20 Great Survival Novels

I love survival fiction. It’s fun to read about what people might do in worst-case scenarios. If you need some motivation to prepare for a potential disaster or inspiration to get through one, try reading one of these books. If you know of any other books that should be on this list, please say so in the comments section below. The books are in alphabetical order.

  1. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. The struggle for survival in a small Florida town after a nuclear war cuts it off from the rest of civilization.
  2. Brushfire Plague by R.P. Ruggiero. A devastating plague pushes society into chaos. Meanwhile, one man searches for a cure when his son falls ill.
  3. Dark Advent by Brian Hodge. Post-apocalyptic story about life after an illness wipes out most of the world’s population.
  4. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. The attempt to build a new civilization and preserve knowledge after a plague wipes out most of mankind.
  5. Footfall by Larry Niven. After aliens invade Earth, the people must learn to survive in urban areas without the infrastructure they once depended on.
  6. Good News by Edward Abbey. The economy collapses and a small group of people in Arizona attempt to fend off a rising military dictatorship.
  7. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. A young-adult novel that chronicles the aftermath of an asteroid knocking the moon out of orbit. Many aspects of survival are involved.
  8. Lights Out by David Crawford. This book chronicles the challenges of Mark “Karate Man” Turner when the lights go out over most of the free world. He must find in himself the ability to unite his family, friends, and neighbors if any of them are to survive the harsh reality that everyday life becomes when the veneer of civilization is stripped away.
  9. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. After a comet strikes, the shit hits the fan overnight and chaos follows.
  10. No Blade of Grass by John Christopher. A plague wipes out most of the world’s grain. The story follows a group of survivors fleeing London.
  11. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. After humanity has been mostly wiped out by a plague, one man struggles to survive in a world where he may be the last human.
  12. Out of the Ashes by William W. Johnstone. In a post-apocalyptic America, a man searching for his family ends up joining the Resistance forces.
  13. Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles. The most educational survival novel out there. Great story, but reads like a non-fiction book at times.
  14. Survivors by Terry Nation. The survivors of a severe pandemic migrate south to get away from dangerous neighbors.
  15. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A dystopian novel about a girl who is forced by her government to participate in a game of survival where the last person alive wins.
  16. The Stand: Expanded Edition by Stephen King. Follows the stories of various survivors after a plague kills 99% of the population. Great story of good versus evil.
  17. Vandenberg by Oliver Lang. A cold war novel about life in the United States after the invasion of Soviet Russia.
  18. Wolf And Iron by Gordon R. Dickson. After an economic collapse, a lone man travels across the country and eventually starts a new community.
  19. World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler. Peak oil, pandemics, and nuclear terrorism all play a role in the story of people who have to learn basic skills in an agrarian village.
  20. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’brien. Story of a young woman surviving on her parents’ farm after a nuclear war.

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  • TN_Dave

    Great List!  One Second After by William Forstchen is also a great read!

  • Pabaylis

    The Road – Cormac McCarthy

  • Jeremiah Thompson

    another good series is the Deathlands series by James Axler.

  • Urban Alan

    Looks really interesting. Thanks!

  • Darrel Edson

    I would like to suggest that you add “The Last Centurion” By John Ringo. Even though I am a left leaning moderate and he writes this from the point of view the right, I found it immensely interesting on how the downfall world economy occurs and what it takes to be able to survive and pull ourselves back up. 

  • http://twitter.com/liamkfisher Liam Fisher

    I’d add Wofl and Iron by Gordon R. Dickson, and the Deathland series by Axler. I’m writing a similar type of story over on my blog at http://www.liamfisher.com

  • Judy Smith

    also check out “Dies the Fire” by S. M. Stirling published in 2004. where the author does point out with the actions taken in this story by the characters, that being aware and not sitting around waiting for things to fix themselves or wait for help (that never comes) means survival. Also being prepared to defend what you have from those who would simply take. The twist is that laws of physics have been twisted so gunpowder abd batteries do not work in addition to the usual electronic failures of an EM pulse.

  • Julie

    There’s a Young Adult series by Susan Pfeffer that starts with the book, Life As We Knew It.  It chronicles the aftermath of an asteroid knocking the moon out of orbit.  It’s about survival  – food, energy, illness, family.  Good for young ones to read, but I loved the 3-book series myself as I love dystopian fiction.

  • Anonymous

    No swan song?

  • Urban Alan

    That’s right, I love that book! Can’t believe I didn’t think of it. At some point I’ll revise my top 20.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty comprehensive. Nice job!

  • David W Salazar

    Oryx and Crake by margaret atwood

  • John Scherber

    I’d like to recommend my own novel about a bio-terror attack and its aftermath. It just came out last week. Your readers might enjoy this fictional take on a subject on everyone’s mind today:

    Jihad in America travels on the wind. Can the government, dodgy as it is, possibly stand up to a real attack?

    While a nuclear terrorist attack is unlikely, in a bio-terror epidemic, the genetically engineered plague is invisible. Our borders are vulnerable, and metal detectors are useless, even as ISIS, the Islamic State, raises its menacing black flag in Syria and Iraq.

    What if the government is helpless, gridlocked in perpetual party conflict and rancor?

    BEYOND TERRORISM: SURVIVAL is the fictional story of two unlikely strangers who found a way to survive the apocalypse, the most deadly terrorist attack in history.

    Read a sample on my website: http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/beyondterrorism.html

  • Kathy

    I loved the Last Light series by Terri Blackstock. One Second After was good,too.

  • Anchorchick

    Swan Song by Robert McCammon is a fave!

  • Curt Greenleaf

    Going Home series (based on an EMP) by A. American incorporates many items and situations.

  • Thomas Neighbor

    “In The Land of White Death” by Valerian Albanov is a true story about a group searching for new hunting grounds and one of my personal favorites. Another great read was “Survive The Savage Sea”, all be it, another true story (true stories of survival have always been more intriguing to me) about Dougal Robertson and his family surviving 38 days in open ocean after their sail boat was sunk by randy whales. Both are well written, easy, satisfying reads. Thanks for sharing this list.

  • alanz11

    I’ve never heard of those. Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to add them to my wishlist.