The most recommended books about societal collapse

Who picked these books? Meet our 59 experts.

59 authors created a book list connected to societal collapse, and here are their favorite societal collapse books.
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Book cover of The Light Pirate

Heather Frimmer Author Of Better to Trust

From Heather's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Book Nerd Radiologist Mahjong addict Dog lover

Heather's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Heather Frimmer Why did Heather love this book?

This riveting story takes place in near future Florida as rising water levels and crumbling infrastructure have made the state nearly uninhabitable. But Wanda, a remarkable child named after a powerful hurricane of the same name, chooses to stay and battle the elements.

I happened to read this terrifying, beautifully written novel while on vacation in Hollywood, Florida, making the dystopian future landscape terrifyingly real and easy to imagine.

The writing is gorgeous, and the author’s commentary on climate change is sobering: a true masterpiece for our time. 

By Lily Brooks-Dalton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set in the near future, this hopeful story of survival and resilience follows Wanda—a luminous child born out of a devastating hurricane—as she navigates a rapidly changing world: A “symphony of beauty and heartbreak” (Associated Press).

A Good Morning America Book Club pick · #1 Indie Next pick · LibraryReads pick · Book of the Month Club selection ·  Marie Claire #ReadWithMC book club selection · 2022 NPR “Book We Love” · New York Times Editors’ Choice

Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels wreak gradual havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches…


Book cover of Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

McKenna Miller Author Of Wyrforra (Wyrforra Wars)

From my list on with weird writing styles.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading and writing stories for as long as I can remember—and the weird ones have always been my favorite. I discovered many of my favorite books by wandering into my local library, telling the librarian about my strange reading interests, and allowing them to set me up with literary masterpieces of the most unusual kind. Once I knew how to bend the rules of genre and form to create something original, I took to creating my own weird stories, and have been doing so ever since in my novels, short stories, D&D characters, and bedtime stories for my bird.

McKenna's book list on with weird writing styles

McKenna Miller Why did McKenna love this book?

Bats of the Republic is by far one of the most engaging, unique reading experiences I have ever had the delight to enjoy. The breathtaking art decorating every page (and I do mean every page, from the copyright page to the back of the dust jacket) enhances a deep and intriguing story.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that every piece of writing you encounter comes from one of the characters in the story. This makes for a completely immersive experience as you flip through maps, examine drawings of new animal species, and even uncover a few secret messages. Dodson’s incredible art and one-of-a-kind narrative style create a complex, deep world that I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

By Zachary Thomas Dodson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Archetypes of the cowboy story, tropes drawn from sci-fi, love letters, diaries, confessions all abound in this relentlessly engaging tale. Dodson has quite brilliantly exposed the gears and cogs whirring in the novelist’s imagination. It is a mad and beautiful thing.”
--Keith Donohue, The Washington Post

Winner of Best of Region for the Southwest in PRINT’s 2016 Regional Design Awards

Bats of the Republic is an illuminated novel of adventure, featuring hand-drawn maps and natural history illustrations, subversive pamphlets and science-fictional diagrams, and even a nineteenth-century novel-within-a-novel—an intrigue wrapped in innovative design.

     In 1843, fragile naturalist Zadock Thomas must leave…


Book cover of Fever

Tony Park Author Of Blood Trail

From my list on to read on an African safari.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Australian who fell in love with Africa in my 30s. I've now written 20 thrillers set in Africa and several non-fiction biographies. My wife and I have travelled extensively on the continent and now spend at least half our lives in Africa, and the remainder in Australia. I'm passionate about Africa's people, wildlife, and fragile natural environment. While my books focus on some of the continent's problems – especially the illegal trade in wildlife – I'm a sucker for a happy ending and find no shortage of positive, inspirational people on my travels who serve as the inspiration for the good guys and girls in my stories. 

Tony's book list on to read on an African safari

Tony Park Why did Tony love this book?

South African author Deon Meyer is, in my opinion, the best crime writer in the world. Most of his books are detective stories set in Cape Town, but Fever was a radical departure for him. As an author, I know how important it is for me to keep myself engaged and interested in my writing and not become stale. Deon shook up his readership with this tale of a fictional pandemic (written before Covid 19) and its impact on South Africa. Brilliant and scary and top marks to Deon for leaping out of his comfort zone.

By Deon Meyer, K.L. Seefers (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'UK readers, you have a nice surprise coming. No, not Brexit, FEVER, by Deon Meyer. Reminiscent of THE STAND and THE PASSAGE. Great stuff' STEPHEN KING

'An epic read that
has a dystopian feel and makes
you ask the question: What if?' SUN

I want to tell you about my Father's murder.

I want to tell you who killed him and why.

This is the story of my life.

And the story of your life and your world too, as you will see.

