NASA might want you to believe otherwise, but according to "the Mayans," the martians, the movie-makers and some crazy people on the Internet, the world is set to end (again) on Friday. And while the end of humanity seems like it would be kind of a bummer, luckily we can read our way to the finish line with some topical stories! Authors have imagined the end-of-days for decades, filling library bookshelves with plenty of post-apocalyptic universes and quests for human survival—here are a few of our favorites:

bradbury1212.jpegThe Martian Chronicles

This semi-linked novel from 1950 isn't as truly post-apocalyptic as some of author Ray Bradbury's other works, but it's perhaps the most terrifying. Over the course of a couple decades, the people of a steadily more-battered Earth explore, colonize and settle Mars, angry aliens and all. Eventually, after wiping out most of the native Martians and making a secondary Earth on the new planet (complete with a New New York, of course), a nuclear war destroys most of what was left back home, leaving behind a world devoid of most of humanity. Here's to the future, folks.

The Girl Who Owned a City

Sort of a violent precursor to the awful, short-lived CBS series Kid Nation, this 1975 novel by O.T. Nelson depicts a world where grown-ups have been wiped out by a virus, leaving children to run the show. And this adult-less universe isn't all candy and no bedtimes for the kids left behind. They forage for food amid a dwindling supply and form armed gangs and militias, fighting each other and searching desperately for safe havens. The Girl Who Owned A City is not for the light-hearted, but it is technically a children's book, and was required reading (and nightmare-inducing) for this writer's sixth grade class way back when.

The Road

Viggo Mortensen kicked cannibal ass in the 2009 film, but the 2006 Cormac McCarthy novel on which it's based is even more devastating. A father and son travel through what's left of a bleak, decimated civilization on a quest for survival, protection and kinship. Keep tissues handy if you choose to take this book on.


Kurt Vonnegut was one of the dystopian-lit kings, and this 1985 novel was pretty much his reigning throne. An island in the Galapagos plays host to the last surviving humans, a group of shipwrecked cruise-goers whose progeny mutate into half-seal creatures over time. A most twisted tale of survival of the fittest, and a fascinating read into a nuclear post-WWII world.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Most apocalyptic lit is pretty bleak, unsurprisingly, but we can only hope the end of the world will be as awesome as Douglas Adams' beloved book series (originally a radio show). Arthur Dent's home planet gets destroyed, so he bounces all over the Universe, adventuring and making new friends and enemies from planet to planet. Along the way, he even learns the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, which, SPOILER ALERT, is "42."