Parable of the Sower
This is one of those books I suggest to everyone, constantly. Butler was one of the greatest sf/speculative fiction writers of our time, and her death left us all bereft.
I first read PotS right after Katrina hit, and that gave the story a little added truth. When she talks about much of the south being devastated by hurricanes and floods, it's hard not to think of all the people crammed into arenas and camping on overpasses to try and escape the rising death.
Butler really pulls out all the dystopian demons. Gangs, drugs, kidnapping, rape, lack of water, lack of food, environmental damage, threat of fundamentalist dictatorship, refugees, race and class violence, war, lack of education, lack of medical care, lack of hope. And in times like that, what is the biggest horror? To be able to feel the pain of others as your own - double torture, two for the price of one.
The only chance we're offered for any sort of happy ending rests in bonds between individuals leading to communities willing to stand together, in kindness but also in strength, against the chaos, looking to the skies. And even that's not given much of a chance.
final thouht: Butler wrote this book in 1993. 15 years later, it rings more and more true. That's probably why I love it so much. I think it'd be mighty easy to make that slide into darkness. I think we're on the slope now, and I think it'll get worse before it gets better.