So it’s official: 2012 is upon us. Three weeks in, and I’m finding it hard to believe that we’ve finally made it to humanity’s last year on Earth. I know I may get flack for this, but I’m one of the many deluded souls in America who buy the Mayan Calendar-inspired 2012 apocalypse scenario whole hog, and have bought it ever since reading Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012: The Return of Queztalcoatl in paperback in 2007. Like I suppose it is for others, this kind of (black) magic thinking provides a measure of comfort and hope when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the major problems facing the world—like, say, when they're pointed out to me by a slew of this week’s titles: The New Jim Crow (racism in American incarceration), Wanted Women (the war on terror), Secret Weapon (economic terrorism), Who is Casey Anthony? (infanticide), Loving Your Child Too Much (infanticide’s polar opposite), Ameritopia (malignant progressivism), The Accordion Family (malignant capitalism), The Information Diet (input overload), Extreme Weather and Financial Markets (self-explanatory), Flammable Cities (also self-expanatory), Power Struggle Over Afghanistan (the mess in Afghanistan), and In Darkness (the mess in Haiti). Coincidentally enough, this often seems to coincide with when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the petty problems facing me directly (parental guilt, irked girlfriend, spotty internet connections, deadlines).

Fortunately, the week also brings distraction and hope for despair-minded, easily-fatigued neurotics like myself in the form of real-world-problem-diminishing titles like The Existentialist’s Guide to Death, the Universe, and Nothingness; UFO: Strange Space on Earth; Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog; I Hate Everyone; The Giza Prophecy: The Orion Code and the Secret Teachings of the Pyramids; and Hulk: World War Hulks. There’s also new fiction to be excited about, and not just from Q&A subject Joseph Heller (Taft 2012) and the source of this week’s excerpt (Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet), but Stewart O’Nan (The Odds) and Eli Gottlieb (The Face Thief), plus the comic work of Stephen Fry (The Fry Chronicles) and fictional secret agent Sterling Archer (How to Archer), and a new one from my favorite egg-headed music writer Greil Marcus (Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning).

Which is good, because (as I’m sure you all know by now) the apocalypse is a full 12 months (and eight days) away. With the current troublesome state of the world, and the help of all the downbeat new books I’ll be reading and writing about this year, I’ll need as much distraction as I can afford.

Good luck everyone, and Quetzalcoatl bless.