Top 10: Zombie Books of All Time

LeTune December 9, 2010 9


Let’s start off by stating the obvious: the entertainment industry is cyclical. Genres that were fashionable last decade fade to obscurity, only to be picked up again a few years down the road. And that road has lead us back to the sound of ghoulish moans, the steady shuffle of decomposing feet, and the scabby wounded bodies of the living dead.

Yes, the brain-eating, sluggish masses have ensconced themselves in Hollywood, appearing in major films and TV series, like Zombieland and The Walking Dead.

However, for those of us that like a bit of highbrow flair with our (often) lowbrow scares, you’d be happy to know that the zombie sub-genre in literature is alive and kicking… or better yet, re-animated and hungry (I’ll try to limit the awful zombie-puns and metaphors from now on, I promise). Granted, not everything that is written down and published is of high quality. But I’ve done a bit of research to find the best zombie-related novels or graphic novels. Not only do these deliver the popular scares, but they also stimulate your imagination.

And so, without further ado, here are the Top 10 Zombie Books of All Time:

1. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

The comic book series on which the new and acclaimed TV series is based on. The story is about Rick Grimes, a policeman trying to survive a zombie apocalypse with his family. Here, all dead people turn into zombies, regardless of how they die, and a zombie bite merely leads death, not infection.

2. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

The definitive guide to surviving a zombie outbreak. This book is a must for those that like a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor with a streak of realism. In my mind, when the outbreak happens (when, not if), this is how zombies will be. The classic slow-moving infected hold sway here, as in all Max Brooks’ novels.

3. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks

A graphic novel detailing a list of recorded zombie attacks throughout history. The oldest entry is from 60 000BC, the latest from 2002.

4. Zombies: A record of the year of infection by Don Roff

This novel is written as the journal of bird-watching enthusiast and hematologist Dr. Robert Twombly. This diary starts in January 2012 and the first couple of entries depict bird sketches and such, but suddenly the journal takes on a darker tone. This is definitely one of the better zombie-themed books out there, especially if you are more into documentary-style writing.

5. World War Z by Max Brooks

The definitive zombie novel. I have yet to read one that scared me more or that felt so real. About 60% of the novel would work with any other epidemic – the stories, reactions, cover-ups, and human behavior are all very believable. This is how an outbreak will happen. The novel is a set of interviews in a report commissioned by the United Nations 10 years after the zombie outbreak. Civilization is slowly getting back on track, but the scars run deep.

Interesting to note is that this book has a truly excellent audio version, with a full cast that includes Alan Alda and Henry Rollins. And is coming to cinemas, hopefully in the near future.

6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

I read about this book when the BBC profiled it a few years back. Now, I never read the original Jane Austen novel, but I’m told the addition of zombies into this classic story wasn’t actually very difficult to do. Somehow, it even allowed for some elements of “ninja” in it too. That’s not a joke. This is a bona fide zombie/ninja/historical fiction mashup novel. Stay tuned for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

7. 28 Days Later: The Aftermath by Steve Niles

Fans of the movie will love this graphic novel. It’s a series of interlinked plots that runs parallel to the plot of the film. London is the setting, fast-moving fiends infected with Rage virus are the enemy.

8. Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

You may know Lindqvist from his other endeavors as Sweden’s premier vampire-fiction novelists. He penned the well-loved Let the Right One In. Now, he’s taking on the undead in Stockholm as they rise and take over the city. Following the success of the film version of Let the Right One In, you can bet on seeing this novel in a big-screen adaptation.

9. The Rising by Brian Keene

Brian Keene can be credited for helping bring the popularity of zombie literature to the mainstream. Because of his series of books, and with films like 28 Days Later, we have seen a spike in zombie-related entertainment. The Rising is his first book in a series dealing with a different kind of undead – here, the zombies are demons possessing human bodies, meaning that they are intelligent as well as ruthless. Perhaps not for the die-hard zombie fan that insists the undead be slow and sluggish, but you can’t argue that it isn’t a well-written horror novel.

10. City of the Dead by Brian Keene

The follow up to The Rising picks up pretty much where the first novel left off. It keeps the supernatural themes of the first, as opposed to the usual biological/viral themes present in most zombie fiction. Again, an acquired taste for those that are used to more traditional, less fantastical fiction, but still a scary read.

