Who doesn’t love a good end-of-the-world story? These five books offer an unusual take on the days after society crumbles.
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Whenever someone asks me for a post-apocalyptic read, this is my first suggestion. Its brilliant writing, unique plot, and delightfully interrelated characters make it one of my favorite books of the last few years. (It’s also captivating without being particularly graphic, which I appreciate.)
Station Eleven follows Kirsten, who was a child when the Georgian Flu cut the Earth’s population by 3/4. Twenty years later, she walks the country as an actress with the Traveling Symphony, a troupe of musicians and actors who perform Shakespeare for small colonies in the Midwest that survived the Flu. I loved watching the story unfold and realizing that each character had connections with other seemingly unrelated characters. Mandel has woven a tale of human resilience and hope that is truly unique in the apocalyptic genre.
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Kline
Nerds unite! I’m not a gamer, but this book tickled every nerdy Star Wars/ 80’s-loving bone in my body. In the year 2044, the world has become practically unlivable. That’s why Wade Watts (and the rest of society) has escaped to an immersive virtual reality called OASIS. When OASIS’ creator passes away, he invites all OASIS users to embark on a quest filled with riddles and 1980’s pop culture challenges, which Wade is eager to win. Hilarious, inventive, and a love letter to nerds everywhere, Ready Player One is a ride I won’t forget. Behind the fun-loving prose lie thoughtful questions about the development of a society that retreats into virtual reality–something that could hardly be more relevant today. Watch it before the movie (directed by Steven Spielberg) arrives in 2018!
3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Age of Miracles is possibly the best ‘realistic’ apocalypse book I’ve ever read. Julia is a sixth grader when the Earth begins to slow in its rotation. Days and nights stretch longer and longer, famine sweeps the country, wildlife begins to die, and seas rise dangerously high. At the same time, Julia begins to experience earth-shattering events of her own: a growing love for Seth Moreno down the street, concerns about her parents’ marriage, self-consciousness about her awkward body, and worries about making friends at school. I cried when I finished The Age of Miracles, not because of a tragic ending, but because it totally transported me to my childhood. Walker’s comparison of the challenges of growing up (which are devastating in their own right) with a catastrophic global event has yielded the most relatable apocalypse book I’ve ever read.
4. Wool by Hugh Howey
My husband isn’t a huge reader, but he spent an entire weekend devouring this book with only breaks for meals and bike rides. In Wool, the Earth’s environment is toxic, and humanity has retreated into silos, enormous underground structures with hundreds of floors and strict caste systems. But there’s corruption and revolution brewing in one of the silos, and Juliette, one of the head mechanics, is at the forefront of it. When she’s captured and forced into the outside world, she discovers that the devastation outside isn’t what it seems. This is a great science fiction read for people wanting an action-packed and entertaining novel. Creative and full of cliff-hangers, Wool (once I could wrestle it from my husband) kept me feeling claustrophobic for hours.
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” So says Todd, the last boy at Prentisstown, a colony on a planet where every human and animal can hear each others’ thoughts. The ensuing ruckus is constant, even visually taking over the pages. When Todd one day discovers a spot of complete silence, he realizes that things may not be what they seem in Prentisstown and is forced to flee for his life. Todd, his dog Manchee, and a surprising stranger (whose thoughts he annoyingly CAN’T hear) race across the landscape to stay one step ahead of the Prentisstown army that’s on their heels. This was a nail-biting and relentless read that I couldn’t turn away from. (It’s also the first book in the Chaos Walking series–and believe me, you’ll want to have the second book on hand as soon as you finish this one.)
Jessie Hawkes is a freelance writer who loves ending her day with a mug of tea and a good book. She’s a recent Peterborough resident with roots in Maine and Utah, and professional writing experience in the travel and outdoor industries. Check out her blog The Desert Bookworm for more book recommendations, or follow her @wildwilkey.
Jessie also recently joined the PTL team as a Circulation Assistant!