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19 Apocalypse Books Set During or After Doomsday

You'll want to read like there's no tomorrow. 

apocalypse books
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  • Photo Credit: Via 'Day of the Triffids' cover

Apocalypses abound in science fiction and fantasy. Being such a staple, books that feature them end up reflecting the times during which they were written. 

Maybe the apocalypse comes in the form of a nuclear war. Maybe it's a plague that causes a flu pandemic. Or is it a virus that transforms people into vampires? 

To showcase the variety found in this subgenre, we've included books that are set preceding or during the apocalyptic event, and post-apocalyptic stories set during the aftermath.

From people preparing for the end to humans attempting to rebuild civilization, these 19 apocalypse books are guaranteed to grip and unnerve you.

Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

By Emily St. John Mandel

Plague novels have taken on a new meaning after the novel coronavirus swept across the world. 

Originally published in 2014, Mandel's novel features a virulent strain of the swine flu that kills most of the human population. 20 years later, a group of survivors travel the Great Lakes region as performers.


Gather, Darkness!

By Fritz Leiber

This 1943 sci-fi classic from Fritz Lieber explores what happens after a nuclear holocaust. Humanity does survive, but people are now governed by superstition. A new religion has risen, led by priests who remember the science and technology that the rest of society has forgotten. 

Frustrated by his peers' hypocrisy and lies, one priest attempts to foment a rebellion among the common people. But as it turns out, a revolution may be forming from another direction.

best science fiction books

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin

Most apocalypse books concern themselves with one world-ending event. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy takes place on a world characterized by active tectonic plates. The unstable environment results in apocalypse after apocalypse after apocalypse. They occur with enough regularity that they're known as seasons. 

Now imagine a fifth season that is so cataclysmic, it's certain to be the last ever apocalypse this world experiences.

RELATED: 5 Likely Ways the Apocalypse Could Happen



By Steven R. Boyett

Sometimes the world ends with a bang. Other times, civilization just stops. Electricity ceases working. Most of humanity vanishes without a trace. 

In this empty world, magical creatures have returned and now wander freely. What happens when a young man befriends a unicorn, whose horn has become a much-coveted resource?



By Elizabeth Hand

Scientists thought they'd found a way to save the ozone layer. Instead, a convergence of events leads to an atmospheric catastrophe. 

In the aftermath, environmental disasters become commonplace, and technology fails. People cope with the man-made apocalypse in different ways. 

Some revel in drugs and excess. Others try to keep signs of the apocalypse out of their home for as long as possible. It's up to you to decide which way is better.

The Last Day

The Last Day

By Andrew Hunter Murray

In an alternate timeline, 2019 saw the passing of an asteroid that caused the earth to stop rotating. Needless to say, this event causes massive problems. 

Half the world plunges into freezing darkness. The other half transforms into desert, thanks to scorching daylight. 

While a narrow strip of land remains inhabitable, the situation is clearly untenable in the long term. But then a scientist is called to her dying mentor's bedside. There, she learns of a secret that could change the fate of the human race.


Swan Song

By Robert McCammon

Many apocalypse books hinge on the specter of nuclear war. Swan Song is no different. 

When the Cold War conflict eventually boils over, the United States is left a twisted landscape filled with mutants and vicious marauders. 

Despite this, a group of survivors must come together—because in addition to dealing with life after a world-changing apocalypse, an ancient evil has awakened and must be stopped.


The Last Man

By Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley wrote this apocalyptic novel after her more-famous tale, Frankenstein. The Last Man chronicles what happens when a plague spreads across the world in the late 21st century. 

Considering that Shelley wrote this book in the early 19th century, her vision of the future is quite different from what ours would be in the modern day. 

What may interest modern readers most is how this novel reimagines the relationships between Shelley, her late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.


I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson

Many apocalypse novels use a plague to destabilize civilization, ultimately leading to humanity's downfall. In Matheson's classic novel, the disease transforms people into monsters. Are they vampires? Are they zombies? Does it matter in the end when you're the last man on earth?

zombie books

World War Z

By Max Brooks

Many people might be more familiar with the film adaptation, but the original novel takes a less action-packed approach. 

