Literature for Plague Times (or Coronavirus Pandemics)

By JG

By JG

This is a list of books, old and recent, that may have extra resonance with the rise of COVID-19.

The Plague

Albert Camus

$15.00 $13.80

"Its relevance lashes you across the face." --Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times "A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair." --Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez

$16.95 $15.59

"Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people. They seem to have a quality of destiny.... They make people want to live more. It's that almost metaphysical dimension that interests me."--Gabriel García Márquez

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Katherine Anne Porter

$19.99 $18.39

The title novel, "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," is about the relationship between a newspaper woman, Miranda, and a soldier, Adam, during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

A Journey Around My Room: And a Nocturnal Expedition Around My Room

Xavier De Maistre

$11.00

Written in the 18th century by a man imprisoned, this is a fanciful way of looking at cramped quarters if you can't leave.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writings

Charlotte Perkins

$14.95

The story of a young woman whose husband impose a "rest cure" on her when she suffers "temporary nervous depression" after the birth of their baby.

House of Leaves

Mark Z Danielewski

$22.00 $19.80

Here's something we all might like, especially in these times: a house that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Bill Bryson

$17.00 $15.64

If you're stuck at home, you may as well get to know the space in which you dwell. Here, the beloved Bill Bryson gives us a fascinating history of the modern home, taking us on a room-by-room tour through his own house and using each room to explore the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants

Bill Bryson

$30.00 $27.00

At a time when many of us are more conscious about how our body works, Bryson's book provides a fascinating, in-depth exploration.

Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood

$16.00 $14.72

A master of the novel form, Atwood offers an unforgettable love story about a world overwhelmed by plague, and what may be the last human.

Blindness

José Saramago

$15.99 $14.71

Winner of the Nobel Prize, Saramago tells the story of a city hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of our worst appetites and weaknesses--and humanity's ultimately exhilarating spirit.

Oedipus Rex

Sophocles

$9.95

The action of Sophocles's play concerns Oedipus's search for the murderer of Laius in order to end a plague ravaging Thebes, unaware that the killer he is looking for is none other than himself.

The Decameron (Revised)

Giovanni Boccaccio

$15.00 $13.80

In the early summer of the year 1348, as a terrible plague ravages the city, ten charming young Florentines take refuge in country villas to tell each other stories - a hundred stories of love, adventure and surprising twists of fortune which later inspired Chaucer, Keats and Shakespeare.

A Journal of the Plague Year

Daniel Defoe

$11.00 $10.12

"The surprise 'must-read' for people facing the Covid-19 epidemic." --The Telegraph Here we see a city transformed: some of its streets suspiciously empty, some--with crosses on their doors--overwhelmingly full of the sounds and smells of human suffering. And every living citizen the narrator meets has a horrifying story that demands to be heard.

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe

$10.00 $9.20

Some people have no choice but to social distance--like when your ship wrecks and you find yourself stranded on an island for years.

Alone

Richard E. Byrd

$39.59

Walden: Life in the Woods: Life in the Woods

Henry David Thoreau

$16.99 $15.63

Solitary

Albert Woodfox

$18.00 $16.56

A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles

$17.00 $15.64

The Martian

Andy Weir

$17.00 $15.64

The Alchemist and Other Plays: Volpone, or the Fox; Epicene, or the Silent Woman; The Alchemist; Bartholomew Fair

Ben Jonson

$11.95

In the title play, the plague breaks out in London, the wealthy flee to the country, and the servants take over the house and run scams.

The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare the History of King Lear

William Shakespeare

$10.95

This, perhaps Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, is not about the plague--but it was probably written in self-isolation while escaping the disease.

All's Well That Ends Well

William Shakespeare

$5.99 $5.51

There are other reasons to self-isolate. Here's a tale of weak-willed men who couldn't hack it, and of smart women who set them straight.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Geraldine Brooks

$18.00 $16.56

"Plague stories remind us that we cannot manage without community . . . Year of Wonders is a testament to that very notion." - The Washington Post An unforgettable tale, set in 17th century England, of a village that quarantines itself to arrest the spread of the plague, written by a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Death in Venice and Other Stories

Thomas Mann

$5.95

Gustav von Aschenbach finds himself fettered to this hypnotic city of sun-drenched sensuality and eerie physical decay as it gradually succumbs to a secret epidemic.

Severance

Ling Ma

$17.00 $15.64

Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Candace's bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost. Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob.