9 Comments »

  1. Josh December 14, 2010 at 5:26 am -

    Day By Day Armageddon, man. It’s the cat’s pajamas.

  2. Marcus Calvert December 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm -

    No disrespect, but you’re not even trying to find the best 10 zombie books. Suggestions:

    1. Scratch Brian Keene’s books from the list. His CONCEPT is awesome. He’s very good writer. But when I finished reading “City of the Dead”, I wanted tar and feather him! Imagine a world where the humans are so stupid/insane/both that you’re rooting for the zombies by chapter nine! The rats, birds, and gators are all zombies. Darwin would groan at this series because the few smart, capable folks get killed by friendly fire or other people’s stupidity and/or madness. I love it that the demon/zombies run, shoot, rap, and have the memories of their hosts. But the utter despair of the damned thing makes you want to punch somebody, not buy the next book.

    2. “Patient Zero” (Johnathan Maberry) didn’t make the list? Find the book, read it, have an orgasm, smoke a cigarette, and then please consider putting it on your list. It’s in “Walking Dead’s” league. It’s one of those books you read, share with your friends, give away as a present, get the itch for, and then end buying again.

    3. “28 Days Later” isn’t a zombie flick, is it? I only saw the movie version. Maybe they screwed around with it. But I thought it was merely about a rage-inducing virus (without any undead).

    4. You mention 2 Max Brooks pieces. He’s good, but not that good. Really, just pick one.

    5. There are zombie books out the demon hole. Track ‘em down and read through ‘em. You might spot some up-and-comer first and add to your esteemed list.

    Hope these suggestions helped.

    • LeTune December 16, 2010 at 2:25 am -

      Thanks for your feedback Marcus.

    • Mike December 16, 2010 at 2:35 am -

      Hey Marcus, no disrespect taken! :-) All feedback is welcome. I’m an avid reader and a casual fan of zombie-related fiction and just came up with the list based on what I have read and what I have liked. I figured the zombie genre has seen a resurgence in mainstream entertainment, but not so much in mainstream literature (or what is considered “literature” by the highbrow literati). I wanted to show casual fans of the genre another angle that they may not have seen as well as introduce avid readers to a genre they may ignore based on prejudices.

      But to address some of your points

      1. Agreed, I had that feeling too a little. What was the point of being human in that case?!

      2. You sold me. I’m getting it ASAP.

      3. The director and writer of the movie were adamant that it was not a zombie flick. The whole anti-zombie sentiment was parodied in Shaun of the Dead. But let’s face it. They were zombies. (Oops, sorry, Danny Boyle, for saying the Z-word when talking about your film.)

      4. Man, I can’t agree with you on this. I love Max Brooks. He turned me on to the whole thing in the first place. I’m a sentimental guy. During a zombie apocalypse, I would try to make sure he’s OK.

      5. I will. And again, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to write your comment!

      /Mike

  3. Rob December 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm -

    Dude —- I’ve not read any of those and plan on doing it now but I thought Cell by Stephen King was outstanding. What about I am Legend….totally awesome.

  4. Robin December 18, 2010 at 6:14 am -

    Dont let the title fool; you if you like zommbie books try one called SNOW BY RONALD MALFI.

  5. Eric December 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm -

    okay i agree halfway with marcus the writer of patient zero made another book called “rot and ruin” and the sequel to rot and ruin dust and decay there the best zombie books ive ever read read them.they should be on the list.

  6. LankyLibrarian July 22, 2011 at 9:53 am -

    I’ve read a lot of zombie books and I agree with most of the list and comment suggestions, like Patient Zero and Day by Day Armageddon (also check out the books by David Wellington), but one I don’t agree with is The Rising. I have been surprised that it ends up on some many Favorite lists I’ve seen. To me, it was just an exercise in excessiveness and gratuitousness and that got boring really quickly for me.

  7. Jules January 5, 2013 at 6:48 am -

    One series which isn’t on here which I found AMAZING is The Morning Star Strain series (Plague of the Dead, Thunder and Ashes, Survivors) by ZA Recht. Veeery good! The author died in the middle of writing the last book, so Survivors is not as good, but a great effort and still a great series.