I dislike “Best of” book lists as much as anyone else does, though, I suspect, not for the same reasons. I don’t hate them because of the inevitable arguments they inspire over validity, bias, or inclusiveness, or even due to the speculations that the lister may have perhaps been high on illicit pharmaceuticals at the time of compilation.
No, I hate these lists because they make me painfully aware of the multitude of books out there that I may never get the chance to read. Unless the lottery thing pays off, that is, but I’m not waiting on that one.
From The Millions, here is one of those lists, Emily St. John Mendel’s “Five Apocalypses: A Particularly Catastrophic Summer Reading List,” in which she features the post-apocalyptic masterpieces that should be required reading for those who can’t get enough of seeing the world end.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of why we’re so taken with this genre–I have my own theories, as do many others–I’m interested to know what your favorites are. Personally, I’d have to say that A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of my toppers, as is The Passage, which joined recently. And of course, I can’t forget to mention The Stand.
According to Mendel, here are the biggies:
Nick Harkaway: The Gone-Away World
Steve Amsterdam: Things We Didn’t See Coming
Cormac McCarthy: The Road
Walter M. Miller, Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz
Max Brooks: World War Z
Of those five, I’m ashamed to say I’ve only read two (The Road and A Canticle for Leibowitz), but the others, most notably World War Z, have been recommended to me time and again. Guess I should add them to my short reading list.
Here are some other recommendations from the comments section after the article:
Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker
Marcel Theroux: Far North
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Pierre Boulle: Planet of the Apes
George R. Stewart: Earth Abides
Pat Frank: Alas, Babylon
Nevil Shute: On the Beach
Of those, I’ve only read On the Beach and Alas, Babylon, but I’ve come close to picking up Planet of the Apes a couple of times.
So how about it? What are your favorite end-of-the-world novels?