December 17, 2012

Books for the end of the world


As the end of the Mayan calendar cycle approaches this Friday, there are a couple things that could happen. A rogue planet called Nibiru could crash into Earth. There might be storms, magnetic pole reversal, and floods. We might get caught in an enormous large black hole in the middle of the universe. There’s also the possibility that nothing will happen.

In preparation, NPR has done a round up of books to read that include a range of apocalyptic scenarios. There’s Boccaccio’s The Decameron (the Black Death), Jane Smiley’s Ten Days in the Hills, The Children of Men by P.D. James (the end of human reproduction), and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (aftermath of a nuclear war).

The Minnesota Daily has offered their own book suggestions, adding the tag line “Doomsday paranoia optional, drinking recommended.” Their picks include The Postman by David Brin, and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, which are paired with boxed wine and Jim Beam Black whiskey respectively.

For the past couple years, Freebird Books in Red Hook have held a Post-Apocalyptic Book Club, organized by store owner Peter Miller. The group was profiled in the New Yorker in September 2010, and one member explained the ways the apocalypse can serve as a literary device:

In some books, the apocalypse serves to wipe the slate clean and start over or return to a better past—it’s a projection of the author’s hatred for the present age. In others, the apocalypse functions as a test to find out who we really are stripped of the veneer of civilization.

The group’s long and excellent list of selections includes these titles which had the most well-attended discussions:

Whatever happens, it seems that the Freebird Post-Apocalyptic Book Club will be prepared for all scenarios.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.