As Ryan Adams knows, there's a good time and a bad time to release new material.
In the case of the former Whiskeytown frontman, one of his finest songs, 'New York, New York' was accompanied by a wonderful video which acted as a love letter to the city and heavily featured the Twin Towers. It was filmed just four days before 9/11 and released two weeks after those tragic events.
On the other hand, Irish author Mark O'Connell's second book has arrived at a particularly serendipitous time.
Notes From an Apocalypse - A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back is, given the current climate, a publisher's dream.
In fact, it's hard to think of any other book which has ever arrived at such a fortunate time. The end of the world has never been more fashionable.
As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, every day now seems to bring some more nuggets of bad news.
Whether it's the lockdown and the impact that is having on our mental health and emotional well-being or the more elemental worry of catching it and dying, people seem more aware of the fragility of their own mortality than ever before.
For those of us who grew up in the 1980s under the shadow of the Bomb, there is something almost weirdly reassuring about the current apocalyptic mood and while I don't know Mark O'Connell's age, he has the wan, mordant humour of someone who spent much of their childhood going to bed with the fear that nuclear war might break out while he was sleeping.
O'Connell's previous book, the award-winning To be a Machine explored the concept of 'transhumanism', whose devotees long for an integrated technological future where they can become part human/part machine and Notes From an Apocalypse is, in its own way, a similar exploration of the human condition.
In this case of the people featured here, a truly odd combination of misanthropic eccentrics and adventurous billionaires, it appears that the human condition is mostly motivated by fear and paranoia.
While the rest of the world feels helpless, the much derided Doomsday Preppers who feature here are having the time of their life.
As the author points out, preppers are motivated by a fantasy; it's not that they dread the apocalypse - far from it. In fact, they almost fetishise Doomsday and seem to wait for it with the eagerness of a Dark Ages death cult.
His desire to understand the mindset of those who believe the end is well and truly nigh brings him on a Quixotic journey around the world - from the guy selling old military bunkers in South Dakota to Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel's post-apocalyptic sanctuary in New Zealand to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, it appears that end-of-the-world fantasies and fears are a global phenomenon and one he struggles to comprehend.
While doom merchants have always been among us, the author explores the bizarre fascination so many 'tech bro billionaires', such as the aforementioned Thiel, and Elon Musk have with the end of the world.
Whether through climate change or some other catastrophe, some of the richest people in the world are convinced we're all screwed and while Thiel plans his post-apocalypse redoubt in New Zealand, Musk has grander plans. In fact, he wants to colonise Mars because he reckons this planet is in its last days.
It's easy to scoff at such ideas - but not as easy as it might have been pre-Covid, and as O'Connell points out, none other than Stephen Hawking shared Musk's conviction that we need to get off this planet as quickly as possible.
O'Connell's politics may not be to everyone's taste, he seems to hold a rather unfair contempt for libertarians, for example. But this is one hell of a funny book.
A beautiful writer with a keenly honed sense of self-deprecation and the absurd, the tangents he wanders off on are just as fascinating as the subjects he meets.
He has also managed to give me a new phobia. Not of the end of the world, but of moths.
In one particularly funny passage, he explains how he had a lifelong and almost debilitating fear of moths and it was only through extensive work with his therapist that he was able to get to the root of the issue.
As he puts it, out of all of his intense nature-based phobias, "I was, most pressingly, most terrified of moths," the prospect of one even coming close to him was, he admits, "beyond the realms of the thinkable".
It's fair to say that O'Connell has anxiety issues so you have to salute the masochism of anyone like that who then decides to immerse themselves in the world of preppers and apocalyptic fantasists.
This is a strange book in the sense that the author meets so many strange people, but despite his obvious political and philosophical differences to most of them, he treats them as human beings rather than stereotypes.
It's not necessary to agree with all of his conclusions - we might mock the preppers, but as the panic buying at the start of the pandemic reminds us, we're all preppers when the screw is turned - but for the sheer writing alone, this is a book which, in these desperately strange and increasingly weird times, is a must-read.
I just wish he hadn't passed on his fear of moths...