The best books in which the whole of human civilization collapses overnight

Who am I?

I basically write everything I can’t say in real life. So my characters tend to be witty assholes who see the world for what it is: a raging dumpster fire. The best compliment I ever received came from a reviewer who said my writing style was like a “wholesome Palahniuk or less trippy Vonnegut.” That’s about as good as gets for any author, especially one who adores all things Kurt Vonnegut. I am a fan of books that trace the trajectory of human behavior to its logical end: self-destruction. So my list is made up of books that imagine funny, scary, sad, and absurd apocalyptic endings to human civilization. 


I wrote...

Do Not Resuscitate: The Monkey Parade

By Nicholas Ponticello,

Book cover of Do Not Resuscitate: The Monkey Parade

What is my book about?

Jim Frost thinks that when you're dead, you're dead. Gone. Finished. Kaput. But on the eve of his seventy-third birthday, his daughter suggests he have his brain downloaded to a microchip for safekeeping, and Jim is forced to consider what it really means to die—and what it might mean to live forever.

Jim witnesses the advent of water wars and the near-collapse of the global economy. Yet he remains impervious to it all. Concerned more with his plasma TV and continual supply of hash, twentysomething Jim takes a job delivering mysterious red coolers to strangers in cafés. But when Jim's enigmatic employer asks him to fly to North Korea for a delivery, Jim starts to wonder what he's gotten himself into.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cat's Cradle

Nicholas Ponticello Why did I love this book?

As an avid Vonnegut reader and aficionado, I can confidently recommend any of his fourteen novels. You’ve probably heard of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse Five. My personal favorites are Galapagos and Mother Night. But in terms of apocalyptic collapses of human civilization, I’d have to suggest Cat’s Cradle as your next (perhaps, first) Vonnegut read.

Cat’s Cradle was published in 1963 as a satirical commentary on technology and religion, specifically referencing the creation of the atomic bomb and its devastating impacts on the planet and its people. But even more devastating is Vonnegut’s ice-nine, a solid crystal that turns any liquid it touches into more solid ice-nine. When some of this ice-nine accidentally falls into the ocean, all the water on Earth instantly solidifies, causing a mass extinction event and leaving only a few unlucky humans to fight for survival in the barren aftermath.

Everything Vonnegut writes borders on the absurd, so go into this read expecting a wild ride through a satirical universe filled with quirky characters and dark humor. I love this book and its wisecracking author. So Cat’s Cradle goes on top as my number one recommendation for best books in which the whole of human civilization collapses overnight.

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Cat's Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of America's greatest writers gives us his unique perspective on our fears of nuclear annihilation

Experiment.

Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon and, worse still, surviving it.

Solution.

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to…


Book cover of Blindness

Nicholas Ponticello Why did I love this book?

Where Cat’s Cradle is a dark comedy, Blindness is just plain dark. A plague of blindness sweeps through an unnamed city in an unnamed country. The afflicted are quarantined in an abandoned asylum where all hell breaks loose. The story is told through the eyes of a woman who is inexplicably immune to the blindness, but who accompanies her husband in quarantine. She witnesses the worst of humanity, seeing everything that the inmates do when they think nobody is watching. 

José Saramago won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work, which includes this dystopian novel. Blindness is not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart. I have to admit that I get a little sick every time I think about the terrible ways the people treat each other in this book. It doesn’t help that I have horrific scenes from the movie version of Blindness etched into my skull. Read it first, then watch the movie if you dare.

By José Saramago,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Blindness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

No food, no water, no government, no obligation, no order.

Discover a chillingly powerful and prescient dystopian vision from one of Europe's greatest writers.

A driver waiting at the traffic lights goes blind. An ophthalmologist tries to diagnose his distinctive white blindness, but is affected before he can read the textbooks.
It becomes a contagion, spreading throughout the city. Trying to stem the epidemic, the authorities herd the afflicted into a mental asylum where the wards are terrorised by blind thugs. And when fire destroys the asylum, the inmates burst forth and the last links with a supposedly civilised society…


Book cover of Station Eleven

Nicholas Ponticello Why did I love this book?

