When you think of zombie apocalypse heroes — you know, the ones that make it to the end of the movie — you tend to think of clever sharpshooters or unlikely stone-faced types who are so good at putting an axe in an undead’s forehead that you have to wonder what they did for a living in the normal world. For the rest of us — the bookish, the squeamish, the accountants and artists — the zombie apocalypse seems to mean either finding a strong arm to hang onto or else getting used to having human intestines for lunch.
But surviving the zombie apocalypse requires more than a sturdy weapon and a good brooding face. You just might need a book or two.
I know, I know… when the whole world’s gone to pot and there are hungry undead clawing and munching on freshly eaten human at your doorstep, books might be the last thing on your mind as you work out how to escape with most of your limbs. But after you escape with a trusty axe, a handful of protein bars, and some complicated multi-tool you barely know how to use, you’ll be wishing you’d just once read a book on zombie psychology or how to build a zombie-proof shelter out of a dumpster lid, bubble gum, and a hanger.
Even for the Michonne-level badasses of the world, a solid understanding of edible plants, shelter building, and how to sew up a gaping bite wound would be just as necessary in the zombie apocalypse as the ability to chop off a head or two without fainting. These are the books you’ll want to throw in your pack.
SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman
In case of zombies, this is the book that you’ll want to have in arms reach as you run from the hungry hungry horde. It might be lacking on the details of zombie killing specifically, but it’s got a nice sampling of the survival essentials like finding your way through an unknown forest, hunting and trapping squirrels, and not dying from eating the wrong berries. Of course, your worries will be more about not dying from being eaten, but it’ll at least give you a good start.
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
It’s kind of a mammoth-sized series, so maybe not ideal to be travelling with four giant tomes, but then again, you could always use them as pillows, an endless amount of kindling, or, in a pinch, each compendium is probably heavy enough to brain a zombie with. But aside from its versatility as a survival tool, the series actually has a good deal of zombie survival advice between the lines. Well, at least if the real-life zombies follow genre rules.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail R. Gehring
The SAS handbook is pretty useful for basic temporary survival, but it kind of assumes that the government is functioning and cares to save you eventually. Gehring’s guide is more of an overview of how to live off the land like our hardy ancestors, who were so badass that they probably DID survive a zombie apocalypse and just never mentioned it.
World War Z by Max Brooks
World War Z is a deadly serious take on the zombie genre, making it all seem a bit more realistic than your typical zombie movie. There might be walking dead people everywhere, but the world is still the world and people are still people, so you can bet there'll be black markets and crazy cults and medical hoaxes and politicians... and that's all as liable to kill you (and your spirit) as any walking corpse. BTW, the book is very very different than that Brad-Pitt-to-the-rescue movie; I'm pretty sure the only thing they have in common is the title.
Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by Carol Thuman, David Werner, and Jane Maxell
Because how embarrassing would it be to die from chickenpox or a parasite in the middle of the zombie apocalypse…
The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource by Daisy Luther
Dude. Water. It’s kind of essential. And nobody wants zombie juice in her water, so you might want to learn how to de-zombie-juice your water. Also, not dying of waterborne parasites would be good.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead by Max Brooks
Look, all those practical guides on how to survive by eating leaves and stuff are all fine and dandy, but let’s not forget that we’re talking about freaking zombies here. You can build the finest forest hut in the world and end up a shambling human-ivore just the same. What you really need to know is the best attire for zombie killing, how to outsmart a horde in a multi-level building, whether to bother hijacking a car or stealing a bicycle to get the hell out of dodge. This is the guide for that.
The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma
Even you if you have spaghetti noodles for arms and don’t know which end of a gun to hold, you too can learn to fight the undead!
The Passage by Justin Cronin
OK, so The Passage is more like a vampire apocalypse situation (how scary is that?!), but it’s got all the makings of zombie survival — high walls, strategic group expeditions for supplies, energy crises… oh, and lots of death. It's also a good look at surviving when the zombie situation is less of the shambling, slow zombies we've come to think of. Fast zombies, y'all. It could happen.
Feed by Mira Grant
Survival isn’t just for cowboy sheriffs and folk with a natural affinity for crossbows. There’s a place for the blogger in the zombie apocalypse too! Though, I suppose, you probably won’t be getting to this one, if you don’t get to one of those survival handbooks first...
The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining by David Haskell and Colin Spoelman
Let’s be real, you’re gonna need it.
Image: Constantin Film Produktion