The Book Nerd’s Guide to Surviving a Dystopia

Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

If the soaring sales of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are to be believed, there are many among us who are studying how to proceed if the world as we know it comes screeching to a halt.

This is a good and important topic for discussion, and, mercifully, it’s one literature has prepared us for 100 times over. There are few variations on desolate, apocalyptic wastelands that the world’s authors have not explored. Whether it’s the climate, government, or intellectual integrity of the barnyard that have been destroyed, fictional dystopias offer a number of lessons for practical real-life application.

To be clear, these lessons don’t fall along political party lines, and they don’t rely on “alternative facts.” When it comes time, we’ll all need our towels and escape plans handy.

Abandon Your Reliance on Confidantes
In a post-truth Big Brother world, it’s important to erase the concept of trust from your consciousness. There is no one in whom you can confide. Even if you feel as if you could trust your closest family, they could just as easily be physically or psychologically tortured and rat out your secret stash of forbidden texts and unseemly paraphernalia. There will be no more drunken confessions (mostly because alcohol will become prohibitively expensive), and you cannot cavalierly invite Tinder dates over to your subterranean hovel ever again.

Go Underground Quickly
Speaking of underground shanties, it’s going to be crucial that, at the first sign of imminent danger, you go dark. You need to avoid getting inked with any of the mandatory tattoos required by the shadowy cabal that now rules. (You can skate by with a temporary version. In fact, you might want to manufacture a few before you flee.) Going underground early and often also makes it much easier for fellow Resistance members to find you.

Find the Most Average Person You Know
This is the exception to the confidante rule, because in truly apocalyptic moments, the truly average guy or gal is, nine times out of ten, going to be your Chosen One. Find them. Scour what used to be the suburbs. Look for street rats. Ignore everyone who catches your eye. The Chosen One is likely underfed, but not exceptionally so. Dressed poorly, but not in rags. He or she may have one parent yet living, but probably not.

Be Born With Green Eyes
I’m told it comes in handy in times such as these, particularly for teenagers. If you can’t be born with green eyes, find someone more fortunate. Stick to them like Scrooge McDuck to an emerald.

Invest in Shoes Now
You’re going to be doing so much running, and very soon, all retail stores will be coopted as outlets for the ruling party. You’ll need more than just athletic shoes, of course. Comfortable, versatile galoshes will be essential when the constant rains begin to personify your suffering. And flip-flops for beach days.

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