Books about Survival and The (Atomic) Bomb

(Last Updated On: November 22, 2022)
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Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

Starting as a 13-year-old, I read a bunch of apocalypse novels, mostly of the nuclear type. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank was maybe my first. From the age of 3 I started reading every horse book that had been printed. Bi-weekly trips to the library kept me satiated.

Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Mushroom cloud above Nagasaki after atomic bombing on August 9, 1945.
Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Mushroom cloud above Nagasaki after atomic bombing on August 9, 1945.

After my father built our house, we moved from the cypress-built bungalow into the log cabin. We then rented the cypress bungalow. We had renters that were in to survival prep and apocalypse books. They got me in to post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Here are Amazon links to Kindle versions of the books I read. You can also get hardcover versions from these links. These are books from the 1950s to 1960s, listed by my favorites. I’ll post links to more recent books in upcoming survival posts.

I’m in the process of reading apocalypse books that of the serial variety. I joined Kindle Unlimited and am reading a bunch of series books, mostly by Kyla Stone. I seem to like to read books that are in a series. I’m obviously a science-fiction nerd, so I will post links to my fav sci-fi books in a separate post in this genre. (I loved Heinlein!)

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – When the unthinkable nightmare of nuclear holocaust ravaged the United States, it was instant death for tens of millions of people; for survivors, it was a nightmare of hunger, sickness, and brutality. Overnight, a thousand years of civilization were stripped away. One small Florida town survives, adapting to their new lives in a radioactive wasteland.

Tomorrow! by Philip Wylie – A chilling what if? tale of nuclear apocalypse in the American heartland. Philip Wylie’s gripping parable Tomorrow! describes a time in America when doomsday threatens to dawn at any moment. A nation’s worst nightmare is made palpably real, seen through the eyes of a diverse group of ordinary citizens in two adjacent Great Plains metropolises.

Triumph (Beyond Armageddon) by Philip Wylie re-release in paperback only, December 1, 2007. In the world’s upper hemisphere, only one small group has survived World War III: fourteen people, sheltered deep within a limestone mountain in Connecticut and with enough supplies and equipment to maintain their subsistence for upwards of two years.

Sound familiar? I loved this book.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute – A worldwide nuclear war is launched by accident! A handful of survivors hope for a miracle. But they think they are doomed. How does a person live when he knows he is going to die? Some carry on as usual – a few destroy themseves in a last mad fling at life.

“The most important novel of the Atomic Age.” — Washington Post.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick – On Mars, the harsh climate could make any colonist turn to drugs to escape a dead-end existence. Especially when the drug is Can-D, which translates its users into the idyllic world of a Barbie-esque character named Perky Pat. When the mysterious Palmer Eldritch arrives with a new drug called Chew-Z, he offers a more addictive experience, one that might bring the user closer to God. But in a world where everyone is tripping, no promises can be taken at face value.

John Christopher’s 1956 No Blade of Grass is an extremely compelling page turner that portrays our moral traditions and social glue as being so fragile that they can be swept away in a day. Compassion, mercy, and even friendliness are not as hard-wired as we would hope, and they quickly dissolve when the urgency of survival forces us to view all other people as competitors.

No Blade of Grass features a common theme in post-apocalyptic fiction: nobody expects things to fall apart as quickly as they do. (Just started re-reading this. My son has a big paperback copy.)

First published in 1949, George R. Stewart’s award-winning Earth Abides is one of the most influential science-fiction novels of the twentieth century. It remains a fresh, provocative story of apocalyptic pandemic, societal collapse, and rebirth.

The cabin had always been a special retreat for Isherwood Williams, a haven from the demands of society. But one day while hiking, Ish was bitten by a rattlesnake, and the solitude he had so desired took on dire new significance.

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