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Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back
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Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 ratings  ·  196 reviews
"A fantastic book. It's harrowing, tender-hearted, and funny as hell. O'Connell proves himself to be a genius guide through all the circles of imagined and anticipated doom." --Jenny Offill

By the author of the award-winning To Be a Machine, an absorbing, deeply felt book about our anxious present tense--and coming to grips with the future

We're alive in a time of worst-cas
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 14th 2020 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  1,158 ratings  ·  196 reviews


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Alicia Bayer
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read over 300 books this year, and this may be my favorite -- even though I occasionally hated reading it.

What a brilliant, depressing, funny, fascinating, infuriating, interesting book. Just wow. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but anybody paying attention these days can't be of the faint of heart anyway. These are scary times, all the more so as a parent.

O'Connell is an Irish father of two young children who was already worried about climate change when he became rather obsess
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Peter Boyle
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Mark O'Connell strikes me as an anxious person. Global problems prey on his mind, none more than the crisis of climate change. He watches YouTube videos of scrawny polar bears scrambling for scraps of food, and it fills him with terror. The end of the world is imminent, he thinks. So he decides to investigate people who have already accepted this fact, to see if their resigned outlook can provide him with some kind of comfort.

He attends a Mars convention in California, to meet those who have dec
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Anne ✨
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Feeling a bit meh about this one. The words 'A Personal Journey' in the subtitle is the key here. This book is focused on the author's personal reflections on the not-so-promising state of the world (and this was pre-covid!). The author ponders his conflicted feelings on raising kids into such a world and how to inspire them a and keep the positivity inspite of the bleak future outlook.

I do like the author's writing, he's realistic and honest and not preachy, but this book struggled to have a "
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David Wineberg
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of people who think our time is up. That is what Notes From An Apocalypse explores. It is a very dark depressing journey, which fortunately ends on a note of hope. Mark O’Connell is a very self-conscious writer. He is aware of the contradictions in everyday life, the conflicts in his own being, and the privilege he enjoys as a white, middle class Irish author. His examination of where we seem to be heading exploits all of those things in his own personality. For example, he point ...more
Geoffrey
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
(Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Considering just how much anxiety I feel about these present times in general, I was surprised by just how much I ended up enjoying Notes from an Apocalypse. O’Connell’s various tours to explore how different groups and people are preparing for the possible end is done so with both a critical eye and also a great deal of wit. Yet as he journeys about and makes his sharp observations, there’s always the constant undercurrent of his own v
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Doug
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5, rounded up.

This is either the perfect book to take one's mind off the current pandemic - or perhaps, the absolute worse one to read in such times - depending on the kind of person you are. O'Connell's personal essays addressing various aspects of our apocalyptic end times (preppers, Mars colonizers, Chernobyl tourists, billionaires hunkering down in New Zealand, nature retreatants) are only loosely connected by that common thread, and the book as a whole somewhat reminds me of Mary Roach's
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Rob Keenan
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not great for my crockpot full of existential anxieties but beautifully written. A highlight of the year.
4.5
TheBookWarren
5 Stars - After accidentally deleting perhaps my longest most in depth review to date, before hitting submit.. I’m going to take some time before attempting to rewrite & risking spontaneous combustion!!!

What I will say, is that this little cracker of a book, is unlike anything else I’ve read in one special & unique way - You’ll be sitting down and quite literally rolling side to side, stretching the corners of your mouth out wide, cackling up and down, spit-spraying & the works laughing, whilst
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Whitney
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nothing could be more important—in, as it were, the end—than unflinching engagement with the reality that we as a species might be finally and irrevocably fucked.

A stunning follow-up to To Be A Machine—O'Connell's reliably exquisite prose, penetrating and perspective-shifting insights, biting humor, and heart-wrenching evocations of emotion are all masterfully deployed in this exploration of our collective eschatological unease. As someone who shares so many of his anxieties and fascinations, th
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Cheryl
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I didn’t think it was possible to read about the coming apocalypse and be bored. The author is very philosophical and examines ways to deal with his fear of the future and guilt for bringing children into the world. He has chapters on bunkers in South Dakota, estates in New Zealand, trips to Mars, desolate corners of England, and touring Chernobyl. But I was so bored that even Chernobyl seemed fun. The only point I realized is that I need way more money to survive in the future.
Ben Rogers
It was okay

3/5
Rebecca
(3.5) In 2018 O’Connell won the Wellcome Book Prize (as well as our shadow panel’s prize) for To Be a Machine, a zany travelogue through the world of transhumanism, which is about using technology to help overcome human limitations and radically extend our lifespan. The same skeptical, satirical outlook that made his first book so funny applies perfectly to approaches to the end of the world, especially in the early chapter about preppers. This movement, like transhumanism, is very American, and ...more
John Braine
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hate Mark O'Connell. He's tall, dark, handsome, insightful, clever, witty and a fantastic writer. I really enjoyed his Gonzo style narrative non-fiction in To Be a Machine. Notes from an Apocalypse is more of the same, and it's almost a companion piece, as fear of death, and the avoidance thereof is the looming topic of both.

What I like about both books is not just that his writing style is a joy to read, but that instead of just fact-reporting, he has some really wise insightful observations
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Dj
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author has some interesting ways of looking at our current condition, such as the way he employs the Tech billionare Peter Thiel as the representative of the over-privileged white men who choose to escape the apocalypse by buying up land in New Zealand or buying ex military ordinance vaults in North Dakota as survival shelters. He juxtaposes that with the opposite: with the people who understand that the only worthwhile things to survive for come from community and caring. It's quite funny t ...more
dbirdan
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“There is no way of contemplating the catastrophe of our way of life, from the outside. There is no outside. Here, too, I myself am the contaminant. I myself am the apocalypse of which I speak.”

