The best zombie books that stick with you and give you nightmares

Who am I?

I have read over 50 zombie novels and watched pretty much every zombie movie available to me. I write horror and a lot doesn’t really scare me anymore. The books I’ve listed are some of the ones that have stuck with me and gave me nightmares. My favorite zombie movies are the Norwegian film Dead Snow, Train to Busan, and REC (so scary as it added religion to the mix). I read a lot of zombie novels as research for my own zombie novels as I want my books to present new ideas that aren’t readily available, or overused.


I wrote...

Zombies Are People Too!

By Stacy Kingsley,

Book cover of Zombies Are People Too!

What is my book about?

The world ends because of a single cockroach. The first zombie has risen and now the survivors are learning what they are willing to do to survive and what they are willing to sacrifice. Valerie must learn to survive the rising zombie hoards. Robert, a divorced father, learns what he is willing to do for his kids. Marcus likes to see blood on the end of his knife. Can humanity survive?

The books I picked & why

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Monster Island: A Zombie Novel

By David Wellington,

Book cover of Monster Island: A Zombie Novel

Why this book?

I recommend this series because it was the first that I read where there were intelligent zombies. I also found it fascinating that this series realized that humans could be the monsters, even in a zombie outbreak. There are a lot of people who continue to get excited at the thought of a zombie outbreak, but I am not excited because I worry that the human monsters will be more frightening. 

Monster Island: A Zombie Novel

By David Wellington,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Monster Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's one month after a global disaster. The most "developed" nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive -- in places rife with high-powered weaponry, such as Somalia. In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. One amongst them is different; though he shares their appetites he has retained his human intelligence. Alone among the mindless zombies, Gary Fleck is an eyewitness to the end of the world -- and perhaps the evil genius behind it all. From the other…


Dead City

By Joe McKinney,

Book cover of Dead City

Why this book?

This book was so dramatic and horrifying, especially as zombies could infect pretty much anything—including animals. It made me think back to the movie The Birds, especially as there are killer birds. If you can’t trust animals and you can trust humans, will there really even be a chance of hope for survival for the survivors?

Dead City

By Joe McKinney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A relentless thrill ride. . . Break out the popcorn, you're in for a real treat. --Harry Shannon, author of Dead and Gone

Texas? Toast.

Battered by five cataclysmic hurricanes in three weeks, the Texas Gulf Coast and half of the Lone Star State is reeling from the worst devastation in history. Thousands are dead or dying--but the worst is only beginning. Amid the wreckage, something unimaginable is happening: a deadly virus has broken out, returning the dead to life--with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. . .

The Nightmare Begins

Within hours, the plague has spread all over Texas.…


The Rising

By Brian Keene,

Book cover of The Rising

Why this book?

The Rising was one of the first zombie books I read after a while and it was interesting. It went beyond what people expected or thought they wanted from zombie novels. It was less Night of the Living Dead and more Day of the Dead with killing, and mutilations, and suspenseful expectations that no one really thought could be met. 

The Rising

By Brian Keene,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic that helped start a pop culture phenomenon - back in print and UNCUT!

Since it's 2003 debut, Brian Keene's THE RISING is one of the best-selling zombie novels of all-time. It has been translated into over a dozen languages, inspired the works of other authors and filmmakers, and has become a cultural touchstone for an entire generation of horror fans.

THE RISING is the story of Jim Thurmond, a determined father battling his way across a post-apocalyptic zombie landscape, to find his young son. Accompanied by Martin, a preacher still holding to his faith, and Frankie, a recovering…


Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

By Jonathan Maberry,

Book cover of Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

Why this book?

I actually read this book after I read another series by Jonathan Maberry, the Pine Deep trilogy. I was haunted by the Pine Deep series and when I picked up Patient Zero I was once again haunted. The fact that zombies could be a genetic mutation or something brought about by science made me wonder about the state of scientific discovery. Is there a moment when we might go too far in genetics that we have frightening combinations like zombie corn or zombie flowers? Not only will nature try to kill us, but animals already have some form of zombie disease. 

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

By Jonathan Maberry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Patient Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there's either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world. And there's nothing wrong with my skills.' Police officer Joe Ledger, martial arts expert, ex-army, self-confessed brutal warrior is scared. The man he's just killed is the same man he killed a week ago. He never expected to see the man again, definitely not alive, and definitely not as part of the recruitment process for the hyper-secret government agency the Department for Military Sciences. But the DMS are scared too - they have word…


Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel

By Dana Fredsti,

Book cover of Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel

Why this book?

I loved that the main character was a kickass female. Ashley is a fabulous character who is more than what people think she is, which is how I often feel. The fun thing is that Ashley is just like everyone else, a woman trying to get through a very rough day. Ashley felt like she could be any of us or all of us. In fact, I hope that I can be Ashley if there is a zombie apocalypse, a strong female who doesn’t let anyone cause me to die (except me). 

Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel

By Dana Fredsti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down.

A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a 'Wild-Card' -- immune to the virus -- and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak.

It's Buffy meets the Walking Dead in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in zombies, plagues, and Manhattan?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about zombies, plagues, and Manhattan.

Zombies Explore 104 books about zombies
Plagues Explore 32 books about plagues
Manhattan Explore 83 books about Manhattan

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Hot Zone, World War Z, and Day by Day Armageddon if you like this list.