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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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You may remember Family Radio broadcaster Harold Camping from his last prediction of the rapture. Well, he's revised that prediction. He's now pegging October 21st as the date, though he says the end will be quiet, more of a whimper than a bang.

Well, author Rhoda Janzen is familiar with this phenomenon - the predictions not the bang - and she has this reading list for those who want a little more rapture background.

RHODA JANZEN: This isn't the first time the rapture has been foreseen. In fact, eschatology, a branch of theology that studies the End Times, often attracts writers who, like scientists, seek to prove, quantify and make predictions. These students sift the Bible for metaphor and symbol, searching for meaning in what are often puzzling passages in scripture. If such predictions appeal to your assessment of human nature, check out these extreme tales of tribulation.

"Left Behind" is the best-selling granddaddy of eschatological thrillers. Where would we be without this tale involving Hattie Durham, the flight attendant who gets promoted to personal assistant of the Antichrist? One might well question how she could receive such a promotion, but I'm here to tell you that Hattie has some powerful je ne sais quoi. Her improbable access to the most brilliant political and journalistic minds of her era convinces us that even savvy overachievers can be refreshingly accessible. Plus, at the back of the book, there's a quiz called Test Your Prophecy IQ. This is sort of like Myers-Briggs, but more uplifting.

"Therefore, Repent!" the post-rapture graphic novel, would make an excellent stocking stuffer for your favorite disturbed teen, along with black lipstick and a wee nipple ring. Lovebirds Mummy and Raven negotiate the ins and outs of a creepy apocalyptic world in which dogs talk and demonic mutations abound. This action-packed narrative is sure to entertain any youth who wears a trench coat to school. Sam Salgood's imaginative art puts an edgy twist on this world of disaffected youth.

"The Rapture" is a page-turner that develops a relationship between a murderous child and her therapist, the attractive but paralyzed Gabrielle Fox. It soon emerges that this child is not like other little girls who savagely murder their mother. Oh, no. This girl makes accurate predictions for natural disasters. Sadly, we never learn whether the Christians have been caught up into the clouds with Jesus. This is because Jensen is more interested in global warming than the Messiah.

Faith takes many forms, and it is good to know that there is room in God's kingdom for believers of all stripes. In truth, scripture does seem to invite eschatological prediction with all its talk of plagues and earthquakes, harlots and beasts. Let the final word be that of the Book of Revelation. Amen. Let it be so.

SIEGEL: Rhoda Janzen teaches English and creative writing at Hope College. She's the author of "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress," and she sent that essay for our series Three Books. You can read other Three Books essays at our website, npr.org/books. Just click on reviews.

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