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Pandemic? Don’t Panic. Stay home and read!

Posted about 4 years ago by Natalie Draper
Posted in Reading Recommendations | Tagged with

A good book can get you through just about any crisis, and sometimes, reading about the very thing that scares us can be a thrill, or catharsis. If you don’t want to scare yourself, this list might not be your jam. However, whatever your preference, when preparing for a pandemic, don’t forget to stock up on plenty of reading material too. There is no shortage of fiction and nonfiction to keep you busy for a long time, should you find yourself holed up for a while. So, don’t panic, wash your hands*, and check out this list of infectious reads.


Cover of the book "Salvation Day" by Kali WallaceIn the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters: If a romantic ghost story set against a backdrop of WWI and the influenza outbreak in 1918 sounds like your thing, then this book is for you!

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace: Spaceship peril AND a plague…in space? Yes, please! This claustrophobic sci-fi thriller will keep you turning the pages all night (because you won’t be able to sleep).

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson: Dive into an alternate past imagined by a master speculative storyteller that imagines a world in which the Bubonic Plague killed not just 1/3 of the world’s population but 99% of it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: A beautiful post-pandemic flu tale that looks at art re-emerging after a plague devastates much of human life on earth.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson: Skip every film adaptation of this and read the book. They just never get the ending right the way Matheson does.

The Stand by Stephen King: An epic plague novel if there ever was one.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead: A chilling look at armed forces in a a post-plague Manhattan (with zombies) and the toll the fight to survive can take.

The Maddaddam Trilogy: All three of the books in this series by Margaret Atwood are amazing, and an excellent gateway into sci-fi for people who say they “don’t read sci-fi”. (I was one of you and now I’m HOOKED. Just call it speculative fiction if that makes you feel better. Atwood does.)

cover of the book "Clay's Ark" by Octavia ButlerClay’s Ark by Octavia Butler: Set in an apocalyptic near-future, a man and his daughters must stop a gruesome Alien virus!

Fever by Mary Beth Keane: A fictionalized account of the woman known to history as “Typhoid Mary”.


The Hot Zone and Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston: Just plain terrifying.

cover of the book "Superbugs" by Matt McCarthySuperbugs by Matt McCarthy: See above.

Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold and Pale Rider by Laura Spinney: Take a look back at the influenza pandemic that ravaged an already war-ravaged world in 1918.

Black Death at the Golden Gate David K. Randall: Fascinating, and timely in a lot of ways, this spine-chilling tale is a true story you probably never knew about.

Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy: A fascinating and compelling cultural history of “the most fatal virus known to science”–rabies.

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright: For a little dark humor, take home this “witty and irreverent tour of history’s worst plagues and […] the heroes who fought them”.

And just for grins I thought I’d share this short post on tracking the 1918 influenza outbreak through small town newspapers that I contributed 100 years ago (in 2013) to the Fit To Print blog, maintained by the fine folks over at the Library of Virginia’s Newspaper Project.

Remember, we have a lot of books, movies, music and more available online so you don’t have to leave your house if you don’t want to.

Image is a chart illustrating hand washing with lines from Macbeth
*Here’s a handy guide to proper hand washing written by Shakespeare and some very clever internet person.

Natalie Draper

Natalie is the Main Library manager, blog editor, and a compulsive reader of all genres, except romance. She has a particular fondness for the strange and unusual, and for small indie presses, so look to her reviews if you're in the mood for something a little different. Bookologist

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