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Reading Pandemic Fiction in a Pandemic

Posted about 4 years ago by Meg Raymond

Is this pandemic messing with your reading habits? It’s messing with mine. I have more time for reading, but reading has gotten so much more difficult. I am one of the lucky ones – working from home, reduced hours, zero commute. This should be great for a voracious reader, right? Well, yeah. But … no. I can’t seem to submerge myself in fictional worlds as deeply. There is always the nagging urge to check the news, check Twitter, look at FaceBook, check something, anything, to see what is happening in the world.

Everything is topsy turvy. I might be up until the wee hours, doing a lot of nothing, then move to the sofa to do more nothing. My dogs are no longer sure that having me home all the time (all. the. time!) is so wonderful. They’re clingy and uncertain.

Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and “MacBeth” during a plague quarantine. Isaac Newton had a “year of wonders” during the Great Plague, coming up with the idea of calculus. But this Coronavirus quarantine has a lot of us having the opposite: reading slumps, unfinished tasks, frenzied baking (have you found yeast? I haven’t found yeast!), fits of yard work , and Quarantine Cleaning (you should see my laundry room shelves!)

Don’t take my word for it. Here are some other opinions:

“The Pandemic is Messing With Our Concept of Time” by Harmeet Kaur

“Why the Pandemic Put Me in a Book Spiral” by Matt Grant

“The Reason You are Exhausted is Moral Fatigue” by Elizabeth Yuko

If you want to give some pandemic fiction a try, there are plenty of titles to choose from. The following books are all available in digital format, either from Hoopla or OverDrive from Richmond Public Library or Henrico County Public Library.  (Richmond city residents are eligible for digital cards from Richmond Public Library, application here ; and also from Henrico County Public Library, application here).

  • The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian – The Earth is flooded beneath seven miles of water, and all is lost but a floating hospital.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Modern society has destroyed itself, and chaos ensues.
  • A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier – The recently departed live in The City, where they remain as long as someone alive remembers them.
  • The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – A village under quarantine from the plague in 17th century England.
  • The Plague by Albert Camus – A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of a devastating and horrific plague.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey – “The Hungries” have ravaged England, but one little girl may be the key to survival.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton – A military space probe brings back a deadly virus.
  • Passage by Justin Cronin – It only took thirty-two minutes for the world to die.
  • A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe – A chronicle of 1665, when the plague swept through London.
  • The Stand by Stephen King – A mutated strain of super-flu with a 99% mortality rate is set loose when a patient escapes a biological testing facility.
  • Severance by Ling Ma – Shen Fever creates zombie-like nostalgia in its victims.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Civilization has collapsed, so a troupe of Shakespearean actors goes on the road.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Florentino is ready to declare his love to Fermina – fifty years, nine months, and four days after his first declaration.
  • As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner – Set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
  • The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman – Children are raised in “gardens” and educated via virus.
  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell – Magical realism that starts with a fever dream.
  • The Book of M by Peng Shepherd – It starts by losing one’s shadow.  Then everything is lost.
  • Find Me by Laura Van den Berg – A young woman confronts her past in a post-epidemic world.
  • The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – A mysterious and contagious illness triggers an unending sleep.
  • The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – A time traveling historian is stuck in the Middle Ages, where the Black Plague is due any day.

Meg Raymond

If I'm not librarianing, or chasing one of my plethora of dogs around the yard, I probably have my nose buried in a book. I like all kinds of books. Regency romances - love 'em. Gory police procedurals - yes, ma'am. Historical fiction - please, and thank you. Heavy "literary" titles - shhhh, I may not have actually finished some of those! Off-beat, warped, slightly askew books - oh, yes, indeedy. Violent supernatural fantasy - why not? Chick lit, hen lit, lad lit - yeah, yeah, yeah. What have you read? Need a suggestion, or ten? Get hand-crafted suggestions with The Bookologist

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