“...wasn’t the impulse to catastrophize, to imagine the collapse of one’s world, only the pursuit of a mind shaped by leisure and economic comfort? What did I really mean by the end of the world, after all, if not the loss of my own position within it? What was it that made me anxious, if not the precari
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Mikhaela Brown
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Although I enjoyed reading this book and it did make me think, the themes were not original or particularly vivid and I wish the author had nuanced his points more. Sticking with it takes commitment - it's not a compelling page turner.
Joe
Aug 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Self-important, self-indulgent lefty intellectualism (which is usually my jam) weighed down by overwrought, paid-by-the-word, purple prose and questionable attempts to flog mundane observations into metaphors for bigger themes.

If you're looking for a different take on a personal journey to the end of the world (but not of the hardcore apocalypse prepper variety), see Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss (yes, that Neil Strauss), which is a lot more interesting.

Curiously, tho
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Christina Morland
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written with acerbic wit and insight, this wasn’t an easy book to listen to during a pandemic—but it certainly resonated with me. Perhaps most compelling were O’Connell’s reflections on being a parent during a time when the world seems to be going to hell.
Marian
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This tapped EXACTLY into my headspace in every. single. way. I loved this so much and feel so seen and heard!
Dewey
Nov 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
So much self-wallowing, not much apocalypse-prep reportage. I wallow enough on my own.
Heather
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend for anyone feeling the weight of our rapidly heating world on their shoulders. Author and young dad Mark McConnell, anxious about the state of the world into which he has brought his children, takes what amounts to a world tour of catastrophe. He explores survivalist bunkers in South Dakota and billionaire compounds in New Zealand. He attends a convention of would-be Mars colonists. He takes a look back at the devastation that was Chernobyl. Along the way, he comes to an eventua ...more
Julie Gray
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book and read it in three sittings. It would have been one sitting had not food, water and rest beckoned me. O'Connell is an honest, agile, smart, and relatable writer and the subject matter absolutely fascinates me. Notes is divided into two parts: the first, a kind of long-form reportage of ideas, philosophies, and movements connected to "the apocalypse" and its place in our current culture, society, news media, and reality - while the other half is an eloquent, soul-baring, vulne ...more
Maan
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I read like it was a recipe. I skimmed through the blog-type stuff (which gave me thoughts of DNF-ing twice) to the main essays which were thoughtful, empathic, with touches of humor.
Marathon County Public Library
Author Mark O’Connell writes that he’s always had a pessimistic outlook, and nothing has reinforced that attitude more than the events of recent years. O’Connell writes that an increase in extreme weather events due to climate change, the growing gap between poverty and wealth, and intense division and societal unrest in the United States and other countries have all led him to believe that we’re on a crash course for the end of the world.

As a parent of two young children, O’Connell, a native of
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Heather
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant. Funny, poignant, alarming and reflective. Mark O'Connell doesn't shy away from looking at himself (and by extension, us) in the same way that he looks at those making somewhat stranger choices in their lives. The language is beautiful and intricate and the points are well argued. I will read anything this man writes.
Diogenes
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Could O’Connell be the wonderful Irish version of Bill Bryson? That’s my comparison by way of A Walk in the Woods, only instead of hiking one long trail, O’Connell uses trans-oceanic flights to ponder and reflect upon what the End of Days means to many, while also reflecting—oftentimes hilariously—on his own disastrous carbon footprint and the anxiety it causes. Many reviews seem to latch on to his “optimism” at the end, but it’s not optimism: it’s a beautiful Buddhist form of resignation. We ca ...more
Chaitra
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
What’s hilarious about reading this book in the middle of a pandemic induced quarantine is that you find out preppers will strap on their assault rifles and protest for their right to get a haircut possibly getting a fatal disease in the process. I mean, I get it, sitting at home is no picnic for even an introvert like me but you guys prepped for this! Should have added that clipper, yeah?

So the author is kind of snide about the whole business of planning to survive the apocalypse, while also b
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Greg Williams
In this book, the author looks at the different ways some people try to prepare for the end of the world . He talks with a salesman selling survival bunkers in South Dakota, He tours New Zealand to look at property bought by billionaires anticipating the collapse of civilization. He talks with people who want to escape the end of our world by colonizing Mars. He visits Chernobyl as an example of a place where there are little to no people and where nature seems to be taking over. And throughout ...more
Kristen Cleghorn
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
first, i will admit this book is not for everyone in terms of the clear underlying anxiety that’s running through it, but it is Extremely My Shit.

he explores some very interesting end-of-world topics, namely doomsday preppers, billionaire contingency plans, climate change, and disaster tourism.

while i definitely think it could have been a longer book, his contemplative yet concise analysis of these phenomenon has made me think a lot—but what stuck with me the most was the last chapter, in which
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Micah
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O'Connell reads his own book on an adventure about how some cultures and places around the world prepare for the so called "apocalypse" people continue to prepare. An Irish author, he travels to the United States to see how dooms-day people are building up their safe net of survival. Drawing from multiple moments in his personal life such as talking about his children to his group trip in Chernobyl readers, learn there is more to this "apocalypse" than getting plenty of ammunition and dry food r ...more
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Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
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“I myself am the apocalypse of which I speak.” 3 likes
“It was not the building of bunkers beneath private land that would allow us to survive the catastrophes we faced, but the strengthening of communities that already existed.” 3 likes
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