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

The Books I Picked & Why


By Ilsa J. Bick

Book cover of Ashes

Why 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.

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The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series

By Rick Yancey

Book cover of The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series

Why 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. 

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By Lauren DeStefano

Book cover of Wither

Why 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.

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan

Book cover of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Why 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?

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Rot & Ruin

By Jonathan Maberry

Book cover of Rot & Ruin

Why 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.

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