This is all George Romero's doing. He took a figure from folklore and turned it into a nightmare. The original zombies were people who were controlled by magic, to do the sorcerer's bidding. Not much fun, but at least they didn't go around eating people. "Night of the Living Dead" was not the first zombie movie, but it was one of the first to turn innocent zombies into walking, decaying, and ravenous monstrosities.
So now, we have an explosion of the walking, decaying dead. "28 Days Later," "Zombieland," "Shaun of the Dead," and "Resident Evil" are some of the recent movies that showcase zombies. If the observations of critics are correct, zombies stand for the materialism, uncertainty, and hopelessness that modern society is dealing with at this moment in time. A lot of the plots of recent zombie novels include the destruction of our nice, cushy lifestyle. Who cares about wearing Nike and Prada when you're trying to stay alive? What about the zombies created from a mutated virus? H1N1, AIDS anyone?
Okay, so here's the heart of the matter. There's a lot of reading to do. Fiction and nonfiction. You gotta be ready when the zombie holocaust happens.
For you literary types, there's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies originally written by Jane Austen, with some help from Seth Grahame-Smith. Poetry your thing? Take a look at Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum. (Caution: Read before you eat. Unless you have a cast-iron stomach.)
Nonfiction your choice? How about "Real Zombies, the Living Dead, and Creatures of the Apocalypse" by Brad Steiger. Or Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide.
Fiction has exploded with books about the undead:
Daniel Waters. Generation Dead and sequels. Just think about this premise: zombiism as an alternative lifestyle with all the problems that come with it.
Adam Selzer. I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. Isn't school tough enough without trying to date a zombie?
Carrie Ryan. The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves After an apocalypse, the Earth plagued by zombies. People live in walled villages, afraid and confined not only by the walls but by their own society.
Charlie Higson. The Enemy This is a new one: A virus turns almost everyone over 16 into hungry zombies. Orphaned kids try to survive in a devastated London. Of course, zombies aren't their only problem...
Michael Thomas Ford. Z Josh is an expert at torching zombies - online. What if he gets the chance to play the game in real time?
Justin Richards. The Death Collector Evil guy wants to bring the dead back to life. Somebody's gotta stop him.
Cherie Priest. Boneshaker Steampunk and zombies. What's not to love?
These can be really gross. There's probably some s-e-x, too.
David Wellington. Monster Nation
Brian Keene. The Rising
Max Brooks. World War Z
Alden Bell. The Reapers are the Angels.
Alan Goldsher. Paul is Undead: the British zombie invasion
Jonathan Maberry. Patient Zero
Z. A. Recht. Plague of the Dead: the morningstar saga
If you can get your hands on J. L. Bourne's Day-By-Day Armageddon, do. I highly recommend it. It's a concise report of the zombie plague told from a military man's viewpoint. If you like your prose short and sweet, this is the book for you.
Don't forget Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead.