It’s seemed that in this election cycle, the only thing that both sides can agree upon is that if their candidate is not chosen, it will be the end of our country as we know and love it. We here at Off the Shelf, in the spirit of unity, would like to offer a reminder that while things might seem bleak, they could be much, much worse (though we could probably learn a thing or two). Here is a list of our favorite books in which politics is the last thing on people’s minds, to take it off yours, too.
In Colson Whitehead’s acclaimed novel, a pandemic has ravaged the planet, dividing humanity into two groups: the infected and the non-infected. Over the course of three days, Mark Spitz, a member of a unit charged with clearing lower Manhattan of the infected, comes to terms with the fallen world and the new dangers that have emerged.
An apocalyptic classic, Stephen King’s novel is a vision of a world ravaged by plague and caught in a bitter struggle between good and evil. When a patient escapes from a biological testing facility, carrying with him a strain of super-flu that destroys a majority of the population, two surviving leaders emerge. Whoever is chosen will lead—and change—humanity forever.
Hig lives with his dog, Jasper, in a small abandoned airport after the end of the world. But when a random transmission comes through his radio, he feels a hope that he thought was long gone. Risking everything, he flies a plane to follow a static-y trail that will challenge everything he knows and believes to be true.
Mary Shelley is best known for her gothic classic FRANKENSTEIN, but this novel is equally stunning and scary. Set in the late twenty-first century, the book exposes a somber and pessimistic view of society and humanity, as man is forced to confront the idea of inevitable destruction. It’ll have you flipping back and forth between the page and the news on your television screen to compare and contrast.
Joe Hill’s novel, like many of the others on this list, features a pandemic, but of a different sort: fire. No one knows exactly why people are suddenly spontaneously combusting, but millions are being affected and no one is safe. One couple is faced with the possibility—and probable inevitability—of becoming sick, and as they become increasingly unhinged, society descends into chaos.
Four high school seniors are faced with the prospect of their lives ending before they even really begin, when the news is delivered that an asteroid is heading for Earth, with certain impact and destruction. Peter, Eliza, Anita, and Andy all occupy different social spaces in school, but interact in the most realistic and touching of ways, making this a memorable and oddly hopeful apocalyptic story.
Though this science fiction classic was first published in 1897, the story reached an unbelievable level of infamy when it was read over CBS Radio in 1938 and unsuspecting listeners, not realizing that it was simply a broadcast performance, thought that there was actually an alien invasion about to occur. Today, all you have to do is turn on a news channel or check Twitter to experience the same kind of panic.