The best dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic books that inspired me

Who am I?

I’m a writer who loves to read and wants to write all the fantasy genres, or at least, wants to try. I’ve always been fascinated by monsters and the question, “What if?” Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, and Fantasy gives us the freedom to explore both these things. It’s amazing how these genres can bend our world and expectation when we explore these two things. What if the world ended but not in the way we expect? What if monsters were real? What if we are the real monsters? These questions are terrifying but so fascinating to consider and blending fantasy with apocalyptic has been a safe way to explore them.


I wrote...

World of Ash

By Shauna Granger,

Book cover of World of Ash

What is my book about?

There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real. The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive. That is, until she meets Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair with nowhere to go and no one to live for. The unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ashes

Shauna Granger Why did I love this book?

This book felt so real. Ilsa Beck did such an amazing job at writing a book about a very saturated genre that was fresh and terrifying because her use of science really made me think this was a very real way the world could end. Also, it is wonderful when a book features a flawed, but strong female lead, something I always strive to write in my books. The main character, Alex, is real and three-dimensional and relatable, even as she’s trying to survive a sudden zombie apocalypse all on her own.

By Ilsa J. Bick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ashes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A cataclysmic event. A dramatically changed world. A zombie army. Can three kids really survive... and who can they trust?

Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed...

Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired…


Book cover of The 5th Wave

Shauna Granger Why did I love this book?

Another book featuring a flawed, but strong female lead, The 5th Wave focuses on the end of the world brought about by a different kind of monster, but also poses the question of whether or not we, as humans, are also the monster. This is a question I think apocalyptic books really ask us to consider as readers, what drives us to the brink of our humanity, what pulls us back, how we deal with both situations. Also, this is a character who is motivated by something very simple and close to most peoples’ hearts: finding what’s left of her missing family. 

By Rick Yancey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The 5th Wave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times Bestseller, now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz

The Passage meets Ender's Game in the first book in an epic series by award-winning author Rick Yancey.

"Remarkable, not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances."-Entertainment Weekly

"A modern sci-fi masterpiece . . ."-USAToday.com

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look…


Book cover of Wither

Shauna Granger Why did I love this book?

This one is totally different than the others on my list, but when I was diving into these related genres and finding myself more and more inspired by them, it was always a surprise and a treat to find a book that just completely defied all genre expectations. The book blends Sci-Fi with Fantasy, something I’ve always enjoyed if done well, and something that made me think maybe I could try my hand at this. I was never that great in science or math, even though I tried, but the idea that we could mix Sci-Fi with Fantasy, now that was intriguing. And throw in a little unexpected romance and I think you have a really well-rounded adventure. Humans are the root cause of the ending of the human race, so obviously humans have to undo what they’ve done, but your average person is just trying to survive the fallout.

By Lauren DeStefano,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wither as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A stunning debut YA novel, destined to blow the dystopian genre wide open - The Handmaid's Tale for a new generation. This edition will contain a sneak preview of Fever, and a brand new short story by Lauren DeStefano: "The First Bride".

Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live when she is kidnapped by the Gatherers and forced into a polygamous marriage. Now she has one purpose: to escape, find her twin brother, and go home - before her time runs out forever.

What if you knew you exactly when you would die?

In our brave new…


Book cover of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Shauna Granger Why did I love this book?

Insecurity is huge in end-of-the-world stories. As humans, we have always sought shelter and security from the wilds of nature, animals, and the things we cannot see in the dark. We created fire and fences and walls and locked doors—to this day, in our modern era, we still need these things. At the end of the world, security is tantamount, but what if you need to go beyond your secured barriers? What if behind these walls, things aren’t actually as safe as you think they are? Finding out why a character would breach their safety is intriguing. After all, a story would be very different if the characters never ventured out of their homes, but if it’s safer inside, why would they go out?

By Carrie Ryan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Forest of Hands and Teeth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and…


Book cover of Rot & Ruin

Shauna Granger Why did I love this book?

A zombie book with a heart. Zombies used to be people, family, friends, loved ones and when we read these stories or watch those movies, it’s easy to forget that. The characters in this book want to remind us and try to keep us from turning into a different kind of killing machine. Rot & Ruin is about compassion and questioning the status quo. There is plenty of action but a steady guiding hand to keep us from the brink of losing our humanity.

By Jonathan Maberry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rot & Ruin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'This is anything but another zombie novel... exciting, full of action, and curiously thoughtful' Charlaine Harris, author of the True Blood series
'A thought-provoking thriller that still delivers a good dose of action and gore' The Bookseller

The perfect read for fans of The Walking Dead, from an award-winning author.

Nearly fourteen years ago, a freak virus swept across the world - turning those infected into the undead. Benny Imura has grown-up never knowing anything different; his last memory of his parents was of them becoming zombies. Now Benny is fifteen, and joining his brother Tom in the 'family business'…


You might also like...

The Warlock's Curse

By C.B. Oresky,

Book cover of The Warlock's Curse

C.B. Oresky Author Of The Warlock's Curse

New book alert!

Who am I?

Since childhood, the library was a wondrous place filled with magical tales and epic stories about strange realms that I could take home…devour…and get lost in. I grew up dancing to enchanting classical music…as an adolescent I painted majestic unicorns…my best friends are my enchanting pets. I often retreat into the deep silent woods or walk along the crashing waves of the ocean to find solace in the magical beauty of nature. Now, as a writer I hope to bring the wonder I’ve found in this world into the strange places and unique characters I create. I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite fantasies: worlds that I truly fell in love with.

C.B.'s book list on fantasy filled with so much magic and wonder

What is my book about?

Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.

Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when the discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.

The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master. But all is not a bouquet of lovely lilies…they are hunted by a cunning warlock and must rid themselves of The Warlock’s Curse.

The Warlock's Curse

By C.B. Oresky,

What is this book about?

Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.

Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.

The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, dystopian, and zombies?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, dystopian, and zombies.

Survival Explore 186 books about survival
Dystopian Explore 541 books about dystopian
Zombies Explore 128 books about zombies