With the supernatural saturating popular culture, vampires have been stealing the limelight from zombies; let’s be fair, how can they compete with the handsome Robert Pattinson when they look like me first thing in the morning? Don’t feel too sorry for them though, if the following books are anything to go by their time will come…
Here is a top ten list of the best zombie books that will have you panic-buying for your zombie-apocalypse survival kit.
Kicking off this top ten of the best zombie books is one of the earliest examples of zombie literature and bringing life to the dead.
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a student consumed by his desire to unearth the secret to life. Told through an arctic explorer’s letters sent back to his sister after a chance meeting with Frankenstein, the book details how Frankenstein was able to give life to a creature assembled from stitched together body-parts of the dead with disastrous consequences. The journey of loss and isolation taken by both Frankenstein, and his monstrous creation, although different to modern-day zombie literature, inspired future generations to delve into the concept of resurrecting the dead and zombies, becoming a classic along the way.
Although not strictly a ‘Zombie’ book, The Magic Island is Seabrook’s eyewitness account of black magic and voodoo practices taking place in Haiti in the 1920’s. The book documents the journalist’s journey through ‘The Magic Island’ hunting down voodoo tribes and cults practicing black magic accompanied by black and white photographs from the trip. Published in 1929, Seabrook gave the western world its first glimpse into this strange, unknown world of supernatural cults, with Time Magazine even claiming the book: “Introduced ‘Zombi’ into U.S. speech.” A worthy read for any zombie fan or black magic aficionado interested in the beginnings of the zombie genre.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is possibly the strangest, yet most laughably innovative book to feature on this best zombie books list. Seth Grahame-Smith has, somehow expertly, managed to infiltrate Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice with his own tale of the living dead, roaming around the British countryside. The book stumbles upon a classic formula by actually using a classic as the basis of the novel, and although I’m sure fans of Jane Austin’s classic may be outraged at the newly added gore, it has already become a hit with zombie fans selling over 700,000 copies. Jane Austin may be spinning in her grave at the defamation of her masterpiece; I like to think she is too busy laughing at the new title.
“I will not negotiate with the undead!”
Monster Island comes in at number seven in this best zombie books list and is the first part of David Wellington’s zombie trilogy; It began life online before being published in print 2006. Set in a Manhattan overrun by zombies, the book follows a former UN weapons inspector named Dekalb whose daughter has been kidnapped by a Somalian war lord. In exchange for the safe return of his daughter, Dekalb is forced to guide a group of Somalian child-soldiers into the heart of zombie infested Manhattan to retrieve AIDS medication. However, the twist comes when we discover one of the infected hoard is different: unable to prevent his infection, Gary Fleck devised a way to keep oxygen flowing to his brain between his death and reanimation allowing him to retain his thoughts and speech as a zombie. Gary soon realises he is able to manipulate the rest of the living dead, causing a gore-fest as the two stories collide. Although the premise of the novel is at times questionable, Monster Island contains enough violence and gore to be enjoyed by zombie fans and a story with enough substance lingering unanswered questions to leave the reader dying for the next part of the trilogy.
Zombie CSU: Forensics of the living dead investigates how the world would react to a hypothetical zombie infestation. Although some fans of the zombie genre have bemoaned the lack of ‘actual’ zombie action; the vast amount of research Maberry embarked on when writing Zombie CSU: Forensics of the living dead impressively makes up for it. The book includes hundreds of interviews with real-world experts from areas including law enforcement, forensic science, medicine, psychology, military and even philosophy to gain an insight into how an outbreak of the living dead would be managed and contained. Illustrated by numerous top artists in the zombie genre, Maberry gives a factual insight into how the world could react to an outbreak of zombies, and whether Night of the Living Dead could ever become a reality.