Station Eleven hits a little close to home for those of us who are living through the COVID pandemic. In this quintessentially American tale, a swine flu pandemic wipes out a significant portion of the global population. The story takes place in the Great Lakes region and follows a traveling theater troupe through a post-apocalyptic world.

I read Station Eleven years before the COVID pandemic struck. At the time, the novel made me contemplate what life might be like for me in a pandemic. Would I be stocked up on enough food and water? Would I wait it out in my apartment? How would I survive?

Now I know what it’s like to live through a deadly pandemic, and it is nothing like the books. Turns out, life in a pandemic involves a lot of Netflix.

By Emily St. John Mandel,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Station Eleven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Best novel. The big one . . . stands above all the others' - George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones

Now an HBO Max original TV series

The New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award
Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
National Book Awards Finalist
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in…


Book cover of Dissipatio H.G.: The Vanishing

Nicholas Ponticello Why did I love this book?

I found Dissipatio H.G. through a New York Times book review when the first English translation was released in 2020. The story was originally published in Italian in 1977, four years after the author died from suicide. This obscure but brilliant work of fiction takes place in a fictional mountain metropolis. One day our main character wakes up, and every human being on the entire planet has vanished. Except of course for him. Part philosophical treatise, part post-apocalyptic adventure, Dissipatio H.G. is a rare find for those lovers of eclectic literature.

By Guido Morselli, Frederika Randall (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dissipatio H.G. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fantastic and philosophical vision of the apocalypse by one of the most striking Italian novelists of the twentieth century.

From his solitary buen retiro in the mountains, the last man on earth drives to the capital Chrysopolis to see if anyone else has survived the Vanishing. But there’s no one else, living or dead, in that city of “holy plutocracy,” with its fifty-six banks and as many churches. He’d left the metropolis to escape his fellow humans and their struggles and ambitions, but to find that the entire human race has evaporated in an instant is more than he…


Book cover of The Passage

Nicholas Ponticello Why did I love this book?

A plague of vampires? Why not? This book is part of a trilogy but stands well on its own. In fact, I haven’t even read the other books in the trilogy. Maybe someday. The Passage was one of the first books I’d ever read that imagined vampirism as a global pandemic. And I ate it up. Of all the books on this list, The Passage is the least philosophical in its treatment of human nature. So if you came here for a purely apocalyptic adventure with lots of action, then this is your book.

By Justin Cronin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Passage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she's the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn't think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He's wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is. THE PASSAGE. Deep in the jungles of eastern Colombia, Professor Jonas Lear has finally found what he's been searching for - and wishes to God he hadn't. In Memphis, Tennessee, a six-year-old girl called Amy is left at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy and wonders why her…


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Make Her Pay

By Miranda Rijks,

Book cover of Make Her Pay

Miranda Rijks Author Of The Homemaker

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Mountain-lover

Miranda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A twisty psychological thriller about beautiful, successful Leonie who has just met Markus, the man of her dreams. But Leonie has a secret. Ten years ago, she was involved in an accident in which another driver died. Leonie shouldn’t have been behind the wheel that night – so she fled the scene. And ever since, she’s struggled with the terrible guilt.

Now, as her wedding to Markus draws near, it seems someone is out to get her. It’s little things at first but it soon escalates into a terrifying campaign which threatens her business, her family and even her life. Leonie realizes there’s a link to the accident that happened all those years ago. Someone knows what she did. Someone is determined to make her pay.

Make Her Pay

By Miranda Rijks,

What is this book about?

Leonie has the perfect life. Someone wants to take it away.

Leonie is living her best life. Still in her twenties, she’s beautiful, successful and has just met Markus, the man of her dreams.

But Leonie has a secret. Ten years ago, she was involved in an accident in which another driver died. Leonie shouldn’t have been behind the wheel that night – no license, no insurance – so she fled the scene. And ever since, she’s been struggling to deal with the terrible guilt.

Now, as her wedding to Markus draws near, it seems someone is out to get…


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