Apocalypse Now! Top 10 Novels about the End of Days

The Ark is set in a post-peak oil scenario in which society as we know it collapses. So I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the apocalypse lately. Good times! Here are some of my favourite books about the end of the world as we know it:

Z for Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien

This is the first post-apocalyptic novel I ever read and it made a deep impression on me. Told in the form of a diary, written by a young girl who survives a nuclear holocaust, it is a great insight into human nature in desperate times for the young reader.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The zombie apocalypse! This is absolutely not a genre I ever thought I would read but it was so gripping and so well-written I believe it would convert even the greatest cynic.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

A gorgeous coming-of-age story set in a world which is tilting slightly on its axis, changing life as we know it and leading to possibly devastating consequences.

The MaddAddamm Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

In this scarily believable satire, the apocalypse is caused by a pandemic which is unleashed deliberately.

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Wool by Hugh Howey

Hundreds of people living under ground in an enormous silo for many generations. But why did they have to leave the surface of the earth? Page-turner alert!

The Postman by David Brin

The apocalypse in this novel is a combination of bioweapons and destruction via EMPs. The story, which is a little cheesy in parts, follows a survivor who stumbles across the uniform of a long-dead postal worker and masquerades as a postman, bringing hope to the isolated communities he meets that society is gradually reassembling.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A pandemic destroys 90% of the earth’s population, leaving Hig alone on America’s wide open plains, with only his dog for company. But somebody else is out there…

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

A genre-defining cult classic about surviving a vampire apocalypse. Unbearably tense.

Red Queen by Honey Brown

Two brothers ride out a pandemic from the safety of their cabin in the Australian bush. All is well until a woman finds them and disturbs their fragile equilibrium.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy doesn’t even tell us what caused the apocalypse in this dark dark novel but whatever it was basically turned the world to ash and turned those who survived into a  bunch of marauding cannibals. It’s so horrible, maybe the most horrible book I’ve ever read. But also, I think, the most powerful.

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Your turn: What are your favourite tales of the apocalypse?

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12 thoughts on “Apocalypse Now! Top 10 Novels about the End of Days

  1. Have you read Station 11 yet? It was interesting, and I read it around the time that ebola started being on the news a lot, so I made myself a little paranoid.

    1. I haven’t but I’m dying to. I bought it for my husband for his birthday so out of courtesy I think I should let him read it first! Have you read any of the ones on my list?

  2. I loved The Passage, but I strongly suggest you stop there. The 12 was terrible. I’m surprised you didn’t include Jeff Vandermeer’s stuff on here – your enthusiasm has convinced me to push on with this trilogy (and I will as soon as the second one is available at the library…) And my suggestions: Patrick Ness’ ‘More than This’ was utterly gripping (though not entirely satisfying, maybe because written for younger readers); Andrew Macrae’s ‘Trucksong’ is a deeply Australian post-apocalyptic novel with strange, compelling language and self-aware trucks.

    1. Really? I didn’t think it was terrible. It certainly wasn’t as good as The Passage, and the story got a little confused, but I still enjoyed it. What did you find so wrong with it?

      1. Thank goodness for Goodreads. Whatever it’s multiple failings, it does a good job of storing my memories of books. Here’s what I reckoned back in May ’13 when I read it:

        Started out well. Things deteriorate rapidly towards the end. The horrible earnestness and sentimentality of the characters becomes overhwhelming; maybe it’s that it’s thrown into relief by some ironic, humourous characters, one of whom works well, the other of whom (look I can’t say, OK, it’s a spoiler) is an utterly bizarre choice to cast as comedic light relief. Also: too many coincidences, even for me.
        If I’d stopped reading this 3/4 of the way through I’d have given it 3-4 stars and said something like ‘if you want to read a story about a zombie vampire apocalypse, this is the one to choose. rips along at a fair pace’. But really, the last 1/4 was just bathetic.
        In the book’s favour though, I should say the approach Cronin took to a sequel – going back to ground the first book had trod, and looking at it from some different perspectives, rather than leaping straight into new stuff – really appealed to me.

        1. Alas, I didn’t do a Goodreads review so I can’t remember what I liked about it, nor do I have any recollection of the two comic characters you describe. Thus ends a potentially exciting debate! have you read anything else by Cronin? His novel-in-stories Mary and O’Neill is MARVELLOUS.

          1. I actually have no idea what I was on about either. I just stored the memory ‘didn’t like much’ and got on with my life. Marvellous is a pretty big rap – I haven’t read it, and now I’ll have to remember I meant to read it next time I see it somewhere.

  3. Z for Zachariah was my first post-apocalyptic too. I remember it fondly. I was about 14. I should buy it for my 13 year old daughter. Is it dated now, do you think?

    1. That’s a lovely idea. It’s hard to know if it would feel dated now as it’s so many years since I’ve revisited it. You can probably read an extract online somewhere which should give you an idea.

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