Good Minds Suggest—Alex Adams's Favorite Post-Apocalyptic Books for Adults

April, 2012

Alex Adams The Hunger Games may be fueling an explosion of teenage post-apocalyptic fiction, but this eerie genre seems to be just as thrilling for adult readers. Oregon author Alex Adams offers one more sophisticated tale of literary horror with her debut novel, White Horse. The story opens in Italy 18 months after a plague called "White Horse" has decimated 90 percent of the world's population. Immune to the disease, 30-year-old Zoe clings to what's left of her own humanity as she begins a dangerous journey to Greece, tracking the father of her unborn child across a chaotic landscape. Adams, a New Zealand transplant who has also lived in Greece and Australia, is now writing a follow-up to White Horse, the first of a trilogy. She shares with Goodreads her top five books to read when the world is ending.

The Stand by Stephen King
"A book so huge, it could double as a weapon after the apocalypse, whether we're battling zombies, robots, or radioactive ninjas. The Stand is where it all started for me, this love for apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction."


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
"I blame this book for my lifelong inability to love gardening. A meteor shower leads to death, blindness, and killer plants wandering the earth. Is it any wonder I get twitchy when a daffodil's head swivels my way?"


World War Z by Max Brooks (Goodreads Author)
"Brooks breathes minty freshness into the zombie apocalypse by delivering his tale in a series of interviews. The result is a realistic and horrifying story of face-saving cover-ups and acts of amazing bravery."


Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (Goodreads Author)
"It's not just your pet robot plotting your demise, but also your car, microwave, and nose-hair trimmer. Robopocalypse makes me want to hug my iPad so it shows me mercy if Skynet becomes self-aware."


Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Goodreads Author)
"OK, so I'm cheating a little. Prince of Thorns takes place a long, long time after our world ends, but it's just so much fun pointing at the details and going, "It's a skyscraper! And that's a thingmabob!" It's a little bit epic fantasy, a little bit post-apocalyptic, and all tied up with delicious literary prose."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Post-Apocalyptic Fiction



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Comments (showing 1-50 of 169) (169 new)


message 1: by catherine (new)

catherine The Road by Cormac McCarthy isn't here! Why didn't it didn't make the list?


message 2: by Holly (new)

Holly I expected to see Swan Song on this list.


message 3: by Wendy (new)

Wendy White Might I also recommend the great GoodReads Listopia lists on this subject ;D I heart Listopia, have gotten so many good book recommendations from it.


message 4: by Leah (new)

Leah Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was the book that got me addicted to post-apocalyptic fiction!


message 5: by Kristi (new)

Kristi I became addicted to post-apocalyptic fiction after reading Oryx and Crake. I've read The Day of the Triffids, and also recommend The Midwich Cuckoos.


message 6: by Frank (new)

Frank Well Ive read most of the books you talk about, except for Prince of Thorns. The only one that I found to be lacking was Robopocalypse, I was not not very impressed with the writing or even the stories in it. I was sad to see the lack of technical aspect, I dont mean for it it to be a technical book but a little more detail of how things work would have added to concept of the book.
The writer, to me, seemed to be just trying to throw something together in the " post-apocalyptic books".


message 7: by Wayne (new)

Wayne Berninger I would also add The Pesthouse.


message 8: by Lenore (new)

Lenore A Canticle for Liebowitz


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty the Swan Song by Robert McCammon is one of the BEST post diaster book. it is more real than most of the others Like the Stand (which I loved) but I have re-read Swan Song about 4 times and each time I get something else from it. I actually just added it to my new kindle and plan on reading it again soon


message 10: by Carisa (new)

Carisa Burns The Swan Song is definitely the best! So amazing I plan on reading it again now that it's been mentioned. I love when it's been a very long time since I've read a book that has blown my mind so that I can go back and reread it and many things will be like reading it for the first time since I've forgotten the details.


message 11: by Pete (new)

Pete Rossetti I would like to suggest the short story:
The Manhattan Phonebook (Abridged) - by John Varley
www.varley.net/Pages/Manhattan.htm
(You can read it online.)
It opens with the line:
"This is the best story and the worst story anybody ever wrote."
It seems to be Varley's objection to the whole idea of post-apocalyptic stories.


message 12: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Holly wrote: "I expected to see Swan Song on this list."