The End of October

Lawrence Wright

$27.95 $25.16

The author of this recently published novel finds it "unnerving" how accurate his story has turned out to be.

The Dreamers

Karen Thompson Walker

$17.00 $15.64

An ordinary town is transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep in this mesmerizing novel from this bestselling author.

A Beginning at the End (Original)

Mike Chen

$26.99 $24.29

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet's population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs. "Not just an apocalyptic thriller, but also a timely reminder of what is most important in life--family, love, and hope." --Peng Shepherd

Ammonite

Nicola Griffith

$17.00 $15.64

Change or die. These are the only options available on planet Jeep. Centuries earlier, a deadly virus shattered the original colony, killing the men and forever altering the few surviving women. Now, generations after the colony lost touch with the rest of humanity, a company arrives to exploit Jeep--and its forces find themselves fighting for their lives.

The Dog Stars

Peter Heller

$16.00 $14.72

Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope. But when a random transmission beams through the radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter.

In a Perfect World

Laura Kasischke

$13.99

Jiselle, a young flight attendant, has just settled into a fairy tale life with her new husband and stepchildren. But as a mysterious new illness spreads rapidly throughout the country, she begins to realize that her marriage, her stepchildren, and their perfect world are all in terrible danger . . .

A Prayer for the Dying

Stewart O'Nan

$17.00 $15.64

Set in Friendship, Wisconsin, just after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying tells of a horrible epidemic that is suddenly and gruesomely killing the town's residents and setting off a terrifying paranoia. Jacob Hansen, Friendship's sheriff, undertaker, and pastor, is soon overwhelmed by the fear and anguish around him, and his sanity begins to fray.

The Book of M

Peng Shepherd

$16.99 $15.63

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man's shadow disappears--an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Zone One

Colson Whitehead

$16.00 $14.72

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Max Brooks

$17.00 $15.64

Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the pandemic.

California

Edan Lepucki

$16.00 $14.72

California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

The Transmigration of Bodies

Yuri Herrera

$13.95 $12.83

A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city's underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage.

Station Eleven

Emily St John Mandel

$16.95 $15.59

A devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band's existence.

The Years of Rice and Salt

Kim Stanley Robinson

$8.99 $8.27

In his grandest work yet, the acclaimed storyteller constructs a world vastly different from the one we know. History teaches us that a third of Europe's population was destroyed by the Black Death. But what if the plague had killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been--one that stretches across centuries, sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, and spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation.

Find Me

Laura Van Den Berg

$15.00 $13.80

When a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy's immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence.

Wilder Girls

Rory Power

$18.99 $17.47

First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine.

The Children's Hospital

Chris Adrian

$15.95 $14.67

The plague story of a hospital preserved, afloat, after the Earth is flooded beneath seven miles of water, and a young medical student who finds herself gifted with strange powers and a frightening destiny.

The Andromeda Strain

Michael Crichton

$15.95 $14.67

The Andromeda Strain redefined the science fiction genre. The Andromeda Strain proves different from anything the biophysicists in this novel have ever seen--and what they don't know could not only hurt them, but lead to unprecedented worldwide catastrophe.

The Stand

Stephen King

$9.99 $9.19

A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world's population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge--Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man," who delights in chaos and violence.

The Child Garden: A Low Comedy

Geoff Ryman

$16.00 $14.72

In this thought experiment, viruses are good for people's minds and health--to a point.

Earth Abides

George R. Stewart

$15.99 $14.71

A Song for a New Day

Sarah Pinsker

$16.00 $14.72

After a global pandemic makes public gatherings illegal and concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music--and for one chance at human connection.

The Masque of the Red Death (Annotated)

Edgar Allan Poe

$6.99

The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague, known as the Red Death, by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, hosts a masquerade ball within seven rooms of the abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms.

THE SCARLET PLAGUE (Science Fiction Classic): Post-Apocalyptic Adventure Novel

Jack London

$7.20

The Scarlet Plague is a post-apocalyptic tale set in 2073, sixty years after an uncontrollable epidemic, the Red Death, has depopulated the planet. James Howard Smith is one of the few survivors of the pre-plague era left alive in the San Francisco area, and he travels with his grandsons Edwin, Hoo-Hoo, and Hare-Lip, who live as primeval hunter-gatherers in a heavily depopulated world.