break it down for you. Melanie is a special girl who goes to school with a lot of other special children. Without giving much away, people all over the world have been infected by a fungus that takes over people’s brains and effectively turns them into zombies; however, what makes Melanie and those like her specials is that the disease has affected them differently: while they still hunger for human flesh, they are also able to think, reason, and even love.
Raising stony mayhall by daryl gregory
At the beginning of this book, Stony Mayhall is a zombie baby. Yes, you heard me. The Mayhalls discover Stony as an infant, undead in his dead teen mother’s arms, and Wanda Mayhall, the family matriarch, decides to take Stony home and raise him as one of her own rather than alerting the authorities. But what happens when Stony begins to grow and goes out into the world to find other undead people like himself?
bruja born by Zoraida Córdova
This is the second novel in the Brooklyn Brujas series, and as the title suggests, this book is about witches. But it’s about a bruja who conjures an army of undead when attempting to bring her boyfriend back to life, so I’d say that makes this book count as a zombie book as well. Although this is the second book in the series—Labyrinth Lost being the first—they’re more companion novels than direct sequels, with different bruja sisters serving as the narrator to each one.
Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne
For those who like their zombies more goofy and less scary, this book is one for you. Andy Warner is a brand new zombie, still lamenting the loss of his past life and still trying to figure out the ins and outs of undead existence. When he ends up at an Undead Anonymous meeting, Andy meets a group of friends who help make his transition into the world of the undead a whole lot easier, including the whole eating human flesh part. The book is described as a zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy), and I love that so much that I hope one day that becomes a real sub-genre (I can already think of a few other books that would fit that description).
husk: A Novel by corey redekop
Speaking of humorous slants on the zombie book genre, here’s another one that fits the bill. In Husk, Sheldon Funk is a struggling actor turned zombie who’s trying hard to make his desire for human flesh work with all of his other real life responsibilities. Can Sheldon launch his acting career, handle his mother’s dementia, and hold on to his hot-but-vapid boyfriend, all while decomposing? Husk is a hilarious satire that isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. For instance, do zombies poop? Don’t act like you haven’t wondered.
the rising by brian keene
If Finding Nemo was about people rather than fish, and zombies were what stood in the father’s way rather than human beings, well then you would have this book. Does that sound like a stretch? Hear me out. Jim Thurmand is one of the few humans left alive in a world ridden by zombies. But Jim can’t just hide and wait for the zombie uprising to end because his young son is in danger several miles away. So along with an unlikely group of companions, Jim travels across the country to rescue his son. See the connection? This book is the first in a zombie book series.
the reapers are the angels by alden bell
The world has been plagued by zombies for 25 years, and Temple, a girl too young to remember a time before zombies, is on the run from a killer. Now she wanders a nearly barren post-apocalyptic wasteland of a world, in search of some sanctuary and some salvation. This book is perfect for those who loved The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but also thought that book would have been better if it had more zombies in it. No? Just me?
Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
This is another book that is the first in a series of zombie books, only this series also has aliens thrown in as well just to keep things interesting. Alien lifeforms are spreading a zombie-like plague across the world in an attempt to gain control over the planet by pitting humans against one another. In a world destroyed by this disease, Terry and Kendra must travel in a rickety bus across thousands of miles of this zombie-ridden landscape.
undead girl gang by lily anderson
Undead Girl Gang is a brand new 2018 release that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. Why? Well, besides the sweet pins features on the cover (who wants to get those for me?), this book is also being described as Veronica Mars meets The Craft. Sign me up. Teenage Wiccan Mila Flores knows exactly what to do when her best friend and two other girls from school die under mysterious circumstances: bring them back to life so that she can find out who killed them. Unfortunately for Mila, the reanimated corpses have no memory of their deaths, and zombies are easily distracted. Now Mila has seven days to figure out what happened to these girls before the spell wears off and her undead girl gang has to return to their graves.
midnight cravings by joelle sterling
This is book one in Joelle Sterling’s Eternal Dead trilogy. If zombies aren’t enough for you, this book also packs in witches and vampires. There are a couple of storylines going on simultaneously in this novel, but the most interesting plot line to me was the story of Jonas, a man immigrating from Haiti to America. On his boat ride over to the U.S., however, something goes terribly wrong and many of the passengers turn into undead creatures who crave human flesh. There’s quite a lot of romance in this novel, too, if that’s your thing.
warm bodies by isaac Marion
Speaking of romance and zombies, I give you Warm Bodies, a zombie book that gives a not-so-subtle nod to Romeo & Juliet with the romantic leads being named R and Julie. See what they did there? Unlike some of the more serious romance-y horror books on this list, this is another book I would put in that zom-rom-com category that is definitely a thing. Equal parts funny and sweet, this novel tells the story of a zombie man who falls in love with a human woman. Together, they discover the transformative powers of love. If you’ve already read Warm Bodies and enjoyed it, the sequel The Burning World was just released last year.
