Apocalyptic Books

There’s nothing like the End. Pestilence. Famine. War. Rumors of the war. I love a good apocalypse story (this is probably a character defect) and fortunately, the Library indulges my curiosity. Here are some good reads along those lines.

Chalcot Crescent by Fay Weldon

Set in present day London, Weldon’s novel is an interesting look into family dynamics set against a backdrop of economic collapse and a rising fascist government.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

This non-fiction work asks the question: what would happen to the planet – to our cities, homes, pets, the built and natural environments – if humans suddenly disappeared. Weisman explores geology, climate, evolution and other disciplines for a fascinating glimpse into the world without us.

World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

Both of these novels by acclaimed social critic and peak-oil proponent James Howard Kunstler are set in a small upstate New York town. The residents of Union Grove learn to thrive when they are suddenly forced to live without gasoline, cars and the other modern comforts of suburbia. His novels are a bit didactic at times, which leads me to also suggest that you read Kunster’s non-fiction, especially The Geography of Nowhere (where the didacticism is more appropriate).

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

In The Road, Cormac McCarthy, with his standard magnificent prose, offers a chilling vision of humanity’s worst impulses and basest behaviors as a father and son struggle to survive the aftermath of a massive nuclear disaster. Makes for a terrifying and compelling read.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

One of my favorite books, Walter Miller’s one-hit-wonder chronicles events within the monastic community called the Albertian Order of Leibowitz located in the desert of (what was once) New Mexico. Comprised of three parts, this classic work of science fiction explores issues of violence, identity, power, epistemology, and religious belief.


Recently, I’ve discovered an exciting sub-genre. (Who, other than a librarian, would write that sentence?!) Combining elements of science fiction, historical fiction and a healthy amount of antiquated technology, Steampunk is a genre full of adventure, exotic locales and airships.

You might like Steampunk if you enjoy the original science fiction (by authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley), have a thing for the Victorian and Edwardian eras, or enjoy technology driven adventures.

Here are some titles to get you started. 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: A classic of the science fiction genre and surprisingly still forceful at 142 years old (it was published in 1870!), re-reading this book is a great way to kick-off a steampunk marathon.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: This fast-paced story is set within an alternate history of the American Civil War. A young boy ventures into a walled-off desolate city seeking to redeem his father’s name.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld This alternate history of the First World War centers on a fictional son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and girl from Scotland who dreams of entering the Royal Air Force.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Dark Volume by Gordon Dahlquist: Originally published as a serial, this exciting series follows the converging stories of an assassin, a socialite and doctor as they team up against a powerful cabal bent on world domination.

The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling: After a meteorite strikes northern Europe during the reign of Queen Victoria, most of the northern hemisphere becomes uninhabitable. European nobility and power relocate to their more southern colonies with India becoming the new center of the British Empire.

The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler: When a serial killer with habit of ripping the spines out of his victims terrorizes New York City, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini team up to save the city.