This is the tongue-in-cheek guide aimed at the Zombie and could not be left out of this best zombie books list. It’s all well and believing you will be the hero of the story, survive the zombie onslaught, be reunited with loved ones. But what if you don’t? If you have already been bitten, David P. Murphy has written just the book to help you cope with your newly infected demeanour. A parody of motivational guides, Zombies For Zombies gives advice on how to make the most of your life as a zombie, including: how to dress, skin-care techniques for your rotting flesh, fitness tips and even helpful recipes for brains! The ultimate guide to life for the infected, or an amusing read for those who aren’t.
“Surviving is one thing,” he said quietly, his voice suddenly calmer, “but you’ve got to have a reason to do it. There’s no point in living if you don’t have anything worth living for.”
Similarly to Wellington’s Monster Island, Autumn began life as a free online download becoming an instant hit among zombie fans with over half a million downloads. Moody’s apocalyptic fiction depicts a group of survivors, struggling in a world whose population has been decimated by a deadly viral disease which agonizingly kills within minutes of infection; 99% of the population are dead within 24 hours. Those who do survive are anything but lucky; at the end of the first week the dead rise up. With increasing intelligence and improving sensory perception they start hunting the survivors who now believe they may have died and been sent straight to hell. Widely regarded as one of the best underground authors of the zombie genre, the gamble taken by Moody to post his novel for free online, and the success that followed, led to sequels in the Autumn series that are equally as captivating and worth exploration by any fan of the zombie genre.
“Use your head; cut off theirs.”
Ever worried you wouldn’t know how to deal with a zombie outbreak or a post-apocalyptic world? If you answered yes, then this is the book for you. Brooks’ fictional parody of survival guides details everything you would ever need to know about the living-dead: from history of the zombie, to survival techniques, even intricate aspects, such as the kind of building best suited to lying low in during a zombie epidemic, and for the worst case scenarios, combat techniques and weapon selection advice. Think of Brooks as a post-apocalyptic Bear Grylls. A brilliantly written and well researched book that highlighted the amount of interest in the zombie-genre by making The New York Times Best Seller’s List when released in 2003.
The list wouldn’t be complete without a nightmare-inducing Stephen King novel. Cell is King’s most successful foray into the zombie genre. The novel follows Clayton Riddle, a struggling young artist from Maine, in Boston on business when ‘The Pulse’ a signal sent through cell (or for the English, mobile) phones hits. The pulse turns phone users into murderous, zombie-like creatures, leaving only the technologically inept as survivors. The book follows Clayton and the characters he meets along the way on a journey back to Maine to be reunited with his son, dodging ‘The Phoners’ or zombies along the way. However, King wasn’t happy to follow the generic zombie plot formula: A few days after ‘The Pulse’ hits, the zombies begin to develop psychic abilities, hiving together as one mind. An interesting twist to the sometimes generic premise of zombie literature; it will have you answering your phone with apprehension for the duration of the novel. A worthy runner-up in any best zombie books list.
Top of this Best Zombie Books list is World War Z: A Oral History Of The Zombie War by Max Brooks. Inspired by Studs Terkel’s The Good War: An Oral History Of World War 2, Brooks has been accredited with bringing the zombie genre back to life with World War Z. After an epidemic initially overlooked by governments all over the world, Brooks plays the role of a United Nations post-war commission agent publishing a report 10 years after the beginning of a war between zombies and the human race. Told through first person anecdotes collected by Brooks from witnesses, but ultimately left out of the final UN report, the book gives perspectives from numerous people of different backgrounds detailing their experiences through the war with the living dead. Continuing from his previous effort The Zombie Survival Guide, Brooks uses his vast amount of knowledge and research to create a truly believable account of a living-dead epidemic.
“Other monsters may threaten individual humans, but the living dead threaten the entire human race… Zombies are slate wipers.” – Max Brooks.
What sets the excellent World War Z apart from other zombie novels is Brooks’ ability to highlight the worst qualities of human nature: from governments trying to cover up outbreaks, to people trying to make quick money from others misfortune and black market trade, as well as showing how short-sighted and isolated parts of the human race can become during times of terror or tragedy. Brooks uses the novel to question government ineptitude that resonated with a post 9/11 audience making World War Z an enormous hit with critics and zombie fans alike.