Five Disaster Novels for Fun & Sleepless Nights

by | Nov 2, 2017 | Gayle Lynds | 6 comments

Mary Shelley

Gayle Lynds:  You’re lying in bed.  Your heart is pounding.  Sweat beads up on your forehead.  Your grip tightens on the disaster thriller you’re reading.  Sleep?   No way.  You’ve got to finish the book!

Ah, the sweetness of a novel that engages viscerally.  In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s feast on tales of catastrophe and celebrate with the characters as they survive and thrive. 

With that in mind, here’s a meaty selection of five disaster novels – some for adults, others for young adults – listed by the year in which they were published:

The Last Man by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1826.  She is also the author of Frankenstein.  This ground-breaking tale created a new genre, a stirring brew of sociology, the Gothic, and

Ursula le Guin

romantic suspense.  It’s the 22nd century, and Lionel Verney appears on his way to becoming the sole survivor of the human race in a disintegrating world ravaged by an uncontrollable plague.  “The Last Man is an adult fairy story of plague-destroying deaths, graphic battle scenes, and impassioned love.” – Romantic Circles

The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin, 1974.  In this award-winning science fiction tour de force, a planet of anarchists has been isolated from the rest of the civilized universe.  Only Shevek, a brilliant physicist, can challenge the rigid culture.  The Dispossessed not only won Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, it also won the internationally important National Book Award.

Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, 2000.  In this dystopian classic, an AfricanAmerican teenage girl flees into a world of social chaos and violence caused by environmental and economic crises.  At last seeing a vision of humanity’s destiny, she becomes a prophet with a revolutionary idea called Earthseed.  “There isn’t a page in this vivid and frightening story that fails to grip the reader.” – San Jose Mercury News

Bones of Faerie by Jani Lee Simmer, 2009.  A war between the faerie world and the human world has destroyed Faerie and left humans

Jani Lee Simmer

subsisting in farming communities.  All magic is outlawed.  But plants have become dangerous, crops have to be wrestled from the fields, and the town where 15-year-old Liza lives is surrounded by a forest threatening to those who enter.  “A thought-provoking and thrilling story about a girl at war with herself and her own magical abilities.” – School Library Journal

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 2014.  Civilization as we know it is over.  A visionary troupe of actors and musicians play the scattered outposts of civilization, risking everything for art and humanity.  Station Eleven was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.  The Seattle Times calls Station Eleven “A truly haunting book … one that is hard to put down.”

Emily St. John Mandel

Fire can destroy – or it can forge.  Thrillers are perfect vehicles through which readers can face the conflagrations of life and live to enjoy the next rousing tale.

May your Thanksgiving 🦃 be filled with family & friends 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧, and good books 📚.

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. S. Lee Manning

    A wonderful list of new books to try. Good reading for those long winter nights. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Karna Bodman

    What a great list! It seems that too many people only select a book based on how NEW it is or whether it appears on some "bestselling" list this week – rather than checking out some of the great stories that have been published over the years. And, as you remind us, these thrillers show how heroes and heroines fight and win in the end. Thanks for a terrific post!

  3. Jamie Freveletti

    I'm looking forward to reading these! Especially The Last Man by Shelley, which I was unaware of. The mixing of thriller and supernatural reminded me a little of the book The Eight. Thanks for the list!

  4. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks, S. Lee. It's so wonderful to remember women write great disaster books.

  5. Gayle Lynds

    John's looking forward to reading the Ursula le Guin … so much fun to find new books. Hope you enjoy The Last Man. Great idea to add The Eight! Thanks, Jamie.

  6. Gayle Lynds

    What an insight, Karna — you're right. Folks seem to focus on the new, when there are classics out there. Thanks!