By January 25, 2019 0 Comments Read More →

Title Trend: The Books at the End of the World

For some, the “end of the world” is a faraway place to wonder about or even travel to. For others, it’s an event (usually not a pretty one, maybe with locusts and crying). As we ponder what exactly awaits us at the end of the world, let’s explore the ideas offered us by some books already there (or then).


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Lower middle-graders with a hankering for a supernatural mystery should check out Brad Strickland’s The Tower at the End of the Worldan installment in John Bellairs’s long-running Barnavelt series that began with The House with a Clock in its Walls (yes, the ’70s classic that was just made into a movie starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett).

On the apocalyptic side of the end-of-the-world coin, we have a few choices. Austin Aslan’s The Islands at the End of the World is a Hawaii-set apocalypse survival story sure to thrill any reader. If you ever wake up in a cold sweat from a nightmare in which you were the sole person awakened from suspended animation to find the world destroyed around you, Greg van Eekhout’s middle-grade adventure The Boy at the End of the World might provide some nice exposure therapy for you. And finally, Vivian Apple at the End of the World, recipient of a Booklist starred review, is a grittier-than-the-cover-suggests look at a different type of world’s end: rapture. Yahoo!


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On the adult side of the trend, in 2018 we saw the smash success of Bram Stoker Award-winning author Paul Tremblay’s horror thriller The Cabin at the End of the Worldwhich sits at the intersection of Stephen King (or possibly his son, Joe Hill), Ruth Ware, and Cormac McCarthy. Do not read this one alone in a cabin far from other people, but do at some point read it.

If you find yourself asking, “Can golf save the world?” you’re apparently not alone (and I’m as shocked as you are), because in Y2K a whole gaggle of big-name authors came together to pen the slapstick golf thriller The Putt at the End of the WorldWrites Bill Ott, “It’s a totally over-the-top farce–equal parts Caddyshack, The Pink Panther, and Airplane.”

Sam Taylor’s post-apocalyptic The Island at the End of the World features a family that escapes worldwide flooding on an idyllic island before being joined by an unwelcome, innocence-shattering newcomer.


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Adult nonfiction leans more heavily on the end of the world being a faraway locale and less on a used-to-be-science-fiction-but-increasingly-plausible end to our existence. Many of these books do, however, still explore deep darkness and fear for the fate of humanity, such as John Baxter’s Paris at the End of the World: The City of Light during the Great War, 1914–1918.

Some end-of-the-world books take the form of memoir, such as Mary Rose O’Reilley’s spiritual autobiography, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd, which records the year O’Reilley learned to live as a shepherd, and Brent Hendrick’s A Long Day at the End of the World: A Story of Desecration and Revelation in the Deep South, a poetic, true-crime account of a crematory owner who returned crushed cement instead of the deceased’s ashes while hoarding bodies (including that of the author’s father).

A few of these books explore remote places, such as Joe Jackson’s The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empirewhich takes readers to the heart of the Amazon in the 1870s, or Lawrence Millman’s At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arcticwhich reviewer Colleen Mondor describes as “a quiet and stunning investigative masterpiece” into a series of murders that took place in 1941 in Canada’s remote Belcher Islands.

If you’re really not looking for a book about world’s end, pick up Bill Flanagan’s U2 at the End of the World for a band biography framed by their 1991 world tour with absolutely no references to cataclysm.

But back to the apocalypse: How to Survive the End of the World: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World, by Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson, offers fewer survival tips than the title suggests. Instead, Joustra and Wilkinson explore humanity’s tendency to imagine (and tell stories about) the end of the world—and examine what those stories reveal about us.




About the Author:

A former Booklist intern and current Booklist reviewer, Ellie is a reader and writer based in Chicago. She holds a BA in writing from Wheaton College (IL) and is the assistant to the president at Browne & Miller Literary Associates.

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