The best books with zombie main characters

Who am I?

I'm a life-long horror lover and author of dark fiction. I've been reviewing films and video games for Ravenous Monster ezine for nearly a decade, and my Wattpad horror novel The Hound is currently being adapted for film. My favorite thing is the intersection of the horrifying and fantastic with the mundane, and that's what appeals to me so much about zombies: in all of their multitudinous representations, they've always held up a mirror to humanity. No monster can so easily reflect the many facets of humanity as a zombie. Because, after all, the dead were once just like us – and if we're not careful, we might end up just like them in the end.

I wrote...

River of Souls

By T.L. Bodine,

Book cover of River of Souls

What is my book about?

Undeath is a manageable condition. That's what the media says, anyway: with the help of the miracle life-extension drug, Lazarus, the Undead can retain their humanity and live normal, happy lives. Without it, they become violent, mindless walking corpses. 

Davin Montoya was eager to believe all of that until an accident left him joining the ranks of the freshly deceased himself. Now, keeping his death a secret is the only way to keep his sister out of foster care. To do so, he must venture into the underground society of Unregistered Undead - a dangerous world of drug deals and government resistance. But when their access to Lazarus begins to run dry, the truth starts to unravel...and it's not what anyone expected.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Why did I love this book?

Imagine coming back from the dead only to realize the world doesn't want you: You move in with parents who are disgusted by you, random strangers on the street throw food or pull mean jokes on you and your friends, and being caught out past your curfew sends you to the dog pound. That's the life that Andy Warner reanimates into after a fatal accident. It's not all bad, though. At least he's got some friends at the Undead Anonymous support group, including the dead-sexy Rita, and Ray, a guy whose “venison” seems to come with some miraculous healing abilities. This is a darkly comedic book filled with a colorful cast, and you can't help but delight in the tragic spiral of the characters as they become increasingly inhuman. After all, can you blame them? 

By S.G. Browne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breathers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore, a hilarious debut novel about life (and love) after death.

Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence.

But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an…

Warm Bodies

By Isaac Marion,

Book cover of Warm Bodies

Why did I love this book?

This was the first “zombie protagonist” book I ever read, and it set the standard for everything else. Narrated by “R,” a zombie who has retained his philosophical mind if not his ability to communicate, the story unspools a zombie apocalypse story from the opposite perspective. R is just trying to get through his new existence and understand his place in the new world order when he meets Julie, a human from a nearby survivor encampment. As an unlikely friendship and even unlikelier romance begins to form, R starts to reclaim some of his humanity – which casts the entire ethical debate about how to handle the zombie horde in a whole new light. 

By Isaac Marion,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Warm Bodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The zombie novel with a heart', Guardian

Now a major motion picture starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich, Warm Bodies is the ultimate zombie read this Halloween.

'R' is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows - warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons…

Handling the Undead

By John Ajvide Lindqvist,

Book cover of Handling the Undead

Why did I love this book?

Lindqvist already reimagined vampires with Let the Right One In, and Handling the Undead is his answer to the zombie apocalypse. Unlike some of the other books on this list, where the zombie protagonists are sympathetic and mostly retain their humanity, the characters who come back from the dead in this book are deeply unsettling. The main focus is on the still-living family members whose lives are turned upside down by the dead coming to life. Following multiple story threads as many families throughout Stockholm struggle to cope with their newly resurrected loved ones, this book is equal parts heartfelt and utterly chilling. 

By John Ajvide Lindqvist,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Handling the Undead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Reminiscent of Stephen King at his best. Best read by sunlight' Independent on Sunday
Something very peculiar is happening in Stockholm. There's a heatwave on and people cannot turn their lights out or switch their appliances off. Then the terrible news breaks. In the city morgue, the dead are waking up.
What do they want?
What everybody wants: to come home.

Book cover of My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Why did I love this book?

The first of a series, this book introduces Angel Crawford, a high school dropout with an alcoholic dad, a dead-beat boyfriend, and an addiction to prescription drugs. When things in your life are that bad, waking up as a zombie is more of an opportunity than a setback – especially when her newly undead status comes with a fresh job at the morgue and access to all the brains she can eat. But her new job and secret lifestyle come with a big side portion of murder mystery. This whole series is a fun urban fantasy romp that goes down smoother than a feast of brains. 

By Diana Rowland,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked My Life as a White Trash Zombie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness,…

I, Zombie

By Hugh Howey,

Book cover of I, Zombie

Why did I love this book?

If you're familiar with Hugh Howey's work, it's probably thanks to his Wool series of post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I, Zombie is a very different sort of book. It's still post-apocalyptic in subject, but the tone is even darker and filled with both horror and melancholy for the dying world. The zombies here are prisoners of their own bodies, forced to drift and commit horrific violence that they can feel but cannot prevent. You'll get to meet several such zombies in this book and really feel for them as you see each one's backstory and how they came to be part of the horde – and it's that pathos that makes this book something special.

By Hugh Howey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I, Zombie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


This book contains foul language and fouler descriptions of life as a zombie. It will offend most anyone, so proceed with caution or not at all.

And be forewarned: This is not a zombie book. This is a different sort of tale. It is a story about the unfortunate, about those who did not get away. It is a human story at its rotten heart. It is the reason we can't stop obsessing about these creatures, in whom we see all too much of ourselves.

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Interested in zombies, romantic love, and dark comedy?

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