warmth by sumiko saulson
In Saulson’s imaginative novel, vampires and zombies are linked. When a person is infected but alive, s/he lives a vampiric existence; however, when that person dies, s/he becomes a zombie. Sera lives with the knowledge that death will mean becoming a zombie, but what’s worse is that she’s been pregnant for six hundred years, living in constant fear that her undead child will die inside her and become a zombie in-utero. And you thought your pregnancy was hard.
cell by stephen king
No horror list is complete without at least one Stephen King novel. So here’s the King novel for you, zombie fans. You’ve probably heard that cell phone can give you cancer, but did you know that they can also turn you into a zombie? That’s the premise of King’s book. Mobile phones become the harbinger of technological warfare, wiping users’ brains and leaving them with nothing but aggression and desire for destruction. You know that one aunt you have that’s still so smug about not owning a cell phone? She’s going to love this book.
plague of the dead by z.a. recht
A zombie plague has ravaged the earth and for those who remain uninfected, they must kill or be killed. Sound familiar? What keeps this novel different and interesting is the way that it looks at the zombie outbreak from a truly global scale, with story lines taking place on opposite sides of the world. And if you enjoy this post-apocalyptic world Recht has created, this is only the beginning of a series.
patient zero by jonathan maberry
This book is the beginning of a series with serious political leanings. Joe Ledger is a Baltimore detective who has just been recruited by the government for a secret mission. He will be leading a rapid response group tasked with stopping a terrorist organization from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. At this point, there are several books in the Joe Ledger series, so if you enjoy this character, you can follow his many other cases.
wanted: dead or undead by angela scott
You might have thought it was cool when Westworld mashed up two of your favorite genres: Western and Science Fiction. Well, in her Zombie West series, Angela Scott mashes together Western and (you guessed it) zombies. When a redheaded cowgirl called “Red” saunters into a saloon, Trace knows that he has to join her in her zombie-killing adventure. All he knows about the cowgirl is that she’s the sharpest shooter he’s ever seen. What he doesn’t know about “Red” is a much longer list, including secrets Trace is not prepared for.
married with zombies by jesse peterson
Is this another entry into the zom-rom-com genre? I think so! Sarah and David’s marriage is going through a bit of a rough patch. Will the zombie outbreak be enough to tear these two apart once and for all? Or will slaying the undead all day bring them closer together? Much like any rom-com, you’re probably pretty confident you know the answer to that question. But what’s most interesting about this novel is this couple’s journey, which is both hilarious and touching, again very much like a good romantic comedy.
monster island by david wellington
Monster Island puts a lot of really unlikely elements together, and yet somehow it works. Picture this: a group of Somali school girls turned soldiers, a former United Nations weapons inspector, an undead man named Gary who seems much smarter than the average zombie, ancient mummies…the list goes on. How do all of these elements fit together in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world? You’ll have to read to find out. This book is the first in a series, like many of the books on this list.
this is not a test by courtney summers
Yet another book that is the first in a series of zombie books, This is Not a Test follows six students who have taken shelter in a high school to escape the zombie uprising. Sloane Price watches the rest of her classmates as they struggle to survive, and she thinks to herself that she might just be ready to die. But living in a confined space with people you don’t know that well while zombies pound on the doors can change a person’s perspective in life. It soon becomes clear that the true dangers aren’t the zombies outside those school doors, but rather the people inside.
my life as a white trash zombie by diana rowland
This first book in the White Trash Zombie series follows zombie Angel Crawford’s transformation into zombiehood. Angel is a high school dropout with a criminal record living in Southern Louisiana with her alcoholic father. Her life is in a downward spiral until one day when she wakes up in a hospital after overdosing on pills. She has very little memory of what happened the night before, and on top of that she receives an anonymous letter telling her she has a job. As if dealing with her new life as a zombie wasn’t enough, the morgue begins filling up with decapitated victims of a serial killer.
tell my horse by zora neale hurston
And now for something entirely different. I thought it might be nice to finish off this list with a little bit of non-fiction. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica is Zora Neale Hurston’s travelogue of her experiences in Haiti and Jamaica where she participated in voodoo ceremonies. Hurston explores a world and a belief system where zombies are very much a part of the real world and not just relegated to the imagination and horror fiction. Zombies and the legends surrounding zombies all started in Haiti with voodoo, so if you’re truly a fan of zombies, you’ve got to go back to the beginning.
All right, zombie fans. That’s my list of the 25 best zombie books. I’m sure I’ve left off some of your favorites, so be sure to let me know what you would add to the list in the comments section.
And if you’re looking for more of the best zombie books and reads, Book Riot’s got you covered. If you looking for comic books and graphic novels about zombies, check out this list. Also check out this list, What to Read if You Want More Zombies, which includes more zombie books for your TBR list.