Apocalyptic and dystopian audiobooks provide a unique escape into dark and captivating worlds. These genres explore worlds where humanity is faced with extreme challenges, often due to a catastrophic event or a totalitarian government. With the increasing stress and uncertainty of our times, perhaps it’s no surprise we’re drawn to these stories.
With the help of Libro.fm and their community of independent bookstores, I’ve selected thirteen of the best apocalyptic and dystopian audiobooks. Not familiar with Libro.fm? It’s actually one of my favorite audiobook services because, among other things, it splits its profits with independent bookstores (read my Libro.fm review). Enjoy these bookseller picks for the best dystopian and apocalyptic sci-fi audiobooks!
The Book of M
Written by Peng Shepherd. Read by James Fouhey & Emily Woo Zeller.
“Imagine a zombie apocalypse where instead of becoming undead, people lose their shadows and, along with it, gradually lose their memories. This intense, heartbreaking, and beautifully-written book follows multiple characters on their search for hope in a hopeless world. I love what they did with the narration of this book. It fits perfectly with the story and creates more of an emotional pull for the listener. An amazing, amazing book!” – Colleen, An Unlikely Story
How High We Go in the Dark
Written by Sequoia Nagamatsu. Read by a multi-cast.
“This dystopian multi-perspective scifi book is expertly woven. We jump through time and from character to character experiencing a terrifying pandemic and end of days. Though reading about a pandemic in midst of pandemic seems daunting, Nagamatsu managed to create a heartfelt and intriguing saga that manages to elicit all of your emotions in a short 256 pages. In audiobook format, a different narrator takes on each chapter but little mentions keep each additional perspective rooted to each other and the full cast brings you on a mind-blowing journey. I don’t know how he does it but by the end, Nagamatsu somehow ties everything up in a truly magical and breathtaking way that has you questioning if he is the next, great voice of our generation.” – Kimi, Buttonwood Books and Toys
Written by Hiron Ennes. Read by Abigail Thorn.
“This is a story that twists as much as it writhes. Elements of gothic horror mix with post apocalyptic science fiction in this tale of a parasite — venerable, civilized, a doctor, possibly all doctors — faces off against another parasite in a frozen manor cut off from the world at large. I kept finding excuses to keep listening. I just had to know what happened next!” – Lisa, The Booksmith
Written by Kira Jane Buxton. Read by Robert Petkoff.
“The Zombie Apocalypse through the eyes of a foul-mouthed domesticated crow and an assortment of other animals. Hilarious, witty, emotional and thought-provoking, this story made me laugh out loud.” – Amy, Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers
The Memory Police
Written by Yoko Ogawa. Read by Traci Kato-Kiriyama.
“On a small unnamed island, the government can make things disappear, never to return, lost to both memory and sense. Yet what is lost is never truly forgotten: some still remember, threatening the rule of the draconian Memory Police. This book fills you with a slow burning dread as the disappearances become increasingly sinister. The Memory Police is the rare dystopia that feels timeless and melancholic, like a dream of a nightmarish future only half-remembered.” – Samantha, Rediscovered Books
Written by Matt Bell. Read by Mark Bramhall.
“One of the signs of a good book is when you find yourself thinking about it often, well after you finish it. Matt Bell’s Appleseed is one of those books. The novel steers the reader through three plots: a story of Johnny Appleseed set two hundred years ago, a tale of a civilization on the brink of ecological disaster fifty years from now, and a story of an inhospitable Earth one thousand years in the future. Each tale is a strange and riveting journey on its own, encompassing a vast swath of human narrative, from Greek myth, the Bible, and Grimm’s fairy tales to early American folklore, but the stories become even more fascinating as Bell starts to pull them together into one epic tale of humanity’s relationship with the planet. I loved Appleseed because it’s a strange and beautiful book and it made me think about humanity’s relationship to the Earth. Especially for people who like both sci-fi and literary fiction.” – Elizabeth, The Snail on the Wall
The Lightest Object in the Universe
Written by Kimi Eisele. Read by Gabra Zackman.
“Instead of focusing on what is dark and terrifying like most dystopian novels, love lights the way in The Lightest Object in the Universe. Following a cataclysmic event, Beatrix is working with her neighbors to rebuild their community, while former school principal Carson travels across the country on foot to reach the woman he knows is his soul mate. Their individual stories are trying yet hopeful and celebrate the best parts of humanity. Highly recommended for book clubs and fans of dystopian literature.” – Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks
Written by Edward Ashton. Read by John Pirhalla & Katharine Chin.
“Holding the worst job in the universe, Mickey, or “Mickey7” as he’s currently known, is tasked with the most dangerous missions his colony can throw at him – from being on the frontline of an attack, to being the guinea pig of an experimental drug. Each time Mickey dies, he wakes up in his bed disorientated and covered in goo. It’s only when a mistake is made and his replacement, “Mickey8,” is made while Mickey7 still lives that this expendable man questions his entire existence. Edward Ashton’s Mickey7 boasts the imagination of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon with the snark and humor of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. A fun speculative peak into the distant future where humanity abandons a war-torn Earth to perpetually spread across the cosmos, Mickey7 is a fun and intelligent listen.” – Nicholas, Mysterious Galaxy Books
Sea of Tranquility
Written by Emily St. John Mandel. Read by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey & Kirsten Potter.
“A gem of a novel, spiraling out of place and time to shape our present hopes and anxieties into a story of peace and resilience. Mandel weaves effortlessly between historical and science fiction and is a master of immersive storytelling.” – Dan Brewster, Prologue Bookshop
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline. Read by Wil Wheaton.
“If you are at all into video games or the 1980’s you are going to love Ready Player One. In a future where people often prefer to live in virtual reality than the real world, the man who invented The Oasis is one of the most famous people in the world. Inside the Oasis you can travel from planet to planet, go to school and live out your wildest dreams. But when he dies and leaves his fortune to whoever can find his “easter egg” hidden inside The Oasis – the challenge begins. I’m not even a huge fan of video games and thought this book was a lot of fun. I listened to the audio book read by Wil Wheaton which was great.” – Madison, Ballast Book Co.
Written by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes. Read by Daveed Diggs.
“This book is haunting in the best possible way. I felt so keenly for Yetu, for the Wajinru and their histories, it gave me chills. Daveed Dig’s narration was a well-matched piece in an already incredible project. I’m so glad this little novella came to be written so that I might share it.” – Jane, Rediscovered Books
Written by Ling Ma. Read by Nancy Wu.
“Candace Chen is a first-generation Chinese millennial immigrant who tries to make a life in New York City by succumbing to the role of the office drone who helps create cheap bibles. But when Shen Fever—a plague that causes its victims to perform a rote task until death—hits, only a few survive, including Candace. She soon finds herself in a cult-like band of other survivors heading to the Midwest while also trying to come to terms with her past and the unknowns of her future. With dark humor, sharp intelligence, and compassion, Ling Ma has written a well-constructed, biting satire of capitalism and a moving glimpse into the roles of memory, place, and identity in a life.” – Kelsey Westenberg, The Dial Bookshop
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
Written by C. A. Fletcher. Read by the author.
“Fantastic. Insightful. A water tight-plot and a delicate balance of dark and light. I could never have guessed the ending (and I pride myself on guessing book endings). My new favorite post-apocalypse book.” – Lafe, Oblong Books
For more sci-fi recommendations see our guide: The Best Sci-Fi Audiobooks of All-Time