Friends, has global climate change got you down? Not sure why you haven’t made more stews this winter? Well here’s a list of books featuring apocalyptic weather that you can hunker down and hibernate with or carry outside to read in the unseasonable warmth!
You may know the story of how Mary Shelley came to write the unparalleled Frankenstein. But did you know that it owed a huge debt to just such an apocalyptic-seeming weather event as some of us are having right now?
In the summer of 1816, a young Mary Shelley and her lover, Percy Shelley, went to visit Lord Byron and John Polidori at Byron’s home on Lake Geneva, in Switzerland. For kicks, the friends decided they would have a contest to see who could write the awesomest supernatural story. You know, like you do. So, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Byron, incidentally, wrote a fragment of a vampire story that Polidori would later turn into The Vampyre (1819), one of the first vampire novels in English. Read: this savant-packed drunken ghost-fest is responsible for Twilight. Just saying.
Anyhoo! That year, due to the eruption of Mount Tambora the year before, temperatures were so low, and the summer so rainy, that the Shelleys et al couldn’t enjoy the outdoor leisure activities they had planned, so they resorted to, you know, composing multiple master-works of English literature. The “Year Without a Summer,” also called “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death,” a much better moniker in my opinion, may have prompted (some readers believe) Shelley’s framing of Frankenstein by glaciers.
Without further ado, here is our LIST OF APOCALYPTIC WEATHER YA (and a special treat at the end!):
on the realistic / speculative end
Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows
Classic, touching graphic narrative of post A-bomb life for an older married couple.
Saci Lloyd, Carbon Diaries 2015
Diary entries from carbon-rationing Britain.
Mike Mullin, Ashfall (Ashfall #1)
There’s a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park. No- there really is. What happens when it explodes?
Michael Northrop, Trapped
So you’re in school and it starts to snow. It makes you feel all cozy until you start to realize it’s snowing really hard and it’s too dangerous to leave. It snows for a week. The pipes freeze. It seems like no one is going to come to get you. And you’re surrounded by your classmates the whole time.
Susan Beth Pfeffer, Life As We Knew It
A meteor passes close to Earth – and knocks the moon out of its normal orbit and closer to our planet. Things get messed up real quick. Miranda keeps a diary as the days pass. (There are 2 companion novels to this book.)
Terry Pratchett, Nation
A volcano explosion creates a tsunami that wipes out Mau’s village. He has to form a new nation… with a shipwrecked girl and a foulmouthed parrot.
Jo Treggiari, Ashes, Ashes
In a post-apocalyptic New York City, as the weather rages out of control, Lucy is pursued by the deadly Sweepers and falls in with a band of survivors led by the mysterious Aidan.
Will Weaver, The Survivors
After the volcanoes explode the world changes. Then people start to try to get back to normal. But what’s normal now? A girl and her brother attempt to define it for themselves.
on the fantasy / science fiction end
Julie Bertagna, Exodus (Exodus #1)
Ice caps melting! Flee the destruction! What’s this? A mysterious hot boy named Fox? What’s that he’s saying about cities in the sky?
Allegra Goodman, The Other Side of the Island
Honor just wants her parents to behave themselves now that the family has been moved inside the weather-controlled dome of Island 365. But mom and dad don’t want to follow the Earth Mother’s rules and they disappear – or are disappeared. Now Honor is the one who has to break out of proscribed life to find out where they are and what her society is really all about. See the full review here.
Frank Herbert, Dune
Dune is (mostly) set on a desert planet called Arakis – water is a tightly controlled and monetized commodity. The desert also yields a mystical substance called Spice and is home to a tribe of people called Fremen. The struggle between plant life and the encroaching desert is one cog in the churning machinery of the plot of Dune and the six books that make up its sequence.
Walter Miller Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz
What does our civilization look like to those who are left to interpret it generations after we are gone?
Chris Wooding, Storm Thief
Storm Thief is set in a “city of chaos, lashed by probability storms that re-order the world wherever they strike.”
Caroline Starr Rose, May B.
Trapped in a snowy cabin in Kansas, May has to survive by herself. This novel in verse may want to make you read up on The Year Without Summer, which happened in 1816 or “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death”, and was triggered by a volcanic explosion in Sumbawa, in Indonsia among other factors. (This event also inspired Frankenstein.)
Dave Eggers, Zeitoun
Abdulrahman Zeitoun survived Katrina and helped many other survivors in his canoe. So why is he being arrested? A true story.
Jewell Parker Rhodes, Ninth Ward
A middle-grade, award-winning look at Katrina.
Paul Volponi, Hurricane Song
Volponi takes you into the Superdome in the aftermath of Katrina through the eyes of a jazz musician’s son. If you’re looking for a tense atmosphere in your realistic fiction, this one’s for you.
Jame Richards, Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood
Ok, so this disaster was caused by neglect of a dam by a group of rich people, but I had to include it because I’m a Western Pennsylvanian. The story of the Johnstown Flood is made all the more dramatic because it probably could have been prevented – but it already includes a giant wall of water racing 14 miles through a valley and ending up in Johnstown, where the debris got caught on a bridge and promptly caught fire. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the United States up to that point – our own little apocalypse. Take a look at the facts here.
I’m a huge fan of graphic non-fiction because I’m a visual thinker, and pages of facts, howe’er interesting, tend not to stick as well as pages of illustrated facts. I hear one of the narrators here is a mad scientist, too. Not a bad choice for learning about a depressing subject.
Cody Lundin, When All Hell Breaks Loose
Maybe you’ve watched the excellent show Dual Survivor, where Lundin, sockless lover of “Ma Earth” is paired with an ex-Army sniper and sent out into various wildernesses? It’s classic Odd Couple stuff that could teach you how to not die when the big one comes. And Cody has written two books, for those of you without cable or without friends without cable.
Melancholia, 2011, dir. Lars Von Trier
Lars Von Trier doesn’t make the happiest or most woman-friendly movies. I’d say this one is meanest to HUMANITY and not women, and it’s gorgeous. The most gorgeous depiction of crushing depression and impending DOOM that you’ll ever see. Starring Kirsten Dunst!
Take Shelter, 2011, dir. Jeff Nichols
Encroaching schizophrenia or visions of what is to come – oily rain, flocking birds, and violent attacks. What’s a man to do but build an underground storm shelter? Michael Shannon knocks it out of the park.
2012, 2009, dir. Roland Emmerich
Completely believable global cataclysms. At least, that’s what my friends say who’ve seen this.
The Day After Tomorrow, 2004, dir. Roland Emmerich
I’m sorry, but this is when Jake Gyllenhaal started to lose his Donnie Darko shine. Speaking of apocalyptic films…
Deep Impact, 1998, dir. Mimi Leder
Armageddon, 1998, dir. Michael Bay
Michael Bay ensures that you “don’t wanna miss a thing”
Waterworld, 1995, dir. Kevin Costner
I can’t say it better than IMDB: “In a future where the polar ice caps have melted and most of Earth is underwater, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw ‘smokers,’ and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.”
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, 1984, dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Once again, IMDB comes through: “In the far future, man has destroyed the Earth in the “Seven Days of Fire”. Now, there are small pockets of humanity that survive. One pocket is the Valley of Wind where a princess named Nausicaä tries to understand, rather than destroy the Toxic Jungle.” And warns you not to get the old US release entitled Warriors of the Wind.
What are your favorite books and movies about apocalyptic weather?