Books To Read During A Pandemic (Or Not Read If You Want To Forget You're In One)
So, when the pandemic started, I was pregnant and my reading took a real dive. Somehow I did manage to read a few books during those last few months of my pregnancy while we were in total lock down, but my mind could not be pried away from the Covid news feed. Eventually, I had to look away and get back to life and when I did I found that so many people were now reaching for easier/lighter reads because they just couldn't handle anything too heavy, but a small group of people (me) were actually leaning into the horror that is the world right now. I always love me a little bit of horror!
The last few months, I've read quite a few books that really mirror the state of the world in one way or another - completely unintentionally. I have just been going through my TBR and reading recommended books and a good percentage of them explore isolation, mask wearing and literally frickin pandemics! Personally, I think that if I had read these books six months ago (side note - how has it been six months since this started!?) I may have been able to focus a little better because I would have been able to really relate to what was happening in the stories.
Here is a list of the books that I have read recently that will definitely remind you that we are in a pandemic.
The Pull of The Stars by Emma Donoghue
I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up. I saw that there was a new Emma Donoghue so I just snatched it up. I'm not actually a HUGE fan of hers or even a big fan, honestly - some books I've really liked and others I didn't like at all (The Wonder)- but she is one of my friends favorite authors so I find myself drawn to everything she writes anyways and I always give it a shot. Anyways, I started it without reading the synopsis and was shocked to find out right away that it is literally about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The story is about a nurse who works on the hospital ward that cares for pregnant women who become infected with the flu. It was really good. Definitely recommend it! Fun Fact: This book was already written at the time that Covid started but, it wasn't set to come out until next year. When everything went down, the publishers saw an opportunity and fast tracked it. Smart..
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
You can read my full review for this book here. It's the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing which basically is about a mysterious statue/alien which sparks instances of viral fame and community. So, this story takes it all a step further and delves into virtual reality which leads to complete self isolation and what that looks like for people. It then explores economic downfall, describes the empty streets of New York city and it literally mentions the word "pandemic" four or five times. It was already finished and about to be sent to the printer when Covid happened so all of this was a complete coincidence. Hank Green even makes a video about it. It's worth a watch and this book was SO GOOD.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
This one really should have been obvious - I've seen the movie - but it didn't even occur to me when I decided to read it. The entire premise is that something -virus or creature- spreads over the world, infecting people. Once infected, they become violent and kill the people around them and then eventually kill themselves. This forces people to become isolated inside their homes and only leave the house with cloth wrapped around their faces - in this case as a blindfold and not a mask as we re now getting used to. We've got fear of the unknown, stockpiling supplies, watching the news stories from around the world rolling in and thinking that it's not a big deal and it will just blow over and then the complete shock when it doesn't. This book was legit scary, just so you know. I loved it.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Okay I just started this one so I can't say for sure that this one fits the bill, but I have already read this sentence, "The market is shut down, at least for the time being, so that no one will hoard goods or fix prices. A curfew starts at dusk, and all businesses that aren't crucial for the protection or supply of the town are required to close." I don't know, sounds familiar to me.
Apparently, I have an actual thing where I just read books that people recommend to me without knowing literally anything about them. I didn't read the synopsis for this one either...I will do that now...Okay, I read it. So, it's number one in The Broken Earth trilogy and the first line of the synopsis is, "This is the way the world ends. Again." Close enough.
Other Pandemic Friendly (or unfriendly) Books That I Have Read
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Literally about a pandemic where a deadly virus wipes out most of the population of earth. This is seriously worst case scenario and also a really great book. I read this earlier this year and it's a really popular book in both my book clubs and my friend group. As soon as Covid stories began rolling in, we all joked that it was Station Eleven. No one knew at that point that it was actually serious and not exactly a joking matter! Ah well.
So, in this book, there isn't enough time to put in place protocols to slow the spread - it hits way too fast and kills everyone before anyone can do anything about it. That's pretty bleak, but! A small group of performers band together and travel what's left of the land sharing plays, music and art with the other survivors. Art and beauty preserver!
The Stand by Stephen King
When we are talking about post apocalyptic books, they are mostly the same premise so, not surprising - this book is about a man who escapes from a biological testing facility and spreads a virus that kills 99% of the worlds population very quickly. So we are left with basically a handful of survivors trying to figure out what happened and put whats left of the world back together.
It's Stephen King. You can't go wrong. It's a big book, but you really get to know the characters and where they came from which makes you care about their current situation so much more. I don't think that I can choose a favorite Stephen King, but if I could, this one would be up there.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I actually read this one many years ago so I'm not sure that I can really tell you anything about it at all except that when I read it, I thought it was so dull that I only finished to impress someone I was dating. I know. But, from what I remember, there was some kind of plague or pandemic where a lot of people are wiped out. The story follows one guy as he tries to find other survivors while also jumping back in time (the story, not him) to explore other relationships that could be tied to what happened? I don't know. I have been wanting to reread this book because when I read it the first time, it was about eight years ago and my reading style was very different and very limited. I think that I would appreciate it more, especially since I have read more Margaret Atwood and I'm curious to see if it would still put me to sleep.
There are tons of books out there that could be added to this list - definitely anything post-apocalyptic or dystopian is almost guaranteed to hit you right in the pandemic feels. I'd love to hear what you've read or if you've read any of the books from this list, what you think of them!