Waiting for the End of the World 

Drought? Disease? Deprivation? Let's read.

We're getting it from both sides now: this intimation that we're doomed. Via virus. Via climate. Via war. Via that stuff that happens in the Book of Revelations. When Michael Moore and Michael Savage start to sound alike, you know you're boned. These days, do fortune-cookie fortunes say Abandon hope? Just say we sidestep Armageddon, by sheer luck. We'll still be broke and out of work. We're either running out of money or we're running out of time or both. How best to spend what's left?

Wildly opposing options come to mind. Go green, to at least leave the world in better shape than how you found it. Or — devour endangered species, captured via private plane. Be good, because heaven might exist after all. Be bad, as it might not.

However you choose to spend the End Times, new books can help you prepare, indulge, engage — even survive.

It's easy being green. In Sustainable Sushi, fisheries expert Casson Trenor profiles species of seafood commonly found at sushi bars and reveals how they're caught, how they fit into the sea's eco-crisis, and how safe they are to eat. Red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, is a "dangerous" option as "the stocks are weak and only growing weaker" thanks to "overzealous fishing." That said, troll-caught skipjack is "an excellent choice." In Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home, TV host Sara Snow suggests wearing bamboo-fiber clothes and cleaning rugs with vinegar, though not necessarily at the same time.

Will trees and animals outlast us? Tom Butler and Antonio Vizcaíno explore fragile landscapes saved by huge-hearted human beings in Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition, a monumental (literally: this book weighs ten pounds) treatise honoring those who honor nature. Trunks, tusks, and tails tug hearts in Elephant Reflections; Karl Ammann's bold photographs accompany Dale Peterson's achingly eloquent text about this "creature who quietly mocks our puny size and frantic chatter ... and who should, indeed, caution us, tell us to be careful, keep still, have respect." Yet Zimbabwe's government, Peterson reveals, trades planeloads of ivory for Chinese guns and ammunition and slaughters hundreds of elephants for feasts; poachers seem destined to kill the rest.

Or maybe you'd just rather read about midgets. In his memoir Short and Sweet, actor Jerry Maren recounts a life spent portraying leprechauns, sprites, an alien in the original Star Trek, a minuscule Prussian general in Laugh-In, and a lollipop-wielding Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. (And yes, Maren embraces the word "midget." Those who prefer "little people" or "vertically challenged," he asserts, are oversensitive.)

If push came to shove, many among us would eat until the Earth's last It's-It melts. Oakland eco-chef Bryant Terry wine-simmers seitan and pickles purple okra, as detailed in Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy and Creative African-American Cuisine. His plans for plum ketchup and watermelon-rind salsa make you yearn to stay alive. From chèvre to Velveeta — which he shuns, although he gives a chili recipe involving it — cheese historian Clark Wolf venerates the curd in American Cheeses. Illustrated with tempting photographs, Gillian McKeith's Food Bible is a guide to the health effects of hundreds of different foods and drinks. Miso for bloating and mung beans for cold sores, urges the holistic nutritionist McKeith, who hosts a TV show in the UK. Garlic for scabies. And artichokes for gout.

Around the turn of the 20th century, nutrition was a new science in America. In Perfection Salad, Laura Shapiro recounts how homemakers took it to heart, changing the culinary landscape forever with well-intended first-wave "health-food" efforts such as marshmallow-stuffed gingerbread, cottage-cheese-coated mayonnaise-egg-yolk balls (aka "Golf Salad"), and "grapefruit, lightly covered with white frosting and pistachio nuts." Watching samurai films and nibbling adzuki-bean Kit-Kats, Andy Raskin spent nearly three years striving to meet Momofuku Ando, the aged inventor of instant Asian-style noodles. As revealed in The Ramen King and I, Raskin drew deep inspiration from Ando's books, including Magic Noodles, Noodle Road, and Mankind Is Noodlekind.

But three-year quests are mere luxuries to us today. In The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life's Scarcest Commodity, Stefan Klein combines brain physiology, social psychology, philosophy, and Einsteinian physics to teach us how to make the most of however much we have left. For quick results, try Tracing Your Police Ancestors, Stephen Wade's step-by-step handbook for finding those lieutenants in your family tree.

No? Then sneak around your office, from computer to computer, stealing everyone's spacebars. Or sidle up to co-workers, sadly saying that you've just heard they're being fired — when they're not. Japes abound in The Ultimate Office Prank Book, by the pseudonymous Mac B. Fired, who also suggests pouring unflavored gelatin into office toilets after everyone has left, including the cleaners. Then: "Go home and let the gelatin set while all of your unsuspecting targets are sleeping peacefully. The next morning your coworkers will enter the stalls, thinking nothing's amiss. The clear gelatin looks just like a bowl of toilet water. But no matter what their business, the waste will just float at the top of the bowl, causing quite a scene."

It will, but some folks are too busy for bathroom gags. In The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, parents-of-eighteen Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar aren't explicit, but Michelle vouchsafes such tidbits as: "I can assure you that it is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding."

So many cartoons, so little time. The Beats: A Graphic History pairs text by Harvey Pekar, Tuli Kupferberg, and others with art by Mary Fleener, Lance Tooks, and others to biographize Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac — who, we are told, tried to bed his girlfriend a few hours after her illegal abortion: "She was still bleeding, packed with cotton, but he expected some kind of payment." Ignatz Award winner Jeffrey Brown pukes, bleeds, adores X-Men, drinks absinthe, and battles cockroaches in Funny Misshapen Body, his memoir about evolving as an artist. And before we become mutants, bone up on how genetics works with The Stuff of Life, a delightful cartoon crash course in chromosomes, cytokenesis, and the whole ball of human wax. Drawings by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon augment Mark Schultz's witty text.

Speaking of mitochondria, frequent-flyer miles burn in The Mile High Club: Plane Sex Stories, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

When it's over, it's over. Until then, it's baby elephants and gelatin and skipjack all the way.


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