Book Club: The last end-of-the-world book list

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

When the pandemic news becomes too much, many of us dive, strangely enough, into apocalyptic fiction. So we asked a few authors to share some favorite novels that could offer insight into the current situation or are just great diversions right now.

The result is this end-of-the-world reading list that includes suggestions from previous L.A. Times Book Club author Susan Orlean (whose choice is “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury) and May book club guest Emily St. John Mandel (“A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr.), among others. Mandel joins Times readers on Tuesday, May 19, at 7 p.m. for a virtual meetup to discuss her own pandemic bestseller, “Station Eleven.”

For readers who really want to dig in, actor and author Wil Wheaton points us to “The Apocalypse Triptych” series, a three-book anthology edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. The collection, he says, “tells stories from three distinct periods in the apocalypse: The end is nigh, the end is now, and the end has come. … While there are fantastic stand-alone stories in each volume, for a reader who wants to take the whole ride, there are some extremely rewarding tales. Standouts include Charlie Jane Anders, Scott Sigler and Seanan McGuire.

Browse our list, then tell us: What else would you add? What are your favorite apocalyptic novels and why? Email us at


"The Four-Gated City" by Doris Lessing, "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and "Fiskadoro" by Denis Johnson.
(Harper Perennial/Vintage; Harper Perennial/Vintage; Alfred A. Knopf; Harper Perennial)

Speaking of diversions, here are a few good reads and inspirations from the past week.

Crime fiction to the front lines: Doctor Michael Hallisey, a fan of novelist Michael Connelly, has created a book club for his Hartford peers to relieve the stress of their daily battle with COVID-19. “I bought a series of books for them,” he says. “The one we’re reading right now is called ‘The Poet,’ which is the one I like the best for them. The next one will be another one of his books, depending on how long this goes on.”

Dealer’s choice: In his new book, ”Telephone,” University of Southern California professor Percival Everett has published three different versions of the novel. Says reviewer Lorraine Berry: “Like watching a skilled juggler execute a six-ball fountain, the experience of reading ‘Telephone’ is astonishing.”

Against consolation: Author and former Times Book Editor David L. Ulin shares an essay on reading dark materials in COVID-19 quarantine. “We are alone, yes, but there is togetherness — if only in the fact that we are all laboring under the same condition, which is the frailty and uncertainty of being human.”

What if Hillary had dumped Bill? Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld imagines a different 2016 — and beyond — in “Rodham.”

Books at home: Los Angeles schools are closed through the end of the academic year, but the nonprofit Access Books has launched a campaign to provide new books to children in need. Learn more.

Mark your calendar: On June 16, the L.A. Times Ideas Exchange presents journalist and author Masha Gessen in conversation with foreign editor Jeffrey Fleishman. They’ll discuss Gessen’s newest title, “Surviving Autocracy,” which draws upon the author’s experiences in Russia and focuses on President Donald Trump and his impact. Here’s more information.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Join us

Remember, Emily St. John Mandel visits the L.A. Times Book Club May 19 for a virtual conversation with Times culture reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

Mandel’s bestselling “Station Eleven” is a fictional account of life 20 years after a global epidemic. She also is the author of “The Glass House,” a new novel about another timely topic — a financial crisis.

Sign up on Eventbrite for the free virtual meetup, which will be livestreamed on the Los Angeles Times’ Facebook page. You also can tune in on YouTube and Twitter. We’ll send a reminder before book club night.

Vroman’s Bookstore has a limited number of copies of “Station Eleven” and “The Glass Hotel” with signed bookplates for this event. Mention the L.A. Times Book Club in comments at checkout to receive a signed copy.

Share your questions for Mandel in advance by emailing us at

Help us get L.A. reading and talking.

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is your chance to help us build something amazing. It’s about much more than the remarkable books we read. It’s about coming together to share an experience.

Stay tuned for more events and conversations, and stay in touch. Tell us: What stories do you want to share? What authors would you most like to meet?