Top Five Saturday: Apocalyptic Books


Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books in which the bookish community discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously, the meme has focused on a range of different characters (witches and werewolves), genres (thrillers, detectives and re-tellings) and thoughts about the industry and life as a bookworm, and many more. 

Please read and share, comment on and discuss this week’s topic!

Previous Top Five Topics

Hmmmmm…. apocalyptic books… those which bring about the end of the world? That sounds like an intense list! Perhaps it is safer to remain with books that describe the end of the world!

The word “apocalypse” is interesting too – we use it to mean the end of the world, don’t we, whereas its literal meaning is an uncovering: the prefix apo- like our prefix ‘un-’ inverts the root word, in this case kaluptein ‘to cover’ in Greek. Hence, a revelation! Which doesn’t sound like anything as final as the way we use it: perhaps the end of one civilisation, one way of life, one world is merely an uncovering of the next.

It’s usage is also surging as the following ngram demonstrates

And after surviving 2020, one can only imagine that there will be a spike once the data for this last year is collected!

Anyway, on with the list!

The Passage, Justin Cronin

I loved this book!

The end of human civilisation, the rise of vampires sounds so cliched and yet Cronin breathed new life (pun intended) into it, primarily through the character of Amy Harper Bellafonte, a satisfyingly fey innocent child, and her relationship with Brad Wolgast the FBI agent tasked with acquiring her.

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

Unfortunately, I found the sequels significantly less satisfying….

The Power, Naomi Alderman

Why have I not reviewed this? Dang!

Again, I loved the story of the awakening of power – the power to generate and channel and discharge electricity through the hands of women. Initially, in small numbers and then almost all women acquired the power, liberating themselves and empowering themselves beyond the patriachal world that had bound them.

But would they use that empowerment any more wisely or justly?

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”

The Trees, Ali Shaw

This was a fun and intriguing read – and I do think Ali Shaw is underrated as a writer!

Nature rebels against humanity and burst forests from the Earth overnight destroying humanity’s hold on the planet. As survivors band together and seek safety, there is something else and something other in the newly awakened forest…

Echoes of Shakespeare and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a transformative journey – and Shaw is great on transformation! – some apocalypses are good for us!

“Adrien knew it was not a strong man whom the whisperers had been searching for. Strong men only drove the world to ruin.”

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

A man.

His son.

A road.

A gun.

McCarthy doesn’t need much more to creates one of the bleakest of bleak novels set in a post-apocalyptic world which is dying and in which not a shred (or perhaps the smallest sliver) of hope is given. And yet there is a raw terribly poetry in McCarthy’s writing.

Utterly gripping.

“What’s the bravest thing you ever did?
He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.”

World War Z, Max Brooks

Clever, fun, moving, horrific, so very meta!

Brooks’ Oral History of the Zombie War far surpasses the movie (mediocre would be overselling the movie, which takes vast liberties with every aspect of Brooks’ novel) and purports to collect dozens of tales of human idiocy, terror, nobility, courage and venality together.

“The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts”


I hope you have enjoyed looking over the end of the world with me, which does feel far too close to home at the moment: totalitarian governments refusing to acknowledge electoral results, a bat virus jumping species and cutting swathes through our population, unprecedented suppression of our rights, bush fires, economic worldwide disaster…

What do all the books on this list remind us of? That we can survive and get through this! Stay safe!

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.


Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

Upcoming Top Five Topics

  • December 12th, 2020 — Water on the Cover
  • December 19th, 2020 — Famous Authors
  • December 26th, 2020 — 2021 Releases

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