15 Essential Zombie Reads

Between last Sunday’s game-changing episode of The Walking Dead and our first glimpse of the (extremely) long-awaited film adaptation of World War Z, it seems that shambling, undead hordes are once again haunting the collective unconscious…Whether they’re mindless, brain-eating fiends, or self-aware, or just dancing or falling in love, zombies are here to stay. Below are 15 essential reads to satisfy even the most brain-hungry zombie fans.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. He’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government for a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle…including a hideous new bioweapon capable of turning ordinary people into zombies.

 

My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

Self-aware zombies are a great twist on the classic formula. It’s so hard to have a zombie as a protagonist, but Diana Rowland pulls it off excellently with her White Trash Zombie series. Will Angela Crawford be able to resist her newfound desire to eat brains? Will she find love? This urban fantasy adds southern charm and humor to an unorthodox zombie story.

 

 

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1) by Mira Grant

What would a zombie invasion look like from the perspective of a blogger? Mira Grant’s Feed answers that question as well as mixing political intrigue into an already action-packed plot. The first books was once described  by The A.V. Club as “The West Wing by way of George Romero.” If you want politics with your zombies, The Newsflesh Trilogy is for you.

 

 

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Probably the most unique take on zombies on this list, this one is an honest-to-goodness sexy zombie romance. Don’t think zombies can be sexy or romantic? Well, check out the book that will defy all the preconceptions you might have about love and the undead!

 

 

 

The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams

From Stephen King to Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton and the great Harlan Ellison, this anthology has a talented range of awesome authors ready and willing to take on zombies, and take the genre to a whole new level. From editor John Joseph Adams, this may be the definitive zombie short story anthology.

 

The Brain Eater’s Bible by J.D. McGhoul with Pat Kilbane

If you wake up and find that you’ve turned into a zombie, this book will prove to be invaluable. Written as a kind of self-help book, the road to accepting yourself as a member of the reanimated dead can be tough, but The Brain Eater’s Bible has all the advice you’ll need to adjust. Don’t think of yourself as slow and stupid! You’re just a zombie. Learn to deal.

 

Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde

Are you ready for a rollicking supernatural western set in a zombie-infested Oregon? It’s the Wyldes versus the zombies with a little bit of magic thrown in there too. If the floods don’t get you, the shamblers will!

 

 

 

As the World Dies: A Zombie Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater

Here’s a series of books which helped proved that self-published authors can make it online and eventually have a major book deal on their hands. If you’re looking for some action-packed zombie-killing, look no further than Frater’s Jenni and Katie shooting up the undead, Texas-style!

 

 

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This YA title is set post-zombie apocalypse, as the cannibalistic undead try to attack a small band of survivors in a forest is protected by the Sisterhood of the Guardians (and a fence which traps the living as well as it keeps out the dead). Narrated by the teenaged survivor Mary, the book has a personal feel on par with The Hunger Games. Does the ocean still exist? Is Mary wrong to believe in it? Read this novel and the rest in the bestselling series to find out.

 

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Though heralded as book riding on the mainstream vampire craze, all sorts of mutants show up in Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy, including zombie-like creatures. After releasing this first book in a planned trilogy to widespread acclaim in 2011, Cronin then heated things up with the recent sequel, The Twelve. This is one great series to follow if you aren’t already on board!

 

The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma

Roger Ma’s handy Zombie Combat Manual can turn anyone into a seasoned, zombie-slaying warrior. Let’s not just survive the zombie outbreak, let’s take the fight back to the brain-eaters! A great satire of a bygone era of combat/survival manuals.

 

 

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

One of the leading authors in the steampunk genre, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is the first book in the Clockwork Century series, which will see its latest installment released next week with The Inexplicables! Not only do Priest’s novels feature anachronistic alternate history around every turn, but there are zombies lurking, too! Boneshaker was also recently optioned for a movie, so it’s time to get caught up on this truly awesome series.

 

World War Z by Max Brooks

Following his satirical Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks took a decidedly more serious approach with World War Z. Told from numerous perspectives from around the globe, this zombie apocalypse feels frighteningly real. Though the film adaptation has been bogged down in development problems (and you might be having mixed reactions to the aforementioned teaser trailer), the novel is worth anyone’s time—zombie fan, or no.

 

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in the grave….but some drugs have unforeseen side effects. Before he can be buried, the killer wakes up.  Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang…but a bite.

 

 

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

If you’re a fan of the runaway hit TV series of the same name, remember it all started here! Robert Kirkman’s dark tale about a zombie outbreak and its aftermath makes us not only fear the undead, but worry about how the survivors of this horrific future can possibly learn to trust each other in the face of so much carnage. Essential reading for any zombie fan.

 

So that’s our list, but of course there’s plenty more where that came from—let us know which of your favorite zombie books should be considered required reading!


Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com. Stubby always aims for the head. Stubby rarely misses.

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