Yes you're right...I read that so long ago....A blast from the past by Robert McCammon


message 13: by Richard (last edited Apr 05, 2012 08:59AM) (new)

Richard Earth Abides is the one that has stuck with me the most. It has a sense of realism few others are able to capture.


message 14: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I loved Lucifer's Hammer. It was one of the first apocalyptic books that was very well written that I read.


message 15: by Debbie (new)

Debbie The Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks


message 16: by Lynette (new)

Lynette Pastir I really liked Down to a Sunless Sea by David Graham. I'm going to try Swan Song since it received such positive comments.


message 17: by Frank (new)

Frank I remember reading "On the Beach", it was more about the changes and how the people who survive a atomic war, also "I Am Legend".


message 18: by Lynette (new)

Lynette Pastir Read On the Beach when I was really young, about twelve I think. My mom was a Neville Shute fan. Scared me-- it was 1970!


message 19: by Frank (new)

Frank Lynette I remember seeing the movie fist then the book, I was sold on the book more than the movie. I also thought it was some kind of love story too.


message 20: by Lynette (new)

Lynette Pastir Books are almost always better than the movie!


message 21: by Frank (new)

Frank yes your right


message 22: by Xrhae (new)

Xrhae Don't forget two of the first - Alas, Babylon and, of course, A Canticle for Liebiowitz.


message 23: by Reid (new)

Reid *Sigh* I always have to put in a plug for Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition, though it never seems to make anyone's list. I love this book and think it the best post-apocalyptic work of all time.


message 24: by Rob (new)

Rob One Second After is also very good and eerily plausible.


message 25: by Gea (new)

Gea One of my favorites is The Reapers Are The Angels. Awesome writing and character.


message 26: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Lutge The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of my favorites.


message 27: by Rose (new)

Rose Leslie wrote: "The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of my favorites."

Leah wrote: "Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was the book that got me addicted to post-apocalyptic fiction!"


message 28: by Rose (new)

Rose i read "alas, babylon" during the cuban missile crisis
i was 12 yrs old and i loved it. i also liked "earth abides" which i read many many yrs ago.
my all time favorite though is "the stand"


message 29: by Alex (new)

Alex Adams catherine wrote: "The Road by Cormac McCarthy isn't here! Why didn't it didn't make the list?"

I knew someone would mention The Road. :D

The thing is, I chose books I genuinely loved and would easily reread. The Road, while wonderful, just doesn't quite fit there for me. A story needs a bigger dose of hope for me to consider it a favorite.


message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex Adams Betty wrote: "the Swan Song by Robert McCammon is one of the BEST post diaster book.

Betty, would you believe I haven't read Swan Song? it's going on my to-read list. Thank you!


message 31: by Alex (new)

Alex Adams Gea wrote: "One of my favorites is The Reapers Are The Angels. Awesome writing and character."

There are definitely a handful of YA apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels that have blown me away. But I was asked to recommend adult fiction, so some really great books had to get the ax. Which is probably a good thing, because narrowing the list to five was hard enough as it is! :)


message 32: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Leah wrote: "Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was the book that got me addicted to post-apocalyptic fiction!"

Me Too!!! Ha Ha, And I thought I was the only one!


message 33: by Dystopian (new)

Dystopian The Chrysalids by Wyndham is better than The Day of the Triffids, I think.


message 34: by Camille (new)

Camille Wayne wrote: "I would also add The Pesthouse."

Lenore wrote: "A Canticle for Liebowitz"

Wayne wrote: "I would also add The Pesthouse."

I agree "A Canticle for Liebowitz" is a classic, needsvto be on the list. More currently "The Passage" was hard to put down and very disturbing.


message 35: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Tancreto I recently finished Parable of the Sower and it has moved into my top 5 apocalyptic novels. Butler's vision of America in the wake of environmental, economic, and political collapse is frightening.


message 36: by Laura (new)

Laura Drake One of my favorites has always been A Gift Upon the Shore, by Wren. And another, that my old brain can't lay a hand on at the moment. It will come to me, and I'll post it.
Love this thread!

