The world is a crazy place these days and reading is a great way to distract yourself. However, if you do feel like leaning into the doomsday vibes and immersing yourself in some post-apocalyptic lit, here are a few books that will make you say, “Hey, at least it’s not that bad…yet!”
1. The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
Best known for her masterpieces The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson also penned this chilling tale about the end of days. The Sundial follows the Halloran family after they gather for a funeral. When their strange Aunt Fanny receives a vision of impending doom from which only they will be saved, the family reunion quickly devolves into a mess of madness. This is quintessential Shirley Jackson, a dark, clever examination of the nature of family and belief.
2. After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry
John Cole, owner of a bookshop with few customers, decides to leave early one day and visit his brother. Along the way his car breaks down and he seeks help from a strange family in a dilapidated old house who know his name and claims to be waiting for him. Is it just him they have been waiting for or does something bigger follow behind? Perry’s debut novel is beautifully written, mysterious, and captivating.
3. The Children of Men by P.D. James
Famous for her murder mysteries, James takes a bit of a detour in this dystopian novel about a version of our world where no one has been born for twenty-five years. The year is 2021 and a dictator called the Warden has risen to power in England. The book follows the adventures of his cousin, Theo Faren, who meets a young woman and joins a group of rebels with a secret. This is a tightly plotted sci-fi thriller that looks at the dynamics of politics and power in a society facing extinction.
4. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
When an army of Martians invades earth and begins destroying the earth by blasting everything with heat rays and drenching everyone with toxic gas, humanity has no choice but to seek shelter in any way they can. An oldie but a goodie, the one is known by all, but I would venture to guess that not many have read the book. Originally published serialy in 1897, Wells’s fast paced sci-fi thriller is just as enthralling as it was when it first came out. Fun fact– when the book was read over the radio in 1938 it caused a panic because people thought it was a real broadcast announcing an alien invasion.
5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel’s fourth novel takes place after a swine flu pandemic has killed most of the world’s population. The story follows a Hollywood star, the man who saved his life, a nomadic theater troupe, and a self-proclaimed prophet among others as they travel across the Great Lakes region. This is a thought provoking look at the survival of human culture after an apocalypse.
6. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
For a bit of depressing nonfiction we have Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize winning study of the effect human beings have had on the earth. Over the last half-billion years there have been five major extinctions and Kolbert says we are coming up on the sixth one, predicted to be the most devastating since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. And this one is manmade.
7. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Finally, for a bit of comic relief, we have the laugh-out-loud funny collaboration between two of fantasy’s heavy hitters. Good Omens follows the adventures of a demon named Crowley and an angel named Aziraphale as they team up to prevent the destruction of earth because they have decided that they actually quite like it. Between finding the misplaced Antichrist and running from the four horsemen of the apocalypse, they have their hands full in this adventure about the end of days.