Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst
July 7, 2008 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone help me find any books, serious or not, on surviving a global catastrophe (of any kind), and/or any books with a central theme of love and hope (as a sort of guide to living happily while dealing with an extreme anxiety over the future of the planet and humanity)?

Perhaps this is a little broad, but any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. These recommendations will be given to an avid reader in his mid-twenties with a terrific sense of humor, but who is struggling with anxiety in regards to the future, i.e the destruction of the planet, raising a family in a post-apocalyptic environment, etc. etc. Anything sincere, anything funny. Please.
posted by anoirmarie to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
A must-read is Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Road. It is utterly brilliant, devastating, and beautiful. I think it's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by farishta at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2008

Best answer: Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, and the sequel Parable of the Talents. Highly recommended.
posted by librarina at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the recommendation. I believe he's already read The Road though, and I was hoping for something a little more uplifting and instructional. I myself have read The Road and it didn't exactly make me feel hopeful, horrified maybe.
posted by anoirmarie at 4:06 PM on July 7, 2008

Heh. I found a copy of Atomic Bombing: How to Protect Yourself at a used bookshop in Vermont. It's easily my favourite guide to surviving the apocalypse.
posted by grippycat at 4:17 PM on July 7, 2008

It's not a book, but it's related: How realistic are your chances of surviving a nightmare movie scenario?
posted by micayetoca at 4:19 PM on July 7, 2008

Also not a book, but it's related: Duck and Cover
posted by grippycat at 4:22 PM on July 7, 2008

You might try these for a laugh. Some of the things they suggest actually make a lot of sense, though...

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

How To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion

Both are by Max Brooks
posted by photomusic86 at 4:29 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Alas, Babylon might fit the bill.
posted by meta87 at 4:31 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I will probably never feel more justified in posting a self-link than at this moment.

Also, Viktor Frankl.
posted by staggernation at 4:49 PM on July 7, 2008

Lucifer's Hammer.
posted by Class Goat at 4:52 PM on July 7, 2008

I'd like to recommend Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. From the Wikipedia entry linked previously, "The story details a cometary impact on Earth, the end of civilization, and the battle for the future." I recommend anything by Niven and Pournelle, as they typically write better collaborations than when writing individually (yes, there are several), but they outdid themselves with this one. I mean, what's not to like about "POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD" a story involving heroic nerds, a cannibal army, a surfboarder riding the face of a tsunami, and ordinary people striving to surmount insurmountable odds as civilization crumbles around them.
posted by Falling_Saint at 5:10 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by Falling_Saint at 5:11 PM on July 7, 2008

The Stand - Stephen King
posted by idiomatika at 5:49 PM on July 7, 2008

Back now, now that I'm not at work, to explain my Butler recommendations, hopefully spoilerlessly. I think they fit your requirements pretty much exactly. The books are set in a future that is not exactly post-apocalyptic, more like near the end of a gradual decline into societal hell. Anyone who has any money at all, even a little, lives in small communities behind a wall but grows their own food and hoards water; outside the walls, there is disease and drugs, and, later, crazy fundamentalist religion. The main character is a young girl who grows up as the novels progress and founds a religion, a community, and a family. The overall themes are of hope and strength and optimism and, well, change.

I recommend anything by Octavia E. Butler in general. She's great.

There's also the recently published World Made By Hand, which is not super great literature but is an enjoyable read and is probably a relatively practical vision of a recovering rural society.

I guess I read a lot of apocalypse fiction. Not much of it is hopeful, though.
posted by librarina at 6:02 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

To piggyback off of grippycat's suggestion, there's The Zombie Survival Guide.
posted by phaded at 6:06 PM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by anoirmarie at 6:18 PM on July 7, 2008

I haven't read this, I've just heard about it, but from the title alone it seems to fit the bill: Apocalypse How: Turn the End-Times into the Best of Times! (by Daily Show writer Rob Kutner).
posted by mothershock at 6:38 PM on July 7, 2008

At the risk of being practicle, Tom Brown's Field guides to wilderness survival and urban survival are very good as is the SAS survival guide. You know, if you really want to know what to do when things go wrong. Even non-apocaliptic disasters can be the end of the world.... for you, if you don't know a few things
posted by Redhush at 6:56 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Footfall by Niven/Pournelle is pretty good, and had some "plucky humans" in it.

Both Warday and Nature's End by Strieber/Kunetka are "humans survive pretty bad things", but I'm not sure I'd call them uplifting. And Nature's End gets...weird towards the end. But they might be worth a look.

There's The White Plague, by Frank Herbert. Some people have called it mysogynistic, and others have ridiculed the science, but it's pretty engrossing, and has an up-beatish ending, given the circumstances.

There's also David Brin's The Postman. I know, I know, forget the movie, the book is pretty good, and fairly hopeful about people, at least some of them.
posted by Gorgik at 9:42 PM on July 7, 2008

I don't think this is worth the cost of the joke, but you can't go wrong with the NukAlertTM!

Larry Niven's political views are beyond the pale, at least for me, and some of them find their way into Lucifer's Hammer.
posted by lukemeister at 10:07 PM on July 7, 2008

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood might be worth consideration. Link contains plot summary and spoilers.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:13 PM on July 7, 2008

John Wyndham's work generally has a hopeful ending, whether it's a book about climate change (The Kraken Wakes), bioenginering (Day of the Triffids) or basic post-Armageddon craziness (The Chrysalids). Of course, these days brandy is not considered such an essential part of a disaster survival kit, but it can't hurt, right?
posted by Lebannen at 3:32 AM on July 8, 2008

I haven't read the Zombie Survival Guide, but I just finished Max Brooks' World War Z and loved it - it lays out a 'realistic' scenario for a world-threatening apocalyptic event, the global struggle following, and how the human race ultimately rose to the occasion. It may sound pulpy but it's surprisingly moving and believable.

But to correct photomusic86's comment above, How To Survive a Robot Uprising is by Daniel H. Wilson, not Max Brooks. (I was very sad to find out Brooks had not in fact written a book about robuts).
posted by Gortuk at 6:43 PM on July 9, 2008

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