Nico Storm and his father drive across a desolate South Africa, constantly alert for feral dogs, motorcycle…


Book cover of Moon of the Turning Leaves

Dianne Scott Author Of Final Look: A Christine Lane Mystery

From my list on Canadian novels with intriguing female characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of my recommended books feature female protagonists with complex lives. They are layered with friends, families, work, and romantic challenges. They are not superheroes. Yet they are. They all find a way to do the hard thing in difficult circumstances and at great personal peril. And that’s what bravery is. It’s not Captain Marvel coming in to save the world. It’s a woman with responsibilities and problems who digs deep to act with integrity. And she may not get accolades. Her act may be unseen. But she does it. And I love reading about these everyday women with grit.

Dianne's book list on Canadian novels with intriguing female characters

Dianne Scott Why did Dianne love this book?

I like that a female teenager and an old woman are the heartbeat of this book. In a post-apocalyptic world, an Anishinabek tribe is cut off from humanity, unaware if others are alive after a blackout has destroyed the world. As the tribe scouts their way to a new location, it is a young woman, Nangohns, a skilled hunter, who becomes the quiet leader of the group.

I like how the tribe honors the experience of the old but encourages the young to find the gift they can offer the world. I really enjoyed watching the tribe reconnect with the land and their heritage. It was touching to see the respect they had for the environment and each other despite many harsh conditions and losses. And the female elder adds hilarity laced with wisdom as the group's matriarch, leading them into an unknown future.

By Waubgeshig Rice,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Waubgeshig Rice's stories are good medicine. Moon of the Turning Leaves is a restorative balm for my spirit.” — Angeline Boulley, New York Times bestselling author of Firekeeper's Daughter

In this gripping stand-alone literary thriller set in the world of the award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow, a scouting party led by Evan Whitesky ventures into unknown and dangerous territory to find a new home for their close-knit Northern Ontario Indigenous community more than a decade after a world-ending blackout.

For the past twelve years, a community of Anishinaabe people have made the Northern Ontario bush their home…


Book cover of The Collapse of Complex Societies

William Ophuls Author Of Electrifying the Titanic

From my list on the grim ecological-political future.

Why am I passionate about this?

William Ophuls served as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, Abidjan, and Tokyo before receiving a PhD in political science from Yale University in 1973. His Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity published in 1977 laid bare the ecological, social, and political challenges confronting modern industrial civilization. It was honored by the Kammerer and Sprout awards. After teaching briefly at Northwestern University, he became an independent scholar and author. He has since published a number of works extending and deepening his original argument, most prominently Requiem for Modern Politics in 1997, Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology in 2011, and Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail in 2013.

William's book list on the grim ecological-political future

William Ophuls Why did William love this book?

Tainter makes a powerful and almost irrefutable case for complexity as the key to understanding both the rise and the fall of civilizations. In essence, complexity builds and builds until it is no longer manageable, so collapse ensues. That Tainter does not sufficiently appreciate the role that ecological limits, physical constraints, moral decline, and practical bungling can also play in the process does not detract from the power and utility of his argument. For these latter factors, see my own Immoderate Greatness.

By Joseph Tainter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collapse of Complex Societies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Any explanation of political collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all complex societies in both the present and future. Dr Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.


Book cover of A Beginning at the End

Kelly McWilliams Author Of Agnes at the End of the World

From my list on engaged with pandemics, past, present, and imagined.

Why am I passionate about this?

In June of 2020, I published a cult escape/pandemic mashup novel, Agnes at the End of the World. Of course, pandemic novels aren’t for everyone right now, but there are some readers, like myself, who seek out what frightens us in fiction to survive our present moment. I read a bajillion pandemic novels before embarking on my own, and I hope that it helps someone, as novels have always helped me. Ultimately, every pandemic novel is about social ills, large and small, and about grief. They remind us that we’re all in this complex world together, telling stories around a campfire to shine some light in the dark.

Kelly's book list on engaged with pandemics, past, present, and imagined

Kelly McWilliams Why did Kelly love this book?

A Beginning at the End is probably the novel I’d recommend to most readers now, because it’s not just about a pandemic—it’s the story of a pandemic’s long aftermath. The novel paints of picture of societal resilience and growth, and individuals holding out hope for the future after the greatest of tragedies.

By Mike Chen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Beginning at the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Brotherhood

Four survivors come together as the country rebuilds in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic. A character-driven postapocalyptic suspense with an intimate, hopeful look at how people can move forward by creating something better.

Six years after a virus wiped out most of the planet’s population, former pop star Moira is living under a new identity to escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world for those still too…


Book cover of Rising from the Ashes

Justin Oldham Author Of Bibix

From my list on science fiction featuring alien invasion.

Why am I passionate about this?

