The best books with zombie main characters

The Books I Picked & Why

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

By S.G. Browne

Book cover of Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Why 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? 

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Warm Bodies

By Isaac Marion

Book cover of Warm Bodies

Why 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. 

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Handling the Undead

By John Ajvide Lindqvist

Book cover of Handling the Undead

Why 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. 

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My Life as a White Trash Zombie

By Diana Rowland

Book cover of My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Why 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. 

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I, Zombie

By Hugh Howey

Book cover of I, Zombie

Why 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.

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