Set a decade after the official end of the Zombie War, a U.N. agent travels the world and conducts interviews. 

The resulting narrative reconstructs the initial outbreak, the various ways different countries handled the threat, and ultimately, the desperate struggle to defeat the Zekes.

RELATED: The 50 Best Horror Books to Read Before You Die

oryx and crake environmental messages

Oryx and Crake

By Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake focuses on Snowman, the lone human survivor of the before times. He lives in a changed world with the genetically-engineered results of human experiments meant to cure the ills of society. Through him, readers learn how and why these experiments came about and how their creation led to the downfall of humanity as we know it.



By Octavia E. Butler

In Dawn, a nuclear holocaust destroys all life on earth—or rather, almost all life. An alien race sweeps in at the last moment and saves a few members of humanity. Centuries later, the aliens awaken the humans from their deep sleep. 

It's time to reinhabit the earth. There's just one little catch.


In the Drift

By Michael Swanwick

In 1979, a nuclear reactor located in Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania underwent a partial meltdown. 

Inspired by this actual incident, Swanwick spins a tale about what would happen if the reactor experienced a full meltdown, with far more serious consequences. 

According to his creative vision, the accident contaminated the atmosphere and left a wasteland surrounding the nuclear plant filled with disease, monsters, and mutants. But that doesn't mean the people living in that forsaken territory are without their own hopes and dreams.

apocalyptic fiction

The Book of M

By Peng Shepherd

In The Book of M, the apocalypse doesn't come in the form of a nuclear holocaust or a plague. It comes when people begin losing their shadows. 

The loss of shadows heralds something else: the gradual loss of their memories. As the phenomenon spreads, society begins breaking down. 

And in this new world, one couple struggles to both protect and remember each other when one of them loses her shadow.


This Is the Way the World Ends

By James Morrow

Morrow's novel takes an unusual approach to the nuclear holocaust. In exchange for a survival suit to protect his daughter, a man signs a document that makes him complicit if a nuclear war breaks out. 

The very idea may be absurd, but when the unthinkable does happen, our everyman protagonist must now stand trial as one of six survivors.


The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins

We may best know The Hunger Games for the brutal competition that pits children against each other, but its dystopian world arose from an apocalypse. 

After a devastating war that destroys North America, a new society is formed: Panem. Panem consists of thirteen Districts and a Capitol that rules over them. The Capitol's oppressive rule, however, incited a rebellion. 

Alas, it failed, and District 13 was completely annihilated. And to prevent history from repeating itself, the Hunger Games were formed as means of social control.

RELATED: Questions for Writers to Ask When Post-Apocalyptic Worldbuilding


The Day of the Triffids

By John Wyndham

After recovering from an eye injury, a biologist wakes up in the hospital to discover that most of the population has been left blind by a passing meteor shower. The mass blinding plunges society into chaos. 

People who retained their sight attempt to reform civilization, but their plans are stymied when carnivorous plants begin killing them.

RELATED: Out-of-This-World Alien Invasion Books

books like a quiet place

Bird Box

By Josh Malerman

The Netflix adaptation may have spawned countless memes, but the novel's premise remains spellbinding. 

Five years ago, something descended upon the world. No one knows what exactly the "something" is, but they do know that looking at it drives people to madness, violence, and suicide. 

In a new world where people wear blindfolds and block their windows, Marjorie embarks on a journey with her two children to find a safer place to live. But as you can expect, the path is filled with many dangers.

The Lightest Object in the Universe

The Lightest Object in the Universe

By Kimi Eisele

We usually associate apocalypse books with grim fates and dark outcomes. But even during the hardest times, there are spots of hope. 

Economic collapse isn't good. Neither is the failure of the electrical grid. Combine the two, and you have a problem. In Eisele's novel, both things happen, and society falls apart. 

Despite the obvious challenges, two lovers living on opposite sides of the United States attempt to reunite. The story of their journey lingers not on the destruction of the world, but instead focuses on human connection, building community, and working toward a better future.

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