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

Comments (showing 51-100 of 169) (169 new)

message 51: by Joan (new)

Joan Canticle for Liebowitz, Dies the Fire series and all the related series after this one by S.M.Stirling, I Am Legend (book, definitely NOT the movie), and On the beach all winners in the pa world! Certainly engaging enough to get everyone who reads them interested and worth rereading.

message 52: by DNA BOOKS (new)

DNA BOOKS Many of the books that have already been listed are terrific post-apocalypse tales. THE ROAD is overrated. The main reason people think it's great is because it was written by McCarthy. One of the greatest post-apocalypse books of all time is George R. Stewart's EARTH ABIDES. It is a true classic of its genre.

message 53: by Kenneth (new)

Kenneth Margo Rhonda wrote: "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..."

How is human nature a la Shakespeare distinct from 20th century human nature a la King, apart from 21st century human nature being chronically too rushed to delve at any depth

message 54: by John McR (new)

John McR FYI, Wyndham's The Chrysalids was published in the US as Re-Birth. One of my all-time favorites, along with Leibowitz and Earth Abides. Swan Song is new to me, as is Beginner's Goodbye. I go now to my online library account to see if they're available!

message 55: by John McR (new)

John McR Oops. Beginner's Goodbye is Anne Tyler's newest. Not apocalyptic in any sense! Sorry.

message 56: by John McR (new)

John McR Would Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles fit into the post-apocalyptic genre?

message 57: by David (new)

David V. Ms. Adams, Again I thank you for your book White Horse which I received. My other favorite of this type is Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. It was out of print for many years, but no longer. I also liked The Passage and Swan Song. By the way, does anyone know what happened to Robert McCammon?. I enjoyed all of his books, and then he disappeared.

message 58: by Brett (new)

Brett Larsen message 52: by DNA BOOKS: "THE ROAD is overrated. The main reason people think it's great is because it was written by McCarthy." Also to the author here, because The Road is mentioned by her as well:

The Road is one of the finest novels ever written, let alone PA novels. One of the great accomplishments in literature is the ability to illustrate abstract humanistic emotions like love, hope, cynisism. By using a PA setting and not even naming his main characters, McCarthy was able to strip away much of the periphery that gets in the way of us understanding these simple emotions that drive us all. The child is the perfect embodiment of hope and goodness... following the conscience no matter what the consequence. The father is each of us, having to balance conscience and the desire for goodness with the reality that in order to protect those we love, we must sometimes hurt others, but how much? We all wage these battles daily, but McCarthy's stripped down stage so clearly and beautifully illustrates the battle that the result is something that will stay with me forever. He doesn't preach, he simply presents and allows the reader to decide. McCarthy is a genius and didn't win a Pulitzer for this novel because of anything else he ever wrote. Also, to contradict the author a bit, I think the image at the end of the novel is a matter of perspective and presents a beautiful image of hope that lingers in my mind still, years after reading it for the first time.

message 59: by Simon (last edited Apr 11, 2012 10:22PM) (new)

Simon Brown I have to agree with Laura, A Gift Upon The Shore is right up the top with the best post-apocalyptic fiction for me. It's so well crafted and can't fail to make the reader feel something - I was almost shouting with frustration at points! The main theme is the struggle between religious and scientific viewpoints after the collapse of society. Whether you are atheist, agnostic or religious there will be something there for you.

Also I must mention The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. This book chilled me both as a teenager and more recently. It's out of print now but well worth investing in a used copy.

A recent discovery for me was Tatyana Tolstoya's The Slynx. It is set in the ruins of Moscow some two hundred years hence and tells the story of a mutated fragment of society where the main currency is the mouse. Very dark, very funny and very tragic.

In support of Brett I agree that The Road is one of the best books I have read. It left me feeling like an empty husk, but richer for the experience.

message 60: by Dystopian (new)

Dystopian I cannot stand Stirling's books. Absolute pap.

message 61: by Kenneth (new)

Kenneth Margo Brett wrote: "message 52: by DNA BOOKS: "THE ROAD is overrated. The main reason people think it's great is because it was written by McCarthy." Also to the author here, because The Road is mentioned by her as ..."<
Agree that the Road is something extraordinary; classics whether Shakespeare or contemporary novels or works of SF, Fantasy, are classics because they are not in essence abouttaking us into another world so we forget this one ,or the technology or the action or the depiction of other societies ,but (in this case)about eternal values of decency,hope ,goodness,and redemption.

message 62: by Reni (new)

Reni I knew there were others out there who loved this stuff but it's sure nice to know I'm not alone! I've read many of the books mentioned but haven;t even heard of The Swan Song. Will put it at the top of the list. now how many attibute our love of post-apolcolyptic lit to our anxiety issues? :)

message 63: by Jay (new)

Jay Gamel Philip Wylie's The End of the Dream is the most accurate, scary book I ever read, and looking at the headlines today, he was dead on, 40 years ago, when I first read it.

message 64: by L. (new)

L. Hager My novella "The Queue" is in the post-apocalyptic category. See

message 65: by Jean (new)

Jean Marie L. wrote: "My novella "The Queue" is in the post-apocalyptic category. See"
I am adding it to my amazon list - congrats on the book!

message 66: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra One worth having a look at is "Pure" by Julianna Baggott.

message 67: by John (new)

John 67 messages and not one mention of my favorite PA story = A Boy and His Dog.