Oh, and not dystopian, but McGammon's A Boy's Life was awesome!


message 37: by Chuck (new)

Chuck B Agree with Richard - George R Stewart's, Earth Abides, was the first book of the kind I ever read, and about as good as they come. Still in print, I think, even after at least 50 years.


message 38: by Laura (new)

Laura Drake I remembered! Malevil, by Robert Merle. Both this and A Gift upon the Shore are out of print, but well worth a read, if you can find them!


message 39: by Kim (new)

Kim Collins "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the talents" by Octavia Butler Loved these!


message 40: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte I was also surprised not to see the books of the Change series by S M Sterling. I loved these.


message 41: by Jean (new)

Jean Marie Holly wrote: "I expected to see Swan Song on this list."

I agree - I've read an awful lot of this genre, and the two most defining are The Stand and Swan Song, arguably.....


message 42: by Kenneth (new)

Kenneth Margo Agre Canticle for Liebowitz and surely Cormac McCarthy's The Road before anything by Stephen King!


message 43: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Dunford And here I thought I was the only one who loved Swan Song. Totally recommend it to anyone who loves post-apocalyptic stuff. 5 stars!! And don't knock The Stand unless you've read it - I personally think Stephen King will turn out to be a modern-day Shakespeare.


message 44: by Trowzers (new)

Trowzers I agree with The Stand by Stephen King - I read this any time I'm home with a bad case of flu (I have an odd sense of humour).

I also like John Birmingham's After America series - I bet most people are curious to know what would happen if most of America's population suddently vanished in a mysterious energy wave. Plus it does not take itself to seriously and there are plenty of explosions and battles, balanced out by good characters (including strong female leads - somthing that seems to lack in many apocalpse novels). As apocalypses go, I guess After America contains a more minor apocalypse, as the world isn't completely annihialated (well, except for America) but the flow-on effects from that disaster are intriguing!


message 45: by Bill (new)

Bill Krayer Here's my ringing endorsement for Alas Babylon and Earth Abides as well as The Stand, Laniers Hiero Series and Heinlein's Puppet Masters.


message 46: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Alas Babylon, Lucifer's Hammer, and Canticle are my three favorites of this genre. I first read Alas Babylon in about 1961, and it is the first post apocalyptic novel I can recall.
The Stand is one of the few Steven King books I can read and enjoy.


message 47: by Bill (new)

Bill Canticle was definitely the gateway drug for me - been hooked on PA fiction ever since.

Love the 'Dies the Fire' and the whole Emberverse series from SM Stirling - starts traditional PA and slowly moves into a fantasy hybrid.

I found The Passage less than compelling - good but certainly not top 5.


message 48: by George (new)

George Grella Perhaps the author of this list just hasn't read that many books in the genre, or isn't much familiar with it? I'll put in my own support for A Canticle for Leibowitz, and while Lucifer's Hammer is mediocre pulp, Stephen King based a huge amount of The Stand on it.

At the top of my favorites list are I Am Legend, Earth Abides and No Blade of Grass.


message 49: by Kenneth (new)

Kenneth Margo Diverting a bit but Sharon (message 43) to compare the populist pseudo occult titillations of King to Shakespeare!Maybe you could give us some memorable King quotes? cite those of his works that deal in Shakespearean depth with eternal human themes like political ambitions clashing ideals,faithfulness, existential musings on action,inaction,father daughter relationships,greed etc


message 50: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Pumphrey Kenneth wrote: "Diverting a bit but Sharon (message 43) to compare the populist pseudo occult titillations of King to Shakespeare!Maybe you could give us some memorable King quotes? cite those of his works that..."

Okay, I'm not the original poster, and so this isn't my "debate" to have but when I saw this I felt compelled to answer. I can't speak for ALL of King's books and truth is I'm not his biggest fan, and I don't know if I'd compare him to Shakespeare even (although I"m not a WS fan either) BUT I do have to say that if you think about it, he does have "timeless" subjects in at least some of his books. NEEDFUL THINGS is one of my favorites actually--it is the classic human theme of greed, all the way through. MISERY I think would be about our obsession with celebrity and there is no denying that Americans worship celebrity. CARRIE would be about ostracism, bullying, etc.

Anyway I know there are more but I'm at work and can't write pages and pages on here, but I think he actually DOES address some, maybe not if timeless, at LEAST 20th century human nature themes.


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