Alien invasion is just another form of apocalypse. The terrible truth is, our civilization and our world can end in many different ways. I think of myself as being on a life-long quest to read as many variations as possible. No matter how things end, I’m always interested in how authors portray human survival. Even when we inflict harm on ourselves, humanity always seems to be capable of bouncing back. It’s a form of optimism that I just can’t resist. I try to include some of that hope in everything I write. 

Justin's book list on science fiction featuring alien invasion

Justin Oldham Why did Justin love this book?

This is the first collection of short stories I’ve encountered that deals specifically with the aftermath of an Earth-shattering alien invasion, dwelling mostly on what humans do in the ruins after the aliens have packed up and gone home. I hadn’t really thought about that part of an invasion story before. As difficult as rebuilding would be, I was heartened to read about the satisfaction the survivors got from reclaiming what they had lost. Now that I’ve read this, it’s an aspect of the post-apocalyptic genre that I’d like to see more of. 

By Anne K. Nagel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Building for Tomorrow

Humanity was unprepared for the Xanite invasion of Earth. After decades of world-wide destruction, global infrastructure crumbled and cities fell into ruin.

As the calamity unfolded, a new generation of heroes confronted an uncertain future. They came from all walks of life – some wearing camouflage, while others were garbed in food service whites. These men and women worked courageously to stem the collapse of human civilization.

It would take new thinking and new beliefs to bring about a better future and deal with the alien menace. These are some of their stories of bravery and determination.…


Book cover of The Road

Stephen M. Sanders Author Of Passe-Partout

From my list on dystopian and sci-fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy fan ever since my dad introduced me to the original Star Trek (in reruns) and The Lord of the Rings in my youth. I’ve always loved thinking about possibilities—large and small—so my work tends to think big when I write. I also write poetry, which allows me to talk about more than just the everyday or at least to find the excitement within the mundane in life. These works talk about those same “possibilities”—for better or worse, and in reading, I walk in awareness of what could be.

Stephen's book list on dystopian and sci-fantasy novels

Stephen M. Sanders Why did Stephen love this book?

Cormac McCarthy does the impossible in this book—he writes an emotionally satisfying, literary-minded travelogue of horrors. It shatters the reader but then lifts them up with its beautifully wrought prose.

Be patient: the novel gets brutally dark before the light.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…


Book cover of Lord of the Flies

Alice Castle Author Of The Invitation

From my list on thrillers set on an island.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the sea. I grew up near the gentle waters of England’s Kent coast, then went to St Andrews University, surrounded by the treacherous North Sea. Finally, I discovered the Devon shores, which inspired Agatha Christie. In island thrillers like hers, the power of the sea becomes overwhelming. It holds suspects at bay, becomes a murder weapon, and constrains both innocent and guilty until justice is done. For me, this is the ‘locked room’ mystery in its purest form: an isolated location and a limited number of suspects–causing unlimited amounts of tension. I hope you love these stories as much as I do.

Alice's book list on thrillers set on an island

Alice Castle Why did Alice love this book?

I love this book because it has such a strong, dystopian message. It is told by a group of children who find themselves marooned on an island.

This tale is not for the faint-hearted. It catalogs a rapid descent into cruelty and barbarism, while the growth of warring factions and the development of superstition add to the sense of menace.

I also love that the publishers heavily edited this book before it was put on sale, including removing the first section entirely. It’s a great lesson that sometimes less really is more. 

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Lord of the Flies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys' delicate sense of order fades, so their childish dreams are transformed into something more primitive, and their behaviour starts to take on a murderous, savage significance.

First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is one of the most celebrated and widely read of modern…


Book cover of Autumn

Chris Philbrook Author Of Dark Recollections

From my list on zompoc (zombie + apocalypse).

Why am I passionate about this?

Chris Philbrook spent almost two decades figuring out he didn’t want to use his business degree for business, and his psychology degree for mental health. Instead, he started writing books about zombies, several of which went on to hit bestseller status, and life has been far better as a result. He has authored over 25 books now, spanning multiple genres.

Chris' book list on zompoc (zombie + apocalypse)

Chris Philbrook Why did Chris love this book?

Autumn is a two-stage apocalypse story that spills out the horror of the world ending from a mysterious infection, followed up by a second, species-crushing wave of terror as the dead return to life to finish the job the infection began. Autumn is dark, and brutal, and is an older book in the genre, but a refreshing take on the trope of zombies. It’s filled with beautiful imagery and characters with depth and runs into a six-book series.

By David Moody,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In less than twenty-four hours a vicious and virulent viral epidemic destroys virtually all of the population. Billions are killed, within minutes. There are no symptoms and no warnings; within moments of infection each victim suffers a violent and agonising death. At the end of ten minutes, only a handful of survivors remain. By the end of the first day those survivors wish they were dead. By the end of the first week, as the dead get up and walk, they know they are in hell. AUTUMN, the classic free underground novel finally bursts into the mainstream. It is cold,…