It's the end of the world as we know it

I have no idea why I enjoy reading doomsday or post-apocalyptic books. Maybe it's the extreme circumstances that build strong characters (or sometimes expose weak ones for that matter) or maybe I just have an unhealthy obsession with the end of the world. Whatever the reason, these books never fail to catapult me directly into the story and leave me shivering with delight. It's like watching a train wreck - it's gruesome and horrific but you just can't tear yourself away. So I thought I'd put together a list of some of my favorite post-apocalyptic books that just might make you want to get a gun, food storage and a whole stockpile of medicine.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Dark and moving book about teens living on their own in England through a devastating war. Told from the first-person, I loved the narrator’s psychological development and struggle to deal with the reality of her new life. And of course, it's a Printz winner - no further recommendation needed.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Boy does this book ever make me want to get my food storage! In a series of diary entries, a young girl records her life after an asteroid hits the moon, throwing it off it’s path causing all kinds of natural disasters. The honest narration compelled me to honestly evaluate what I would do in the same situation.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Panem ruthlessly controls the 12 districts that once were known as North America. Their ultimate control over the populace lies in the Hunger Games where one boy and girl are chosen as 'tributes' from each District every year and are forced to fight for their lives while the struggle is broadcast to the entire nation as mandatory viewing. But that doesn't even begin to encompass it's greatness - just read it.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy has a classic on his hands here. An utterly amazing story of a father and son who travel across a devastated and scorched America. Along the way, they deal with love, loss, courage, the will to survive, and simple pain. Some of McCarthy’s images will stay with me for a really long time. It completely blew me away.

World War Z by Max Brooks
A compilation of first-hand 'accounts' from when zombies tried to destroy earth's population. Various countries and communities are featured, each giving a different look at how people reacted to a large scale threat – often in chilling ways.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Government control gone crazy. Each person has a ‘job’ but even in this highly strict society, corruption and greed are found as one woman tries to escape her life as a handmaiden to a civic leader and his barren wife. Not for the faint of heart.

1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell's bleak vision of a world under the thumb of a brutal, oppressive regime in which we are first introduced to that all-knowing and all-powerful presence: Big Brother.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
These quick yet thought-provoking junior fiction books introduces us to a time when America is suffering from food shortages due to population explosion. The military has taken control and Haddix forces the reader to consider what our own government would do in the face of such crisis.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
A fascinating, almost chilling tale about a boy, Jonas, who is chosen to be his community's new Receiver. Jonas receives memories from The Giver; memories that are full of feeling - pain, love, loss, color, and life - that are deemed too dangerous for the community to be able to experience.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A totalitarian regime controls the populace through nonstop entertainment. Don’t think, don’t read, don’t be an individual – just enjoy TV. Follow the transition of Guy Montag from book burner ‘fireman’ into a man who is on the run for not only possessing books, but killing a fellow fireman to protect them.

So that's my list of post-apocalyptic books. I'm always on the lookout for the next great addition to this list, so please let me know if I've missed your favorite doomsday book!


Kristin Hanson said...

I, too, adore the post apocalyptic genre. A few to add to your list:

Brave New World by Adulous Huxley,
The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld,
Gathering Blue by Lowry,
Beauty by Sheri S Tepper,
Oryx and Crake (also by the amazing Atwood)
the Stand by Stephen King.

I haven't read the latter, but a good friend of mine, who loves the same books, said it's one of the best.

Kristin Hanson said...

Ooops, it's actually called Raising the Stones by Tepper. Beauty, however, is a great book, too :)

Angiegirl said...

This is a fine list. I have the same weakness you do for dystopian lit. If the characters don't go through enough pain, how will I admire their strength/resilience? :) It's funny you used the term doomsday books because I was already thinking of a favorite of mine DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis. It's somewhat scifi, somewhat historical, and perhaps not a traditional post-apocalyptic book, but it always comes to mind with the rest of these and it's wonderful.

Kath said...

I really enjoy your blog, thanks for these suggestions. I've read a few of them and I'll have to add the rest to my list!

Anonymous said...

That's quite a list! I'm impressed. Life as We Knew It sounds fascinating. As someone who helps people with their food storage professionally, you can certainly start with something as small as just a few cans a week and filling up old milk cartons with water. Re: a book recommendation, I have a few that I enjoy. "One Second After" is by best seller author William R. Forstchen and details what would happen if an EMP (electric magnetic pulse) were to hit in America and annihilate all the electricity, permanently. It's pretty epic. "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank is about the world after a nuclear blast. More at

Michelle said...

Wow! Thanks for all the recommendations everybody - I'll have to add these all to my TBR pile.

Angie - that cracks me up about 'Doomsday Book' becuase someone had recommended it to me but I had totally forgotten the title. Thanks for the reminder!