Originally published in: 2016 (North American edition 2017)
What’s it about: This reads like a thought experiment gone very, very right.What would happen in a world where women developed a physical power that men couldn’t match?
What made me pick it up: I think I put this on hold because there was a blurb from Margaret Atwood on the cover. But I’m also just a sucker for speculative work that is (post)apocalyptic and/or dystopian.
My favorite things: Somehow this book is both a very heavy-handed critique of global patriarchy and an electrifying story. The novel is bookended by letters between two writers, Naomi and Neil, whose gendered interactions flip the script in a way that will entertain anyone tired of mansplaining.
Who it’s great for: Fan’s of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Readers looking for unapologetically feminist read that doesn’t sacrifice story for politics.
Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2011
What it’s about: Perfectly mediocre Mark Spitz is part of a small civilian zombie hunting unit tasked with clearing the dead from Long Island. (No, not the Mark Spitz. Although the reference is intentional.)
What made me pick it up: I got impatient waiting for my hold on Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning latest novel, The Underground Railroad, so I grabbed one of his earlier books. I had actually forgotten this one was about zombies.
My favorite things: Whitehead somehow wrote literary fiction about zombies. He asks a lot of interesting questions about what it really means to live in the post-apocalypse having experienced what came before. The characters are plagued by PASD (post-apocalyptic stress disorder), and Whitehead uses his dark humor to consider the emotional and mental toll taken on the zombie hunting survivors. Despite the fact that this is a book about killing zombies, it feels like its about something much more human.
Who it’s great for: Zombie aficionados looking for something a little bit different. Horror fans. Literary readers who want to ease into genre reading.
What it’s about: It’s the near future and the apocalypse is nigh. A quickly spreading disease, known as Dragonscale, threatens the future of the human race by causing the infected to spontaneously combust.
What made me pick it up: After reading The Sunlight Pilgrims I was in the mood for a much warmer vision of the apocalypse. Actually, I put the ebook on hold a while ago and it was finally available to me.
My favorite things: The spontaneous combustion was nice spin on the pandemic story. The beginning of this book is really well done, and I was immediately hooked. The story follows Nurse Harper, an infected woman who is determined to deliver her baby healthy and free of Dragonscale. Harper is a compelling character who brings meaning and a sense of urgency to the story. Hill includes references to current public figures and pop culture that are fun to read, but make me glad that I didn’t wait to read this one. Bonus:fans of Hill’s father (Stephen King) will appreciate the subtle references to his work.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an apocalyptic story that doesn’t feel imminent. Fans of dark fantasy and horror.
What it’s about: In 2020, a transgender teen, her mom, and their grieving neighbor Dylan plod through a frozen apocalypse together.
What made me pick it up: I read Fagan’s first book The Panopticon which was equally bleak but also hopeful. I enjoy the way she writes characters and her use of language. The Scottish brogue mixed in is also very entertaining and instructive if you’re like me and Google each unknown word. When I saw the press for this I placed a hold.
My favorite things: Fagan makes Stella’s journey as a trans teen extremely relatable and realistic. You feel the depth of all the characters’ confusing emotions, which is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. You also feel the bleakness of their deepening winter, in a way that’s almost too real.
Who it’s great for: Adults who can handle a large dose of heaviness sprinkled throughout with bits of light. Those who like ambiguity. Anyone who wants to feel like it’s deep January somewhere north of Florida.