Books for the apocalypse: 3 books I would read while I waited it out

*This post originally appeared on* 

We are obsessed with the apocalypse right now.

If it’s not the four horsemen of the apocalypse getting to gallop their world-ending way though life we know it, its zombies or aliens or a planet stripped bare of resources by the rapacious march of civilisation.

Whatever the nature of humanity’s downfall, these dystopian tales are holding our attention right now, with one of the central issues being how would we survive such a life-altering calamity?

We’d like to think we could survive it although details on exactly how are sketchy at best.

One thing we do know is that if we were forced to hide ourselves away for an indeterminate period of time that we would want plenty of books to while away the hours.

But what would take with you to read at the end of the world?

It’s a great question and one we will be posing to a number of authors and avid readers that we know and then displaying here in an ongoing series.

To kick things off though I will be giving you a quick run through my top three picks, followed by our Courses Coordinator Danielle next week.


LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel


Books to read in the apocalypse 5 July 2013 Life of Pi


Enroute to a new life in Canada along with his family and all the animals from the zoo his mum and dad ran in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is the lone survivor of a ferocious storm that strands him in a lifeboat along with an orang-utan, a hyena and a tiger called Richard Parker. Over the 227 days that he is adrift on the open ocean, he contemplates the big questions of life, witnessing both the awe-inspiring power, and cruelty of nature, while devoting every last ounce of his formidably curious intellect and fierce will to ensuring his survival.

The cadence of the prose alone is reason enough to devour this magical novel. But it is also one of the most profoundly spiritual and intelligent, and yet delightfully down to earth novels I have ever read, infused with an emotional authenticity that makes you ache for Piscine as he endures the highs and lows of his precarious journey across the seas.

That he does survive is revealed almost immediately at the start of the book. Even so, the book is so perfectly written that you are still on the edge of your seat throughout, wondering how he will possibly survive starvation, thirst, the agonising loss of his family … and a hungry, prowling, cantankerous seasick tiger. It’s a masterful feat of imagination and storytelling and exactly the sort of book I would need if reality had gone to hell around me.


GREAT NORTH ROAD by Peter F Hamilton


Books to read in the apocalypse 5 July 2013 Great North Road


In the middle of the twenty-second century, Earth is connected to a vast network of planets by portals which allow instantaneous travel anywhere humanity desires to go. This includes the giant jungle planet of St Libra which supplies much of the energy that powers Earth and its far flung empire, and on which almost an entire branch of the powerful North family is murdered by a murderer who seems to vanish into thin air.

The only survivor of the massacre, Angela Tramelo, claims that an alien was the perpetrator, an assertion dismissed as nonsense by investigators at the time. But when another member of the North clan turns up dead in Newcastle UK twenty years later, murdered in much the same way as his relatives on St Libra, both the investigating detective, Sidney Hurst, and the powerful interests watching over his shoulder are forced to consider whether St Libra may be hiding more than anyone has previously dared to imagine.

It’s an epic tale. A seriously epic, sprawling, complex multi-character space opera that delights the imagination.

And frankly in the middle of a cataclysmic event, I would be in serious need of a powerful dose of Peter F Hamilton’s deeply-engaging storytelling, as well as a book long enough – it clocks in at over 1000 pages – to soak up as much of the copious amounts of time I would have on my hands as possible.




Books to read in the apocalypse 5 July 2013 Gerald Durrell


The first in Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, which documented life on the island where he spent the years 1935-1939, My Family and Other Animals discusses with great affection the foibles of his idiosyncratic family, which included famous novelist Lawrence.

It also details Durrell’s awakening interest in the natural world around him as he discovers and enjoys the rich flora and fauna of the island, presaging his later passionate dedication to preserving as much of this world as humanly possible.

I have adored Gerald Durrell, a one time animal hunter who became an ardent conservationist and articulate proponent of the need to secure the Earth’s biodiversity as completely as possible, since I was a young boy.

His humorous tales, told with the sort of engaging wit that had me glued to the pages, carry with them important conservation messages that resonated deeply with me.

In the middle of the end of all that I have ever known, it would be nice to have a reminder of more innocent times close by, especially one as beautifully written as this book.

What books would you pick and why? 

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