I have read and enjoyed many of the classics listed here (Alas, Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, On the Beach) and I am currently reading Tears of the Sun (Emberverse 8) but not really enjoying it.

message 68: by Annie (last edited Apr 13, 2012 11:31AM) (new)

Annie Piers Anthony's "Battle Circle" should be on any list. Also, "Alas Babylon". I just finished reading it for the umpteenth time.

message 69: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin Super Sad True Love Story was great. I had to stop reading it for days at a time because it made me so nervous. While not exactly post-apocalyptic, it is the death and afterlife of the American dream.

message 70: by [deleted user] (new)

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

Agree ! It definitely should've been there.

message 71: by Kenneth (new)

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

Agree ! It definitely should've been there."
.Agree See comment 58.It will survive the apocalypse

message 72: by John McR (new)

John McR Thanks, Caitlin! I couldn't think of the title of this apocalypse-in-progress novel: Super Sad True Love Story. Very unusual book.

message 73: by Dystopian (new)

Dystopian This Perfect Day by Ira Levin was pretty good. Anyone read that one?

message 74: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Dunford Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm won the Hugo way back in 1977. A pretty good read with an unusual premise.

message 75: by Paul (last edited Apr 16, 2012 10:34AM) (new)

Paul West GREAT list. Oryx & Crake, too! :) Not to mention A Handmaid' Tale.
PWOryx and Crake

message 76: by Gina (last edited Apr 16, 2012 10:31AM) (new)

Gina Hmm, I'd probably add Feed and Deadline by Mira Grant, I really enjoyed both when I read them. Maybe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi as well.

message 77: by Beth (new)

Beth  (YA Books Central) Definitely!!!!!!The First Days
This writer Rhiannon Frater is fantastic!! This was my first ever Zombie book and it was so great that I read it in 2 days!!!

message 79: by Paul (new)

Paul West Also, throwing my own hat into the ring: First Cause isn't exactly post-apocalyptic in the conventional sense, but it's been described as having a post-apocalyptic feel, and aims to consider a lot of the same issues that the genre angles for. And it's god a strong female protagonist, as well...First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

message 80: by Micah (new)

Micah nice list, but your description of Prince of Thorns is a bit of a spoiler. I am kind of bummed out now. Just started that back, and while it made reference to figures from our world, I still didn't even guess it would be a future apocalypse setting. I thought maybe an alternate fantasy history or something.

message 81: by Christina (new)

Christina Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

message 82: by Diane (new)

Diane Alexander "On the Beach" is one of the best ever.

message 83: by Gene (new)

Gene "Dead of Night" (or Twilight in the US) by Brendan DuBois. Amazing. And "World Made by Hand" by James Howard Kunstler. One a thriller, the other more subtle with a scare factor that sneaks up on you.

message 84: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus The Zona by Goodreads author Nathan Yocum is the best PA novel I've read since Earth Abides. Nary a child or teenager anywhere, which is an enormous relief to me. Really really really really sick of teenagers. Finished raising the last one 13 years ago, and that poor lamb embarks on her first teenager-raising next year.


message 85: by Rachel (new)

Rachel The World Made by Hand and the Witch from Hebron both by James Howard Kunstler should be on this list! Also Armageddons Children by Terry Brooks.

message 86: by Raymond (new)

Raymond Blindness by Jose Saramago, hands down.

message 87: by L. (new)

L. Hager If you liked Blindness and The Road, you will love The Queue. See

message 88: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Betty wrote: "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 ti..."

Carisa wrote: "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 tha..."

This is good to hear...I have Swan Song on my Kindle and plan on reading it this year. :-)

message 89: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I haven't read it since I was a teen but the first one off the top of my head would be "Children of the Dust" by Louise Lawrence

message 90: by Darren (new)

Darren Cormier Would Vonnegut's Galapagos count as post-apocalyptic? If so, it should be included.

message 91: by Alex (new)

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

I didn't think it was very good. Plus, there's a book called "The Ragged Edge" that was written before it which was basically the same story..

message 92: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina The White Plague by Frank Herbert and Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. I've also read several entertaining post-apocalyptic YA novels lately. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Exodus by Julie Bertagna, The Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry, Ashfall by Mike Mullin.

message 93: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas I really like 1984, still an old classic, Fahrenheit 451 is still a favorite! I also really like this children's Orwellian tale:

message 94: by Alex (new)

Alex Adams Diane wrote: ""On the Beach" is one of the best ever."

My own mother berated me for leaving On the Beach off my list. :D

message 95: by Kip (new)

Kip WTF! World war z and the Strand, but no Drowned World or Death of Grass! The only choice I agree with is Triffids. A post literate selection of post apocalypse...

message 96: by Tensy (new)

Tensy Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler); Flood (Stephen Baxter; Canticle for Leibowitz; The Stand (King);

message 97: by John (last edited Apr 16, 2012 11:30AM) (new)

John H Dystopian wrote: "The Chrysalids by Wyndham is better than The Day of the Triffids, I think."

I always wonder why the Chrysalids has never been made into a film

message 98: by Bengz (new)

Bengz The Passage by Justin Cronin which I recently read, is a good one. Btw the list above plus the recommendations from regular Goodreaders will be a source of reference for me, thanks!

message 99: by Alissa (last edited Apr 16, 2012 11:43AM) (new)

Alissa Hankinson Stephen King's The Dark Tower series takes place throughout time, (thanks to the nexus that is The Rose), including a future that is a paranormal, wild-west, post-apocalyptic world. When I ponder an apocalypse, my mind eventually and invariably arrives in the worlds of The Dark Tower.
(The Stand is but a chapter in all that is King's Dark Tower.)

"Time is a face on the water. Roland felt gooseflesh run up his arms. Somewhere - perhaps in a glaring, blood colored field of roses still far from here - a rustic had just walked over his grave."
-Stephen King

message 100: by Hollyleilani (new)

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

I too like Earth Abides!

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