What to read before the Maya apocalypse

The Maya Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico.
(Israel Leal / Associated Press )

The world is ending on Friday — according to a bunch of people who’ve misread the Maya calendar. (Take it from me, they’re wrong. I should know: I’m part Maya and I’m pretty sure my ancestors didn’t intend for the whole world to freak out just because we’ve reached the end of another Maya long count cycle).

But even if the world is ending this week, you still have just enough time to finish at least two of the many books assorted literature mavens have recommended as good “end of the world” reading.

Should the mushroom clouds or exploding sun catch you by surprise and allow you time to read only one, the consensus seems to be that Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” would be a solid choice. McCarthy’s masterful, haunting description of a post-apocalyptic America is a favorite in my household. (My 16-year-old son says it’s his favorite novel ever, and my favorite scene is when the narrator wanders into a library and thinks about all the useless arguments contained in the many books there).

Over at NPR, Ben H. Winters mentions McCarthy in passing before going on to list three novels, including “Decameron,” which he describes as “a 14th century allegory about the Florentines who hole up in a secluded villa to flee the Black Death, entertaining each other with endless stories…”


The Minnesota Daily has a list with two novels, including “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller. “Inspired by the author’s bombing missions throughout World War II, the book follows one monastery over three periods of time 600 years after the 20th century,” writes Joe Kleinschmidt.

Now, if you’re in Southern California and feel the need to be near other lovers of literature as the human story enters its final chapter, then you might consider going to the Beyond Baroque Literary Center in Venice. On Friday at 8 p.m. it’s celebrating a poetry reading/end of the world party called “Maya Con Dios.”

“Bring poems about the end of the world, your love of the world, the heavens, planet Earth, nature, the universe in general,” the organizers write. “Also related subjects: Dreams, the afterlife, past lives, future lives, etc.”

Should the Maya apocalypse come and go with yet another sunrise arriving Dec. 22, and you want to understand the meaning of it all, you might want to check in with Daniel Pinchbeck, who wrote a book about the 2012 prophecy.


He doesn’t think the world is going to end, but he has written recently that “we are seeing the fulfillment of prophecy -- based on the precise understanding of cosmic cycles held by the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica -- in the transformation of planetary culture and consciousness.”


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