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The 19 Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels Ever Written

By May 9, 2015March 12th, 2020Discussion and Recommendations

…According to you, as always in our latest poll on our Facebook page.

I asked you last week to name the novel you believed to be the best post-apocalyptic novel ever written and this is clearly a genre that many of you love. Thank you to the four hundred odd people who threw their opinions in the hat giving us our ‘not very’ scientific poll results.

In all you named over 100 novels but the winners were clear with the same novels mentioned over and over. I have included every novel that received more than 5 mentions to create this list of the 19 best post-apocyptic novels and here they are.

The Stand – Stephen King

Receiving a huge number of votes (70 in all) is the novel described over on the poll thread as ‘wrist-breaking’. Many of you said you had read it several times and it totally dominated the poll. You can read a no spoiler review of the Stand here.

The Stand – US
The Stand – UK

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Holding its own in second place with 43 votes was McCarthy’s The Road, a bleak post-apocalytic novel with a dark edge. “This book stayed with me” was a comment I read many times on the thread.

The Road – US
The Road – UK

Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank

In third place, an oldie but a goodie with Alas, Babylon. Written in 1959 it was one of the first apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age and as such has stayed in people’s psyche.

Alas, Babylon – US
Alas, Babylon – UK

Swan Song – Robert McCammon

If you fancy imagining the apocalypse coming about after a nuclear war there seems to be plenty of books on the subject and Swan Song also falling into this category is a favourite of yours!

Swan Song – US
Swan Song – UK

The Passage – Justin Cronin

Next up is post-apoc vampire fantasy with The Passage by Justin Cronin taking fifth place on our list. Published in 2010 this is a modern addition to our list with its sequel The Twelve also receiving four votes. Campbell McAulay wrote a review of The Passage here.

The Passage – US
The Passage – UK

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller

It seems our reading addicts love the oldies with this 1960 post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel coming next on the list. Considered a classic the novel is based on three short stories and has never been out of print since its publication.

A Canticle for Leibowitz – US
A Canticle for Leibowitz – UK

Silo (Wool) Series – Hugh Howey

Many of you mentioned Wool, the first of the Silo Series of novels by Hugh Howey. Originally published as three novellas, the three are now published as a single novel.

Silo Series – US
Silo Series – UK

On The Beach – Nevil Shute

And we’re back with the classics with Nevil Shute’s On The Beach. Loved by many of you, well deserving of its classic status and in eight place in our list. You’ll find a review of On The Beach here.

On The Beach – US
On The Beach – UK

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

This is a recent addition to the genre, written in 2014 and the first female author to make the list too! Described as an audacious, glittering novel set I the eerie days of civilisation’s collapse, Station Eleven won several awards on release and takes ninth place in our list.

Station Eleven – US
Station Eleven – UK

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

More societal collapse than the world’s end, but The Handmaid’s Tale is loved by a very many of you. Oryx and Crake by the same author also received four votes in the poll.

The Handmaid’s Tale – US
The Handmaid’s Tale – UK

So that’s the top ten and each one received 10 votes or more, but we have a few more to throw in to make the complete list and here they are:

Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer
I Am Legend – Richard Mattheson
The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
Maze Runner – James Dashner
Divergent Series – Veronica Roth
Dark Towers Series – Stephen King
The Girl With All The Gifts – M. R. Carey
Earth Abides – George R. Stewart
World War Z – Max Brooks

And that’s our list. Thanks to everyone who participated and as always feel free to disagree or add your own in the comments.

Leave your vote


  • Sam says:

    one second after should be on this list.

    • janis shouse says:

      one of the very best is THE DEAD , BY MARK ROGERS, i read this bool at least five or more times. always good, the first time I read this book I could not put it down, love love love love this book, my favorite person is Max Holand,

    • Amanda says:


  • Penny Bowen says:

    I’d probably add the three Oryx and Crake books by Margaret Attwood as well as her ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’.

  • Becky says:

    Sam Sisavath’s The Purge of Babylon series is also an excellent post apocalyptic read.

  • joe says:

    Warday is a novel by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka, first published in 1984, it also should be on this list.

  • Ryan Law says:

    So happy to see Alas, Babylon make the cut – I always think of it as the archetypal post-apocalyptic novel, and I’m so glad it hasn’t been forgotten! The Passage is a great modern take on the genre, and I’m super excited for the forthcoming film adaptation too!

    Huge thanks for compiling the list, you’ve inspired me to start thinking about my own favourite novels – I’d love to hear what you think!
    The 50 Best Post Apocalyptic Books

    Thanks! – Ryan

  • Sarah Green says:

    I recently read through a really great post-apocalyptic YA series from Karyn Folan, called ‘The Doomsday Kids.

    I was hugely impressed with the diverse range of characters and how each book focused on the journey of a different character.
    The story is can get very emotionally charged at times and I found myself becoming very attached to some of the kids. Overall these books left a really strong impression on me. One of the best YA series I have ever read.

  • Rick D'Allacqua says:

    Surprised John Marsden wasn’t mentioned. Even more surprised Make Room! Make Room! didn’t rate. The list was otherwise what I expected. My favourites tend to be too obscure to make lists like these.

  • Bill Root says:

    A notable omission: Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. I’ve read most of the books on this list and Lucifer’s Hammer would be # 3 or #4.

  • K says:

    I would have to suggest Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It had an interesting twist on how the world will end.

  • Phill says:

    Jerry Ahern’s The Survivalist series of 27 books from the 1980’s was one of my favorites. It seems like many of the current TEOTWAWKI books are derived from
    this series.

  • Cobalt-Blue says:

    I DESPISE P-A stories, but Robert McCammon’s Swan Song is one I actually enjoyed. But then again, I’ve enjoyed most of his writing.

  • Roy says:

    “Dhalgren,” by Samuel R. Delany belongs on a list of post-apocalypse novels. Maybe you should create a longer list to make a little more room.


    ALWAYS liked “in the Ashes” series William Johnstone.

  • Susan Kelly says:

    I endorse The Stand for #1. It’s still got legs after all these years.

  • Garlene says:

    where is Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”? Can’t imagine a list of PA’s without the master.

  • Peggy says:

    Is this a mostly British site and British commenters? I am amazed that not only did she not make the list, she hasn’t shown up in the comments and that is the late, great Octavia Butler. Her Parable books are brilliant and fascinating post-apocalyptic novels, unique in the genre to my mind.

  • Robert Berman says:

    Little known, but a serious treasure on so many levels…God’s Grace by Bernard Malamud Certainly not your usual PA , it is funny, provocative and brilliant.

  • David Keener says:

    “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart. It’s a classic from the late 1940’s, as I recall, about a plague that ends civilization, and the few survivors learning to live in the ruins. I’ve read it a bunch of times over the years; it’s truly a great novel.

  • Bonnie Johnson says:

    Totally awesome–I own and have read the top three on this list at least a dozen times–guess I’m following the crowd these days!

  • Vernice Brown says:

    Ok but how is The Hunger Games not on this list???

  • Pops says:

    I can’t believe that A Canticle for Leibowitz is not on this list!

  • arpan sarkar says:

    you forgot george orwell’s name!!

  • Mike says:

    You left off Nick Coleus, The Wasteland Saga (trilogy)

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